Take a moment to think of all the different skincare products that you have bought over the years. How many of them did you buy after hearing a friend or family member rave about it being their “holy grail” product that “saved” their skin? How many times did you use these products only to end up with the complete opposite of the flawless, glowing complexion you were hoping for? As you stare in frustration at your irritated, congested or inflamed skin, you think there must be something wrong with your skin. How come it works for others but not for yourself? The good news is, there is nothing “wrong” with your skin; it is just different from the skin of your friends and family members. Ultimately, each of us has the same goal of having nourished, hydrated, and healthy skin, however, the manner in which we need to go about achieving “perfect” skin is unique to everybody. Here, we will outline the factors that lead to the individual differences in skin and how find the right solution for your skin.
Skin is not “One Size Fits All”
The truth is, skin is far more complicated to be broadly categorized into the three buckets of dry, oily, and combination. There are so many different factors that overlap together to affect skin health, and these factors can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Your age, ethnicity or genetic traits, for example, which you have no control over are categorized as intrinsic differences, whereas extrinsic factors include environmental influences, UV radiation, diet and other lifestyle choices.1. Intrinsic factors of Skin Health:
Our age and genetics have a lot to do with how our skin matures. People of different ethnic backgrounds have varied molecular structures, which in turn affects the way the skin reacts to exernal factors. When thinking about ways to extend our skin’s longevity and prevent visible aging, your genetic makeup is perhaps the most important thing to consider. There are various signs of aging that vary from person to person, be it wrinkles, hyperpigmentation or loss of elasticity (1), that are determines to a great extent by intrinsic factors. What works for one person may not work for the other, so, to get the results you want, you’ll want to make sure that you select products specifically designed to target your skin type and areas of concern.
2. Extrinsic Factors of Skin Health:
After reading about intrinsic aging, you might think that the fate of your skin’s health and aging is simply down to the genetic cards you are dealt with at birth, and there is nothing you can do about it. Let us assure you—this is not true. While genetics play a huge role, there is whole other class of external factors that impact our skin.
Think of extrinsic factors as the things you have the power to control and influence your skin’s health and anti-aging process. Sun exposure, air pollution, climate, smoking, nutrition, exercise, and skincare products are all environmental factors which play integral roles in maintaining skin health. Smoking and air pollution, for example, have been proven to damage skin cells, leading to premature aging and enhanced probability of skin cancer (1). And naturally, climates with lower temperatures and humidity increase the likelihood of dryness and inflammation, which can also be witnessed through seasonal fluctuations, peaking during wintertime (2).
Lifestyle factors such as nutrition along with the amount and type of exercise that one performs are also vital to skin health. It’s no coincidence that a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in addition to supporting your overall health, also contribute to visible health of your skin. Exercise does wonder for the skin. When we sweat, our pores flush out toxins and decongest, keeping our skin clear. (Just be sure you’re washing your skin with a gentle cleanser after). Research has also shown that exercise promotes collagen production and helps maintain a healthy level for molecules called cortisol, which can cause collagen breakdown and acne if present in spiked numbers. Thus, exercise combined with good nutrition and an effective skincare routine contributes greatly to healthier looking skin (2).
The Solution lies in Personalized Skincare:
Personalized skincare is about the treatment of the individual rather than a simplification of the problem. How? By taking a unique approach to skin maintenance that considers both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
1. The Benefits of Personalization:
In personalized skincare, an individual’s genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors are considered to create an effective routine and/or product. This would mean that only ingredients that are both safe and effective for your skin are used. By adapting a minimal but targeted approach, it enhances the products’ benefits while inhibiting the risk for irritation and inflammation caused by too many or the wrong combination of actives.
2. The Challenges of Personalization:
Creating truly personalized products is easier said than done. Let’s talk a bit about the difference between customized and personalized. Customized products are far more common and can include creams designed for specific skin concerns that need addressing. Maybe you’ve seen other companies do this before, where you answer a series of questions and receive a bottle of skin product with your name on it. It may seem personalized, but often times this is just a standard formula with your name on the bottle. Sunscreen, for example, is a perfect example of customized rather than personalized product. FDA regulations require rigorous and very expensive testing prior to the sale of a new cream that contains SPF, meaning each personalized sunscreen would have to pass its own set of hurdles to be approved by the FDA (5). Therefore, sunscreens customized for specific skin concerns can be produced, but personalized sunscreens are simply not feasible for production. Similar limitations exist for acne-fighting products as well as a plethora of other challenges which make customized skincare a much more common retail solution over personalization. The most effective method for skincare personalization is when the end user plays a more significant role in the creation of the product.
Personalized skincare is currently still a niche market and somewhat difficult to obtain; however, we truly believe that it is the future of skincare in the same way that personalized medicine is the future of health care. The structure and health of our skin depends strongly on many personal factors such as genetics, lifestyle decisions, and our environment. These characteristic components can all influence the types of nutrition and the levels of hydration that our skin might need, meaning that we need different ingredients in the correct combination to ensure benefits and no irritation. If not for the sake of your skin, then do it for your wallet and the dolphins!
- Markiewicz, E., & Idowu, O. C. (2018). Personalized skincare: from molecular basis to clinical and commercial applications. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 11, 161–171. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S163799
- Khmaladze, I., Leonardi, M., Fabre, S., Messaraa, C., & Mavon, A. (2020). The Skin Interactome: A Holistic "Genome-Microbiome-Exposome" Approach to Understand and Modulate Skin Health and Aging. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 13, 1021–1040. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S239367
- Sugiyama-Nakagiri, Y., Sugata, K., Hachiya, A., Osanai, O., Ohuchi, A., & Kitahara, T. (2009). Ethnic differences in the structural properties of facial skin. Journal of dermatological science, 53(2), 135–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdermsci.2008.08.008
- Khunger, N., & IADVL Task Force (2008). Standard guidelines of care for chemical peels. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology, 74 Suppl, S5–S12.
- Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun
Article By: Nazli Azodi