Here at Misumi, we are committed to improving the health of your skin overall, instead of merely offering specialized solutions. As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, skincare is a vast, complex area. Everything that has to do with the skin is technically skincare - from sunburns to rashes, from dry skin from excessive dishwashing and dark circles under our eyes to acne. That is why we are covering an often overlooked area of skincare - that of the most common skin disorders.
Most people are unaware that our skin is our largest organ. It is responsible for a ton of important functions, such as protecting our body from pollutants, bacteria and so on, to keeping it warm, protected, and enabling it to breathe. But, the skin being our largest organ also means that it’s fairly prone to suffering all sorts of skin conditions and disorders, due to infections, inflammation or diseases. Some skin disorders are fairly mild and temporary, but others can be chronic, severe, and sometimes even life-threatening.
If you ask a doctor just what, exactly, is a skin disorder, you might find yourself perplexed. They’ll speak of cutaneous conditions, and they’ll talk of something called the “integumentary system.” But, integumentary is synonymous for "skin." Basically, what doctors are trying to get at is that our skin is just the external, surface manifestation of this much vaster system of organs referred to as the integumentary system. Or in other words, our skin is just the visible top of the iceberg. There is much more going on under the surface.
The integumentary system protects the body, and contains all skin, all hair, as well as our nails, certain glands, and even some muscles. The main purpose of the integumentary system is to act as a protective barrier against the environment and the elements.
So, when our skin experiences a permanent, or temporary skin disorder (or a condition), chances are it’s not merely a superficial phenomenon relegated to the skin.
The problem often runs much deeper.
There are many skin disorders that are caused by genetic factors, or other health conditions, like diseases and so on. When the cause for the skin disorder is genetic, or hormonal, it can be a permanent skin disorder. But other times, skin disorders are merely temporary, like in the case of acne or certain types of contact dermatitis, and irritations or allergies. The symptoms of skin disorders, however, are sometimes very similar, and it’s difficult to discern - hence the need for articles like this.
Now let’s take a look at the most common skin disorders.
Acne is by far the most common skin disorder, affecting almost anyone. While acne is the most prevalent in teenagers and adolescents, adults can have acne too. The causes and types of acne are complicated and numerous: from whiteheads and blackheads, to painful cysts and the subsequent scars, acne is no simple phenomenon.
But just as there are many types of acne (hello there, butt acne), there are many ways to get rid of acne as well. And while there are no real fast solutions, there are tons upon tons of tips, skincare advice, and skincare products that help us deal with acne.
In case you need something extra, be sure to check out our articles on the different treatment options for various acne conditions, from mild to severe:
As you’re probably familiar, cold sores (also known as herpes) resemble reddish blisters filled with fluid, that usually form on the face, often close to the mouth. In rare occurrences, cold sores can appear on the fingers, inside the mouth, or near the nose. The cold sores are usually painful to the touch, and are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. They’re highly contagious and can be transmitted to other people by kissing or touching. Sometimes, cold sores can be accompanied by mild fever, swelling, some aches in the body and similar flu-like symptoms. Cold sores are best treated with antiviral ointments or oral antiviral medications such as acyclovir and others.
Well, a blister is a… Blister. We’ve all seen one, but blisters are one of the most common skin disorders, right alongside acne and herpes. Blisters look like small bubbles made of skin, and they’re usually filled with a translucent fluid. Dermatologists characterize blisters as vesicles (if they’re smaller than 1 cm) or bullas (if they’re larger than 1 cm). Blisters can appear anywhere on your body and are caused by a variety of skin conditions (including herpes, eczema, burns and so on).
Most blisters require no treatment - if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone too. They can be sore and painful though, so watch out. It’s recommended to cover the blisters with a bandaid, to protect them from accidentally bursting and risking infection.
Also known as urticaria, hives resembles raised bumps, or welts on the skin. In other words, hives look like chicken skin, or having goosebumps (but the wrong kind). Hives can be very itchy, and it usually appears after your skin makes contact with an allergic substance. Hives are usually red and warm to the touch, and can feel sore too.
But what to do if you have it? Well, your best bet is removing any allergens, taking anti-allergic medications (such as antihistaminics) and washing the area with mild water.
