Caring for Your Skin

I was pretty lucky in high school. I never had the skin problems that some people did. I didn’t have to worry about pimples all the time the way many teenagers do. I was pretty happy with that, but now karma has come back for me. My skin is awful right now, even though I’m 20 years old now and in college, and I feel self-conscious about it. I feel like everyone else’s skin is clearing up and everyone looks great, while my skin looks horrible for the first time ever. It’s upsetting and kind of isolating. Experts, what can I do about this? I’ve never had to figure out skin care stuff before, and now I don’t know what to do about my awful skin!

Skin problems are more common in the teenage years, and many of us think that pimples and adolescence go together. However, skin issues are by no means limited to those years. In fact, many people find that they struggle with their skin well into their adult life. In some cases, such as yours, even if they did not have such issues during their adolescent or teen years!

The good news is that it’s never too late to develop a daily skincare regimen. In fact, it’s a good idea to take care of your skin, whether you’re dealing with skin problems or not. Even those who enjoy great, low-maintenance skin in their teens and 20s will be better off later in life if they take the time now to nourish and care for their skin. A good skin care regimen will keep skin clear and healthy, and it may even help combat skin problems that arise with age, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

A good home skin care routine won’t banish your acne problems overnight. It’s also possible that your condition requires medical treatment of some kind. We’ll talk about caring for your skin below; however, it’s important to note that your doctor should be in the loop as you handle this issue. Your doctor is the expert best equipped to give you insights related to your situation and needs. With that said, let’s talk about general skin care techniques and tips!

Let’s start with the obvious: you must wash your face, and you must do it often. Experts recommend washing your face twice a day: that’s once in the morning and once at night. You may only bathe or shower once a day, but your face needs a bit more care for that. The skin on your face produces oils that attract impurities and must be washed away. Plus, you may wear makeup, sunscreen, and other products on your face that are best cleaned off after several hours of wear.  For healthy-looking skin the natural way, cleanse and tone daily.

Washing your face is skin care’s bare minimum. There’s more you can--and should--do. One major step to take is to tone and moisturize after you wash your face. Moisturizing, as the name suggests, will help bind in hydration, preventing your skin from drying out. Choose your moisturizer with care, though, because not all moisturizers are the same. It’s important to choose a moisturizer that agrees with your skin type: for instance, if you have oily skin, you’ll need a hydrating oily skin moisturizer. Pairing the wrong moisturizer with your unique skin type could enable your skin’s worst tendencies, making oily skin worse, dry skin even drier, and so on.

In between washing and moisturizing, you may want to apply toner as well. Toner’s purpose is to finish the job your facial cleanser started while setting the stage for your moisturizer. It also adds hydration.  Cleansers use ingredients like oil to help dissolve and snap up the nasty stuff on your face, but those ingredients themselves can linger in small amounts on your face when you’ve finished cleansing. Toner is designed in part to wash that last bit of film from your face and readies your face for moisturizing.

If you wash your face twice a day and moisturize afterward--especially if you use a toner--you are in pretty good shape in terms of basic home skin care. However, it’s also important to protect your skin when you’re on the go during the day. One of the single most important things you can do is to protect your skin from excess sun. Using sunscreen is an absolute must. Your face and any other exposed areas should be treated with sunscreen before you spend too much time outdoors under any circumstances. This will help prevent sunburns and unattractive skin problems, and it may help protect you from skin cancer and other major health risks.

By the way, you may have heard that there is a connection between what you eat and how your skin looks. However, that connection is tenuous at best. So while you should still avoid eating unhealthy greasy foods (they’re not good for you in other ways), and while you should be careful about touching greasy foods and then touching your own face, you can rest easy knowing that the act of digesting those foods is often not connected to your skin issues.

If you are washing your face and moisturizing twice a day--especially if you’re also using toner--and if you are applying sunscreen when necessary, then you are taking care of all of the skin care basics that you should be. Sometimes, however, the basics are not enough. What else can you do to care for you skin?

For specific situations like excess acne, you may want to turn to specially designed products and even, in some cases, medical treatments.

Identifying the right products to use isn’t always easy, as there are plenty of manufacturers out there that would love to get their hands on your money. Keep an eye out for reliable name brands, and follow instructions with care. An acne-specific cleanse, for instance, may be designed to take the place of your usual skin cleanser. Other products may be applied at other times in your routine.

It’s never a bad idea to loop a medical professional in on your decision-making process here. If your acne issues are bad enough, you may find that a prescription solution is best. Even if you treat your acne just with over-the-counter products, a doctor’s advice will be invaluable for helping you determine which products are helpful and which ones are pseudoscientific nonsense.

Good luck! With luck, you’ll find that a simple and regular skincare routine is all you need to return to the clear-skinned days of your luckier youth. Remember to stick to your routine even after you’ve achieved the skin you want--caring for your skin is part of a healthy lifestyle.

“‘I regret taking such good care of my skin.’ said no one ever.” - Unknown

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