How important is your skin? It needs air; it excretes waste; it protects you from most germs and immediate harm; it sheds and renews itself; it is your first point of physical contact with the outside world. Our skins are exposed to so much day by day that it is only right to care for them. Skin care products are mostly intended to either protect the skin from damage, for example, UV radiation, or to repair and/or mask imperfections on the skin (acnes, wrinkles etc.).

Skin care products come in different formulations including oils, creams, lotions and powders.
They can be formulated for specific needs e.g. anti-acne creams or intended for broad use, e.g. moisturizers. Their use can be cosmetic (tanning oils, for example), restorative (e.g. anti-aging products), therapeutic (medicated creams) or general purpose. In addition, skin care products may contain only a few active agents or many. They can also be made for specific skin types or not.

There are three broad skin classifications targeted by skin care products. These are oily skins, dry skins and normal skins.
Oily skins are shiny and slick and so can attract dirt and germs quickest. The strongest skin care products are intended for this skin type since the aim is to remove the oil on the skin and keep the surface dry for as long as possible. Dry skin type, however, is in the other end of the spectrum. Dry skins often present as red and flaky and are easily irritated and itchy. The mildest skin care products are meant for this skin type. Helped immensely by moisturizers, the aim is to keep the skin moist and not irritate it with strong chemicals.
People with normal skins are free of oily or dry skin patches and, therefore, all types of skin care products are recommended.

Most reviewers agree on the following broad classification of skin care products: moisturizers, cleansers, toners and scrubs.

Moisturizers are ideal in cold as well as dry weather.
They nourish the skin and prevent damages to the skin including signs of early aging: wrinkles and fine lines. By feeding the skin and keeping it moist, moisturizers are able to keep skins natural and lift sagging points. The best moisturizers for all skin types are those free of alcohol. This ensures that skin irritation is prevented and the moisturizing effect is not nullified by the skin dryness that alcohols cause.

Cleansers, on the other hand, clean out the skin surface. By taking out dirt and oil, the likelihoods of pores clogging and germs thriving are significantly reduced. However, it is important not to apply too much cleanser to the skin.
Harsh cleansers could wipe out the natural microflora on the skin, therefore, exposing the skin to harsher germs and removing the protective sebaceous layer. To prevent dryness and irritation, mild cleansers are advised. However, the right cleanser will depend on skin type and finding it may require trying a few cleansers. Cleansers can also come in special formulations especially for people with severe acne. Such cleansers usually contain peroxides and/or salicylic acids and antibacterial agents.

Scrubs give deeper cleaning than cleansers. They exfoliate the skin and should be used once or twice in a week. Scrubs and masks produce a richer skin tone as well as leave the skin softer and smoother. They will take out dead skin and deeper damages done by the sun. Scrubs and masks can be prepared from simple ingredients found in every kitchen.

Toners add the finish to skin care products. They are responsible for closing skin pores to hide fine lines and wrinkles.
To give the skin a natural glow, toners will hydrate it, increase circulation and restore its pH levels. Common toners found in everyday skin care products include Aloe (perennial favorite and an old healer that soothes the skin and helps its regeneration), Lavender (ideal for treatment of skin irritations and sunburns. It also possesses antibacterial and antiviral activities) and Rosewater (hydrates and nourishes the skin).

The last element in skin care products is Sunscreen. Either as a standalone product or formulated into other skin care products, sunscreens protect the skin from harmful UV radiation, thus preventing early skin aging and sunburns as well as reducing the risks of skin cancer.

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February 2012
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