Using the wrong skincare product is not only a waste of money
but can also lead to problems such as acne. In order for you
to choose the most appropriate products for your skin, you need
to analyse your cosmetic skin type. Do this at least 2 hours
after washing the face with a lathering cleanser so as to allow
oil time to return to the skin. Examine your skin in a mirror
under good daylight or a white-light.
Cosmetic skin types
- Dry skin
in colour, thin epidermis, rough to touch, flakiness and tightness,
especially after washing, underactive oil glands, fine lines
around the eyes prematurely, tendency to develop telangiectasia
(broken capillaries), and rarely breakouts.
- Combination skin
in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), dryness on the cheeks,
occasional breakouts in the oily areas.
- Normal skin
clear, even colour, soft and supple to touch, average thickness
epidermis, feels neither greasy or tight, high degree of elasticity.
- Oily skin
complexion, thick epidermis, overactive glands causing a shiny
appearance, open pores especially down central portion and prone
to whiteheads and blackheads.
The category cosmeticians refer to as sensitive skin type actually
refers to eczema (either seborrhoeic eczema or atopic dermatitis)
or contact dermatitis. Both need to be treated by a doctor. Contact
dermatitis is caused by allergy or irritation from skincare products
and may require patch testing to determine the cause.
dead outer layer of the skin or the stratum corneum is meant
to be shed off. Proper skincare is necessary to facilitate the
removal of these dead cells as well as clean and protect the
skin. Unfortunately, there is such a bewildering range of products
on the market that many people are very mixed-up about what are
their basic skincare needs. To add to the confusion, every celebrity
and model seems to have her secret formula to protect the skin.
So who or what can you believe? The truth usually is that these
individuals often have good skin to begin with and this is why
cosmetic companies choose them to showcase their products. But
lets face it, if you have or want to have good skin, you
have to treat it well. Remember that every regimen has to be
tailored to your skin and as the condition of your skin varies
from time to time, so too does you skin care regimen.
need not be complicated so lets clear the confusion and
debunk some myths. There are basically four main objectives in
skincare - cleansing, toning, moisturising
and protecting. Protecting, however, means protecting
against the sun's UV rays which are very damaging to the skin
and not against dirt in the environment.
- 1. Cleansing
remove dirt, dead skin cells and oil or make-up. There are many
cleansers on the market so it is important to understand how
they work. They can be divided into 2 main categories:-
or foaming cleansers
The first non-lathering cleanser was formulated as early as 100AD
by a Greek physician called Galen. His formula contained olive
oil, beeswax and rose petals. Olive oil was the oil, beeswax
acted as an emulsifier to combine oil and water and rose petal
provided the fragrance. The closest modern day equivalent of
Galen's cleanser is the cold cream (so-called because it produced
a cooling sensation). Cleansing creams are essentially variations
of Galen's formula. Cleansing milks are similar to cleansing
creams except that extra water has been added to make them more
liquid. Non-lathering cleansers may be tissued-off with tissue
or facial cotton or rinsed-off with water. Make-up contains oil
or wax so it needs a wax or oil-based formula to dissolve it
in order for it to be wiped or rinsed away. Non-lathering cleansers
are therefore, also used as make-up cleansers. Remember that
toners may not adequately remove all traces of the make-up cleanser
so it is advisable to use a lathering cleanser if you have acne-prone
or oily skin.
Lathering cleansers may come in lotion, gel or bar form.
They also contain oil to disperse dirt, dead surface cells and
skin oils together with a detergent to wash them all off. Lathering
cleansers may be soap-based or soap-free, depending on the type
of detergent used. Soap is a mixture of animal or vegetable fat
and alkali salt, for example, sodium cocoate or sodium taloate.
Unfortunately, soap-based cleansers are alkaline and tend to
leave behind a residue with hard water. Examples include the
older varieties of toilet soap. The soap-free cleansers, also
known in the skin trade as "soapless soaps" use "syndets" or synthetic
detergents which are petroleum
derivatives. They are less alkaline and many are labelled as
"pH-balanced". They work equally well in hard water
as well as soft water and are generally efficient cleansers.
Most modern day lathering cleansers use syndets. Fats may be
added to lathering cleansers to make them less drying (for example,
superfatted soaps), oatmeal may be added for its soothing properties,
peeling agents such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulphur
(for example, acne soaps), antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan
and ingarsan (for example, deodorant soaps), abrasive agents
such as polyethylene granules, aluminium oxide, ground fruit
pips, sodium tetraborate decahydrate granules (for example, cleansing
scrubs) and so on.
rinsing with hot or cold water as extreme temperatures encourage
the development of telangiectasias (broken capillaries) and dry
skin. Use tepid water and rinse off lathering cleansers thoroughly.
