Glowing skin is what everybody wants. Skin that is free from other indications of possible systemic imbalance is considered healthy and attractive.
As we get older, disruptive factors such as stress, pollution, or toxins affect our skin, Dr Francoise Gahongayire, a dermatologist at King Faisal Hospital, explains.
“Naturally, a healthy skin usually has a balanced pH (the alkalinity and acidity of the skin). As we get older, however, the skin is affected by the acid mantle, where nasty irritants, such as acne and wrinkles, can form,” she says.
She also says that while dry skin, also known as xeroderma, tends to affect males and females equally, older and young individuals in colder environments are typically more prone to dry skin. It is almost impossible for one’s skin to contain extreme acidity, as the acid is what the skin depends on mostly.
When the skin’s fatty oils are removed, the skin loses its protection and loses moisture more easily. As skin becomes dry, it also may become more sensitive and prone to rashes and skin breakdown.
“The skin in elderly individuals tends to have diminished amounts of natural skin oils and lubricants. Areas such as the arms, hands, and particularly lower legs tend to be more affected by dry skin. Dryness of the skin is affected by the amount of water vapour in the surrounding air, the humidity.
“Even though your skin needs a certain amount of oil to stay waterproof and resist infections, too little can lead to dry skin and the premature development of wrinkles, eczema in its various forms, while too much can lead to oily skin and acne. The oil in your skin called sebum is produced by the sebaceous glands, tiny ducts that lie next to the hair follicles. It is healthy for the skin although some people may have a very high production,” she says.
Beth Gahongayire, an aesthetician at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali, also explains that dry skin has a high risk for inflammation, and extreme sensitivity to infections and unbalanced skin. But determining one’s skin’s status can even things out and score a radiant complexion.
The solution to uneven skin
Thankfully, neutralising one’s skin is easier than what we actually think, according to skin care specialists. Determining one’s skin’s status can even things out and score a radiant complexion.
“For the most part, you can determine the pH level of your own skin by its behaviour. Having a dry and fragile skin should be an indicator of its alkalinity while irritated, and acne-prone means it’s overly acidic. Bearing in mind that a balanced skin pH is a must have and will determine the health of your skin,” Gahongayire says.
Dr Elisha Agaba, a dermatologist in Kigali, advises that although having a good moisturiser contributes to having a good skin, sometimes use of certain products can have an immense effect on the skin.
“We should build on science and not personal confidence. Dermatologists can best determine the physiology of the skin and how it is working. It’s important for one to first consult the dermatologist because skin care is a specialty that they are best conversant with,” Agaba says.
Most soaps tend to be alkaline, which means that they have a higher pH. Having this level of pH means that they can leave the skin feeling a little dry and sensitive. Try to level this out with a good toner, or by using a cleanser that promises to balance the skin’s pH levels.
“Going for products that are not suitable for your skin type will dry up the skin and cause a defect on the skin. As far as external treatments go, it’s good to be mindful of formulae and ingredients. Considering oil or gel-based cleansers can be a solution to dry skin,” Agaba adds.
Gahongayire also explains that our lifestyle influences our pH. Things like a poor diet, too much alcohol, and too little exercise all contribute to our internal and external pH. A body with an alkaline pH functions much like a well-oiled machine.
“Aging should not be a concern because as long as one has a balanced diet and uses the right products, their skin will be healthy enough to resist any irritation. Your body is a system, and the things you put inside it affect the way it looks on the outside. To this end, a healthy diet can help balance your skin’s pH. Vegetables, fruits and plenty of water are highly recommended,” she says.
Dr Agaba, however, cautions that products that work for someone may not necessarily work for the other. This is why it is important, through examination, that a dermatologist inspects the skin from its history to determine whether the skin is well balanced.
Nutritional tips for a balanced skin
Having a balanced diet and a balanced pH skin care can combat these nasty factors.
Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist working with Rwanda Diabetic Association, says there are foods that, when regularly consumed, help keep the skin health at bay.
“For example, an alkaline diet that relies heavily on antioxidant rich foods like leafy green vegetables. The nutrition is very important for the skin, so they are some nutrients which are very important for the skin,” he says.
He provides nutritional tips that can be beneficial in keeping one’s skin healthy.
Vitamin C is a very important antioxidant that plays a role in the production of collagen and an important protein for creating the skin elastic. Sources of Vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, guava, green vegetable, lemon mandarin, oranges and also grapefruits.
Selenium is also a very important antioxidant that helps in sustaining skin control and elasticity. Sources are seafood fish, onions, whole grain, wheat germ and brown rice. Selenium also helps in the absorption of vitamin E.
Vitamin E is a very important vitamin that promotes skin health, sources such as eggs, avocado, nuts, green vegetables, spinach, and olive oil are ideal.
Omega-3 is essential in fatty acid which helps the skin flexibility. It can be found in seafood, small fishes, and nuts.
Vitamin A contributes to skin repair and maintenance and can be found in green vegetables, carrots, papaya, spinach, eggs, and sweet potatoes.
Zinc is a very important nutrient which helps in protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Seeds such as pumpkin seeds, legumes, whole grains, and mushrooms can be a very good source.