Skin is the largest organ of the body. It is made up of the outer epidermis & inner dermis. The epidermis has a number of layers of cells called keratinocytes & pigment cells called melanocytes. The dermis contains blood vessels, sebaceous or oil glands, sweat glands, nerves; all of which are bound together by elastin & collagen fibres. The skin protects the underlying structures from outer environmental pollutants by forming a barrier layer. It helps us perceive stimuli such as touch, heat, cold, pain. It regulates temperature & also helps in the metabolism of vitamin D. Factors like pollution, sun rays, stress, irregular food habits, inadequate sleep etc contribute to skin damage & premature aging of skin. Thus, it is necessary to take basic minimal care of one's skin.

Basic skin care does not involve use of expensive cosmetics & toiletries. One has to follow a very simple regime for skin care.

Diet:

A well-balanced, regular diet along with adequate amount of water is all that you need. One must avoid the so-called junk food, too much of starvation in the form of dieting & eating at odd irregular hours.

Exercise:

About 30 minutes of aerobics, walking, jogging or cycling at least five times a week is essential for a healthy skin.

Sun Protection:

UVA & UVB rays could be harsh on the skin & cause photo damage in the form of increased pigmentation, freckles, premature aging & even skin cancers. Those with normal to dry skin can use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. People with oily skin should use an umbrella or a wide brimmed hat for sun protection.

Local skin care:

The surface of the skin contains oil, dead cells, sweat, grime, dirt, grease & pollutants. If this is not removed, the skin looks dull & flaky. Cleansing is an important part of skin care & can be done with simple soaps or cleansers. The skin should be washed at least twice a day with soap & warm water. Deodorant soaps with antiseptic agents are good for oily skin. Super fatted soaps or glycerin-based soaps are good for dry & normal skin. For the skin to look healthy & glowing, its uppermost layer called stratum corneum should contain more than 10% of the total water content of the body. Thus, comes the role of a moisturizer. People with dry to normal skin should use a moisturizer twice a day after cleansing. Those with oily skin should be careful & use an oil free moisturizer only once a day.
Lastly, be gentle on your skin. Do not use harsh cosmetics. If you have a skin problem, seek professional advice.

A cleanser is one which removes dirt, sweat, sebum, micro-organisms (bacteria etc.), dead cells (stratum corneum) and make-up if used from the skin surface.

Cleansing comprises of three stages:

Wetting Emulsification and removal of grease.

Rinsing Deeply ingrained dirt, particularly in the pores of the hair follicles and sweat glands can be removed by warming the skin with hot water or a mild steam bath.
Normal pH of the skin is 4.5 to 5.5, this acidic pH changes to alkaline due to application of cleanser and gives a feeling of freshness in the skin.

Types of cleansers:

Soaps and cleansing bars: They are derived from fatty acids and tri-glycerides (fats and oils).

Routine bars.

Deodorant or anti-microbicidal bars: These have an added anti-bacterial agent to eradicate bacteria. These soaps have a pH between 9 - 10 and may cause skin irritation. It is good for oily skin.

Moisturising base: These have moisturising agents like lanolin or glycerin. Their pH is between 5 - 7, thus they are non-irritant. They are good for dry skin.

Functions: Soaps help cleansing, perfume the bath, softens the water, forms lather and gives the skin a cool and fresh feeling.

Lipid free cleansers / Face wash: These contain water, glycerin, cetyl alcohol and does not contain any fats. They clean without soap formation and leave a thin moisturising film. It is good for sensitive and photo aged skin.

Cleansing creams: They are oil based products which remove grease and cosmetics on the skin by dissolving it in more oil. It is good for dry skin.

Cleansing Lotion: It is a water based product and is good for normal and dry skin. Since they are water based they can be easily rinsed with water. They are commonly sold as pore cleansers.

Exfoliants: Help in removing dead cells (stratum corneum cells) from the skin.

Abrasive scrubs: They aid in removing dead cells and control excess sebum secretion. They are mechanical exfoliants made of granules in form of Aluminum oxide, ground fruit pits etc.

Cleansing masks / packs: Setting masks - containing Fuller's earth ('Multani Mitti'). Peel-off masks - containing gel and latex. Non-setting masks - containing cold cream or oil packs.

Setting and peel-off masks achieve cleansing, exfoliation and skin-tightening. It also refreshes the skin. Non-setting masks only cleans the skin.

For the skin to remain normal and fresh, the upper most layer, namely the stratum corneum should contain more than 10% of the total water content. In places with tropical climate like India, heat, sun-rays and pollution tend to dry the skin. Thus, use of a moisturiser becomes essential.

Basic components of moisturisers are:

Occlusive oils: They retard water loss from the skin.

Humectants: They increase the water content of the skin by absorbing water from the environment and lower layers of skin.