As we get older, we accumulate more and more exposure to the sun, as well as damage by environmental pollution and the elements. All this makes our skin age, sometimes forming rough, scaly patches over your face, hands, arms, and so on. The medical term for these patches is actinic keratosis, but for everyone else, the term is sunspots. Sunspots can be tan, brown, pink, but in some cases even gray. Sunspots aren’t alarming, but there is a small likelihood they may progress to skin cancer. Treating sunspots after they’ve formed is often expensive and complicated, so your best bet is preventing them in the first place. Generally, that means using sunscreen whenever possible, even more so because sunscreen can delay aging.
Rosacea can look deceivingly similar to acne, or to an ordinary rash. But upon closer inspection, rosacea resembles a red rash made up of hundreds of tiny red pimples and it usually covers a wider area on your face. Like acne, rosacea can be chronic too, and can appear, then fade away, then reappear again at a later time. Dermatologists warn that alcohol, stress, too much sunlight or spicy foods can trigger it. There are four types of rosacea, and each manifests itself and is treated, slightly differently.
Eczema is easily one of the most persistent, and annoying skin disorders. It can take the form of scaly patches, either white or yellowish in color, it can turn your skin pink and can be very itchy. But just what is it? Well, nobody knows. Eczema is just a conventional, popular name for an entire class of skin disorders - called atopical dermatitis - that are a bit of a puzzle to scientists.
Unlike topical dermatitis, the “a” in “atopical” means that there is no known cause for eczema. This makes eczema difficult to treat, and what treatments there are usually have to do with soothing the skin and making the itching sensations more bearable.
Psoriasis is a tough one, because it’s basically a skin disorder and an autoimmune disease in one. Being an autoimmune disease, psoriasis happens because a person’s own immune system attacks the body instead of protecting it. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world who live with psoriasis, which manifests as super itchy, scaly patches on the skin. The itching can sometimes be so unbearable that it makes people bruise themselves by scratching.
There are several different types of psoriasis, and it can appear on the elbows, the scalp, the back of the neck, as well as the knees and the lower back. While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments that can soothe it and make it more bearable.
In the introductory section, we mentioned that some skin disorders can even be life-threatening. Well, this is one of them. Cellulitis is a (sadly) very common and often painful bacterial infection of the skin. It generally begins as a red swelling on the skin, that can feel tender or hot to the touch. However, the swelling and the redness don’t stop there, and instead, they spread rapidly and can sometimes crack and ooze fluids. These symptoms can often first appear on the lower parts of the legs, although it sometimes manifests on the face, the torso (both front and back), or the arms.
From then on, the bacterial infection can spread into the lower tissues of your skin, infecting your bloodstream and internal organs too. Then, fever sets in, which complicates things even further. Needless to say, but this can be fatal, and it is the very reason cellulitis is considered a medical emergency. If you suspect you’re seeing symptoms of cellulitis, or know someone who does, you should not hesitate to call the doctor immediately.
Although it’s one of the rarest types of skin cancer, melanoma is definitely one of the most dangerous - and deadliest. What makes it so deadly is that even though it begins as skin cancer, it can spread to other organs in the body and cause their failure as well.
According to Cancer.org, around 91,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year, and around 10% (or 9,000 people) die from it. Rates in melanoma are rising, and typical risk factors include getting frequent sunburns (especially if they’re severe), using tanning beds, having fair skin, a family history with melanoma and a high number of moles on your body. People who live in places with more sunlight during the year, such as Hawaii, Florida, Australia and so on are at a greater risk of melanoma.
If you suspect you may be at a higher risk from melanoma, or suspect you’re experiencing some of the symptoms, you should talk to your doctor and dermatologist immediately.
Like psoriasis, lupus is an autoimmune disease as well, and according to the Lupus Foundation of America, it’s a condition that affects more than 1.5 million Americans. Similarly to psoriasis, lupus involves your immune system going haywire and attacking your own organs and tissues. However, unlike psoriasis, lupus is more severe, as it can damage your blood vessels, kidneys, nervous system and of course, your skin. There are several different types of lupus, each type with its own symptoms. Out of those, Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common kind, while Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) is the one that affects the skin.
