What Is Skincare And Why Is It So Important?

It is without a doubt that most of us have heard or used the terms ‘skin care’ or ‘skincare’ in the past. Skincare is a term which covers a large range of practises to enhance and protect the skin. But what exactly is skincare, and why is it so important these days?

This article is split into several sections, covering: 1. What Is Skincare, 2. A Brief History, 3. Why Skincare Is So Important, 4. The Different Forms And Methods Of Skincare and 5. The Different Skin Types. Each section aims to give an insight into the world of skincare, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

1. What Is Skincare?

As the name suggests, skincare is a method through which skin is treated and cared for. This can be through the use of products (creams, emollients, etc), nutrition and diet to supplement skin health, as well as lifestyle practises (avoiding direct sunlight, not smoking).

There are many different categories of skincare; things you can do at home as well as treatments that can be carried out by qualified dermatologists.

Ultimately the goal with skincare is to preserve and enhance the condition of the skin, as well as to achieve individual needs. Examples of common individual needs include anti-aging, reduction of acne, fading of scars and evening skin tone.

While skincare may seem like a modern practise (especially with all the nifty electronics you can now purchase for at-home use) evidence of it’s use spans across several centuries.

2. Skincare: A Brief History

Ancient Egypt

Skincare is a practise that has been around for many millennia. The first documented use of skincare is somewhere around 3000 BC with the Ancient Egyptians.

Ancient Egyptian Beauty (~2000-3000 BC)

The first use of cosmetics and therefore skincare can be traced back to Ancient Egypt (2000-3000 BC). One thing to take note of is that this is the first documented use of skincare, it has likely been around for longer than this.

The Ancient Egyptians used natural ingredients and remedies to treat and enhance their skin. Examples of ingredients used include oils, berries, milk, honey, yogurt and plant extracts [1].

Ancient Chinese Skincare (1600-1900 BC)

Skincare products and remedies have been seen in ancient China, as early as 1650 – 1950 BC (Qin dynasty).

Ancient Chinese women used things like rice water to wash their face and brighten their complexion. You’ll find that this is still used today as a natural skin cleanser, and is a very common homemade skincare solution[2].

Skincare In Ancient Greece

The word cosmetics is derived from the Greek term ‘Kosmetikos’ meaning skilled in decorating or beautifying [3]. It’s no surprise that the Greek’s were pioneers in beauty treatments, some of which have even shaped the way we use beauty treatments in today’s time.

The Ancient Greeks used natural produce to make body oils and lotions. Olive oil was a core ingredient, you’ll find that Greek culture still incorporates olive in cooking, pharmaceuticals and of course, cosmetic and skincare use[4].

Beauty In Ancient Rome

The ancient Romans used cosmetics to tackle aging, sun spots, and flaky/dry skin. Common ingredients used include honey, oils, vinegar, ashes, as well as various plant extracts[5].

Use Of Cosmetics In The Medieval Era

The use of cosmetics has been documented in Medieval Europe, around the 12th century. Fair skin was a desirable trait, and many used treatments in order to brighten and even their complexion. Examples of ingredients used include aloe vera, cucumbers, honey and vinegar[6].

The 1800’s

Many lifestyle changes were being made in the 1800’s especially with modern advancements in society. Skincare was therefore a bigger concern than seen before. Cleansers were made from egg yolk and oatmeal, these were said to cleanse the skin and reduce blemishes.

The obsession with fair skin was very much a thing and lemon juice was used as a bleaching agent. With the 1800’s also comes the invention of some of the most iconic skincare products to date, including Vaseline and baby powder[6].

The 1900’s

Most of the brands we love today were founded in the 1900’s, Estee Lauder, La Mer, Clinique and The Body Shop to name a few. Skincare became a lot more accessible in the 1900’s. Advertising campaigns as well as more people becoming informed on the topic led to a boom in the industry.

3. Why Skincare Is So Important

skincare product on bath

Looking after your skin is a critical procedure in maintaining skin youthfulness and clarity. The skin does indeed look after itself, though only to a certain extent. Some external effort is needed to supplement this.

