The skin is the body’s largest and fastest growing organ and its first line of defense against potentially harmful outside infiltrators. Often taken for granted, good care of this essential ally is critical for overall health and well-being.
Following is a discussion of some important strategies and guidelines for proper skin care.
General Skin Care Guidelines
The sun is the skin’s primary enemy, causing not only wrinkles and sunspots, but also the danger of life-threatening cancer. Ways to protect the skin from the sun include covering up with tightly woven long sleeves and pants and staying out of the sun completely from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, wide-brimmed hats keep the sun off the face and sunglasses keep eyes from squinting and causing more wrinkling. Smoking is another skin enemy. Not only does the smoke itself expose the skin to harmful chemicals, repetitive facial expressions necessary for inhaling and also exhaling encourage wrinkling. Despite the comforts of hot and cold water, these extremes stress the skin, as does bathing for prolonged periods. After bathing it’s best to pat dry and immediately apply moisturizers to seal in remaining dampness. Another very important element for proper skin care is diet. A diet filled with fresh, unprocessed foods promotes overall body and skin health. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats for protein are also excellent choices.
Facial Skin Care Regime
Since it takes the most severe beating from rough weather and air pollutants, good facial skin care is crucial. The importance of a regular regime cannot be emphasized enough. A complete routine includes cleansing, moisturizing, exfoliating, and using sunscreen. Each step is described in more detail below.
First, cleansing: the key is kind and gentle. Most bar soaps are too harsh on the face and leave it feeling dry and unnourished. However, a few brands do contain plant-based oils and glycerin which are natural moisturizers. Liquid cleansers are less harsh and most also contain moisturizers. When cleansing, particular care should be taken around fragile skin areas such as under the eyes. Some skin experts advise against using water for cleansing and recommend cream cleansers that are spread over the face and removed with a soft cloth or cotton balls. The face really only needs to be cleansed before bedtime to remove makeup and dirt from the day.
What type of moisturizer to use depends on skin type, but today many products contain anti-aging elements such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, as well as moisturizers for all skin types. One old-fashioned yet effective treatment is to coat the face with petroleum jelly overnight to seal in moisture. How often should moisturizer be applied? The basic rule of thumb is when it needs it. When the face feels taut – that’s the time to apply moisturizer.
Exfoliation is the step most often neglected, but it is critical for getting rid of dead skin, thereby allowing products to penetrate to the healthy skin underneath. Most skin specialists recommend incorporating this step twice every week. The best ingredients for effective and gentle care are glycolic acid, lactic acid, or malic acid.
Finally, sunscreen. Daily use of sunscreen is an absolute requirement for healthy skin and to prevent premature aging. Today, many skin care products contain sunscreens, but the American Academy of Dermatology advises using broad spectrum sunscreens that contain a minimum of 30 SPF to ensure the best possible protection.
The bottom line is this: good skin care not only results in a gloriously healthy and radiant glow, it also brings about an overall sense of well-being and confidence.