Cleansing scrubs may be used if you have oily skin but dont
overdo it as that only stimulates the oild glands to produce
more oil. Generally, never use scrubs more than twice a week.
Alkaline soaps are drying and irritating to sensitive skin, use
pH balanced soap with pH near to that of the skin, normally pH
5.6 - 6.8, i.e., slight acidic.
contain water, alcohol, witch hazel (which is also an alcoholic
solution made from the Hamamelis plant) and a moisturiser. They
remove traces of cleanser and produce a tight refreshed feeling
when they evaporate. Toners can only tighten pores temporarily
not close them permanently. They are generally drying on the
skin because they usually contain 20 - 60% alcohol. Fresheners
are similar to toners except that they contain little or no alcohol
(0 - 20% alcohol contain). Alcohol-free toners usually contain
glycerol or rose water. Clarifying lotions and astringents are
toners with more alcohol and are more drying. Glycolic acid and
salicylic acid have also been added to toners for exfoliation.
Dont worry if you dont use toners because it doesnt
mean that you skin is going to loose all its tone and drop to
the ground. Remember that toners may not adequately remove all
traces of a make-up cleanser so you should use a lathering cleanser
first, especially if your skin is oily.
Skincare for different skin types
moisturisers during the day (use sunscreens which provide some
moisturising) and use an oil free moisturiser at night.
a sunscreen for oily skin during the day. It also helps to moisturise
the skin and can serve as a base for make-up. If the skin is
very, very oily, a gel formulation may be more appropriate.
moisturiser during the day. Creamier moisturiser during the night.
during the day.
cleanser and then tissue or rinse off. Alternatively, if you
like some suds on the face, use a lathering cleanser formulated
for dry skin. These usually have added fats so as not to dry
necessary if you are using a tissue-off non-lathering cleanser.
lighter moisturiser during the day and a creamier moisturiser
sunscreen during the day.
Use cleanser for
for oily area and non-alcoholic toner for the dry areas.
moisturiser to oily areas and creamier moisturiser to dry areas.
sunscreens during the day.
fragrance and preservative free soapfree cleansers.
the toner or use a mild non-alcoholic toner.
moisturiser day and night. Avoid heavily scented products.
sunscreens during the day.
* Sensitive skin may mean you have a
skin problem such as eczema. You should consult a doctor first.
so-called anti-wrinkle, rejuvenating and cell renewal creams
are essentially, just good moisturisers. They reduce flakiness
by making the stratum corneum cells stick together and make the
skin appear smoother by plumping up the stratum corneum cells.
The smoother surface also allows more light to be reflected so
the skin looks brighter and less dull. Moisturisers also provide
a smooth base for make-up to go on, further enhancing the smooth
appearance. Although moisturisers may contain special
ingredients such as collagen and elastin, supposedly to replace
those damaged, the truth is these ingredients are much too large
to be able penetrate the dermis. Collagen and elastin, however,
have very good water binding abilities and are therefore, very
can be divided into two main types - day-time moisturisers which
contain less oil and soak quickly into the skin and night-time
moisturisers which contain more and help to reduce water loss
during the night. Night creams are essentially night moisturisers.
Cosmetic manufacturers make a lot out of dry skin lines and claim
that untreated, they will lead to wrinkles. This is not true
because dry skin lines are caused by a dehydrated stratum corneum
and the remedy is moisturisers. Wrinkles on the other hand, are
caused by the degeneration of collagen and elastin fibres in
the dermis. The only way to improve wrinkles is to stimulate,
in particular, collagen production. The only product that has
been proven to do that is tretinoin (vitamin A acid), although
there is some evidence that alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy
acids (BHAs) and vitamin C may have some effect.
- Moisturisers do not prevent wrinkles because they cannot
penetrate into the dermis to stimulate collagen synthesis. What
moisturisers do is to plump up the stratum corneum (dead cell
layer) making the skin appear smoother, almost immediately. Be
careful about so-called anti-wrinkle creams that
claim they can reduce wrinkles overnight! The truth is you cannot
bring back the collagen overnight. What these creams do is to
hide the lines. In other words, they are very good moisturisers.
