Skin Deep: Follow our skin-care primer to make it beautifully easy

Skin Deep - YAM Style Issue Sept/Oct 2023

BY JOANNE SASVARI

There was a morning, not so long ago, when I looked in the mirror and discovered I’d aged a couple of decades overnight. This, I later discovered, is almost always how it happens. You go to bed feeling fine, maybe a little worried about work or your Visa bill or what you’re going to make for dinner the next day, and wake up covered in crow’s feet and not-as-adorable-as-they-sound bunny lines. And that’s how you find yourself in the midst of a taut, shiny and apparently ageless crowd at a collagen event held by a local medi-spa.

Skin care is health care, of course. But there is baggage attached, and not just the kind that lurks under your tired, aging eyes. We live in a world obsessed with appearance; we also live in a world of harsh judgment for those who try too hard, do too much (or not enough) or somehow get it wrong.

Still, take a look around and chances are someone nearby has had a little something-something done. Chances also are that they’re happy to tell you all about it.  

For instance, at that collagen event, everyone was eager to share what procedures they’d tried and what they were planning to do next. And just in the last couple of weeks I’ve learned that one friend uses laser therapy to deal with brown spots, another goes for microneedling to firm up her jaw line, a third has injectables to plump up her thinning lips, several are using neurotoxins (a.k.a. Botox) to reduce the look of their “11” lines and all of them are holding time at bay with medical-grade cosmeceutical serums. 

They all, by the way, look fantastic.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a simple regimen of gentle cleanser, sunscreen and a drugstore-brand moisturizer, if that works for you. And there’s nothing wrong with proudly wearing your laugh lines and sunspots as the signs of a life well lived. 

There is also nothing wrong with deciding not to.

But before you try something that might drastically alter your appearance and is potentially painful and certainly expensive, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into.

For one thing, no procedure is a one-time thing. Are you willing to stick to a four- to six-month maintenance schedule? Do you have the budget for it? The time? For another thing, having someone stick needles in your face or laser off a layer of skin is serious stuff, so it’s important to have a qualified professional do it.

Shortly after that collagen event, I sat down with one of the clinic’s doctors for a consultation. They were patient and thoughtful, listened to my concerns, explained different possible treatments and together we came up with a plan, if I decide to take the plunge. No pressure. Just lots of information. 

The idea, they told me, was not to create radical change, but to look as if I’d had a good night’s rest. Sounds pretty good to me. Then again, I can’t help but wonder if all I really need is an actual good night’s sleep. So we shall see. 

The thing is, your skin works hard. It protects your body from the elements and keeps it at a comfortable temperature. It allows you to feel the softness of a cashmere sweater or the tenderness of a lover’s touch. It is tough, yet it is vulnerable to everything from acne to rashes to cancer, and it is where we show the first signs of age. 

And that’s why we need to do our best to take care of it. Here’s how.

Ouch

As the body’s external protection system, your skin is vulnerable to a variety of injuries and ailments, from blisters and bug bites to skin cancer. Talk to a doctor if you experience:

  • A new mole or one that changes size, shape or colour. 
  • A severe burn (including sunburns).
  • A cut that won’t close with just a bandage.
  • A skin infection with red streaks. 
  • Any unexplained rash or other skin condition.

What Is Skin Anyway?

The body’s largest organ is made of water, protein, fats and minerals. Just one inch of your skin has approximately 19 million skin cells, 1,000 nerve endings and 20 blood vessels. And it is made of these three layers.

The epidermis 
The top layer of the skin acts as a protective barrier against bacteria, germs and the elements.

The dermis 
The thick middle layer, comprising 90 per cent of your skin’s thickness, contains collagen (which makes your skin resilient) and elastin (which makes it flexible) as well as: nerves that let you feel heat, softness and pain; oil glands that keep skin soft and smooth; and sweat glands that help regulate your body temperature.

The hypodermis
The fatty bottom layer of skin stores energy, insulates your body, connects skin to your muscles and bones, and cushions your body from injury.

Basic Skin Care

No matter how old you are, there are some basic things you should (and shouldn’t) do to keep your skin healthy.

DO: Wear sunscreen
Yes, even if you rarely leave the house — there is growing evidence that the blue light from those screens we stare at all day causes damage, too. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30.

Skin Deep - YAM Style Issue Sept/Oct 2023

DON’T: Stress
Or at least find healthy ways to manage it. The stress hormone cortisol can trigger inflammation, leading to rashes and hives, and also breaks down collagen and elastin, contributing to fine lines and wrinkles. 

DO: Be gentle
Your skin is tough, but not THAT tough. Use mild cleansers and a daily moisturizer to protect your skin from environmental damage, infections and other irritants.

DON’T: Smoke
Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and vape pens are damaging to the skin. Besides, they call those grooves above your upper lip “smoker’s lines” for a reason.

DO: Eat well
Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats nourish the skin and delay the onset of wrinkles. They also prevent serious skin conditions like dermatitis, inflammation or hyperpigmentation. 

DON’T: Forget to hydrate
If you don’t drink enough water, your cells shrivel, causing your skin to look dull and dry, and making fine lines more noticeable.

DO: Get a good night’s sleep
As you catch your Zzzzzzzs, blood flow increases to your skin, helping it rebuild collagen and repair environmental damage.

A Little Work

As you get older, your skin loses collagen and elastin, the dermis gets thinner, bone density decreases, fat migrates from where you want it (your cheeks) to where you don’t (everywhere else), your skin sags, wrinkles appear, sunspots pop up. 

There’s nothing wrong with any of these signs of age, but if they make you unhappy, Victoria is a good place to find someone to help make them go away. This city has a plethora of high-quality medical spas, led by qualified physicians who can advise you on what will work best for your skin. Short of actual cosmetic surgery, here are just a few things they may suggest.

Cosmeceuticals

These are generally cosmetics that have, or claim to have, some therapeutic benefits. Compared to drugstore brands, they tend to have higher proportions of active ingredients in formats that your skin can more easily absorb. Among them are Retinol, a fat-soluble form of Vitamin A that can fight acne and reduce fine lines, and Vitamin C serum, which defends against environmental damage.

Injectables

There are basically two kinds of injectable treatment — fillers and neurotoxins (such as Botox). Neurotoxins relax wrinkles and are what you want to reduce “dynamic” lines like ones between your eyebrows. Fillers replace volume loss; use them to plump lips, smooth out marionette lines (the grooves from nose to chin alongside your lips) and restore cheek contours. 

Microdermabrasion

This popular process sands off the top layer of skin to treat uneven skin tone and texture, hyperpigmentation, age spots, enlarged pores and blackheads, fine lines and wrinkles, stretch marks, acne and acne scars, and sun damage.

Microneedling

Also known as collagen induction therapy, this procedure involves repeatedly puncturing the skin with teeny-tiny needles, which in turn speeds up the production of collagen. Use it to treat acne or surgical scars, burns, wrinkles, stretch marks and even enlarged pores.

Laser and/or light treatment 

Lasers are beams of light that remove the outer layers of your skin, reducing wrinkles and scars, promoting collagen growth and tightening skin. Some laser treatments are quite uncomfortable and require significant recovery time; others less so. LED light therapy is a non-invasive treatment for conditions ranging from acne to wrinkles. 

Your complexion is, well, complex, and how much — or little — you choose to do to it is very personal. But armed with the right information, you can make the best decisions for your beautifully unique skin.