Skin is the body’s largest organ, and is important for a large number of reasons. It helps protect us from toxins, diseases, UV radiation and other environmental dangers, and it helps regulate our temperature. Skin is constantly replacing itself. Every day, your skin sheds dry cells and replaces them with new ones. In fact, every 4 weeks or so, a normal person has completely replaced their outer skin layer from the 4 weeks prior. Healthy skin helps slow down the signs of aging, heals faster and fights off disease better than unhealthy skin. It is super important to take good care of your skin, both from the outside and the inside, so that it takes good care of you!
First and foremost, sun exposure affects both the health and visual quality of your skin. It may feel good to lay exposed in the warm sun, and you may like the tan you get, but prolonged sun exposure is not good for your skin for a number of reasons. First off, daily exposure to the sun or excessive sunburns can cause pigmentation problems. These problems can manifest as freckles, age spots and possibly even blisters that end up scarring. Secondly, over time, skin that is repeatedly exposed to the sun ages faster than normal skin (this is called “photoaging”) and becomes more wrinkled and “leathery” looking. Third, too much sun increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer usually presents as abnormally large moles or a non-healing red bump that appear after a sunburn (it can be years later, too) and grow, itch or bleed. Always use a sunblock of at least 30 before going outside for any prolonged periods.
Hygiene plays a large role in the health of your skin as well. Because the body excretes natural oils and because your skin sloughs off dead cells on a daily basis, it’s important that you cleanse your skin once a day. This helps keep pores open and clean, reduces the chance of blemishes forming and lessens the chance of infection from cuts or other skin injuries. Because our sebaceous glands (the glands that produce oil on our skin) are most active when we are young adults and become less effective as we age, younger people may benefit from more cleansing, and older people from less. Be sure to avoid hot water when washing your face, because heat pulls moisture from your skin. Use warm or cool water instead. Avoid using soaps that have harsh chemicals, fragrances or textures to them. They can irritate the skin and cause rashes, inflammation and even scratches.
Be sure after washing to hydrate your skin. For people with oily or combination skin, use a non-fat or non-oil based moisturizer. For people with dry skin, oil or fat based moisturizers can often help alleviate the extra dryness.
Diet also plays a role in your skin’s health. Every individual has their own body chemistry, so a diet that works well for one person may not work well for another. However, there are some general eating guidelines to keep in mind to ensure the best chance at healthy skin: eat fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Stay away from candy, caffeine, fats, highly processed foods and excessive salt.