The skin is the largest of your body organs. It protects us from organisms that can cause harm and also shields us from extreme effects of the sun and other elements. Consultant dermatologist Evanson Kamuri describes it as a vital organ that also regulates the body’s temperature and allows us to feel the sensations of touch, heat and the cold.
Whereas these skin functions serve all people, a more detailed look at the skin provides detailed information on taking care of our unique skin types. Dr. Kamuri who works at Kenyatta National Hospital notes that the informal grouping of the skin into normal, dry and oily ignores the different cultural heritages globally that constitute our skin tones.
“Traditionally, these categories do not appreciate that the skin pigmentation levels vary from one person to another. The Fitzpatrick classification system which was first developed in 1975 goes a step further understand it more intricately,” said Dr. Kamuri.
Why is it important to understand your skin type?
“It makes a huge difference. First, it can help us predict your chances of getting skin damage, or some extreme conditions like cancer. We can also determine the kind of everyday products to use or decide the treatment a doctor can prescribe,” Dr. Kamuri added.
This system, Dr. Kamuri says, uses a scale from one to six with each number representing a different colour or hue. For example, types number one and two are the fairer ones which are more prone to redness and inflammation when exposed to the sun. Types three and four have more pigmentation, a component known as melanin which gives them the darker shade and they are still prone to the sun’s effects. Five and six are on the extreme scale of being darker than the other four. They contain more melanin and but still require to be treated with gentleness like all others.
“Most Kenyans are skin type five and six which means that they are dark pigmented,” he said. However, Dr Kamuri is fast to burst a common myth that some skin types are more superior to others however he pointed out that type one or two have a higher risk of getting skin cancer so they should wear sunscreen of SPF of 30 or greater.
“In fact, everybody needs to apply sunscreen when facing extreme weather conditions,” said Dr Kamuri.
“Even Africans need to apply sunscreen when stepping out in the sun to protect them from the unforgiving effects of the sun. They need a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater,” he said.
“Our skin reacts to the level of personal care that we give it. If you neglect it, it looks scaly, dry and rugged. If we give it the well-deserved attention, then the glow is obvious and it will serve you longer,” Dr. Kamuri added.
Dr. Kamuri further noted that the type of skin can further be affected by other factors like genetics, extreme weather conditions like exposure to the sun, allergic reactions to ingredients in soaps or oils, medications or ageing. “The skin is an exposed organ hence it shows the first effects when it comes in contact with the harsh agents,” Dr Kamuri added.
Whereas there is very little that you can do to control factors like ageing, it is important to be gentle to your skin in its youth so that it can also take care of you in your golden years, Dr Kamuri added.
Here are a few tips on how to take care of your skin
“Use mild and gentle soaps because the stronger ones sap vital natural oils and exuberance from your skin leaving it dry and cracked. Keep the skin moisturised and reapply accordingly as it needs throughout the day,” Dr Kamuri added. He further cited the importance of a clean diet and adequate water consumption every day. He further cited the importance of a clean diet and adequate water consumption every day.
“Water effectively flushes out excess minerals and pushes out all toxins and waste products,” he added. Love your skin and it will love you back, he said. Sunscreen is your friend, Dr Kamuri concludes. “Be gentle to your skin in its youth. In turn, it will also take care of you throughout your golden years.”
The Fitzpatrick classification
The Fitzpatrick is a classification of skin types based on the amount of pigment you have and its skin’s reaction to the sun’s exposure.
- Type 1
Always burns never tans. It has ivory colour before exposure to the sun. People with skin type one should pay careful attention to any suspicious growths, and make sure they schedule an annual skin specialist’s check-up. They should use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+
- Type 2
Burns easily, tans with difficulty. Fair or pale skin colour before sun exposure. This type also needs to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ to shield them from cancer and other forms of damage.
- Type 3
Rarely burns, tans easily fair to beige, with golden undertones skin colour before exposure to the sun. Apply SPF of at least 15 every day.
- Type 4
Never burns, tans. olive or light brown colour. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15+
- Type 5
Almost never burns, and always tans olive or light brown colour. These people have silent skin cancer threats that appear on parts of the body not often exposed to the sun and often remain undetected until after cancer has spread wildly. They need sunscreen with SPF of 15+.
- Type 6- dark brown or black. Never freckles never burn, and always tans darkly. They need to use a sunscreen with SPF 15+ and look out for suspicious growth on the skin.
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