You shed thousands of dead skin cells every day and your skin self-moisturises by producing sebum, it is indeed a very effective system. Sebum is a waxy secretion that your pores secrete to keep the skin hydrated and protected.

But what happens if your skin is naturally dry, or if you suffer from hormonal acne? This is exactly where skincare becomes a critical procedure.

Sometimes your skin cannot take care of itself as effectively as you’d want it to. This can be due to a medical condition, environmental effects, genetics, and lifestyle choices. This is where you can step in.

By practising good skincare you can drastically improve the condition of your skin; for most this improves self-image; most people agree that the condition of their skin is a factor influencing self-worth and mental health.

Not only is skincare important for mental health, but also from a medical standpoint. By practising good lifestyle habits such as avoiding direct sunlight and applying SPF, you’re reducing the probability of skin cancer caused by UV rays.

In addition to preventing cancer, medical breakthroughs have improved the quality of life for many suffering from skin conditions. Examples of such conditions include cystic acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Various emollients and ointments have been developed to help this demographic with their skin concerns.

4. Different Forms And Methods Of Skincare

woman receiving skincare treatment

Skincare presents itself in various forms, creams, ointments, needles, lasers, to name a few. Below is a small list of common types of skincare treatments available today, both at-home and in the hands of a medical professional.

4.1. Creams

A cream by definition is simply a formulation or preparation made for application to the skin (topical use) [7]. These creams are made to tackle a range of skin concerns and conditions.

4.1.1. Moisturisers

A moisturiser is an example of a cream used to hydrate and moisturise the skin. These are also commonly referred to as emollients. Moisturising is a crucial step in any skincare regime to protect the skin from environmental effects, and to help regulate sebum production.

A moisturiser reduces and prevents transepidermal water loss from the skin. Throughout the day the skin loses moisture through evaporation, this regulates the water content in the skin for optimal function. This is known as transepidermal water loss. In certain temperaments this can be accelerated which can cause skin dryness and fragility.

By forming a thin layer on the skin, this water loss is reduced which can help in preventing dry skin and flaking. Moisturisers have been used for many centuries to tackle skin concerns such as psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema.

4.1.2. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is another type of cream/lotion which we should all be using to prevent skin damage from UV rays.

Sunscreen or sunblock helps to absorb or reflect some of the UVA and UVB radiation from the sun that would otherwise cause skin damage through burning or alteration of DNA. It is through this mechanism that skin cancer is formed. Sunscreen is often presented in spray, gel, or lotion formats.

Effective use of sunscreen can also prevent skin aging. Sun damage is a significant contributory factor towards premature skin aging, and applying SPF can help to mitigate this. Ensure you use a minimum of SPF 30+ with broad spectrum UVA & UVB protection.

4.1.3. Cleansing Cream

There are now many different types of cleansing creams available for those with sensitive skin. These creams are a gentler solution to facial cleansing, and get rid of dirt, oils and makeup while simultaneously moisturising the skin.

4.2. Cleansers

A cleanser is simply a product which removes unwanted dirt, make-up, dead skin cells, oils and other pollutants from the skin [8]. Cleansing the face and body is essential to prevent clogged pores and acne as a result.

4.2.1. Bar Soap

Perhaps the most iconic cleanser, a bar soap gets rid of dirt and oils by binding it to the soap and carrying it away when washed off. Bar soaps aren’t typically recommended for facial use as they’re overly drying, but are usually fine if used on the body.

4.2.2. Facial Cleanser

Facial cleansers are cleansers which are specifically formulated for use on the face. These are often more gentle than other forms of cleansers, namely bar soap, and are often infused with fragrances to improve the experience, or as a selling point. Facial cleansers commonly come in the form of a foam, soap, milk, cream and gel.

4.3. Exfoliants

Exfoliants are products which help to exfoliate the skin. Exfoliation is the procedure through which dead skin cells and other pollutants are removed from the outermost layer of skin, revealing a brighter, healthier complexion underneath. Exfoliating often can help to unclog pores and prevent breakouts. There are two types of exfoliant, chemical and physical.

