Skin care 101: learning anatomy and a routine

Some people stockpile lipstick, comic books, or video game figurines called amiibos; I stockpile moisturizer. From oil cleansers to ampoules to snail secretions, I have tried everything before learning that skincare isn&rsquo;t necessarily as difficult as it&rsquo;s made out to be.</p>

I started out trying to fix my persistent, deeply hued blush and flaky, dry skin. Five years of tubes and tubs later, I realized I had been going at it all wrong. With any luck, we’ll bypass it all in a couple of quick columns.

I promise you: with a little bit of understanding of the anatomy of the skin on your face and an understanding of what products do and how they function, many cosmetic issues can be improved on a budget.

What’s skin anyway? For all cosmetic purposes, only the epidermis matters. This extremely thin layer of skin measures between 0.5 mm and 1 mm and within it contains five different, smaller layers. Each layer functions in different ways to bring strength, elasticity, waterproofing, colour, and moisture to skin. The skin on your face has three to four of these sublayers.

The epidermis does not have a direct supply line to blood, and instead draws nutrients from lower skin levels, namely the dermis. 

The bottom sublayer of the epidermis, the stratum basale, catalyzes the essential skin shedding process. Cells are pushed up through the other sublayers, destined to die and spread their ashes over everything you hold dear. 

The stratum spinosum sits on top of the base the stratum basale provides, with interconnected cells that come together to provide a solid, strong foundation for other layers to build upon.

The next layer up, the stratum granulosum, has cells that produce a compound called keratin, which protects cells from damage (this is the buzzword you’ll hear in hair smoothing products that promise to keep frizz away). 

Last, but not least, is the stratum corneum. It contains all the dead skin cells that will slough off eventually, but for now its job is keeping other cells from getting dried out. The process from cell formation to cell death takes about a month.
Skin-care products aim to stimulate one layer or another to improve its functions. The products that you use form a skincare routine. 

The only products that are necessary in any skincare routine are a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. Save for having a medical skin condition that prohibits you from using them, all skin can benefit from these three.

A cleanser essentially functions as soap, washing away grime and oil off the uppermost sublayer of your skin — the stratum corneum. Common cleansers are oil cleansers, foam cleansers, cleansing wipes, cleansing bars, and cleansing waters. 

A moisturizer adds hydration back into the stratum corneum, looking to improve thickness and water content. Moisturizers can be categorized into humectants, emollients, and occlusive agents. A sunscreen is your last step to start your skin care for the morning. 

Unlike the thicker skin on your palms and soles, the skin on your face doesn’t have a layer of skin called the stratum lucidum, which can protect from UV rays. Hence, skin on your face is much more sensitive to sun damage than thicker skin. Sunscreens can be broken down into two categories: physical and chemical.

As you can see, not all cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens are created equally. Stay tuned next week to learn about the different types of each one.  



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Please note that this article does not constitute medical advice. Consult a medical doctor for healthcare issues.

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