Skintight

We can protect ourselves from infection and early aging by looking after our skin
By Tamlyn Vincent

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Our skin is amazing. As the body’s largest organ, it is responsible for regulating our temperature and acts as a protective barrier against outside infection. So proper skincare, for us and our children, is essential.
 
Our skin changes as we age, but some skincare basics remain the same no matter how old we are.
 
  • All skin should be washed with gentle soap and warm water.
  • Children should be using sunscreen to prevent damage later on, says Angelique Coombe-Heath, a skincare therapist in Durban.
  • Likewise, teens and adults should use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • We also need to wash our hands regularly, to prevent the spread of germs.
 
Different age groups do have different skincare needs.
 
Babies
 
  • Use gentle, perfume-free products, as those with added fragrances can irritate new skin or lead to allergies.
  • Use perfume and enzyme-free washing detergents for baby’s clothes.
  • Change nappies when they are wet or soiled to avoid a nappy rash developing. If there is a rash pat, rather than rub it dry, or allow baby’s bottom to air dry before using a nappy rash ointment.
  • Sunscreen can contain chemicals that may be harsh on a baby’s skin. Rather avoid the sun and use protective clothing.
  • Babies can develop eczema, a dry, scaly rash that can be red and itchy. Ask your doctor about which moisturiser or treatment to use.
 
Toddlers and children
 
  • As with babies, use gentle, fragrance-free products.
  • Avoid brightly coloured or strongly scented products, as these could irritate the skin and are unlikely to have any real advantage.
  • Coombe-Heath says children do need a sunscreen and they can benefit from antioxidant skin products, which protect against damage caused by the sun and environment.
  • Cuts and scrapes are common in children, but they break the skin’s protective barrier so wash them clean, apply an antiseptic cream and cover with a plaster.
 
Adolescents and teenagers
 
  • As children hit puberty, hormones can make the skin oily, especially on the face. This oil, called sebum, clogs the pores and can cause acne. Teens should start a good skin care routine; washing the face twice daily and after exercise.
  • Make sure your teenager’s hair is clean and preferably kept off their face. Likewise, any headbands, scarves and hats need to be washed regularly.
  • Teenagers should avoid squeezing pimples, as this can cause further inflammation.
  • Coombe-Heath advises against using make-up, especially for teenagers, as it can congest the pores, cause blackheads and irritate the skin. Girls should wait until they are at least 16 before using make-up, but try and push it to 18 years if you can.
 
Adults
 
  • The sooner adults get into a good skincare routine the better, as it is preferable to prevent damage, rather than treat it later on.
  • You should also avoid smoking and use a sunscreen to prevent premature aging.
  • Anti-aging products can be used from your late 20s or early 30s, says Coombe-Heath. But make sure that you’re using the right product for your age and skin. If you’re unsure, speak to a skincare therapist or dermatologist.
  • Adult acne can pose a problem for some and most treatments are developed for teenagers. Try different products until you find one that works for you, but avoid using overly strong products.
 
Pregnant ladies
 
  • On a skincare level, not much can penetrate the blood stream, says Coombe-Heath, so most products don’t pose a problem.
  • However, it is best to avoid products that contain retinol and vitamin A. Hydroquinone, used to lighten skin pigmentation, is a definite no during pregnancy, advises Coombe-Heath, as are harsh acne treatments.
  • You should be cautious when using essential and aromatherapy oils. While some of these are fine to use, they are often strong concentrations. Either avoid using these, or use only a few drops or a diluted concentration.

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