that out of the way, let us turn our attention to what moisturising
is all about. Firstly, when we speak of moisturising the skin
we are really talking about is moisturising the stratum corneum
or the dead horny layer of the skin that is visible. Secondly,
it is water that moisturises the stratum corneum. When you get
out of the bath, the stratum corneum is moisturised but it doesn't
stay this way for long because the atmosphere quickly dries it
up. In order to moisturise the skin, one has to put water into
the stratum corneum and keep it there. This is exactly what moisturisers
do. In medical terms, they reduce "transepidermal water
loss" (TEWL). There are two groups of ingredients in moisturisers
that can do this. The first are lubricants (mineral or vegetable
oil, lanolins and silicones) which reduce water loss through
evaporation by occluding the skin with a waterproof layer. The
second group of ingredients are humectants which attract and
hold water in the stratum corneum. Examples of humectants include
lactic acid, urea (the urea found in creams is synthetically
produced by combining one molecule of carbon dioxide with two
molecules of ammonia and not obtained from urine), hyaluronic
acid (able to retain 1000 times its weight of water), propylene
glycol, glycerin, sorbitol, gelatin, lecithin, sodium pyrrolidone
carboxylic acid (Na-PCA), and butylene glycol. Humectants are
often used in so-called "oil-free moisturisers". Emollients
are products that make the skin softer but there is so much overlap
between emollients and moisturisers that they can be considered
Some tips on
the use of moisturisers
Oily skin may not need moisturisers in the first place. If you
need moisturising, choose an oil-free moisturiser that contains
humectants such as glycerin, Na-PCA and hyaluronic acid, et cetera
(see ingredients table in the feature article of cosmetics).
Humectants trap water and plump up the stratum corneum, making
it softer and smoother without adding oiliness or shine. Use
the moisturiser only at night because the sunscreen applied during
the day provides sufficient moisturisation.
with an oil-in-water moisturiser, i.e., one that lists water
first in the list of ingredients. Use a lotion formulation during
the day and a creamier formulation at night. If you find that
the skin is too dry, look at the next category and if your skin
is getting breakouts, look at the category above.
the recommendations for normal skin. If the skin gets too dry,
switch to one that contains more oil than water, that is, a water-in-oil
emulsion. These have a thicker consistency and will list the
oily compound high up in the list of ingredients. Use this from
the very start if your skin is very dry.
can treat the oily and dry areas with the respective formulae
or leave the oily untreated and treat only the dry areas with
the appropriate formula.
is more necessary than moisturising. Not everyone needs moisturising
especially if the skin is oily but everyone needs protecting
and this does not mean protecting the skin against dirt or the
entry of germs because the skin is quite capable of doing that
without any help. Protecting means protecting the skin against
sun-damage which you may remember is the main cause of ageing.
In skin care terms, this means using sunscreens and this very
important topic is discussed in greater detail in the feature
article on sunlight and your skin,
Extra treats - the salon (or home)
on we discussed the basics of skincare. However, from time to
time you may feel that you want to give the skin and the extra
treat. This is usually done in the salon but you can do this
equally well at home. There are essentially six steps to the
facial. Before beginning, remove your make-up with a make-up
a non-lathering cleansing. Massage in circular movements over
the face and neck. Leave on for 1 - 2 minutes to dissolve grime
and old make-up. Then gently wipe off with cotton swabs. . Be
careful not to drag the sensitive skin around the eyes. Rinse
off with tepid water.
massage a facial scrub using your finger tips. Scrubs contain
abrasives such as polyethylene granules, aluminium oxide, ground
fruit pips, sodium tetraborate decahydrate granules in a cream
or detergent base. They scrub away dead cells that have built
up on the surface, making the skin appear dull and lustreless.
Scrubs for acne or oily skin are usually formulated in a detergent
base whereas those for dry skin are formulated in a creamy base
with some added oils. Scrub gently in circular motions for about
1 - 2 minutes. Rinse off with tepid water.
hydrates and softens the stratum corneum and helps to soften
the plugs that cause whiteheads and blackheads so that they can
be more easily removed with a mask. Resist the temptation to
squeeze or extract them. You can do this at home by draping towel
over your head held about 20cm from a bowl of hot water (not
boiling in case of spillage). Steam for 10 minutes. You can add
chamomile of some other fragrance that you like. Pat the face
dry with clean tissue or a soft towel. Electric facial steamers
can also be used.
also help to remove dry dead cells from the surface and skin
pores, making the skin appear smoother and pores less prominent.
Masks come in 2 forms - "wash-off" or "peel-off"
masks. The former usually contain clay products such as kaolin
or bentonite and dry the skin. Hence, they are more suitable
for oily or acne-prone skins. Some of the wash-off masks recommended
for people with acne or oily skin contain benzoyl peroxide and
sulphur. Wash off masks are applied and left on for 15 - 30 minutes
before rinsing off. Peel-off masks (also called "Film masks")
contain polyvinyl alcohol or vinyl acetate and are applied in
liquid or gel form and are peeled off after 15 - 30 minutes.
Peel off masks are less drying and may be used by most skin types.
If you have dry skin, you can use a moisturising or hydrating
mask. These masks are applied thickly to sensitive skins.
a cotton swab with a toner or freshener and apply to the skin.
If you have dry skin, you can use a non-alcoholic toner. If you
have combination skin, you can apply the toner on oily areas
such as the T-zone on the forehead, nose and chin.
the skin with moisturiser and gently massage it in circular movements
smooth. Try to do this slowly as it allows you to massage the
skin and relax yourself.