Human skin serves a multitude of functions for the body including protection, thermoregulation and sensory input. It is our body’s largest organ, with its own immune, circulatory, communication, endocrine, and nervous systems.
As with most organs, it heals and restores at night, while we sleep, with 8-9 hours being the preferred restorative interval. As one can see by the diagram, the skin has two major components, the epidermis and the dermis, each having its own set of functions. A popular myth is that the skin has a layer of “dead cells” that need to be removed daily or at least at regular intervals…but this is not the case.
Every layer of the skin is serving a function, and a cell is not discarded until it has completed serving a function, whether protective, defensive, or thermoregulatory.
Listed below is a common skin care routine which we found in top-selling magazines for men and women:
- Apply serums, creams, moisturizers, or sunscreen with moisturizer
- Apply cosmetics if desired.
- Apply more serums, creams and moisturizers.
Some individuals also incorporate other steps into their skin care regimens, such as masks (with or without occlusion), facIals, scrubs, and a multitude of in-office treatments, including dermabrasion, planing, chemicals peels, “blood” facials, oxygen facials, etc.
Frequently, new products or treatments for the skin are re-labeled or are introduced to the market when sales of a product start to fall flat and not because a new discovery has been made. Many new “buzz-words” accompany the introduction of the product to the market.
But are any of these routines and products beneficial to the skin? The answer is clear..rarely “yes”. But usually “no”. Some of the myths which accompany the hype and contribute to the billions of dollars spent yearly by consumers include:
Myth: One can provide nutrients to the skin by putting food substances on the skin.
Fact: One cannot “nourish” cells by placing food or vitamins on the skin, but only by supplying the body with nutrition by mouth.
Myth: Cleansing the skin is important for skin health
Fact: There are no data which shows that cleansing normal skin is healthful. However, there are persons who may want to consider using a mild cleanser because of their skin’s exposure to greases, oils, herbicides, pesticides, pollutants, and sunscreens, and to allow for an ideal environment for application of healthful skin care products. The only exception to this situation is with acne-prone skin, where lack of cleansing may lead to spread of excess skin oils and more acne Therefore cleaning with skin one’s hands and a mild cleanser is recommended for very oily skin.
Myth: Toning reduces pore size.
Fact: Toning is harmful to the skin. The skin is such a durable organ that the harm caused by toning is not readily seen. But, just like excessive cleaning, toning is harmful in several ways. One’s pores may look smaller after toning, but this is because the skin is swollen from the toner and the pores look temporarily smaller.
Myth: Toners restore the natural pH of the skin.
Fact: Most toners have a pH of 7.0 or higher, but our skin has a pH of 5.5. It can take hours to days for the skin to recover from use of a toner, in other words, to a pH of 5.5.
Myth: Toners control oily skin.
Fact: The response by the skin to oil stripping by a toner is to make more oil to compensate for the loss of the natural oils that serve as a barrier to the environment.
Myth: Exfoliating the skin is necessary to skin health.
Fact: Exfoliating the skin is harmful in that it causes cells to slough prematurely, that is, before the skin is finished using the cells. Many of these prematurely-sloughed cells were providing protection against dehydration and environmental assault. Premature removal of cells, alteration of the normal pH of the skin, and chemical assaults, frequently lead to invisible but clinically important chronic inflammation, which contributes to irregularities in the coloration of the skin and to acne, enlarged blood vessels, and dehydration.
What is essential for good skin care?
- A good diet: similar in focus to a Mediterranean diet
- Regular check-ups with your doctor: to insure the absence of disease
- Hydration: with least 64 ounces of water daily, and the addition of 8 ounces of water daily for every 8 ounces of caffeinated beverages daily
- Minimize: alcohol intake
- Exercise: especially cardio, which aids in oxygen delivery and free-radical removal
- Avoid: cigarettes, passive smoking, and e-cigarettes
- Sleep: 8-9 hours per night on a regular schedule
- Protection: excessive ultraviolet light, pollutants, and harmful bacteria.
- Use of a tretinol: to aid in the reversal of sun damage and pre-cancerous change
- Use of topical antioxidants: to aid in the reversal of free-radical formation in the skin
- Gentle cleansing: to aid in removal of pollutants, sunscreens, and harmful bacteria. Harsh cleansers will only disrupt the uppermost layers of the skin, which, along with a built-in lipid layer and interlaced micro-fiber collagen and elastin network, protect the skin from water loss and the body from pollutants. Gentle cleansing is especially important with aging skin, which has fewer layers of keratin and lipids to protect it.