What’s your skin condition?

The actual needs of each particular skin type go beyond mere classification into type. In order to properly diagnose and select adequate products, one must also take into account the condition the skin is in, be it a single condition or perhaps multiple ones. Regardless of type, all skin may be dehydrated, sensitive and hyperactive. It may even be a combination of all of the above. When we start thinking about skin in this way it becomes clear that a more complex approach to skincare is required, taking into account both skin types and skin conditions, the main difference between the two being that a skin condition may change and improve depending on various factors which will be further explained in this article.

1. Skin dehydration is characterised by surface flakiness and tightness and is accompanied by dehydration lines and wrinkles. In more severe cases of dehydration, more intense scaling and flaking may appear. Dehydration occurs due to transepidermal water loss caused by the drying out of the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier. Skin can become dehydrated as the result of improper cleansing, washing the face with gels containing drying ingredients and hard water full of lime, but also as the result of excessive exfoliation through which the surface protective layer of the skin is removed. Dehydrated skin not belonging to the dry type may begin to overproduce sebum in its deeper levels in an attempt to compensate for the lack of moisture, but this sebum just lays on top of the skin’s surface without eliminating the feeling of tightness and discomfort. In the case of dehydrated oily skin mechanical overdrying has to be avoided and necessary moisture restored in order to bring its hydrolipidic barrier back into balance. Dehydration is also a common occurrence in more mature skin since over time the skin loses its ability to retain moisture, often assuming an unnaturally taught appearance accompanied by dehydration lines. The level of moisture that the skin requires may be obtained by the use of humectants such as hyaluronic acid, glycerol, panthenol, zinc PCA, sorbitol, xylitol etc. Humectants are ingredients found in moisturising products which attract and bind water to skin cells and in that way maintain hydration levels and prevent transepidermal water loss. Hyaluronic acid is the ideal humectant for all skin types since just one gram of this ingredient may absorb up to six litres of water. Apart from humectants, dehydrated skin is recommended to be treated with gentle exfoliators based on AHAs which help remove dead skin cells, making skin smoother and more able to absorb humectants.

2. Another skin condition to be taken into account when choosing adequate skin care is sensitivity or the skin’s natural resistance level. Resistant skin functions as a protective barrier against allergens and environmental irritants and such skin is less prone to acne, inflammatory processes and general redness. As opposed to resistant skin, sensitive skin or skin with a compromised barrier function is becoming a more and more frequent problem faced primarily by persons who have thin skin. Because skin is thin, veins and nerve endings are located much closer to the skin’s surface. That explains why sensitive skin is more prone to irritation and redness. When the skin’s barrier function has been compromised irritants penetrate into the epidermis more easily, causing inflammatory processes characterised by redness, tingling and itching sensations. The main factors contributing to sensitivity are use of inadequate cosmetic products, external factors such as UV radiation, pollution, smog, cigarette smoke and unhealthy habits and a damaged hydrolipidic barrier of the skin. Sensitive skin may be divided into four subtypes: acne-prone skin (with a tendency towards acne and comedones), skin developing rosacea (with a tendency towards facial redness accompanied by enlarged capillaries and papulopustular changes), skin developing reactivity (characterised by prickling sensations and temporary erythema) and skin developing allergies (characterised by prominent erythema, itching and scaling). The one thing in common to all these subtypes is an inflammatory response of the skin and adequate treatment must be found in accordance with that response.

3. Hyper reactivity of the skin is an acquired sensibility characterised by extreme sensitivity due to which the skin hardly tolerates most cosmetic products, if at all. The skin’s inflammatory response is a complex problem with numerous aetiologies which need to be addressed in a targeted and specific manner. When selecting topical products to be used on skin with a compromised barrier function it is important to avoid irritants, perfumes, essential oils, declared allergens such as camphor, citral, geraniol, eugenol and other perfume ingredients, propylene glycol and SLS/SLES. Instead, the skincare routine should incorporate soothing ingredients with a proven anti-inflammatory effect, such as aloe vera, oat extract, cucumber extract, niacinamide, salicylic acid, zinc PCA, camomile etc.

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