There was a time when everyone swo re by fo l k medical wisdom. And then came a time when everyone was doubling over with laughter at great-grandmother’s home cures. Now, of course, we have come full circle. We prefer herbal tea over cough syrup, a spoonful of dahi over Carmozyme. But all of nani’s nuskhas are not foolproof. Here we learn of the science — or the lack of it — behind some popular beliefs about keeping skin healthy and glowing.
Is winter proving tough on your lips? Popular wisdom says that if you apply oil to your navel, you won’t have to suffer chapped lips. Consultant dermatologist Dr Sanjay Ghosh, however, says there is no science behind this belief. “Your lips crack when you are dehydrated. This happens especially in winter. I’d suggest you have more fluids,” he says. And seal in the fluids by applying lip balm or petroleum jelly, advises Dr Sanjay Agarwal, dermatologist at Calcutta Medical Research Institute, who also emphasises that the navel wisdom is just a myth.
Many people believe that feeding children, or even adults, raw turmeric on an empty stomach will make them fairer. Sorry to pop your balloon, but this one too is not true. “A person’s complexion depends on melanin pigment liberated from melanocytes. Exposure to UV rays makes you darker. What can give you protection against tanning is sunscreen, not turmeric. But turmeric is antiseptic so it does help you fight infections and the common cold,” says Dr Ghosh. Dr Agarwal agrees that while raw turmeric cannot make you fairer — and he is very against applying it on skin because this can lead to a flare up in those with sensitive skin — he points out that it is an antioxidant (it has betacarotene like all other red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables) and therefore beneficial for all organs including the skin.
And if you think that you needn’t worry about getting tanned because you religiously apply sunscreen before stepping out, here’s the scary part. The blue light emitted by computer monitors, laptops and mobiles also have a high amount of UV rays. Therefore people who spend a lot of time in front of their screens get tanned despite not stepping out at all. “One should also apply sunscreen before sitting down before a screen as protection from the blue light given out by it,” says Dr Ghosh.
soap to their face because they believe that it gives them better skin. Is this true? To a certain extent, says Dr Ghosh. “The PH of skin is acidic whereas soap is alkaline so its application causes a disbalance and can lead to bacterial infection. The preservatives, fragrance or colour in soap can cause allergy and irritation to sensitive skin,” he says. This does not, however, mean you should never soap your skin, feels Dr Agarwal. “If you have been out all day then you definitely need soap to remove the dust and dirt on your skin. Just make sure you use a moisturising soap,” says the doctor. Dr Ghosh suggests we use non-comedogenic soap, which is found at most chemists shops and has an acidic PH. But these soaps are expensive and Dr Ghosh advises using regular moisturiser on a bit of cotton to cleanse the face.
Another bit of folk wisdom suggests we start with our toe and finger nails when we apply oil on our body. Some people say it gives us better skin, others say it improves our eyesight. “The only thing it improves,” says Dr Ghosh, “is the health of your nail. Applying oil on it makes it stronger and lessens its tendency to break.” Commercially available coconut oil is a good one to apply here; the preservatives and fragrance in it, which may irritate sensitive skin, will cause the nail no problems.
Glugging water is considered the panacea for many ills these days, including winter-ravaged skin. This is less nani ka nuskha and more a statement of these times. “While it is true that dry skin is caused by a lack of water, not a lack of oil, only drinking water will not solve the problem,” says Dr Ghosh. After a bath, he suggests we seal in the moisture by applying an emollient. The best thing to do is add a couple spoons of oil to a mug of water and use this as your last rinse. Unlike what our grandmothers believed, it is not essential to oil your skin before a bath. “Applying oil immediately after a bath is a much better way of keeping skin moist,” says Dr Ghosh.
Drinking a lot of water does not help in moisturising your skin, says Dr Agarwal. It only helps if you are dehydrated. “To moisturise your skin, you have to use an oil-based or creambased product,” he adds.
Now that you have the knowledge to separate the truth from the lies, you know what to do in this trying time as winter meets spring and temperatures go haywire