The Most Common Ways Your Skin Tells You to “Listen up”

Photo: Getty/Youngoldman
Sadly, our pores can’t speak. But considering our skin is the largest organ of our bodies, it has plenty to tell us about our overall health and vitality. The only trick, of course, is figuring out how to listen to what it needs. As dermatologist Zain Husain, MD, FAAD explains, our skin plays a major role in the protection of our bodies from damage, infection, and disease, so it can be helpful to pay attention to skin changes that stick around for a while.

While it won't scream at you to change things, paying attention to subtle signs such as increased redness, sensitivity, dryness, and rogue breakouts could tip you off to what it needs and how to best take care of it. Ready to start paying attention to skin in a more in-depth way? Here's how to tell what you need by looking in the mirror.

Are you giving skin the moisture it needs?

You likely don’t need us to remind you how vital it is to drink H2O every day. But what you might not realize is one of the main functions of our skin is to serve as a protective barrier. As Dr. Husain explains, the lipid barrier works to retain moisture and reduce trans-epidermal water loss (aka water leaving skin) in order to keep skin looking healthy and supple.

When your skin is super-duper dry, cracked, or dull, it's impaired and not able to do its job in the best way possible. This could mean that you're not getting enough water, or that your skin needs a topical moisturizer. “You should be moisturizing your face and body at least twice daily to minimize water loss and maximize your skin's vitality,” he explains. “Hydrated skin also helps reduce oil production which can in turn help decrease the amount of breakouts.”

Are your hormones affecting your skin?

Some women experience breakouts leading up to and during their monthly cycles. This is normal and considered hormonal acne; however, prolonged shifts in the skin's blemishes, texture, or tone could indicate a hormonal imbalance, according to esthetician and spa manager of Hiatus Spa, Aleaha Kirkendoll. She recommends looking out for increased oil production and zits, as well as increased hair production or  pigmentation for women. Commonly, a skin pigmentation condition called melasma can result from amped up hormonal action. If you notice some skin condition that sticks around for the long haul, check with your doc to see what might be causing it.

Are you paying attention to shifting spots?

Beautiful and unique, many people have beauty marks—or moles—that are simply part of their appearance. And here’s the deal: most of the time, they’re totally normal. Especially when people have had them from day one, with very little change over time.

However, in addition to getting a skin check from a medical professional once a year, you should also keep an eye on noticeable moles to make sure they don't change in shape, according to Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She recommends looking out for any shifts where the spot in question grows, has asymmetry (an irregular border), or changes color. If it’s suspicious, head straight to your dermatologist to have a proper skin check to rule out any chance of it being something worrisome like melanoma.

Are you using the right products?

Though there’s nothing like the thrill of getting a freebie with purchase when stocking up on beauty goods, sometimes unfamiliar formulas can put skin through the ringer. As Kirkendoll explains, using the wrong products can make skin look depleted. The trick to finding the right ones for you, according to her, is testing a small area before slathering a layer over the entire face. It takes practice, but listening to your skin can keep it happy and ready to face the day.

Is your skin sending you mixed signals? It might be time to book a trip to the dermatologist. And if you're just looking to revamp your skin care routine, keep an eye out for these three derm-approved products. 

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