Thoughts I'm Having: How Do You Really Know If Your Skin Is Healthy?
As a beauty editor, I make it my job to keep my skin healthy. I visit the dermatologist regularly, I'm always getting facials, and I use products that are recommended by experts. But, pray tell, is that even enough?
My curiosity began when our managing editor Lindsey used a device to test her skin's hydration levels (it was MiLi's Smart Skin Moisture Detector, $60). To her bewilderment, it found her skin to be very dry. I wondered, could I be out of touch with my skin? Is it possible that it's not as healthy as I tell myself it is? First of all, it told me my skin was "normal" on a day when I was (can I say this humbly?) glowing. So, I needed to gather some facts.
I reached out to a few top dermatologists and estheticians to find out what they look for when initially examining a client's skin. The first thing Renée Rouleau said to me when I asked was, "'Healthy-looking skin' is definitely a thing, but no one really knows what that means." Exactly, I thought, excited for her insight. Below, they outline the top five things to look out for and products that can help. Keep scrolling for your diagnosis.
1. Is your skin color even?
"The color of your skin should be more or less consistent throughout your face and body. Dark circles under your eyes, blotchiness, and spots are tell-tale signs that something is out of balance," says Neil Sadick, MD, of Sadick Dermatology. "Possible culprits include stress, anxiety, exhaustion, hormone imbalance, or an allergic reaction to some detergent or cosmetic ingredient."
"Because your skin is an organ, it responds to internal and external problems, and will reflect many different health issues, sometimes with just a change in color," adds Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. "Yellowish skin may be a sign of problems with your gallbladder, blue may indicate ingestion of certain chemicals, and brown may signal a problem with the kidneys. As most people know, external damage can also cause discoloration of the skin, leaving brown spots and increasing the number of blood vessels and redness. Ideally, the skin should be an evenly distributed tone, and should not change over time."
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2. Is your skin glowing?
"A healthy skin tone emits a natural 'glow.' whatever your skin type is," says Sadick. "If your skin looks dull or pale, that might be a sign of a nutrient deficiency like anemia or dehydration. If you're also experiencing tiredness and low mood you may need to look at your diet and include iron-rich food and get some rest." Celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau adds: When the skin doesn't have proper blood flow, it can result in sluggish, tired skin. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to feed cells both in our skin and body. But, as we age, everything tends to slow down—including blood circulation.
But, what to do? Renée Rouleau suggests performing a pinch test at home. "When your skin is free of makeup, take your thumb and your forefinger and gently pinch the skin in the apples of your cheeks. Gently (not to the point where you feel pain) pinch the skin quickly five times. If no pinkness shows up, your skin is more than likely under-circulated. If your skin is a little pink, your skin has good, proper circulation. If the skin is bright red, more than likely your skin is over-circulated. The goal with circulation is to be right in the middle, not too much and not nothing at all."
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3. Is the texture of your skin smooth?
"Healthy skin needs to be smooth and 'regularly irregular,'" says Sadick. "Any lumps, bumps, cracks, and grooves hint to an underlying problem. That may be acne, dehydration, an allergic reaction, or even a viral infection. If the texture is generally changing over time, it may be just part of the aging process, and you need to update your skincare routine."
"Skin cell build up is one of the main things I look at when determining the health and condition of someone's skin," says Rouleau. "I always look to see if the skin is properly exfoliated since having a hydration in the top layers of the skin is essential for healthy, light-reflecting skin. To see if you have surface dry skin cells, take a piece of clear tape and apply it to the forehead, rub it gently, and then remove. Now, look at the tape—if there are little pieces of flaky skin, then the focus needs to be on exfoliation. (Note: When you pull off the tape, it's normal to see some debris; it won't come off clear, but you're specifically looking for flakiness)."
Nazarian says, "Many patients describe their skin as tired-looking—my recommendation is to use topical chemical exfoliators, such as glycolic acid, to stimulate cell turnover and bring newer cells to the surface."
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4. Is your skin hydrated?
"If your skin is pulling and tugging, that means it needs moisturizing," says Sadick. "Another trick you can do is scrunch your face, and, if after relaxing you can see lines, that means your skin is dry. Changes in seasons and humidity are definite culprits, or some skincare products may be contributing to the dryness. Aside from staying hydrated, you need to pick products to replenish and seal in your skin's moisture."
"'Turgor' is a fancy medical term that describes how well your skin bounces back. Skin that's well hydrated has great turgor and recoils quickly, bouncing back to its original form. Dehydrated skin takes a much longer time to bounce back, and looks less robust and full," Nazarian says.
Siqi Mou, the founder of HelloAva, recommends: "If you place your finger on your jawline and then lightly move your skin upward and there are no lines present, then your skin has healthy hydration levels. Additionally, if you're wearing makeup and you don't get creases when you smile, that also means your skin is properly hydrated."
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5. Is your skin irritated?
"Having healthy skin means you don't really feel it. Any tingling, stinging, itching, or pain is a sign of either an allergic reaction, an insect bite, or even a more serious dermatologic condition like eczema or psoriasis. Trust your gut and visit your dermatologist to assess what lies beneath," Sadick says.
Celebrity facialist Toska Husted says, "If you notice a facial rash, it could be either rosacea or contact dermatitis, but there is a chance it could also be Lupus, especially if the rash is in the shape of a butterfly. You should see your doctor right away to determine the cause. Also, if you notice facial flushing after eating spicy foods and sipping hot drinks, see a dermatologist. You may have the first stages of rosacea."
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FYI: Here's more on how to get amazing skin without trying too hard or spending too much.