Healthy skin looks great and it’s a sign of good health too, but having healthy skin doesn’t need to be a chore. Whatever your skin type, you can have great looking skin by following some simple advice.
Smoking causes premature ageing of the skin, and along with sun exposure, is the most common cause of skin damage. Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of skin, which decreases blood circulation. This deprives the skin of nutrients and oxygen so it tends to appear dull.
Smoking also damages the collagen and elastin in the skin, which give your skin its strength and elasticity. This is why you will notice that many smokers have heavily lined skin.
Ask your doctor about treatments that are available to help you to quit smoking. It’s the best choice you can make for your skin and overall health.
Be gentle with your skin
Don’t have hot showers or baths as they can deplete your skin of its natural oils.
Don’t use harsh cleansers or soaps for the same reason. Use a mild cleanser, which is appropriate for your skin type.
Pat your skin dry gently after you bathe or shower, and apply a moisturiser, ideally one that has an SPF. This will seal moisture in the skin.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet will show in your skin. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein in your diet. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
Learn to manage stress and to find time for things that you enjoy. Stress makes skin sensitive and prone to breakouts. Relax and your skin will thank you.
Protect it from the sun
One of the best ways you can take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems, as well as increasing your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Always use sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 15. This applies even when it is cloudy, or even in the winter when the sun’s rays can be surprisingly strong. Apply sunscreen liberally, and reapply it every 2 hours, or more often than that if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
Try and avoid the sun when it’s at its hottest, between 11am and 3pm. If you must go outside, wear protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Not all skin is the same
The thickness of your skin varies depending on where it is on your body. Some parts of your body are subject to more wear and tear than others, so it figures that the skin needs to be thicker to protect these parts, for example, the soles of your feet. Here’s how to adapt your skincare routine to meet your skin’s needs:
Just as skin thickness varies, so does the number of hair follicles, sweat and oil glands in different areas of the body. These protect your skin and keep it healthy.
Areas of the skin where there are more oil glands and hair follicles can potentially heal more quickly from injury than places such as the neck and chest where there are very few glands or follicles.
Splash your face with lukewarm water, then massage your cleanser all over your face using your fingers. Do this for about a minute to make sure the product is given time to work, rinse thoroughly and pat the skin dry with a towel. Don’t rub the facial skin as it’s a lot thinner than the skin on the body. And don’t cleanse too much or use harsh products as this will cause the skin to produce too much oil to compensate for stripping its natural oils away.
Just as you should use hair care products for your hair type, you should use the right products for your skin type on your face.
In general, use richer formulations for dry skin, or dry areas like the elbows and knees, and use an oil-free moisturiser if your skin is oilier. Look for ‘non-comedogenic’ on the label, which means that it won’t clog pores and cause breakouts.
Steer clear of fragranced formulas if you have sensitive skin as they can cause irritation.
What is a Moisturiser?
A moisturiser is a topical product that locks hydration into the skin. They contain ingredients which act as humectants (which keep the skin hydrated), emollients (lock moisture into the skin), and ceramides (to prevent dryness and damage).
Types of moisturizer
Moisturizers are available in different formulations including:
Ointments: which hydrate the skin by reducing water loss from the outer layer of the skin.
Creams: these tend to be thicker and less greasy.
Lotions: these tend to be a mixture of water and oil.
Moisturises for different skin types
Every type of skin needs an appropriate moisturiser to keep it smooth and healthy.
Normal skin: is not too dry or too oily, so to keep the skin healthy and balanced, a water-based, non-greasy moisturiser should be used.
Dry skin: usually needs an oil-based, richer moisturiser to keep skin moist and nourished.
Oily skin: needs light water-based moisturisers as oil-based formulas can clog the pores and cause breakouts.
Sensitive skin: needs moisturisers that don’t contain fragrances, preservatives, or other allergens.
Mature skin: needs oil-based moisturisers to keep the skin hydrated and plump.
Combination skin: might need 2 different types of moisturiser to treat dry or oily areas.
What does a moisturiser do?
As well as hydrating your skin by moisturising the top layer, moisturisers protect the skin from environmental damage, dust, dirt, viruses, and bacteria.
How to understand a moisturizer label
There are a baffling amount of products on the market, it can be really hard to know whether a product actually works, or it’s just clever marketing. Here’s a guide to some of the terms you might see on a product label:
Fragranced or Fragrance-Free: some moisturisers will be fragranced, some are free from fragrance. If your skin is sensitive, try to avoid fragranced products as they can cause irritation. Be aware that some products might be labelled as fragrance free but they may still have a slight fragrance to cover up the smell of chemicals. The fragrance will often come from a natural source such as essential oils, but always do a patch test if you aren’t sure.
Active or Inactive Ingredients: some moisturisers contain active ingredients, like minerals which might be part of sun protection. Inactive ingredients that are present in products are usually intended to nourish the skin but they offer no further benefits like sun protection.
Non-Comedogenic: this means that a product is oil-free and it won’t clog pores. This type of product will remove excess oil from the skin without drying it out excessively.
Hypoallergenic: these products will cause less allergic reactions as they don’t contain allergens. These products are better for sensitive skins.
Natural or Organic: these moisturisers are usually derived from botanical sources and may or may not include chemicals to some degree. If a product is labelled organic, it should not contain chemicals.
Broad-Spectrum: this refers to sun protection, and the term means that the product offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
There are a huge range of possible skin colours and tones that a person can have. The colour of someone’s skin is down to a pigment in the skin called melanin, which is made in the skin’s epidermis.
Some people make more melanin than others. Everyone has about the same number of cells that make melanin, but not everybody makes the same amount of melanin.
The more melanin your skin makes, the darker your skin. How much melanin your body makes depends on your genes.
