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Tips for Healthy Skin Year-Round
By R.L. Fielding
Taking care of your skin is essential all year ‘round. Humidity, harsh weather conditions, and sun exposure are just a few of the elements that affect your skin as the seasons change. Follow these skin care tips from dermatologist Dr. Linda Franks, and you’ll help ensure that you’re promoting healthy skin the whole year through.
The winter months can really take a toll on your skin. During the winter, the drop in temperatures, combined with low humidity and indoor heating, can strip the skin of moisture and cause dryness and cracking.
Feel like a long hot shower? Think again.
A hot shower may feel great, but only for a few minutes. As soon as you step out, your skin begins to lose moisture because hot water removes natural oils from the skin, making it dry and itchy. Bathe or shower in warm water and limit your showers to 5 to 10 minutes.
The best time to moisturize?
Right after you take a shower or bath. Pat dry and apply your moisturizing lotion within 3 minutes. The lotion helps seal in the water left over from your bath and keeps the dryness out.
Hydrate your skin from the inside out
Drink plenty of water – about eight 8 oz. glasses a day. And if you plan to ski or run, it's wise to cut down on alcohol and caffeine, since these substances can dehydrate the body, robbing the skin of moisture.
And from the outside in
Use a humidifier to raise the humidity in your home during the winter. The temperature and humidity inside your house is the only “weather” you can control. Take advantage of this to create the perfect indoor environment to help your skin stay hydrated and healthy.
Review the products you are using.
If you use topical skin care products, talk to your dermatologist about switching from gels to more moisturizing cream formulations for the winter months. Be careful not to overuse products containing alpha-hydroxy acids. They exfoliate the top layer of the skin, which is good for dry skin, but they may leave the new layer of skin unprotected to the cold of winter.
Snow reflects more than 80% of the sun’s rays, so don’t forget your sunscreen.
Use gentle, nondrying cleansers and moisturizers, twice a day, everyday
When using either alpha hydroxy acids or tretinoin, it’s important to use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer. Both products may also increase the sensitivity of your skin to sunlight – all the more reason to use a sunscreen every day.
Spring is a time of renewal, a cleansing period. Why not seize the opportunity to do a little “spring cleaning” yourself. Take a look at how you can cleanse your face - is it time for a change?
Is there a wrong way to cleanse your face?
Yes. While the deodorant soap in the shower may be tempting because it's there, it's probably the worst thing you can use on your face. The answer is based on simple chemistry. We all have some degree of oil on our skin. When you wash your face, many times you are stripping it of its pH balance. Skin can best be classified as an acid. Soap, on the other hand, is a base. By combining the acidity of the skin with the alkaline properties of the soap, you create a reaction that can dry the skin. The stronger the soap, the more disruption to protective lipids and proteins there are on the skin.
The right way to cleanse your face
Most standard body soaps are too drying for the face. Gentle cleansers tend to be closer to the natural pH of the skin (4.5 and 5.5). Dermatologists recommend cleansing your face twice a day (morning and evening) with a gentle, soap-free cleanser. Don't forget to cleanse your neck - it's as visible as your face.
Spring cleaning? Don’t forget your makeup drawer.
There are no regulations that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products. Most cosmetics have a shelf life of no longer than 6 months once opened, after which they can spoil. A few standard product life spans include: one year for foundation and lipstick; three months for mascara; and two years for powder and shadows. Moisturizers, foundations, etc., tend to have a shelf life of about 1 year after opening if stored properly.
How can I preserve the longevity of my cosmetics?
Store your cosmetics and facial products outside of the bathroom. Humidity can affect the longevity of a product. It is also important to wash makeup brushes and sponges regularly so that dirt and germs will not aggravate sensitive skin.
The summer sun feels good, but it can be dangerous. About 1 million new skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States, and about half of all new cancers are skin cancers. We all know the answer – wear sunscreen and protective clothing. But what we may not know is how to use sunscreen properly to best protect our skin.
Examine your skin once every month. Get to know your moles and birthmarks, and look for any abnormal skin growth and any change in the color, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of skin (lesion) that does not heal after an injury.
Avoid artificial sources of UVA radiation, including sunlamps and tanning booths. They can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer affects 1 in 5 Americans – don’t let it be you. It’s the most preventable form of cancer.
Choose a sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays.
Over 90% of ultraviolet radiation is UVA, which is strongest in the early morning and afternoon. UVA rays can pass through window glass and cause tanning and wrinkling. UVB rays do not penetrate window glass, but they can cause sunburn. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause suppression of the immune system. Our immune system helps protect against the development and spread of cancer.
Remember to reapply sunscreen.
Apply sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB to all exposed skin, including lips, ears, back of hands, and neck. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun, and reapply it every 2 hours and after swimming, exercising, or sweating. If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s damaging rays are at their strongest and you are more likely to burn.
Drink more water.
Your body weight is 50 to 55% water. In the summertime, you need to replenish fluids lost to sweating. Drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to keep well hydrated.
Protect your kids from the sun.
80% of the lifetime sun damage to the skin is done by the time you are 18 years old. Try to minimize sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 4 p.m. and generously apply sunscreen to children older than 6 months. Be sure to reapply after swimming or sports. You should also wear protective clothing to further minimize sun exposure.
The coming of fall is much like a metaphor for the changes we experience as we age, as we say goodbye to long days of sunshine and prepare for cooler, drier days ahead. Though our skin ages with the passing of the seasons, how our skin ages is largely up to us. Lifestyle, diet, and heredity all affect the condition of our skin. There’s a lot we can do to keep our skin looking young and beautiful all year long.
Stay out of the sun.
Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers breakdown, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. It’s never too late to protect your skin from the sun. While sunscreen use may not repair past damage, it can help prevent new skin damage. Use a sunscreen or daily moisturizing lotion with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, all year long.
One more reason to stop smoking.
Smoking dehydrates and damages collagen in the skin contributing to premature aging. Join the Great American Smokeout (November) and quit smoking for your health and your beauty.
Get your beauty sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep it results in elevation of a hormone called cortisol. Even though cortisol is an essential hormone in the body, in excess, it can have negative side effects. For example, it can break down muscle tissue, thin our skin, decalcify our bones, and elevate our blood sugar. On the days we do not get enough sleep, we tend to crave carbohydrates, and that's because cortisol raises blood sugar and insulin levels. So get your 8 hours – you skin will thank you.
Use a moisturizer every day.
Our skin may become drier as we get older. The natural loss of sweat and oil glands as we age may contribute to this, but the daily use of soaps, antiperspirants, perfumes, or hot baths can cause the skin to dry even more. To keep your face and body looking young and beautiful, moisturize every day.
By giving your skin the care it needs to weather the elements on a daily basis, you’ll get healthy-looking, radiant skin the whole year through.
About the author:
R.L. Fielding has been a freelance writer for 10 years, offering her expertise and skills to a variety of major organizations in the education, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing industries. She lives in New Jersey with her dog and two cats and enjoys rock climbing and ornamental gardening.
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