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The ultimate unisex complexion care guide

How to diagnose your skin type and look after it perfectly..

All skins are not created equal. Each one of us has our unique skin types developed as a result of heredity and lifestyle. Getting acquainted with yours is the best way to ensure that it is healthy.

You probably have some idea of your skin type, but if you haven't, read on for a diagnosis.

How to tell if you have it You are blessed with skin that is moist, plump and dewy
has small to medium pores
has few or no blemishes
is not sun damaged
is evenly toned and of medium thickness
is soft, smooth and firm with good elasticity
may be a wee bit oily only in the T-zone (the forehead, nose and chin)

Most likely candidates Besides small children whose skin is soft, taut, resilient and free of wrinkles or blemishes, normal skin could be hereditary. If your parent has good skin, you're likely to inherit it.

Why it's like that? Because your good genes and your hormones are balanced, your water and oil glands of the face produce just the right amount to hydrate and protect the skin.

How to tell if you've got it
Your pores are visibly more noticeable than other skin types.
They are medium to large in size.
Your skin is shiny and feels greasy
Your skin is thicker, firmer and less sensitive.

Most likely candidates Oily skin usually occurs in people between 12 and 22, pregnant and menopausal women.

Why it's like that? The sebaceous glands are on overdrive and manufacture far too much oil. Combine this with the dead cells that the skin produces all the time, and just get brushed away, and the result will be blackheads and spots, as the pores get clogged with debris.

The good news is that this kind of skin stays younger longer as it doesn't wrinkle easily.

How to tell if you have it

Your skin is thin and the pores are barely visible. It needs oil and water.
Your skin is thick with visible pores, but feels dry. It lacks water.
Your skin feels tight, particularly after washing it. There is visible flaking specially around the nose. It lacks water.
Your skin is delicate, easily irritated and usually sensitive to cold weather. It lacks oil.
Your skin has a matte finish with no sheen and can feel rough. It lacks oil.

Most likely candidates Anyone over 30 can have dry skin, but women's skin tends to be drier than men's and fair skins are drier than dark skins. When you're young true dry skin has a porcelain texture. But as you age a lattice-work of wrinkles and fine lines may appear.

Why it's like that It lacks oil and/or water. If only oil is missing it's plain dry skin. If it lacks water it is dehydrated and dead skin cells remain on the surface causing flaking and a dull appearance.

You may think that you have dry skin when actually all you have is a superficial dry condition, which is caused by the sun, sea air, harsh wind or pollution. It is also caused by faulty skin care habits such as using harsh soap and not using a moisturiser. All you need is a skin care programme that suits you and in no time at all your skin will be silky soft again.

How to tell if you have it. In 95% cases

your skin is oily in certain areas and dry or normal in others
the T zone (forehead, nose and chin) is oily and the cheek and area around the eyes are normal or dry.
In the rest the combinations could be
a blemished forehead and normal other areas
dry cheek and normal other areas

Most likely candidates Generally visible in people between 12 and 40, although anybody can have it.

Why it's like that The production of sebum is greater where there are more pores on the skin.

How to tell if you have it Your skin

is easily irritated by certain cosmetics, over handling, the elements, products containing alcohol, artificial colours, artificial fragrances, AHAs, preservatives, aromatic essential oils.
demonstrates its annoyance by redness, rash, itching, stinging, burning.
develops distended or broken capillaries.
sunburns easily.

Most likely candidates The fair skinned and light haired. But anyone else can have it.

Why it's like that It is thinner than other skin types and the nerve endings and blood vessels are closer to the surface of the skin which is what makes it sensitive.

How to tell if you have it

Blackheads, white heads, pustules, scarring.

Most likely candidates Generally teenagers, specially boys, because testosterone stimulates sebum. But adults can be victims too.

Why it's like that? Teen problem skin is due to the increase in hormone production which stimulates the oil glands. Now if this oil flows freely from the pores you'll just have an oily skin. But quite often the excessive oil teams up with dead skin cells, too many skin products and improper cleansing which gets trapped in the hair follicles to clog the pores. As the pressure builds up, there is leakage into the surrounding tissues. Bacteria flourishes in the clogged pores and the surrounding inflamed tissues. Pimples and pustules sprout with devastating effects.

Grown up blemishes are triggered by diet, stress premenstruation, menopause, cosmetics, the contraceptive pill, anti epilepsy, anti TB + anabolic steroids, pollution. Other causes are illness, constipation, stomach problems, food allergies and your genes.

How to tell if you have it
Crow's feet, furrowed brows, laughter lines, other wrinkles, dryness and roughness, sagging, discolouration, age spots.

