Back to School: Answering Your Questions About Skincare!

As we head into fall and students return to class, I thought it might be time for a refresher course on all your basic skincare questions! Here are my answers to the most common skincare questions:

  1. How do I know my skin type?

There are five “skin types”: Dry, oily, normal, sensitive, or combination.

Dry skin is just what it sounds like: skin that feels tight and dry and prone to flaking and cracking, especially in the winter months.

Oily skin is characterized by relatively large (visible) pores and a shiny complexion that can be prone to blackheads and pimples. If you can blot your face with a tissue and collect oil, your skin is probably oily.

Combination skin is the most common type and is marked by a consistently oily T-zone (the central area of your face including the chin, nose and the part of your forehead above your eyebrows), where we all have more sebaceous glands, with dryness in other areas of the face.

Normal skin is not too dry or oily, but like Baby Bear’s porridge in the Goldilocks story, “just right.” It typically has an even tone and a soft texture with little flakiness. You may get an oily T-zone in hot weather, but generally, this area is oil-free.

Sensitive skin frequently feels itchy, patchy, dry, and can sometimes sting. It may be easily aggravated by most products and cleansers and experiences a low-level of irritation and discomfort at all times. It often breaks out in rashes or red spots, flushes red from the wind, cleansing, or sun exposure, and may also experience, stinging, swelling, flakiness and itching.

  1. Is it really necessary to wash my face every night?

Yes, you need to remove the dirt and debris that accumulated on your skin during the day, even if you “just” spent the day sitting in front of your computer. In addition, your sleeping hours are when your body performs all of its detox and repair functions, so you want your nighttime cleanser and moisturizer to give your skin the ingredients it needs to help it do that. Those ingredients include antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, plus hydrating agents.

  1. Should I use a specific cleanser?

Ideally, yes, the cleanser you choose should be appropriate for your skin type. If you are prone to acne, you’ll want to use an anti-acne cleanser and moisturizer that may include retinol (vitamin A), for example. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to choose something gentle that won’t irritate it.

  1. When should I start using anti-aging products?

As soon as you want to prevent the deleterious effects of aging on your skin! You’ll never be any younger than you are now, just like you’ll never be any taller or have any more hair. It’s never too young to protect your skin from sun damage or exposure to environmental toxins. I think it’s appropriate to use so-called “anti-aging” products by your late teens. Ideally, you will still age; you just won’t look like it!

  1. Do I really need a separate eye cream?

Yes, you really need a separate eye cream because the skin on your eyelid is perhaps the thinnest, most delicate and sensitive skin on your entire body. It needs to be treated delicately—even in the way you apply the eye cream, which should be with a gentle, dabbing motion, not a rub.

  1. Do I need different products for day and night skincare?

Yes, you do. Your skin needs moisturizer and sunscreen by day; it needs repair ingredients at night: moisturizers that contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients; antibacterial/anti-acne ingredients if you’re prone to breakouts.

  1. Does diet really affect acne?

Yes, diet really affects acne and every other health condition! Acne is an inflammatory reaction, so anything you eat that increases inflammation can make acne worse, while anything with anti-inflammatory properties (vitamin A is very important), will help your body control acne breakouts.

  1. What products should everyone have in their skin care routine?

Everyone needs to have a cleanser appropriate for their skin type, moisturizer (again, light or heavy, depending on skin type; acne-fighting as appropriate, etc.), sunscreen (preferably a mineral block, rather than a chemical block) applied frequently, an eye cream for nighttime repair, and anything they need for specific concerns, such as hyperpigmentation (dark spots).

  1. How often should I exfoliate?

The answer to this question depends on your skin type. There’s no “one size fits all” answer. If you exfoliate and 45 minutes later your skin is again oily, you can exfoliate more. If you exfoliate and 45 minutes later your skin feels dry, you should do it less. You want to exfoliate enough to stimulate your skin to produce new cells and collagen; not so much that you strip it of its natural moisture barrier and cause prolonged irritation.

  1. What area of my skin should I pay more attention to?

Most people know to pay attention to the skin on their face, but the truth is that you need to pay attention to all of your skin that is exposed to the environment. That includes your “neck and deck” (décolletage) and your arms and hands. It may include your entire body, depending on how you spend your day. My dentist used to have a sign in his office: You don’t need to floss all your teeth; just the ones you want to keep.” The same is true for your skin: you don’t have to protect it all, just the parts you want to keep from getting damaged.

  1. What question do you wish more people asked you?

Most people don’t realize the damage that stress does to their skin. They know that stress affects them emotionally; they might know it raises their blood pressure and contributes to heart disease. But the fact is that stress underlies virtually all of the diseases we associate with aging because, over time, stress overwhelms our bodies’ ability to repair itself. The evidence of stress also shows on our skin—in breakouts, dark circles, sagging skin, and wrinkles. In addition, most people are not aware of the tremendous amount of stress they’re under 24/7, simply as a result of living in this society. I call this stress “Cultural Stress,” the 24-hour, ever-increasing stress of modern living, which compounds all of the other stresses of life—a bad day at the office, a relationship breakdown, a health issue. So, the question I wish more people asked me is, “What can I do to better manage the stress in my life?” And the answer would be, as those familiar with me know: “Eat your water” (to keep your cells hydrated); “Move your body” (to build muscle and discharge stress); “Be kind to your mind” (to unplug from all the incoming noise and static); and “Nourish your skin.” I call these the Four Pillars of Modern Wellness, and I practice them myself.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider, who should also be consulted with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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