If your skin is feeling a little lacklustre this January, never fear. We spoke to Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, for some New Year skincare resolutions for us all to make in 2018.
Why is skincare so important?
One of the main functions of skin is to act as a barrier to the outside world, but this function can easily be reduced or damaged if it isn’t looked after properly.
“The skin barrier can easily be disrupted or damaged by noxious chemicals such as pollutants in the environment, cumulative sun damage, or even products that are deliberately applied to the skin for their anti-ageing effects such as retinoids. In addition, to this, as skin ages, it becomes increasingly dry over time. Using a cleanser will remove environmental dirt and micro-organisms as well as potentially improving the barrier function of the skin. This in turn will result in an improved overall appearance.”
Pretty much anything can have an effect on your skin, from where you live to what you eat. Stress has anecdotally been noted to cause worsening of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea, while diet has also been shown take its toll on complexion.
It is worth noting that certain products can irritate the skin – so be sure to read all labels before use.
On top of all this, winter is a tough season for skin, with the harsh conditions causing it to form a protective barrier against the elements in order to prevent water loss. Often, this can result in increased dryness, scaling and flaking of the skin.
“It is important to moisturise regularly to combat this winter dryness. Moisturisers will bind and retain water, in addition to forming a protective seal preventing further water loss. For best effects, this should be done straight after showering and then throughout the day as needed. Dry weather, low humidity and wind also contribute to sore, chapped lips in the winter. Use a gentle lip scrub to slough off dead skin and keep a tub or stick of lip balm on you at all times.”
Resolution #1 – Wear sunscreen
Sunscreen isn’t just for the summer and should be worn throughout the year, as there is still damaging ultraviolet radiation around. Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum offering protection against UVA and UVB and at least SPF 15. This is particularly important if you enjoy outdoor hobbies such as running, hiking or snow-sports. Regular sunscreen use will help prevent against the development of skin cancer and premature ageing.
Resolution #2 – Keep things clean
Makeup bags are a breeding ground for bacteria. Makeup brushes should be cleaned at least on a monthly basis – which many women neglect to do. Otherwise bacteria can build up on the surface from constantly being in contact with our skin. Products should not be used past their expiry date or should be discarded a certain amount of time after opening. This varies depending on product type. For example, two or three months for mascara and 12 months for liquid foundation. Expiry dates are usually listed on the side of products, as a Period After Opening (PAO) date, e.g. 12M or 3M.
Resolution #3 – Use a serum
Facial serums are concentrated, clear, gel-like solutions applied to the skin, which are made up of small molecules. This means that they are absorbed quickly and penetrate deep into the skin. They have a high concentration of active ingredients such as anti-oxidants, vitamins, or peptides. An antioxidant serum can help limit damage caused by pollution and ultraviolet light. There is also some data that they may also improve the efficacy of your sunscreen.
Resolution #4 – Consider a weekly face mask
Clay based masks are a great option for oily skin types that are prone to break-outs. Clay is an excellent ingredient at drawing out impurities that can lead to spots. Kaolin in clay absorbs oil and helps mattify skin. Other ingredients that can be helpful include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, tea tree oil, retinol and niacinamide.
For dry skin, look for a mask containing hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most hydrophilic (or “water-loving”) molecules found in cosmetic products and has an enormous water-binding capacity. It therefore acts as the ideal moisturiser, hydrating dry skin and plumping out fine lines and wrinkles in ageing skin.
Resolution #5 – See a dermatologist
Dermatologists can provide a wealth expertise from checking your moles and rashes, to giving specific tailored advice about your skin, and anti-aging advice.Nearly everyone can benefit from seeing this type of medical doctor. Check the General Medical Council online register to assess the credentials of your dermatologist – in the UK anyone that has completed national training can be found on the specialist register.