An Owner's Guide To Skin Care, Maintenance And Protection
By: Herb Denenberg
By: Herb Denenberg
This owner's guide will show you how to maintain healthy skin, minimize the chances of skin cancer, slow the aging process, slow and control inevitable wrinkles and protect yourself from serious skin problems.
Rule No. 1: The Mayo Clinic says the most important goal in good skin care is to protect yourself from ultraviolet light from the sun, tanning booths and anywhere else. Protect your skin from the sun, and avoid tanning booths altogether. Avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun. By doing so you minimize your chances of skin cancer and unnecessary and premature aging. Don't assume you're protected just because you have dark skin.
The blue-eyed blonde and redhead may be most vulnerable to the harmful effects of ultraviolet, but everyone's skin will become leathery, blotchy and wrinkled when exposed long-term to the sun. So use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Even on cloudy days, about 80 percent of the carcinogenic rays of the sun pass through the clouds.
In the winter, the sun's ultraviolet rays still penetrate through. I've had a dermatologist recommend patients use sunscreen all year long. This is certainly a good idea at high altitudes, for ultraviolet radiation increases 4 to 5 percent for every 1,000 feet above sea level. You also need a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen ingredients that do so include oxybenzone, octylmethyl cinnamate (cinoxate), solisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).Don't let those sun rays get through to your skin. They do more than cause cancer. They also suppress the immune system, cause what is called photoaging and, of course, can cause burns and tans, which are both injuries to the skin.You should also wear protective clothes. That includes more than a thin T-shirt or other material easily penetrated by the sun.
A wet T-shirt is even less protective than a dry one. Proper protection calls for long-sleeve shirts and blouses and broad-brimmed hats. Sunglasses are a good idea, as exposure to the sun is associated with cataracts. What's more, sunglasses protect the delicate skin around the eyes, which is prone to cancer and premature skin aging due to the sun.The sun's rays are more damaging as you get closer to the tropics. They are also most damaging at midday (from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). They are most damaging when they are long-term or allowed to cause a severe burn. Even one sunburn on a child can have severe consequences later in life. As indicated, the sun is more dangerous at high altitudes and around certain surfaces that can reflect the sun's rays sideways and upwards: snow, sand, water and concrete.Some doctors recommend some exposure to the sun, as it hits the skin and manufactures vitamin D.
But that may mean perhaps only 10 minutes a day. The most recent studies show that even a small amount of sun is adequate. That means even with a sunscreen you will get enough sun for the body to make its vitamin D, at least for the fair-skinned. You can take a vitamin D supplement if you want to avoid the sun altogether and don't get enough vitamin D in your regular diet.The Mayo Clinic also recommends moisturizing your skin daily in order to help protect it from the harmful effects of the sun. This and other references to the Mayo Clinic in this column are from its Family Health Book (3rd edition).
There are hundreds of moisturizers to choose from. One of the best is Vaseline, a brand name for petroleum jelly also called petrolatum. The Johns Hopkins Health Book says that to get rid of the sticky feeling of Vaseline, you can wipe it with a moist washcloth. The late, great dermatologist of Temple, Fred Urbach, also told me even Crisco is a good moisturizer. Many do not like Vaseline or Crisco on their skin due to smell or greasy feeling, but there are alternatives. Dr. Victoria A. Cirillo-Hiland, of the Bryn Mawr Skin and Cancer Center, recommends creams, as they are more moisturizing than lotions. Among the creams she recommends for dry skin are Moisturel, Cetaphil, Eucerin and Nivea.If your skin is dry, you may want to keep a moisturizer at every sink, so you can moisturize right after washing your hands.
Rule No. 2: Eat a healthy diet if you want healthy skin that looks younger and better. That's the advice of the Weill Cornell Medical College's Food and Fitness Advisor Newsletter (January 2008). It says the right diet protects your health and, along the way, your skin. It cites a recent major study finding that women between the ages of 40 and 74 with a diet high in vitamin C were less likely to have wrinkles, and those with a diet high in linoleic acid had less dryness and skin atrophy.
Some of the best sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, guava, papaya and potatoes, says the newsletter. And much of the diet for a young and healthy skin is suggested by this finding. Here it points to more consumption of fruits and vegetables, one of the most important elements of a healthy diet. It quotes a Weill Cornell dietician on some of the other elements of the right diet: "A diet complete with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein is needed to keep the skin and the rest of the body looking and feeling great." This again indicates a skin-healthy diet is simply a healthy diet.The dietician notes that linoleic acid (also known as omega-6 fatty acid) is good for the skin, but you don't want too much of it. She says chances are your diet already has enough omega-6 as it is commonly found in vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, and safflower oil. It is also found in pumpkin seed, wheat germ and evening primrose oil.
