Our skin is constantly exposed to environmental stressors and lifestyle habits that can take a toll on its appearance. Navigating skincare to find what works best can be overwhelming. Pigmentation, wrinkles and sagging can all be addressed.
Many of us are not aware that we are harming our skin, until we start to notice the tell-tale signs of ageing. Happiest Health talks to experts to decode common skincare problems and ways to cope with them.
Common causes of skin damage
Dr Stuti Khare Shukla, chief dermatologist and medical director at Elements of Aesthetics Chain of Clinics, Mumbai warns that not using proper sun protection at a young age can lead to skin damage, ageing, pigmentation issues and disorders. She advises consulting a dermatologist and avoiding products that contain harmful metals and elements such as lead, often found in cosmetics like kohl, eyeliner, lipstick, and hair dye, as they can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Dr Soumya Jagadeesan, Associate Professor, Dermatology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi points out the following five reasons for skin damage and suggests ways to manage it:
Exposure to sun and UV rays
Correct application of sunscreens can help minimise sun and ultraviolet exposure. One should take the advice of an expert to choose and rotate the sunscreens needed for one’s skin type, occupational profile, and climactic conditions.
Diet, nutrition, and hydration
This is of utmost importance to safeguard the health of one’s skin and hair. Those with acne-prone skin should go easy on dairy products and high-sugar foods. Vitamin D, B12, iron and other micronutrient deficiencies are common in our population, and we should take customised advice regarding dietary practices rather than popping too many pills.
Damaging skincare practices
With the advent of an array of products and influencers, some skincare products and practices may cause harm. One should be on one’s own guard when switching to a new product or regime, as well as take care of the basics, such as proper cleansing of facial skin to remove all makeup, hydration, and sun protection.
Some medicines taken for health conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol can make the skin dry. Certain others can cause pigmentation, itching and rashes. If we notice signs of damage on the skin, we should discuss the possible effects of medications with our healthcare provider.
Protecting skin from ageing
Dr Jagadeesan say that anti-ageing therapies like topical retinoids, vitamin C, lasers, peels, and injectables are helpful against skin damage. She also suggests including antioxidant-rich foods in the diet.
Vitamin C helps minimise the appearance of black patches by inhibiting the production of pigment.
A few clinical studies have demonstrated that vitamin C can improve wrinkles. According to a study by Richard E Fitzpatrick, MD, of the Department of Dermatology in La Jolla, California, United States of America, and his team, daily use of a vitamin C formulation for at least three months improved the appearance of fine and coarse wrinkles of the face and neck. It is also helpful in improving overall skin texture and appearance.
For any age-related changes, Dr Shukla suggests using sunscreen and retinol from a young age. She says, “Make sure to start taking collagen in the 20s, and some antioxidants like glutathione which helps in making the skin supple and works as an anti-ageing agent.”
Collagen is an essential component of connective tissue and plays a crucial role in holding the body’s cells together. It also provides strength and elasticity to the skin. According to a 2019 study, collagen supplement improves skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density.
Effect of smoking on skin
Smoking is something that can affect the skin’s collagen. Dr Shukla says, “Collagen can be disrupted by smoking, making the skin lose its elasticity and tightness and resulting in wrinkles as well as skin sagging.” Dr Jagadeesan says that the best thing is to quit smoking; however, if that is not possible at one go reduce it as much as possible until you can eventually stop smoking.
Tips for a healthy skin barrier
A healthy skin barrier keeps the skin moisturised and protected from environmental stressors such as pollution, UV rays and harsh weather. Dr Shukla recommends cleansing and applying moisturiser and sunscreen during daytime, and using a cleanser, and moisturiser in the evening. “If one has pigmentation, then one can use skin lightening serums, and retinol can also be used as an anti-ageing treatment. ” She says that one should always use an active ingredient in the night routine because our skin repairs itself during sleep.
A 2019 review suggested that topical retinoids are a secure and reliable acne treatment. The same review’s findings also revealed that retinol boosts collagen formation and cell turnover.
“Cleanse, hydrate, protect is the mantra that needs to be followed. Use actives like retinol, vitamin c or glycolic depending on expert advice,” signs off Dr Jagadeesan.