Most likely candidates After 30 cellular turnover starts to slow down and fine lines appear. At 40 the pigment cells and immune cells in the skin, which protect against the sun, decrease, making the skin more prone to sun damage. At 50 the oil glands significantly slow down resulting in dryness, especially in winter. Men's skin retains its elasticity and makes it less likely to sag or wrinkle.

Why it's like that All skins get old. Inevitably. However ageing can be appropriate to your birth date or premature.

Appropriate ageing results from the passage of time and slowing down of glandular function which rejuvenate the skin.

Premature ageing is due to
over exposure to the UV Rays of the sun which fry your skin and attack the internal structure causing discolouration and age spots.
smoking, which robs your skin of essential vitamins and minerals. Pulling on a cigarette gives you fine lines around the face.
alcohol, causes blood vessels to dilate, putting pressure on the collagen and elastin that holds skin in place. Binge drinking causes sagging.
haphazard or abusive skin care.
not drinking enough of water.

Once you've found your skin type it doesn't mean that finders are keepers. Your skin changes constantly because of your health, age, lifestyle, environment. Although you may have normal skin today, it may become dry in the years to come. Or oily skin may become normal, damaged and superficially dry skin can recapture its former glory with proper care.

Your skin may even behave differently in different seasons. Here's a four-step plan.

Step One: Pre-cleansing
The first step in a good complexion programme is to pre-cleanse the skin using a technique called facial compression. This is important because it begins to soften and loosen flakes and dirt - making the cleansing process easier and more effective. What's more, it warms and relaxes the face, hydrates the skin and is a dramatic anti stress treatment.

thoroughly rinse a clean soft towel to remove any detergent residue. Be sure to use a clean towel daily.
fill the basin with cool, tepid or warm water depending on your skin type:
Normal - cool or warm.
Oily - cool or slightly warm.
Dry - warm only
Combination - warm
Sensitive - tepid or warm
Blemished - cool to slightly warm
Ageing - warm only.

Avoid extreme temperatures. Hot water is drying because it strips away natural oils and can also prompt small capillaries to swell and probably break - causing a network of red lines. Cold water can also harm the tiny capillaries and suppress glandular function in the skin.

You can add 2 to 3 drops of essential oils, such as lavender, neroli or rose to 1/2 litre of water and stir briskly. Essential oils do not dissolve in water, so if you want them to dissolve better, add the essential oil to a teaspoon of vodka or vinegar before adding it to the water in the basin. These act as solvents and blend the water and oils together.

Lean over the basin, dip the towel in the water and hold the wash cloth to your face and neck for a few moments.
Repeat 10 times.

Step Two: Cleansing
Now you're ready to thoroughly cleanse, removing the gunk and goo that collects on the surface of the skin. This includes make-up, dirt, dust, waste products excreted by the skin, and dead skin cells. If cleansing is done properly and with the right product it will help nip problems such as clogged pores, blemishes, skin irritation and premature ageing. A good cleanser should whisk away debris without leaving the skin dehydrated, irritated or stripped off its natural oils.

Two Golden Rules for cleansing apply to all skin types and every age group:
1. Never use soap.
2. Always treat your skin gently.

Choosing a cleanser depends on your skin type and your preference for the feel, smell and performance of the product.

Cleanses can be cream, milk, gel or foam. Cream cleansers are heavy and contain more oil than water. Milky cleansers are a balanced formulation of oil and water and are more fluid than cream. Gels are usually oil free and have a thickish jelly like consistency. Foaming cleansers contain ingredients that create suds and usually contain detergent or soap.

How to choose
For normal skin - oil free cleansing gel, cleansing milk or soap free foam.
For young oily skin - oil free cleansing gel
For older oily skin - oil free cleansing gel or cleansing milk
For dry skin - cleansing milk or cleansing cream.
For combination skin - use the recommended cleanser for the skin type of each area, or choose one cleanser for the entire face that works best for the drier portion. It is better to underclean than overclean.
For sensitive skin - cleansing milk or cleansing cream
For blemished skin - oil free cleansing gel
For ageing skin - cleansing milk or cleansing cream.

How to use Apply on damp face and neck with a patting and pressing action - as though you are hugging your skin with your fingers and palms. Move around in soft gentle circles for three minutes, but don't scrub and don't use heavy pressure that might weaken the underlying structure or force impurities into the skin. Rinse with warm water until the cleanser is completely removed. Follow with a cool water splash and pat skin with a towel to remove excess water. Do not pat completely dry.