This dietician adds that you can eat your way to an unhealthy body and unhealthy skin by offender fats and carbohydrates. Foods high in offender fats are red meat, dark-meat poultry, full-fat dairy, butter, lard, and oils. You also want to avoid foods cooked with a lot of fat. They would include fried foods, fast food, desserts and cream-based sauces. Some fat is necessary, but too much is a disaster for the body, including the skin.You want good carbohydrates, such as those found in fruits and vegetables. You want to avoid or minimize those found in table sugar, white breads and white rice.
Rule No. 3: Don't smoke. Smoking can destroy health and cause disease in too many ways to count. But it also directly damages the skin. It does that by the constriction of blood vessels caused by nicotine. Those constricted blood vessels cut off the needed flow to blood that delivers nutrients to the skin. The Mayo Clinic writes, "Over time, smoking can cause your skin to become pale and sallow. It can cause deep wrinkles to develop around your lips and slow your skin's ability to heal." That's why smokers are so much more difficult for plastic surgeons.
Rule No. 4: Use the right cosmetics. This means you have to match your cosmetics to your skin type. For example, Mayo writes, "If you have skin that is oily or acne prone, use a water-based product that's labeled noncomedogenic, which means that it's less likely to clog the small opening in your skin (pores)."
Rule No. 5: Clean your skin gently. This means using a mild soap for your face. If it is dry, you may want a mild super-fatted soap such as Basis or Dove, advises Mayo. Don't use hot water on your face, but instead use tepid water. Mayo also has detailed recommendations for minimizing the drying effects of bathing on the skin:* Use warm, not hot water. Limit your baths to 15 minutes. And cut down to perhaps two or three a week.* Use Dove or Basis soaps or similar varieties to minimize drying effects. Add Aveeno oatmeal powder or bath oils to your bath water. Use soap only on your face, underarms, genital areas, hands and face. Use clear water in other areas.* Apply an oil or cream to your skin immediately after drying. Mayo suggests a heavy, water-in-oil moisturizer.For some reason Mayo forgot to mention another important point. Don't dry and rub vigorously with a towel after bathing. It's easier on skin, especially dry skin, if you pat it dry.
Rule No. 6: Shave gently. If you shave with a razor, make sure it is sharp. Men should apply a warm washcloth and use plenty of shaving cream. Mayo recommends that you "pass the blade over your beard, only once in the direction of hair growth. If you reverse the stroke to obtain a close shave, you can cause a skin irritation called a razor burn." You can also irritate the skin with an electric razor if you use it improperly or too vigorously.Women who shave or use a hair remover also need to avoid skin irritation. Check any hair remover on a small patch to be sure it will not cause skin irritation.
The source for Omega 5 oil
Rule No. 7: Keep your living area properly humidified and at the optimum temperature. Dry air contributes to dry skin. The Johns Hopkins Family Health Book recommends humidity of 40 degrees or more for optimum skin care. If you have a humidifier attached to your heater, be sure it is set properly in accordance to manufacturer's instructions to produce the right level of humidity. The same goes for other kinds of humidifiers. You don't want too high a humidity either, as that can contribute to the growth of mold in the house and other problems. To minimize the drying effect of heat, keep the room temperature at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Rule No. 8: Avoid irritating and tight clothing. Some people find wool and synthetic fabrics next to the skin irritating. So use all natural cotton instead in that case.
Rule No. 9: Wear the right clothes in the winter to protect your skin. For example, the Johns Hopkins Family Health Book recommends, "Wear gloves or mittens outdoors during the winter to retain moisture, and avoid strong winds."
Rule No. 10: Check your skin periodically for signs of cancer or other problems that may need treatment. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends as follows: "Early detection is the surest way to a cure. Develop a regular routine to check your body for any skin changes. If a growth, mole, sore or skin discoloration appears suddenly or begins to change, see a dermatologist. It is wise to have an annual skin examination by a dermatologist, especially for adults with significant past sun exposure or a history of skin cancer."
Rule No. 11: Protect your skin from injury. It is the great protective barrier of the body, keeping out infection and other harmful substances. So any injury to the skin is not only a problem in itself but may open your body up to still more serious problems. That's why it is important to nip problems in the bud. Control dry skin before it produces cracks and other openings in the skin that can be a pathway to infections and other problems.Rule
No. 12: Emphasize prevention rather than waiting until you confront serious problems of dry skin. For example, if you have problems in the winter, step up your moisturizing in the fall.
Rule No. 13: Follow the rules for good health in general, as they will also deliver healthy skin. For example, in discussing care of the skin, the Johns Hopkins Family Health Book also recommends getting adequate exercise and sleep and avoiding the abuse of alcohol.