While everyone desires a healthy and beautiful skin, many are not aware of the few basics that could go a along way in preventing skin problems. Factors such as a healthy and well balanced diet with plenty of water intake and regular exercise are some of the best methods to ensure a glowing skin. Junk food, excessive dieting to reduce weight and irregular eating hours tend to starve the skin of necessary vitamins and minerals, resulting in various problems. Any form of exercise – aerobics, walking, jogging or cycling at least five times a week for 30 minutes is a booster for the skin.
Daily essentials such as soaps, creams and various other cosmetics also have their effect on the skin. Soaps today are an essential part of cosmetics. There are three factors to be considered in soaps – the pH content, tallow content and the irritable score of the soap. Most of soaps are alkaline in nature; however, lesser the alkaline, milder the soap. Many a times to make the soaps neutral, certain emulsifiers are added, which cleanse and do little damage to the skin. Super fatted soaps or glycerine-based soaps are good for dry and normal skin. Deodorant or anti-microbiocidal bars have added anti-bacterial agent to eradicate bacteria. These soaps have a pH range of nine to ten and may cause skin irritation. They are good for oily skin. Soaps with a moisturising base have moisturising agents like lanolin or glycerine. Their pH range is five to seven, thus they are non¬irritant. They are good for dry skin. An important point is that no soap is safe for the skin throughout one’s life. As one keeps growing older, the skin also changes its texture. Hence one must also keep changing the soap used to keep pace with the changing nature of the skin.
Cleansing is an important part of skin care and removes dirt, sweat, sebum, microorganisms, dead cells (stratum corneum) and make-up from the skin surface. For the skin to look healthy and glowing, its uppermost layer called stratum corneum should contain more than 10 per cent of the total water content of the body. Normal pH of the skin is 4.5 to 5.5. This acidic pH changes to alkaline due to application of cleanser and gives a feeling of freshness in the skin.
Lipid free cleansers or face washes contain water, glycerine and acetyl alcohol and do not contain any fat. They clean without soap formation and leave a thin moisturising film. They are good for sensitive and photoaged skin. Cleansing creams are oil-based products, which remove grease and cosmetics on the skin by dissolving it in more oil. They are good for dry skin. Cleansing lotions are water-based products that are good for normal and dry skin. Since it is water based, it can be easily rinsed with water and is commonly sold as pore cleanser. Abrasive scrubs aid in removing dead cells and control excess sebum secretion. They are mechanical exfoliates made of granules in form of aluminium oxide, ground fruit pits etc. Different types of face masks are available that achieve cleansing, exfoliation and skin-tightening. They also refresh the skin.
In places with tropical climate like India, heat, sunrays and pollution tend to dry the skin. Hence, use of a moisturiser becomes essential. Basic components of moisturisers are:
Occlusive oils- retard water loss from the skin
Humectants- increases water content of the skin by absorbing water from the environment and lower layers of skin
Hydrophilic matrices- prevents water loss and have a soothing action
Others- Water, sun-screens, emulsifying agents, preservatives, fragrances and colouring agents
Special additives- ceramides, vitamins, EFA’s, aloevera, urea, lactic acid, alfa-hydroxy acids, collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid
Sun protection must be an integral part of a person’s skin care. UVA and UVB rays in the form of increased pigmentation, freckles, premature aging and even skin cancers cause photo damage to the skin. Over time, exposure to UV radiation causes many changes in the skin, including wrinkles, discoloration, freckles or age spots, benign (non-cancerous) growths such as moles, and pre-cancerous or cancerous growths such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Sunscreens are our only defense to the UV rays. Those with normal to dry skin can use a sunscreen of SPF 15 at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Most sunscreen products prevent sunburns by blocking UVB rays. Fewer sunscreen products have been equally successful in blocking UVA rays.
Hair is aesthetically a very important part of the human body. It is important to understand one’s hair type to make the right choice of shampoos and conditioners.
Dry: This type may be a result of lack of sebum.
Environmental factors like sunlight, wind, seawater chlorinated-water (as in swimming pool). Chemical treatment like hair colouring Mechanical injury such as straightening and perming
Oily or greasy hair: This happens because of excessive sebum secretion from sebaceous glands in the scalp.
Shampoo is a suitable detergent for washing hair, removing sebum, sweat, dirt and dead cells present on the hair shaft and scalp. Normal hair shampoos achieve good cleansing with minimum conditioning. Oily hair shampoos give excellent cleansing and very minimal conditioning. Dry hair shampoos cause mild cleansing and good conditioning. They reduce static electricity and make the hair more manageable. Damaged hair shampoos are meant for hair, which have been chemically treated with hair colour, bleaching agents or hair straightening agents. They have mild detergents and more conditioner in order to temporarily repair the hair surface defects. Baby shampoos are formulated with ‘amphoteric surfactants’, which cause little or no irritation. They are mild and can also be used by adults who wish to wash their hair everyday. Anti-dandruff shampoos, in addition to the regular ingredients also contain additives such as anti-fungals, anti¬bacterials, selenium sulphide, zinc pyrithione, tar derivatives etc.
They remove sebum, oil, scalp scales and the anti-fungal acts on the fungus ‘Pityrosporum ovale’ which is usually the cause of dandruff. Anti-lice shampoos contain Gama-benzene hexa-chloride or permethrin, which kill the lice when applied in a proper manner.
Conditioning shampoos are a combination of shampoo and conditioner. These products may be self-defeating since the shampoo removes sebum – the body’s natural conditioner and replaces it with an artificial conditioner.
Shampooing, drying, combing, brushing, dyeing, permanent waving, straightening and styling damage the hair and make it harsh, brittle and entangled. Hair conditioners reverse this hair damage and make the hair manageable, glossy and soft. They increase the strength and reduce the brittleness of the shaft. Conditioners also attempt to mend the split ends. According to the hair cosmetologists, the mechanism of a conditioner is
- Sealing split ends
- Protecting the cuticle
- Restoring the acidic pH of the hair that is disturbed by the alkaline pH of the shampoos
- Causing ‘fly-away’ hair to become smoother and more manageable
Conditioners must be chosen according to one’s hair type. Instant conditioners are left on the hair for 5-10 minutes and provide minimal conditioning due to short contact time. Deep conditioners are usually marketed as creams and are concentrated. They have to be left on the scalp for 20-30 minutes before rinsing. They provide good conditioning. Leave-in conditioners are applied after drying the hair and are left on till the next shampoo. They are in the form of blow-drying lotions and hair thickeners. Sunscreen conditioners contain PABA and Benzophenones that provide sun protection to hair.
When it comes to allergies, one usually talks about the general adage that should be abstained from eating vegetables like brinjal or yam. Basically one fails to see that today’s food is not how it used to be 20 years ago. The quantity of the chemicals which are being used on our crops are more than 100 times the permissible level as stated by the World Health Organisation
(WHO) and these chemicals can contribute or even trigger an attack of any of these diseases. Also, the drinking water is polluted with germs and toxic chemicals. Almost every Indian village has its ground water polluted with arsenic, the only differ¬ence being that the depth of the level of arsenic may vary from state to state, though no government would like to accept this fact.
A doctor should give a sincere advice to all his patients regarding the food they take. Diet should large¬ly be vegetarian. It is ideal for a per son to switch to a complete vegetar¬ian diet. The conditions in which ani¬mals are bred are very unhealthy and as a result we have seen many outbreaks such as Mad Cow’s Disease in the UK and the Chicken Avian Flu in South East Asia.
Vegetarians should also be careful to wash the vegetables and pulses well under running water so that at least the chemicals pres¬ent externally on them can be washed away.