Our face is the very first impression we make, and in a world of first impressions, we all want to make the best one we can. And since your skin also plays the vital role of protecting you from the environment, we should return the favor and give it some help from time to time. If constant stimulation has started to take its toll on your physical appearance, you’re not alone. The morning after a long night out our skin looks a little heavier, tired and in need of some help – much like the rest of your body does. However, your face showcases your troubles a lot quicker than the rest of your body. When a face looks attractive, healthy and fresh, we feel attractive, healthy and fresh from within. First things first: You need to know what you’re protecting before you start fixing, so you don’t do more harm than good. There are three layers of skin. You only need to worry about the first two. The outer layer, or epidermis, is the protective, waterproof wrap your body uses as a natural barrier to keep out anything that may be harmful to the body, including UV sunlight, chemicals and pathogens. Jenny Weisenborn, of the United States, applies moisturizer to her face to deal with the harsh winter air. She has been in Korea for a year and a half. However, it holds no blood vessels. In fact, the important stuff lies in the dermis, the layer below the epidermis. This layer holds all the blood vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands and sebaceous (oil) glands of the skin. In addition, this is where we find all the collagenous and elastic fibers. This material keeps our skin tight and taut, which we try so desperately to keep strong and fit throughout our lives. The second thing you need to educate yourself about is the environment your skin is exposed to on a daily basis. For instance, here in Seoul during most of the year it’s nice and humid, which helps keep water on the skin and thus keeps it hydrated. However, in these harsh months of the year, the air is dry and windy, which is like a double whammy. Your skin has enough of a fight with the dry, cold air but with the added bonus of fierce winds, without proper protection, you and your skin will suffer.
Another reality check: No matter how dry our face may be, our natural oils still pick up toxins in the air. As we all know, Seoul is not known for its pristine air quality and skin soaks the toxins up like a sponge. Let’s imagine that in a perfect universe, we all live healthy lifestyles full of exercise and great diets. Our skin still has to fight elements not under our control. There is hope, though, for alleviating some of these challenging environments. Moisturizers and cleansing are the foundations of healthy skin. Some of our regular vices like caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol dehydrate skin the quickest. Cutting these vices out completely would improve your skin tremendously but so would a million dollars and a personal staff of 20, all of which are highly unlikely to happen. These days, good cleansers are a bit pricey but very important to have. Thankfully, skin care is a lot like fashion today pairing a less expensive item with a more expensive classic creates the perfect combination. Today’s lower-priced cleansers and moisturizers include Keihl’s and Clinique products which range from 20,000 won to 45,000 won.
For the more expensive, more advanced treatments try Este Lauder, Bobbi Brown or SK II for 50,000 won to 150,000 won. If you would like to invest in your skin care, Chanel and la prairie are upward of 200,000 won but you get everything you pay for in radiant and vibrant skin. All of these products are readily available at your local department stores. It goes without saying that your diet is an intricate part in the way your skin reacts and looks. You need one or two servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables are not only great for vitamins and antioxidants for the skin but they also provide us with water that stays in our body longer than when we just drink it. Water is also a must. Drinking water will provide us with well hydrated skin. However, according to Dr. Murad, a clinical dermatologist based in London, once water comes to the surface you have to keep it there. It often rapidly escapes through sweat or dry air. Drinking water alone will not keep your skin hydrated. Moisturizers maintain the hydration and are completely necessary. The one thing that makes water a crucial element in healthy skin is the expulsion of toxins from our bodies via the excretory system. Without adequate amounts of water, toxins get stuck in our bodies and can build up, eventually escaping from the pores. For the average person 1-2 liters a day will suffice in keeping the toxins from building up; however there are always exceptions. Take out and processed foods hold a high amount of sodium that holds water in the body, so add another glass to the equation when you eat either of these. Unfortunately, not all toxins can escape from the body through water; some attach to us from the air. When we combine this with oils and billions of dead skin cells that try to shed everyday, our face can start to look more like a microscopic junkyard than a healthy surface.
For this reason, exfoliation is key. Exfoliation is the process of shedding the outermost surface of the skin containing dead skin cells and toxins to reveal the newer skin beneath. This process unclogs pores, keeps skin clean and helps prevent acne. It should always be done after cleaning your face with warm water, allowing pores to be as open as possible. Men can particularly benefit from exfoliation as it exposes hair follicles, allowing for a better shave. Facials are often referred to as an indulgence; but for healthy looking skin they should be a requirement. Home facial care still pales in comparison with some of the artillery your local spa has to help refresh your skin. Spas use oxygenated steam, which not only opens up the pores but it’s a huge wake up call to the cells in your face. Our cells, like most of our body, can get tired and a little run down from day to day activity. With bursts of oxygen and a facial massage our cells start moving at a rapid pace and circulation is at its peak. This quickly reduces under-eye circles and stress lines, while increasing blood flow. Spas also offer many different treatments that cater to your own special problems, such as dryness, oily skin, sensitive skin, acne prone skin. Spa facials generally run from about 50,000 won to 150,000 won depending on the service. Most dermatologists suggest once a month or every two months for those of us with active lifestyles. There is also the matter of “When in Rome.” Expats and Koreans alike can benefit from local jjimjilbangs, or bath houses. It’s my belief that Jjimjilbangs can single-handedly be the greatest tip the Western world can learn from Korea. Most Koreans use the jjimjilbangs to rest and refresh their minds and bodies. Jjimjilbangs are large spas that have access to just about every good thing your skin needs to renew itself. These spas are equipped with saunas, massage chairs, a masseuse with exfoliation gloves and large baths infused with herbs like lavender and ginseng. This is a one-stop shop for looking and feeling better, especially during these grueling winter months. The greatest part is that entry generally about 9,000 won. Massage chairs are about 1,000 won and the masseuse is around 10,000 won. Our face is the very first impression we make, and in a world of first impressions, we all want to make the best one we can. And since your skin also plays the vital role of protecting you from the environment we should return the favor and give it some help from time to time.