What are common skin concerns?
Skin pigmentation, acne, uneven skin tone and texture, and aging are some of the most common skin concerns. Inflammation of the skin (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), hormones, aging, certain medications, and sun exposure (tanning) can result in various skin problems. There are several ways to care for the skin at home using home remedies. They can help improve the overall texture of the skin, making it smoother, softer, nourished, and brighter. Natural remedies need to be followed consistently because they take time to work. It's important to have realistic expectations. Following natural skin remedies regularly can also prevent skin problems and maintain healthy skin. Skin conditions caused by medical conditions require medical treatment. Any home remedy that causes negative reactions should be discontinued. One may consult a doctor to ensure home remedies are suitable for their condition and to rule out more serious causes of skin disorders.
Home remedies to care for the skin
You can take care of your skin by using the following home remedies:
- Daily exfoliation and cleansing with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs): Regular exfoliation with AHAs and BHAs can help make the skin smoother, softer, and brighter. They help reduce pigmentation, reduce fine lines, remove excess sebum, remove dead skin cells, and unclog pores by gently removing existing blackheads and whiteheads. AHAs and BHAs also cleanse the skin of dirt and makeup. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most popular AHAs, and salicylic acid is the most popular BHA. There are several over-the-counter products that contain either one of these acids or a combination of them in varying strengths, which are safe to use every day. Cleansing the face twice a day with a cleanser that contains these acids can improve the skin. AHAs and BHAs are also good for those with dry skin. There are also toners, serums, and masks that contain either one or both salicylic and glycolic acids. If you are sensitive to AHAs and BHAs, you can use it once every few days or start with a low percentage of the acid (1%-2%) and gradually increase the strength. In case of allergic reactions, you should discontinue these products.
- Topical toners, serums, masks, lotions, and creams: There are several over-the-counter topical products that contain ingredients to lighten the skin and improve the skin texture. The important ingredients to look out for are AHAs, BHAs, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Vitamin C helps reduce skin pigmentation and nourish the skin. Vitamin E is an important ingredient to moisturize the skin. It keeps the skin hydrated, helps soften the skin, and increases cell turnover, making the skin appear brighter. Following a daily skincare routine and practicing it once a day, preferably at night, can improve skin health significantly. Certain acids and vitamin C can cause increased sun sensitivity, hence, you should apply these at night. A daily skin routine would involve cleansing and applying a toner, followed by a lotion or cream. If you have very oily skin, you can use water-based moisturizers. You may use a face mask two to three times a week.
- Topical retinoids: Retinoids are highly effective on stubborn acne and acne scars. They can effectively reduce pigmentation and wrinkles due to acne, aging, or inflammation. They should be used with caution. If you typically experience visible peeling, dryness, burning, redness, and increased sensitivity to the sun, you should apply retinoids only at night till your skin gets accustomed to retinoids, which may take 4-6 weeks. You may start with applying low-strength over-the-counter retinoids two to three times a week and gradually increasing the strength and frequency of usage. Higher strengths of retinoids require a doctor's prescription. Topical retinoids can reverse, prevent, or slow down the signs of skin aging. Doctors may prescribe isotretinoin (oral retinoids) to people with severe acne.
- Homemade face masks: You may prepare face masks at home using natural ingredients. These masks may be used two to three times a week. Some masks can help reduce pigmentation, nourish, and improve skin texture. They are as follows:
- Yogurt, lemon, and gram flour mask: Lactic acid in yogurt is a naturally occurring exfoliating agent. Lemon contains vitamin C that can reduce pigmentation. Gram flour helps thicken the mask, giving it a paste-like consistency. Gram flour also acts as a natural exfoliating scrub, which is gentle on the skin, improving skin texture and reducing hyperpigmentation. You may apply the mask all over the face, neck, and other problem areas. You should leave the mask on for 30 minutes and then wash it off.
- Papaya, banana, lemon, honey, and gram flour mask: These ingredients contain vitamins and minerals that can reduce pigmentation, improve skin texture, and nourish the skin. You may make a paste of these ingredients, apply it as a mask all over your face, and wash it off after 20 minutes.
- Milk: Milk, buttermilk, and even sour milk can help lighten, hydrate, and exfoliate the skin because they contain lactic acid. You may soak a cotton ball in plain milk and apply anywhere over the face or body and wash it off after 20-30 minutes. You may repeat this every day or once or twice a day.
- Diet, nutrition, and hydration: A healthy, balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and adequate hydration (8-10 glasses of fluids per day) is important for skin health. These can improve skin cell turnover, improving the skin tone and texture. Fresh fruits and vegetables have several ingredients that can lighten skin naturally. You may also consider taking nutritional supplements, especially vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids because they help in maintaining good health.
- Sun protection: Sun damage causes tanning, triggers other pigmentation problems, burns the skin, and reduces skin elasticity, leading to premature aging. Excessive sun exposure also leads to a risk of skin cancer. Preventing sun damage would allow other skin treatments to effectively improve the skin. Without protection from sun damage, medical and natural treatments to care for the skin would be futile. One of the best ways to protect the skin from sun damage is by using sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone to use sunscreen that gives broad-spectrum protection (protects against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays), has sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher, and is water-resistant throughout the year, including winters and cloudy days. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 3-4 hours. Additional protection by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or carrying an umbrella can also help. It is also recommended to avoid being out in the sun when the sun's rays are the strongest between 10-11 a.m. and 3-4 p.m.
There are several medical treatment options available if home remedies do not improve the skin or if you are looking for quicker results. Medical treatment to treat a skin condition or maintain healthy skin may include medical facials, prescription drugs, prescription topical products, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser.
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NHS. "Skin Lightening." Aug. 31, 2019. <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cosmetic-procedures/skin-lightening/>.
Zhu, W., and J. Gao. "The use of botanical extracts as topical skin-lightening agents for the improvement of skin pigmentation disorders." J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc 13.1 (2008): 20-24. <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15526663>.