Hydrophilic matrices: They prevent water loss and have a soothing action.

Others: Water, sun-screens, emulsifying agents, preservatives, fragrances and coloring agents.

Special additives: Ceramides, Vitamins, EFA's, Aloevera, Urea, Lactic acid, Alfa-hydroxy acids, collagen, Elastin and Hyaluronic acid. A moisturiser should be used after bath on a moist skin surface. One may even use a sun-screen during the day and a moisturiser at bed time. People with normal or dry skin can use both creams and lotions which have water in oil emulsion.

Those with oily skin should avoid using creams. Lotions with oil in water formulations are best suited for oily skin.

Hair is aesthetically a very important part of the human body. All of us desire to have smooth, soft and lustrous hair. This is done with use of shampoos and conditioners.
It is important to understand one's hair type to make the right choice of shampoos and conditioners.

Normal

Dry: This type may be a result of Lack of sebum. Environmental factors like sunlight, wind, sea water, chlorinated water (as in swimming pool). Chemical treatment like hair coloring Mechanical injury such as straightening and perming

Oily or greasy hair: This happens because of excessive sebum secretion from sebaceous glands in the scalp.

Shampoos

Shampoo is a suitable detergent for washing hair, removing sebum, sweat, dirt and dead cells present on the hair shaft and scalp.

Types Of Shampoos

  • Basic Shampoos

    Normal hair shampoos: They achieve good cleansing with minimum conditioning.

    Oily hair shampoos: They give excellent cleansing and very minimal conditioning.

    Dry hair shampoos: They cause mild cleansing and good conditioning. They reduce static electricity and make the hair more manageable.

    Damaged hair shampoos: Meant for hair which have been chemically treated with hair color, bleaching agents or hair straightening agents. They have mild detergents and more conditioner in order to temporarily repair the hair surface defects.

  • Baby Shampoos

    These are formulated with 'amphoteric surfactants' which cause little or no irritation. They are mild and can also be used by adults who wish to wash their hair everyday.

  • Medicated Shampoos

    Anti-dandruff shampoos: They, in addition to the regular ingredients also contain additives such as anti-fungals, anti-bacterials, Selenium Sulphide, Zinc Pyrithione, Tar derivatives etc. They remove sebum, oil, scalp scales and the anti-fungal acts on the fungus 'Pityrosporum ovale' which is usually the cause of dandruff.

    Anti-Lice shampoos: They contain Gama-benzene hexa-chloride or Permethrin which kill the lice when applied in a proper manner.

  • Conditioning Shampoos

    They are a combination of shampoo and conditioner. These products may be self-defeating since the shampoo removes sebum, the body's natural conditioner and replaces it with an artificial conditioner.

Conditioners

Shampooing, drying, combing, brushing, dyeing, permanent waving, straightening and styling damage the hair and make it harsh, brittle and entangled. Hair conditioners reverse this hair damage and make the hair manageable, glossy and soft. They increase the strength and reduce the brittleness of the shaft. Conditioners also attempt to mend the split ends ('split ends' result from extensive damage to hair shaft). Conditioners are designed to revert the hair damage caused by several factors as given below.

Grooming: Damage after wet combing, blow drying, wet brushing leads to damage of the hair cuticle.

Environmental insults: Hair may become discolored. There may be damage to the cuticle, split ends and finally breakage of hair may occur due to weathering.

Chlorine and salt water: This weakens the hair shaft, causes split ends and cracks in the cuticle.

Heat styling: Blow drying and hot rollers damage the tensile strength of the hair.

Chemical agents: Permanent hair colors, bleaching increase the frictional force of the hair and consequently the combing force leading to breakage. Perming and straightening reduces the tensile strength of the hair and causes hair loss.

Types Of Conditioners

  • Instant conditioners

    They are applied following a shampoo, left on the hair for 5 - 10 minutes and rinsed. They provide minimal conditioning due to short contact time.

  • Deep conditioners

    Usually are marketed as creams. Their ingredients are similar to instant conditioners but are more concentrated. They have to be left on the scalp for 20 - 30 minutes before rinsing. They provide good conditioning.

  • Leave in conditioners

    They are applied after drying the hair and are left on till the next shampoo. They are in the form of blow drying lotions and hair thickners.

  • Sunscreen conditioners

    Excessive exposure to sun can cause dryness, loss of color and roughening of surface texture. PABA and Benzophenones are added to conditioners which provide sun protection to hair.

*Disclaimer - Results may vary from person to person.
  • They protect the cuticle which covers and protects the hair shaft.
  • They restore the acidic pH of the hair which is disturbed by the alkaline pH of the shampoos.
  • They cause 'fly-away hair to become smoother and more manageable.
  • In brief dry, brittle and lusterless hair become shiny, bouncy, glossy and strong.
*Disclaimer - Results may vary from person to person.