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5 Tips for Healthier Skin

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“Beauty is only skin deep,” goes the saying. While our inner selves carry immense beauty and worth, it’s undeniable that our skin plays a crucial role in our well-being. As our first line of defense against the world, skin shields us from external threats and whispers secrets about our internal health. So, it’s only fitting that we learn to nurture and appreciate this remarkable organ, allowing it to continue caring for us in return. As NIH dermatologist Dr. Heidi Kong puts it, “The skin provides a barrier to protect the body from invasion by bacteria and other environmental hazards, a vital role for our health.”

Many skin researchers like Kong are studying the skin’s microbiome—the bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live on your skin. Some of these microbes can be helpful. Evidence suggests that they boost the body’s infection-fighting immune system and help keep you healthy.

Sun Protection

One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems — as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.

For the most complete sun protection:

  • Use sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
  • Seek shade. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. Also consider laundry additives, which give clothing an additional layer of ultraviolet protection for a certain number of washings, or special sun-protective clothing — which is specifically designed to block ultraviolet rays.

Don't Smoke

Smoking is a notorious thief, robbing your skin of precious collagen and elastin, the building blocks of youthful skin. Ditch the cigarettes and embrace the freedom of healthy, vibrant skin.

Smoking also narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow and makes skin paler. This also depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health.

Diet & Exercise

Food affects nearly every aspect of our well-being, both physical and emotional. Certain foods have been proven to bolster skin health. For example, foods rich in antioxidants promote healthy skin. And heavily processed carbohydrates can have a negative impact on the health of the skin and body, and even the mind. So, try to limit the junk foods whenever possible.

Exercise is good for your muscles, bones, joints and brain. It’s also good for your skin. When you exercise, blood flow increases throughout your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the skin

Treat Your Skin Gently

  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
  • Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. For the closest shave, use a clean, sharp razor. Shave in the direction the hair grows, not against it.
  • Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
  • Moisturize skin. Moisturizers help restore the outermost layer of skin to its natural condition. Daily use of a moisturizer helps maintain your skin’s healthy cells and moisture barrier. It can also help prevent itching and rashes that result from excessively dry skin, especially as you grow older. Apply a moisturizer to your face and body. For daily use, consider a moisturizer that contains SPF.

Manage Stress

Stress manifests in our body and our skin can be a reflection of emotional turmoil. Uncontrolled stress can oftentimes cause acne and other skin conditions, because it triggers the release of hormones that break down collagen and elastin. If you know that you are suffering undue amounts of stress it is time to try to find some peace in your life. Use calming, stress-relieving techniques to ease the tension of stress. Meditation is a good practice, and is often a good accompaniment to exercise—as simple as a leisure walk outside. Yoga performed three-to-four times weekly can alleviate stress.

Remember, consistency is key! By incorporating these gentle practices into your routine, you’ll be on your way to healthy, radiant skin that feels as good as it looks. It is vital that you give your skin the attention it deserves. Examining your skin regularly so that you are aware of any changes or concerns can be life saving. Talk to your doctor if you notice any odd changes to your skin, like a rash or mole that changes size or color.

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