Step Three: Toning
A toner is used after the face and neck have been cleansed, thoroughly rinsed and patted dry. A good toner removes any residue left by the cleanser and acts as a second step cleanser. It should re-establish the acid pH of the skin (if it has been disrupted by the cleanser). Toners condition the skin as well as prepare the skin for the next step, which is moisturising.

Some toners contain alcohol, which not only remove every bit of the cleanser, but also every bit of natural skin oil. They can be too drying and often irritating. The newer toners have been improved and most of them don't contain alcohol. The best toners contain simple natural ingredients such as aloe vera, herbal extracts or floral waters. People with very dry or sensitive skin should not use a toner at all. Combination skin needs a toner only in certain areas.

How to use1 Saturate a cotton ball and then gently wipe the face and neck. Don't scrub and don't apply around the eyes or mouth, because these areas are prone to dryness. Using a cotton ball is more effective than just patting the toner on the face, because the cotton ball lifts off and takes away the residue.

Step Four: Moisturising
Moisturising is the final step. All skin types can benefit from the hydration and protection a moisturiser provides, although drier skins need it more than others.

Moisturisers which are emulsion of oil and water are most effective when applied after the skin has been hydrated after a bath or a light spritz of water.

Using a moisturiser has two purposes: First it forms a protective barrier to prevent moisture loss and guard the skin against the effects of air conditioners, the sun and wind, the environment. A well formulated moisturiser with hycluronic acid, linolenic acid, sodium PCA and phospholipids does this without clogging the pores.

Secondly, it should contain effective humectants such as glycerine, urea, sorbitol which attract and trap moisture from the air to counteract dryness and help prevent the signs of ageing.
Moisturisers are designed to imitate the natural skin protective system - the sweat and oil glands that excrete both water and oil on the surface of the skin. The richer moisturisers have more oil (petroleum jelly, mineral oil, camomile, silicone) than water and provide a heavier protective barrier. The lighter ones have more water and are more hydrating, but do not offer as much protection as they merely keep the skin supple.

How to choose Select a moisturiser designed for your skin type. Moisturise only when and where you need it.

Over moisturising a skin that doesn't need water and oil can clog pores. A too harsh moisturiser can create flaking and irritation. To know whether or not your moisturiser is suitable, you should be able to feel it two or three hours after applying. If you can't and your skin feels dry, then you need a richer moisturiser.

The type of moisturiser you use may need to be changed with the seasons or a change of environment. If you live in extreme cold with biting winds, you need a rich heavy product and you may need to apply it where you normally don't. During summer and in the rain, when you are sticky and sweaty, you may only need a moisturiser on your cheek. So be flexible - suit your skin type and the situation.

There are moisturisers formulated as night creams and day creams. The difference is that night creams contain more active nourishing ingredients to rejuvenate the skin while you sleep. Day creams contain an SPF to protect you against the environment.

How to use Use your moisturiser with discretion. The areas that are tight and dry are the areas that need it.

Pat, press and smoothe on your moisturiser and be specially gentle with AHA products. Never drag or stretch your skin, or you'll end up with wrinkles - despite the cream.

A basic skin routine takes just 5 to 10 minutes. If you have normal, oily, combination or blemished skin, go through all the steps twice a day. If you have a dry, sensitive or ageing skin, once will do, in the evening. In the morning just compress, pat dry and moisturise.

Anne De Braganca Cunha

Read the label Check out what's in the product - plant oils, herbal extracts, the A, C and E antioxidant vitamins, aromatherapy essential oils. Avoid colours and scents as they can trigger allergies.
Check out the integrity of the manufacturer and their process. What are the company's standards? How long has it been in business? Does it follow a philosophy that appeals to you? Does it support its products with dependable customer service? You can find this out from salespersons or the manufacturer.
Use the product to see how you react to it. Some manufacturers provide samples that allow you to use the product without splurging on a full size. You need to experience the feel, the action and fragrance of the products. A skincare professional can recommend a line, but only you will know what's right for you.

Extreme climates, both hot and cold, produce thicker skins.
Hot climates produce people with more colour and more oil in their skin.
Most cool climates produce thin sensitive skins.
Fair skins are thinner and more vulnerable to dryness and damage.
Olive skins are oily and less vulnerable to damage.
Chocolate skins are oily and less prone to ageing.

Soaps and products that contain soap or detergents are not an option as facial cleansers because they are way too strong. They are highly alkaline and destroy the skin's protective mantle as well as strip the skin of its natural oils. The regular use of soap or detergent contributes to premature ageing of the skin because they are drying. Any product that needs soap is taboo. Squeaky clean faces are out of style - it only means that your cleansing product is too harsh.

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