Messages from your skin

Our skin constantly sends out signals that indicate its fitness levels. Ignore them at your own risk

Woman examining her skinWe have shade cards to measure how white our teeth are, treadmills that tell us how fit our hearts are and apparatus that measure urine sugar levels to warn us about diabetes. There is, however, a lack of a gauge that measures skin health—perhaps that's why it gets neglected. If you can learn to identify your skin's distress signals, you can be the best assessor of your skin's fitness.

The appearance of the skin is closely linked to internal health. It's thus a good indicator of its own health and also reflects health problems inside the body. Here are a few signs that spell imminent danger:

Sudden dryness, dullness, and loss of elasticity

These are indicators of dehydration. In severe cases, pinched skin takes a second or two to go back. This could happen due to diarrhoea, vomiting or long hours of exposure to hot or humid conditions.

Remedy: Have electrolyte drinks or tender coconut water immediately.

Spots or discolouration

Ill-defined white patches on the face do not always indicate calcium deficiency or vitiligo. In most cases, they indicate sun sensitivity of the skin and are the skin's emergency call for you to start using a high SPF [sun protection factor] sunscreen. Usually, black/brown patches, especially on the cheeks, nose or forehead is melasma [dark skin discoloration] and occurs due to a hormonal imbalance.

Remedy: You must use a heavy sun block and consult a dermatologist for professional lightening treatments.

Acne

In an adult, acne is reason to stop and think. There could be an underlying hormonal defect, especially if it's combined with excess hair growth or weight gain. It could also imply that you're exposed to too much dirt and pollution that's clogging up your pores. Or, you've started using a new cream or cosmetic.

Remedy: Use a salicylic face wash and check your skin care product labels to see if they say 'non comedogenic' [use them only if they do, else don't].

Excessive sweating

If you sweat all the time, it could be a condition called hyperhidrosis [overactive sweat glands]. It usually affects the palms, soles and underarms.

Remedy: Use antiperspirants containing aluminium hydroxide. A semi-permanent solution is to use botox—it decreases sweating for 6 to 8 months.

Mole that behaves different

You've had a mole for years and suddenly it starts growing in size, bleeds on friction or develops satellite patches of colour around it—don't neglect this at all.

Remedy: Run to a doctor for a biopsy as it could be cancerous.

Recurrent boils on the skin

Recurrent boils on or repeated itchiness in the body folds may be due to diabetes. Slow response to medication or poor healing of infections and wounds may also be a consequence of high sugar levels.

Remedy: Get your blood sugar level evaluated immediately.

Skin is losing its pinkness

There is hair loss over the shins and a whitish/bluish appearance of skin over the toes or fingers. These indicate poor blood circulation and it's possible that high blood pressure is damaging the blood vessels or there is a heart problem not allowing the heart to pump enough blood to distant areas of the body.

Remedy: A full cardiovascular check up at the earliest is advisable.

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Parul Kolhe
Parul Kolhe, MBBS, DDV, is a cosmetologist, hair specialist and dermatosurgeon. She runs her own cosmetology clinic, 'Tvacha' at Bhandup, Mumbai. She has won national acclaim for her work on chemical peels for acne, pigmentation and skin rejuvenation as well as skin grafting for vitiligo. She is an avid trekker and writes poetry in her spare time.

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