Nurturing self-identity with skincare

By Jane Babirye
On 25 September 2023 at 02:18

Ever wondered why the face appears on our identity cards and not any other body part? I mean, the foot or fingerprints can also be used to identify an individual, but these are always backed up with face identity.

Other factors constant, the face reveals not only who you are, but also what you are feeling: happiness, sadness, exhaustion, frustration, depression, and so on, can all be discerned with just a mere look at your face.

Moreover, when they say "you are what you eat," it’s your face they use to detect that before anything else; dry lips indicate dehydration, skin breakouts signal stress or hormonal imbalance, eye bags reveal sleep deprivation, while smoking can result in fine lines and wrinkles.

Similarly, when one is leading a ’peaceful’ life, the part that glows first is the face, notwithstanding the power of a smile (which is also found on the face) in brightening up a gloomy day.

It’s along these lines, hence, that we should pay special attention to the face, considering that it reveals who we are before we do.

Now I know that when we hear about skincare, reasons like time, money, gender, weather, and so on find their way onto the list of ’why I can’t have a skincare routine,’ but guess what, none of them is valid.

Let’s begin with time. Time is money, it has been proven and tested. However, regardless of our geographical locations, each one of us is allocated 24 hours in a day, and how we use them is totally up to us.

If the celebrities we value and hold in high esteem can find time to have flawless skin, so can we, their fans. After all, we share the same hours in a day. It all comes down to ’wanting’: "Where there’s a will, there’s always a way."

I strongly doubt anyone out there, in this era, wants to look old, or better yet, come off as miserable or sad. We could all do anything in our power to stay looking ’forever young.’

The good news is, ’it is possible. "We are allowed to grow old but not to look old," and by dedicating just a few minutes of our daily time to a skincare routine, we can achieve that.

Estheticians and dermatologists recommend three basic steps that shouldn’t be missed in one’s skincare routine no matter their skin type.

These include; Cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.

Just a little rewind, for anyone who may not know their skin types. There are five skin types according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), although some blogs will tell you seven or even more.

Each skin type bears different characteristics, and that’s how we are able to identify which one we possess. How do you tell your skin type?

Oily skin: As the name suggests, oily skins tend to be greasy/shiny in appearance. This is a result of the excess production of sebum (oil) by the sebaceous glands. While this keeps the skin looking younger and free from wrinkles for a prolonged time, it comes with downfalls such as large pores, blackheads, whiteheads, and worse, acne.

Dry skin: The absence of enough sebum to moisturize the skin results in dry skin, making it look dull, rough, flaky, or scaly. However, habits like smoking, alcohol consumption, certain medications, and a low intake of water can also lead to dry skin.

Combination skin: This results from some parts of the face, particularly the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin), having more sebum than the rest. In other words, the face is both dry and oily at the same time.

Sensitive skin: In most cases, dry skins are prone to sensitivity. Nevertheless, oily, normal/balanced skins can also be sensitive. This skin type is characterized by redness in appearance, itchiness, and a burning sensation when one uses certain products or changes their usual environments.

Normal/Balanced skin:This skin type is neither dry nor oily. It just has everything in equal proportions (just what most Rwandan ladies have). The pores are small (almost invisible) for bacteria or dirt to easily penetrate, the texture is smooth, and the tone is even.

In most cases, one can have an oily face and a dry body or vice versa, and in rare cases, the same skin type for the entire body; which is why a product can work for the body and not for the face.

Back to the daily routine: what each step means and entails

Cleansing: This refers to cleaning the face. This time though, not with just plain water and soap, but with water and a facial cleanser. Facial cleansers come in different forms; with the most common being liquid, foam, cream, or bars. Ingredients determine the type of cleanser, so does the choice. Hence, always consult a dermatologist before buying any skin product, or if you already know your skin type, read the product descriptions before purchasing.

Toning: This skincare process involves applying a facial toner after cleansing the skin. Some blogs suggest that it is not important to apply a toner unless you have dry skin. However, estheticians recommend otherwise. Just like facial cleansers, the choice of toners is determined by one’s skin type, even though all toners come in liquid form.

Why use a facial toner?

In simpler terms, toners help to minimize skin pores, preventing dirt and other impurities from entering the skin after it has been cleansed (cleansers remove dirt and impurities that clog the skin pores, thus it just makes sense for the pores to be ’protected’).

Additionally, cleansers, especially ’foam’ and ’bars,’ tend to leave a ’dry’ feeling on the skin after they are used. Toners thus help the skin feel refreshed. Ultimately, toners help balance the skin’s pH (Potential Hydrogen) and remove any residual debris, says Dr. Ashley Magovern, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology in Manhattan.

Moisturizers: Although applied last, face moisturizers are not in any way less important. On the contrary, one should pay special attention to the moisturizers they use since they’re left on the skin for longer hours. Also chosen according to one’s skin type, face moisturizers can either be ’day creams’ or ’night creams.’

Like their names suggest, day creams are used during the day, and night creams during the night. What differentiates a day cream from a night cream is the existence of Sun Protective Factor (SPF) in the day creams, an ingredient meant to protect the skin from sun damage.

Using money as an ’excuse’ for not having a skincare routine

Certainly, facial products can cost a fortune depending on skin type and demographics. Fortunately, they are not constraints to having beautiful skin. Natural products within everybody’s means are great solutions to the financial barrier. For instance, fruits like lemons and tomatoes are good facial cleansers.

Additionally, milk, plain yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and honey work relatively the same way. When it comes to natural toners, lemon, apple cider vinegar, rose water, green tea, and ice cubes can do ’miracles’ for the face when used as toners. Oils like avocado oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, olive oil, among others, are good natural moisturizers for both the face and body.

Gender as a rationale for neglecting a skincare routine

African men often harbor the misconception that skincare is exclusively for women, which is far from accurate. Gone are the days when women solely sought companionship and wealth in a man. In the 21st century, one’s appearance is the ’icing’ on the cake when considering a partner.

Hence, if you’re a man who still believes skincare is a futile endeavor, it’s time for a rethink.

Weather-related excuses, such as attributing dry skin to the climate and claiming there’s nothing one can do, are unfounded. On the contrary, just as the weather influences skin type, equal emphasis should be placed on safeguarding the skin from weather-induced effects.

If your skin becomes dry due to excessive heat in your region, it’s a good reason to invest in a moisturizer containing SPF for protection. Don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Regardless of your age, gender, or financial situation, achieving vibrant, youthful skin is within reach if you truly desire it. So, instead of merely wishing for great skin, take action to attain it. Much like the adage, "we are judged by our appearance," our looks convey a significant message about who we are.