Symptoms of lupus include headaches, fatigue, swollen joints, fevers, disc-shaped, scaly rashes that don’t itch or hurt and so on.
Contact dermatitis is one of the most common kinds of skin disorders or irritations out there. Unlike some of the other skin disorders in this list, contact dermatitis is usually temporary and impermanent. It is aptly named - the symptoms only appear after our skin “has made contact” with an irritating substance or an allergen. Unlike skin disorders classified as atopical dermatitis (such as eczema, for example), topical dermatitis has a known cause, but it varies from person to person. Symptoms include a reddening of the skin, a rash with visible borders that usually appears over the area of skin that touched the allergic substance, then itchiness, flaking, scaly, dry skin, and sometimes even blisters that can ooze or weep liquid and develop crusts.
While warts are fairly common, they’re not exactly the most natural disorder affecting our skin. Like the evil twins of moles, warts resemble bumps on our skin, and are caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (also known as HPV). However, that shouldn’t worry you much, because while warts are pretty ugly and off-putting, they’ve been hanging out with humans for thousands of years. Warts have plagued everyone from Ancient Egyptian mummies, to Shakespeare, all the way to present-day (when we have such nice, apt phrases like “warts and all”).
Warts, however, can be painful and they are definitely contagious. And while ordinary warts on your hands and feet are harmless, when they’re on your genitals, it should give you pause. Genital warts can lead to all sorts of trouble, not the least of which is cervical cancer, so if you have genital warts, you should schedule a visit to your doctor and dermatologist as soon as possible.
Don’t let the name fool you - ringworm isn’t caused by a worm, but by a fungus instead. This fungal infection of the skin (which dermatologists and doctors refer to as dermatophytosis) manifests itself as red patches of itchy skin. Ringworm can appear on the feet, the scalp, the beard, and sometimes the groin or around the genitals. When that’s the case, ringworm is called jock itch, crotch rot, and so on.
Ringworm is a temporary skin disorder and fairly easy to treat. If you are dealing with crotch rot (or ringworm, or jock itch, whichever suits your fancy) your best bet is to talk to your doctor and dermatologist.
Not to be confused with melanoma (a skin cancer), melasma is a fairly harmless, although not the most pleasant thing to look at. It usually manifests as discolored, or dark patches on different areas of the skin. While scientists aren’t really sure what the exact cause of melasma is, it is noted that it can often appear in pregnant women. That occurrence has given an alternative name of melasma, namely, “the mask of pregnancy.” Melasma is more common in women, although men aren’t immune to it either. However, the discrepancy is vast, since according to the American Academy of Dermatology, around 90% of people with melasma are women.
Melasma typically occurs on the sides of the face, and the marks are usually symmetrical, hence resembling a mask. Additionally, melasma can affect the neck, arms, or even the chest. Usually, melasma disappears on its own, but it can take a while to do so - most people see it go away in a year or so.
Similar to actinic keratosis, keratosis pilaris is a temporary skin disorder, much like contact dermatitis. The appearance of keratosis pilaris resembles “chicken skin” as well, taking the form of hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of small bumps on the skin. Keratosis pilaris often appears on the cheeks, the thighs or the upper arms. The bumps are usually red but not itchy. There is no known treatment for keratosis pilaris, but certain creams and ointments can alleviate the condition and improve the skin’s appearance. If you suspect you’re dealing with this type of skin disorder, as always, we recommend that you consult with your doctor and dermatologist.
Good hygiene is necessary for preventing skin disorders. However, some skin disorders, for example the infectious ones (such as smallpox), will need you to be vaccinated as well. But for all the rest, maintaining good hygiene and elementary skincare will do. Here are some of the best tips on how to prevent noninfectious skin disorders, such as eczema, acne, contact dermatitis and so on:
Well, we hope this list was helpful, although it is far from comprehensive. Skincare is so much more than just applying some cream before going to bed - one could say, it’s a lifestyle. From dealing with a pimple here or there, to dealing with even the most severe skin disorders, Misumi Skincare is at your service. Every journey is better with friends along the way, and when it comes to all things skincare, we are offering to be your best friends. Have a good day.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.