Everything you need to know about looking after your skin

21 July 2022

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it's also the one that is most exposed to the outside world. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that, as a nation, we spend billions of pounds each year trying to keep our skin healthy and glowing.

According to market analyst Statista, the UK skincare market was worth more than £2 billion at the end of 2019, with British women spending almost £1.5 billion a year on facial skincare products alone.

However, while it's crucial to protect your skin from the elements - especially UV light - less is actually more when it comes to skincare because using too many products can clog your pores and strip your skin of vital oils.

It's also important to follow a healthy diet and avoid stress where possible, as eating the wrong things and having a poor state of mind are both potential triggers for skin problems such as acne and eczema.

Did you know?

Some 9.75 million women and 8.2 million men in the UK use face creams and lotions at least once a day.1.

Common skin conditions

More than half (54%) of the UK population are affected by skin conditions every year, according to the British Association of Dermatologists2. The most common skin conditions for which people seek medical attention are:

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Warts/verrucas
  • Skin cancer

Common skin conditions


Eczema comes in various forms; the most common is atopic eczema, which causes the skin to become itchy, dry and sore, and is particularly prevalent on the hands, the insides of the elbows, the backs of the knees and the face.

Other types of eczema include discoid eczema, which causes circular patches, and contact dermatitis, which is caused by a particular substance.

Atopic eczema often develops in young children but can also affect people for the first time in adulthood.

Most cases of eczema are triggered by external factors such as soaps or detergents, as well as stress; it may also be linked to allergies like asthma and hay fever. However, the exact cause of atopic eczema is not known. There's also no cure at present, although there are lots of treatments available, including moisturising lotions and corticosteroid creams.


Psoriasis causes itchy, flaky patches of skin that can form scales, usually on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. Most people only have small patches, but that is not always the case.

Psoriasis can run in families and can develop at any age, but is most common in adults, often appearing between the ages of 20 - 30 or 50 - 60.

It is a long-lasting condition, the symptoms of which may come and go over time. In some cases, it also leads to psoriatic arthritis, which can cause pain and swelling in the joints.

As with many skin conditions, the root cause of psoriasis is poorly understood. However, it's thought to be related to the immune system as it involves the over-reproduction of skin cells. Treatments include creams such as corticosteroids and phototherapy, which involves exposing our skin to certain kinds of UV light.


Most people experience acne at some point, whether in the form of blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts. It often comes on during puberty and generally appears on the face, although some people also have acne on their backs and chests.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure. However, severe acne can be treated with antibiotics, and often symptoms will lessen with over-the-counter creams and gels.

Other tips for managing acne include:

  • Not washing too often - washing affected areas more than twice a day can further irritate the skin
  • Not wearing too much make-up and removing any make-up you do wear before going to bed
  • Washing hair regularly and avoiding it falling across the face
  • Trying to avoid picking at or squeezing spots (as this can cause permanent scarring)

Know your numbers

Approximately 20% of children are affected by eczema and about 50% of teenagers have acne, while psoriasis affects about 1.5% of the British population.3.


A long-term condition that mainly affects the skin on the face, rosacea is more common in women and people with lighter skin.

Symptoms include redness across the nose, cheeks, forehead and chin, yellow patches on the skin, and swelling around the eyes; when applying water or skincare products; the skin may also sting.

The cause of rosacea is not known, but the condition can be triggered by certain behaviours, including:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating spicy food
  • Doing aerobic exercise

Avoiding these triggers can therefore help to manage the symptoms, as can staying out of the sun and wearing sunscreen.

Above and beyond that, treatments for rosacea include a course of antibiotics, a soothing gel or cream, and intense pulsed light treatment (which may not be available on the NHS).


Warts and verrucas are small lumps that appear on the skin and can last anything from a few weeks to several years.

While warts can appear anywhere on the body, verrucas only generally appear on the feet. But either way, they are caused by a virus that is spread by contact with someone else's skin or a contaminated surface. That's why verrucas should be covered with a plaster before entering a swimming pool.

Warts and verrucas can both be treated with over-the-counter creams and sprays. However, the GP should be consulted if they are very large or painful lump, or on the face or genitals. Treatments available from the doctor includes freezing off the wart or verruca, which should then fall off after a few sessions. The GP may organise a referral to a dermatologist for laser treatment or even minor surgery.

Skin cancer

Affecting both men and women, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK.

It comes in different forms, including basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma skin cancer, which is the fifth most common form of cancer in the UK, affecting around 16,000 new patients every year4.

These forms of skin cancer are all related to exposure to the sun, so it's worrying that incidence rates are rising - melanoma skin cancer diagnoses rose by 45% in the UK in the last decade - despite increased awareness of the dangers of the sun for our skin5.

The good news, however, is that while skin cancer - particularly melanoma skin cancer - can be fatal if left to develop, it can also be treated very effectively if caught early. Overall, it's well worth keeping an eye out for any new moles and to have any moles checked regularly by a doctor.

Other ways to avoid developing skin cancer include covering up when in the sun and using a high factor sunscreen.

If a diagnosis of skin cancer is made, the type of treatment offered will depend on factors such as the form of cancer and where it is. Options include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy cream.

Did you know?

Early detection of melanoma skin cancer, through examination and regular monitoring of moles, saves lives - if caught and treated early enough there is a 100% chance of survival.