5 Common Skin Problems And How To Beat Them


What Is It?

Not just an adolescent affliction, acne – whether blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, cysts – affects many men well into their twenties and early thirties. “Acne is caused by sebum (the skin’s natural oil) getting congealed at the opening of the skin’s pores,” says Dr. Des Fernandes, founder of Environ Skin Care. “This occurs because there are skin flakes in the pores that mix with sebum and thicken, or because of the quality or quantity of the sebum. If the sebum is thicker then it obstructs more easily. If it is copious then it could also increase the opportunity for obstruction.” Sebum production is controlled by sex hormones (androgens), which means beating acne to the punch can prove difficult.

How Can I Beat It?

Given that acne’s heavily influenced by your hormones, there’s little in the way of lifestyle changes or topical treatments that offer a permanent fix. Regularly cleansing skin helps to clear pores, preventing the build-up of skin flakes and sebum, but remember to go gently: scrubbing too hard or using harsh soap instead of a mild face wash can strip away your skin’s acid layer, resulting in an unwanted boost in sebum production. “A definitive cure can sometimes be achieved with Accutane [a vitamin A derivative in pill form], which shrinks the oil glands in the skin,” says Dr. David Colbert, founder of New York Dermatology Group and the Colbert MD skincare range. Or, for milder cases, try a little benzoyl-peroxide ointment (Acne.org’s 2.5 per cent formulation is particularly gentle) to zap zits. The Acne.org Regimen Kit, available at acne.org, priced $44.87.

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What Is It?

Also known as dermatitis, eczema is a skin condition with symptoms that range from scaly, inflamed itchiness in mild cases to – we hope you’re not eating right now – weeping (pus-filled blisters), crusting and bleeding in more severe cases. “One in 12 adults in the UK are affected by eczema,” says Faye Layton-McCann, skincare expert at Skin 3. “It can be caused by either genetic or environmental factors such as exposure to allergens, or harsh ingredients in everyday products.”

How Can I Beat It?

The best way to ease the symptoms of eczema is a two-pronged approach: treating not only the skin itself, but also making lifestyle changes to prevent the condition from worsening. Firstly, quit scratching. As tempting as it is, clawing at your skin only irritates it further, resulting in bleeding or risk of infection. To ease the urge to scratch, try using thick emollients like E45 Dermatological Cream or ask a dermatologist about a topical corticosteroid which will effectively reduce skin inflammation and irritation during flare-ups. “Remember, though, that topical treatments are not a long-term solution,” says Layton-McCann. She suggests instead going right to the root of the cause by treating the skin from within. “If you suffer from eczema, you’ll likely be deficient in essential fatty acids, which are responsible for reinforcing your skin’s barrier,” she says. “So try supplements – in the form of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties – to help nourish, calm and soothe skin from the inside out.” Antihistamines may help in some cases, while avoiding triggers – like stress and hot or dry environments – can also help ease the itch.

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What Is It?

Characterised by red, flaky or crusty patches of skin covered in silvery scales, psoriasis is a long-lasting auto-immune disease that makes skin cells proliferate at an accelerated rate. It may be localised to specific areas – like elbows, knees, the scalp and lower back – or spread more widely throughout the body, and severity can range from mildly irritating to seriously life-impacting. Psoriasis sufferers usually experience periods when symptoms are mild and periods when they’re especially bad, also known as flare-ups or psoriasis attacks.

How Can I Deal With It?

“First and foremost, there is no known cure for psoriasis,” says Layton-McCann. “Treatment for this condition is symptomatic and must include positive lifestyle changes.” One of these changes is diet. “Try to limit acidic food types such as dairy, refined grain, sugar, alcohol and especially processed food,” she says. “Poor diet choices will promote inflammation in your body which could trigger a psoriasis attack.” Omega-3 fatty acids are also worth stocking up on, helping to improve your skin’s barrier function and reduce inflammation. Weather, or more specifically sunlight, can positively affect psoriasis too. Phototherapy, i.e. exposing your skin to the sun to kickstart your body’s production of vitamin D, is a key player in reducing inflammation. (Don’t forget the SPF when catching rays, though.) Don’t forget to relax, either. “Mind, as well as body, is an important part of the treatment plan,” says Layton-McCann. “Mental ‘time out’ to relieve stress has a positive effect on stress hormones.” Which in turn lessens chances of flare-ups. Like eczema, topical treatments like unscented moisturisers and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) can help assuage effects, while those experiencing particularly bad symptoms might want to talk to a dermatologist about drugs like immunosuppressants such as Humira.

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What Is It?

More than just rosy cheeks or a five-pint flush, rosacea is a chronic (long-lasting) skin condition with symptoms like diffused redness of the skin and lumps which may or may not develop into pimples.

How Can I Deal With It?

As with other inflammatory skin conditions, rosacea can be eased by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. “As the cause for rosacea remains a hot topic for debate, positive changes in most areas of lifestyle become crucial in controlling the condition,” says Layton-McCann. “An alkaline diet will promote calmer looking skin, and you should try to limit spicy food [which can cause the condition to flare up].” Supplements like zinc and vitamin C can help to promote healing in skin, while it’s best to keep your skincare regimen stripped-back. “Avoid the use of ablative treatments or deep chemical peels which can – despite the results they might promise – actually irritate the skin further,” she says. Sunscreen, while important for all of us, is crucial for those with rosacea. “The sun is not your friend in this case: always avoid direct sunlight and never go outdoors without adequate protection,” warns Layton-McCann.

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Shaving Rash

What Is It?

Shaving rash, that redness and tightness of skin you get after de-whiskering, is – for some of us – par for the course to an extent. But that’s not to say there aren’t ways to mitigate your neck and chin erupting. “Many men tell us they have sensitive skin, but 90 per cent of the time they don’t; usually you find it’s just a case of shaving rash caused by bad technique or a lack of preparation of the skin before shaving,” say Daniel Davies and Erin Wentworth from London’s Pall Mall Barbers.

How Can I Deal With It?

By shaving properly. Admittedly not as easy as it sounds. Follow the steps below to ensure your morning shaves don’t leave you looking like you’ve just been in a scrap:

  1. Start out by washing your face with a mild face wash, using a flannel to open the pores of your face and warm your stubble, making it more supple. Then, follow up with a pre-shave scrub to help lift stubble and remove any dead skin cells that could potentially clog up your razor.
  2. Next, apply shaving foam with a shaving brush, (“Using a shaving brush helps lift the stubble to prevent your razor from pulling at it during your shave”) and shave using a clean and sharp razor with the grain of your growth. “Most redness and sensitivity is caused by shaving against the grain right away; this results in the blade pulling and tugging the hair away, which leaves you with bumps and ingrown hairs,” say Davies and Wentworth.
  3. Finally, remember to moisturise. Shaving not only removes stubble, but several layers of your skin, too, making the newly exposed layer of skin particularly prone to drying out. “To prevent this from happening, moisturiser should always be applied after shaving to give a protective layer and soothe the skin.”

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Final Word

Do you do daily battle with any of these skin problems? Comment below to let us know what works best for you.

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