When your skin is exposed to the sun, your body makes more melanin. This has the effect of protecting you from the damaging rays, as it either deflects or absorbs them. Melanin can’t protect you fully though, especially if you have paler skin. Once your skin has tanned, or burned, the skin has been damaged.
People with darker skin have more melanin, so they usually don’t get as wrinkly when they get older. They’re also less likely to get skin cancer. But even dark-skinned people can get wrinkles and skin cancer, so you still need to protect your skin, even if it’s darker.
Do people with darker skins have special skincare needs?
Dark skin is not a skin type, and you don’t need specialist skin care, however, darker skin has some differences to lighter skin in terms of texture and being prone to certain skin problems.
Skin is skin, regardless of colour
Regardless of your ethnicity, some of the same skincare rules apply.
Skin is the body’s largest organ, and it protects us from the environment, and from harmful bacteria and viruses, so we need to look after it. Whatever skin colour or type you have, we can all suffer from blocked pores, signs of ageing, sun damage, uneven skin tone, oily skin, and sensitive skin.
For healthy and glowing skin, everyone needs to avoid or take extra care with products which contain ingredients that can cause aggravation, such as alcohol, sulphates, and synthetic fragrances.
Basic skincare advice for every skin
There are some universal rules for all skin types.
Always use a gentle cleanser. Avoid using soap as it can be too drying, and can clog pores.
Always choose products that are appropriate for your skin type. Oily or combination skins should use gels and serums, while drier skins should look to creams and lotions.
Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day. Sun damage is one of the main causes of uneven skin tone, pigmentation, and premature ageing.
Always use products which are rich in skin-loving ingredients, like antioxidants, which will replenish skin, restore its health, and keep it glowing.
Is black skin really any different?
So basic skincare needs are pretty much universal. Though there are some skin concerns that people with darker skin tend to experience. These include, but are not limited to, ingrown hairs, uneven skin tone, darkening of skin, and other types of marks and flaws that stand out more on a darker skin colour.
Research studies have shown that the only differences between lighter and darker skin tones are; skin thickness, a reduce amount of ceramides (which keep skin smooth), and how much skin is affected by exposure to the sun.
Some research also shows that darker skins react differently to acne breakouts; but the treatment of acne is still the same as it is for lighter skin.
Dark skin and sun exposure
Having darker skin is an advantage when it comes to the protection it naturally has against the sun. Darker skin contains more of a pigment called melanin, which protects the skin to an extent from the sun’s harmful rays.
This does not mean that darker skins are completely protected however, and darker skins are prone to exactly the same long-term issues caused by excessive sun exposure as dark skins.
Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, no matter the weather, is a basic rule for skin health. Even if you’re indoors, UV rays can come through windows, and even on an overcast day, the rays can penetrate clouds.
Sun damage leads to uneven skin tone, early signs of ageing, dry skin, pigmentation, and loss of firmness and elasticity if skin isn’t adequately protected.
Skin care for black skin
Moisturize your skin every day
Black skin can often be dry, and appears ashy when it is not well moisturised. A hydrating facial moisturiser which contains ingredients known as humectants are great for black skin. Humectants attract water, which hydrates the skin and keeps it soft and supple. If you have oily skin be sure to choose oil free products that won’t clog the pores and cause breakouts.
Wash your skin each day with a moisturizing body wash
Look for ingredients on the label such as glycerin, urea, hyaluronic acid or dimethicone which lock in moisture and keep the skin supple. Apply the body wash in the shower with a clean washcloth or shower puff. Use a separate facial cleanser in the morning and at night to remove makeup and grime, to keep your pores clear.
Exfoliate your skin
Black skin is prone to being rough and bumpy, due to a buildup of dead skin cells. If your skin is dry, exfoliate once per week. Oily or combination skin types should exfoliate 2-3 times a week. Massage a scrub into the skin gently, don’t be too abrasive.
Protect your skin from the sun with a sunscreen every day
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen each day with an SPF of 15 or higher. Even darker skins are not completely protected from the sun, and they can be just as prone to premature ageing and cancer as lighter skins.
Eat well and drink plenty of water
A healthy balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains will keep your skin healthy and glowing from the inside out. Regular exercise will help to keep skin healthy too as it boosts the circulation.
While all skin has common problems, some ethnic groups have problems that are specific to their skin type. Finding the right products for your skin type is very important.
Black skin tends to be thicker than lighter skins and it tends to have wider pores, so there’s a proneness to oily or combination skin.
While black skins are less prone to sun damage, they are not immune to it, and so a moisturiser with an SPF is still essential.
Black skin also requires much less emollients and purchasing a good water based moisturizer can water based moisturisers are better for black skins generally, as they keep the skin hydrated without clogging the pores.
Here are some of the best face moisturizers for black skin:
Bobbi Brown SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer (Oil Free)
This is a really great moisturiser for oilier skins. It offers lightweight coverage so it doesn’t clog pores, and it keeps skin matte throughout the day. Pricey but worth the investment for great looking skin.
Dermalogica Oil Control Lotion
This product is an excellent choice for darker skins, especially skins that are oilier and prone to acne. The product works all day to keep skin matte and eliminate shine. It includes salicylic acid which fights and treats breakouts.
Biore Dual Fusion SPF 30
This product nourishes the skin, controls oil production and shine in the T zone, and protects the skin from sun damage which is necessary, even for darker skins.
Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture SPF 15
This is a budget friendly option for sensitive skins. It moisturises the skin without being greasy, protects the skin from the sun without using allergens or ingredients like alcohol.
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
This is also great for sensitive skin, and it’s non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores and contribute to acne. It’s an excellent choice for oily or combination skin.