4.3.1. Physical Exfoliants

These are exfoliants which use mechanical action to slough off dead skin cells. Examples of physical exfoliants include facial scrubs, brushes, face cloths, and sponges.

4.3.2. Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants are products which include ‘chemicals’ that work to actively exfoliate the skin. Often these chemicals and acids help to promote cell turnover, and break up debris in the pores to clear the complexion.

Common examples of chemical exfoliants include; salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid. These are examples of AHA’s (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids) and BHA’s (Beta-Hydroxy Acids). Chemical exfoliants are often presented in serum, toner or lotion form.

4.4. Anti-Aging Treatments

There are many anti-aging treatments that you can carry out at home, though improved efficacy is often achieved from dermatologist visits. Anti-Aging treatments seek to prevent aging, as well as minimise signs of aging such as age spots, fine lines and wrinkles.

4.4.1. Retinol

Retinol is perhaps the most common form of anti-aging treatment that is used at home. A stronger prescription version of retinol is available known as retinoic acid which is more effective, but also more harsh. Retinol is a form of Vitamin-A which can boost collagen production with continued use.

4.4.2. Microneedling

Microneedling is a procedure where a dermaroller is run across the face causing hundreds of small punctures in the skin. This is seen to promote collagen synthesis, therefore minimising fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores.

4.4.3. Botox

Botox is a procedure through which the botulinum neurotoxin is injected into the skin to paralyse the muscle group. This helps prevent movement in these muscles, which can prevent wrinkle formation and development. Common areas for botox include the forehead, cheeks and neck.

4.4.4. Chemical Peels

Chemical peels use different acids (typically AHA’s) in high concentrations to promote shedding of the skin. It’s this shedding that promotes cellular regeneration and can therefore minimise signs of aging.

High-strength peels are more effective than those you might be able to purchase at-home, but these are only available under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

4.4.5. Laser Resurfacing

The thought of using lasers on the facial skin can be a little daunting but it is a safe, approved method in the quest to minimise aging effects. Laser resurfacing or light therapy uses concentrated bursts of laser light to remove dead and damaged skin cells. This also promotes cell turnover, which can tackle aging concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles and age spots.

5. The Different Skin Types

Identifying your skin type can help you identify and use the right procedures and products. There are 4 main types of skin which we have covered in depth in our article on Building The Perfect Skincare Routine.

  1. Normal Skin: There is no true example of normal skin, but rather skin that is well-balanced. Those with normal skin do not have excessively oily or dry skin, with few imperfections.
  2. Dry Skin: Dry skin is often characterised by a dull, dry looking complexion. Dry skin sufferers often have peeling or cracking skin which can lead to inflammation, redness and infection. Those with dry skin are also more susceptible to signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.
  3. Oily Skin: Oily skin refers to skin that is excessively oily or shiny, this also makes breakouts more common. Skin oiliness occurs as a result of overactive sebaceous glands which produce sebum. Many acne sufferers have this skin-type.
  4. Combination Skin: Combination skin is simply a combination of any one of the types of skin listed above. As an example, you may have an oily T-Zone, but normal or dry skin elsewhere on the face.

Once you have identified your skin type, it is time to build the perfect skincare regime that is tailored to you. This will improve skin clarity and health, and give you that glowing complexion we all strive to achieve.

Have any thoughts or suggestions? Make sure you leave them in the comments down below!

References

[1] – https://www.skincaretotal.co.uk/the-history-of-skin-care.html

[2] – http://english.visitbeijing.com.cn/a1/a-XCC8FK46BBB61EA22F5A79

[3] – https://www.etymonline.com/word/cosmetic

[4] – https://www.skinstation.co.uk/blog/the-history-of-skin-care-amp;-beauty-ancient-greek-secrets

[5] – https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/beauty-history-cosmetics-secrets-of-the-ancient-romans/#:~:text=The%20Ancient%20Romans%20also%20made,grease%2C%20basil%20juice%20and%20hawthorn.

[6] – https://www.inbmedical.com/the-evolving-role-of-skincare

[7] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream_(pharmacy)

[8] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleanser