Does a clear complexion indicate healthy skin?

Experts weigh in.

Harper's Bazaar India

For years you’ve been made to believe that a blemish-free complexion is a sign that your skin is in the pink of health. God forbid you break into acne or any sort of inflammation, there goes your perfect health record. This is true––but, there is a difference. Think of your skin as a mirror to what’s happening inside your body. If any sort of intrusion, fluctuation, or change takes place, it can reflect on to your skin resulting in inflammation, acne, or other such issues. But, does it necessarily mean that if you’ve got clear skin, you’ve got a clean bill of health? 

For the lucky few who escaped puberty’s wrath, there’s a lot more to skin health than your complexion. Two of India’s finest celebrity dermatologists weigh in on the difference between clear and healthy, and the signs you need to look out for when dealing with unhealthy skin.

Clear skin versus healthy skin

Let’s be honest, this battle isn’t black or white. There’s definitely a murky grey area too! Clear skin is a sign of healthy skin, but isn’t the be-all and end-all of it. “Clear skin can be defined as evenly distributed pores, even skin tone and colour, no breakouts or acne, no blemishes, and a smooth texture free of broken capillaries, redness, and blotchiness,” says Dr Harshna Bijlani, founder and medical head of The Ageless Skin Clinic. “This can be attributed to good genetics, sun avoidance, a good skincare routine, and in-clinic treatments.” 

According to Dr Bijlani, healthy skin has most aspects of a clear complexion, although it reflects a lot more. “It reflects hydration, a positive mind, a healthy lifestyle, a diet low in sugar and inflammatory foods, good sleeping habits, and healthy lifestyle choices.” She defines this as a ‘dewy’ and ‘glowy’ reflection of what’s on the inside––from the inside out. 

Adding to this, Dr Jaishree Sharad, MD Skinfiniti Aesthetic & Laser Clinic believes that clear skin is a sign of healthy skin. It entails hydrated, radiant skin with a smooth texture, and an even tone, devoid of infection or rashes. She does, however, state that this is not perfect skin. She says, “It is important to understand that healthy skin is not perfect skin, perfect skin does not exist.”

The signs…

Dehydration, itchiness, inflammation, flakiness, acne, and hyperpigmentation, all indicate poor skin health. This could either be caused by an external reaction or an internal conflict. For instance, Dr Sharad explains that inflammation such as itching or eczema can be triggered by dry skin, too much sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, and using the wrong skin products can cause acne or rashes. Other issues can surface due to nutritional deficiency inside your body. “When your knuckles turn black, it is a sign to check vitamin B12 levels. If you develop dark circles despite adequate sleep, your haemoglobin may be low. PCOS or insulin resistance can be a trigger for frequent breakouts,” she says. 

According to Dr Bijlani, severe wrinkles and fine lines can be attributed to unhealthy skin, too. Although it is a part and parcel of ageing and is absolutely normal, it can be a sign of something much more. “Because the skin is exposed to extreme temperatures without protective covering such as sunscreen or any sort of shielding from the sun’s rays, unhealthy skin can also have a lot of broken capillaries, enlarged pores, clogged pores, excessive greasiness, and acne in various stages,” she adds.

The 10 Commandments of Healthy Skin

Understand your skin type.

Use skincare products that match your skin type.

Moisturise your face, neck, and body––it’s non-negotiable.

Exfoliate your skin two-three times a week. Do not overdo it. 

Invest in a good sunscreen––apply it no matter what the weather and even when indoors. Reapply it every three hours.

Do not follow internet trends blindly––be informed, consult a dermatologist, keep your skincare basic, and get professional treatments when required.

Remove your makeup before you start your PM skincare routine.

Make informed lifestyle choices––maintain a healthy diet, avoid sugar, alcohol, and smoking.

Find a stress buster that works for you––poor mental health has a way of showing on your skin.

Use active ingredients based on age, concern, and with proper guidance.