Unlike your skin type which is due to genetics, most skin conditions are treatable issues that are typically a result of your physiology, lifestyle and environment–skin types cannot be changed, but skin conditions can be improved through proper care. Factors such as stress, pollution, hormones, alcohol intake, smoking, over-exfoliation, health and diet can cause or exasperate skin conditions and while some of these conditions are only temporary, others like rosacea, acne, eczema, and psoriasis tend to be more chronic conditions.
Acne is an inflammatory skin disorder characterized inflamed and infected sebaceous glands. Those affected usually have both inflamed lesions as well as open and closed comedones (whiteheads and blackheads, respectively). The buildup of skin cells (retention hyperkeratosis) and oiliness are hereditary factors which contribute to acne; the combination of dead skin cell build up and excess oiliness create the perfect environment for the growth of acne causing bacteria. Hormones play a role in the development of acne because they affect sebum production. In addition to hereditary factors and hormones, acne can be caused or exasperated by environmental factors like sun exposure, occupational exposures, and heat or humidity. Over cleaning, dietary factors and cosmetics usage also contribute. Because acne can be genetic or environmental, I consider it both a skin type and a skin condition.
Aging is as natural as birth and some changes in skin are unavoidable as we get older. Genetics, health changes and time are factors that contribute to intrinsic aging–changes which are inevitable and naturally occurring over time. Other changes are extrinsic, or caused by factors outside of the body such as UV radiation, diet (improper nutrition and/or dehydration), smoking, excessive drinking and pollution.
Dehydration looks like dry skin but the difference is that while dry skin is due to genetics and indicated by your pore size and oil production, dehydrated skin is usually a temporary skin condition due to a lack of water in the body (and skin). It can be caused by not drinking enough water, by indoor (air conditioning/heat) or outdoor (cold, sun, wind) climate, or by underlying health issues. Dehydration can accelerate or cause other skin conditions, and some signs of dehydration are skin that is tight, dry, as well as flaking or peeling skin and lips. Other signs are a loss of elasticity, fine lines, and itchiness. Unless dehydration is caused by an underlying health condition (in which case you should see a physician) it can be relatively easy to treat at home.
Hyper-pigmented skin is caused by an over production of melanin which is characterized by abnormal darkened (tan, brown or “black”) areas on the skin. This skin condition can affect people of all racial backgrounds but it is prevalent in those of us with more melanin. Hyper-pigmentation happens when excess melanin is formed in the skin due to natural or abnormal changes or stimulation due to trauma (sun damage: excessive tanning or exposure over time), which cause melanocytes to either grow abnormally in size or to become overactive (thus producing more melanin than needed). Common contributing factors to hyper-pigmentation are heredity, pregnancy, medication, over exposure to the sun or excoriation due to acne or other injury. Some examples of hyper-pigmentation are: freckles, age spots, dark under-eye area, melasma and post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. Hyper-pigmentation is not just an unsightly skin condition; it can also be indicative of an underlying issue. It’s important to always wear sunscreen, closely monitor skin changes and see a physician immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary (learn your ABCDE’s).
While the causes of sensitive and sensitized skin are varied, the symptoms can be very similar and often include redness, stinging, itching, warmth, burning and telangiectasia. Sensitive skin types are prone to allergies, asthma, heavy blushing and inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psorasis and rosacea.
Eczema covers a range of several skin conditions with the most common form atopic eczema, typically affecting infants and children, although it can also develop in adulthood. It is characterized by raw, sensitive, thickened skin that itches, red, brownish or gray scales and small elevated bumps. Psoriasis is a chronic auto immune disease that causes a increase in the growth of skin cells. This abnormal cell proliferation in combination with the body’s immune response (inflammation), results in the red, flaky, inflamed associated with plaque psoriasis; the most common type. The chronic inflammatory condition rosacea has many symptoms and can include cause constant flushing of nose and cheeks, dilated blood vessels and even pustules, or a bulbous nose (mainly in men). Rosacea is most common among women with fair skin and people (men and women) over the age of 30. While there is no cure, there are treatments available to manage rosacea.
Understanding your skin condition in addition to knowing your skin type helps you to make more informed decisions about products and treatments.
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Next in the “Best Face Forward” series, “Achieving Skin “Nirvana”.