Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and is the body’s first defense against infection. It also protects the other internal organs from injury.
There are many things that can impact your skin health, from your diet to stress to medications. To keep your skin healthy and looking great, follow these simple tips:
Protecting Your Skin from the Sun
The best way to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays is to use sunscreen every day. You can also seek shade whenever possible.
The sun’s rays can damage your skin, leading to dryness and peeling. These conditions can lead to premature skin aging and increased risk of skin cancer.
Wear clothing that covers all exposed areas, including the neck and ears. You can also buy a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection to prevent sunburns.
Apply sunscreen regularly, especially before going outdoors for long periods of time or on cloudy days. For extended outdoor activities, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. You should reapply every two hours, and sooner if you’re sweating or swimming.
Avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, the peak hours of sunlight when UV rays are strongest. Seek shade under an umbrella, tree or other shelter whenever possible.
Choose clothes with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), which measures how much of the sun’s UV rays can pass through a fabric. Look for items with a UPF of 50 or more, which block roughly 98% of the sun’s rays.
You can also use a makeup or lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. These products can be helpful if you need extra sun protection, but they can’t replace sunscreen and should only be used in conjunction with it.
If you have a health condition that increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, talk with your doctor about ways to protect your skin. Certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as medical conditions that weaken your immune system, including tetracycline and fluoroquinolone antibiotics, tricyclic antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs and HIV medications, increase your risk of sunburns and skin cancer.
Your doctor may also recommend medications that have an SPF of at least 15, such as some acne treatments. You can ask your healthcare provider about these medications or contact your pharmacist for more information.
Daily use of a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 is the most important way to reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer. Seek products that carry the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation.
Taking Care of Your Skin
Taking care of your skin is one of the most important things you can do to look and feel great. It can delay or prevent premature aging, dullness and other problems.
The first step is to learn your skin type and understand what it needs for optimal health. Knowing your skin type will help you choose products that work well with it.
If you have oily or blemish-prone skin, make sure to wash it often with an oil-free cleanser. Avoid using cleansers with alcohol or fragrances, which can dry your skin. Instead, look for products with calming ingredients such as aloe, chamomile, green tea polyphenols and oats.
Also, consider exfoliating once a week to remove dead skin cells. A gentle exfoliant can leave your skin looking clearer and brighter.
It’s also important to use a moisturizer that is right for your skin type. A non-greasy or creamy moisturizer can provide intense hydration and keep your skin supple, while also strengthening its protective barrier.
A healthy lifestyle, including eating a nutrient-rich diet, drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly can help you have healthy, glowing skin. These habits will not only improve your skin, but they will also promote your overall health and wellbeing.
Exercise can increase blood flow to the skin, flushing out toxins and improving your mood. It can also reduce stress, reducing the chance of breakouts and inflammation.
Wear breathable clothing, especially if you exercise or play sports, to protect your skin from irritation. Also, try to limit your exposure to the sun and use sunscreen on any exposed areas.
If you are prone to acne, try washing your face with a specialized cleanser designed for your skin type. This will help get rid of the buildup of dirt and makeup that can clog pores and cause itching and breakouts.
To maintain your skin’s moisture, use a good moisturizer twice a day after washing. You can use a lotion or cream for dry skin, and a gel or serum for oily skin.
Don’t smoke or drink too much, both of which affect your skin and contribute to it aging. These bad habits can deplete your body of vital nutrients and slow down the growth of new skin cells, causing inflammation.
Detecting Skin Changes
Taking care of your skin and detecting any changes to it is the first step in preventing and treating skin cancer. Detecting changes early can help you avoid the need for a biopsy or surgery, which are necessary for some types of skin cancer.
You can check your skin for suspicious spots or moles on your own at home using a mirror. You can also take a photo of any abnormal spots or moles and show them to your doctor. You can even get a friend or partner to help you spot anything that doesn’t look right.
Dermatologists have a number of different tools they use to examine your skin and detect any changes. Some of these tools include ultrasound examinations, blood tests, confocal imagers and dermoscopy.
Ultrasound exams can detect if you have a mass or other type of tumor under the skin, as well as how deep and thick it is. They can also detect whether the tumor is spreading and where it might be located.
Blood tests can be used to diagnose certain types of inflammations, allergies or metabolic diseases. These tests can also be used to identify substances that cause redness, swelling and other symptoms when applied to the skin.
Some apps use the camera on your smartphone to detect changes in skin moles and spots. These apps have to be studied carefully and they aren’t yet fully effective. A recent Cochrane review found that some of these apps missed up to 55 of melanomas – which can be dangerous, as skin cancer can develop very quickly.
Another app, MoleMapper, was developed by a cancer biologist who wanted to help his wife monitor her suspicious lesions without the need for monthly in-person visits. It’s available free of charge and works with photos taken with an attachment to your phone, which can be accessed online by your physician or dermatologist.
The Miiskin app is a similar tool that takes high-definition photos of large areas of your skin, such as your entire leg. It’s designed to be used with any iPhone or Android phone, and you can store the photos separately from your phone library. You can also use the app to compare photos over time, which can help you and your doctor spot any changes in a mole or spot.
Visiting the Dermatologist
Visiting your dermatologist is one of the most important things you can do for your skin. The dermatologist is a medical expert with many tools and skills to help you protect your skin and keep it healthy.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and takes a lot of hits, which makes it vulnerable to a variety of diseases and conditions. A dermatologist can make sure your skin is healthy and protect it from dangerous conditions like cancer, aging, and infection.
Dermatologists provide a range of services to treat your skin, hair, and nails. Some common ailments they treat include acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.
A dermatologist can also provide you with prescriptions for the right skin care products. This can save you time and money in the long run, as well as ensure you do not accidentally try a product that will not be safe for your skin.
Before your appointment, be ready to discuss your skin issues. This will give the doctor a clear picture of what you are experiencing and allow them to offer you an accurate diagnosis.
It is a good idea to mark the areas that you would like your dermatologist to look at before your visit, using a washable marker. Doing this will make the process much easier for your dermatologist and can help them find problems more quickly.
During your appointment, your doctor will examine your skin from head to toe, looking for any growths or other irregularities. He or she may order tests for an accurate diagnosis.
You should also bring any medications that you are currently taking, including your skin care products. This will help your dermatologist determine if any of them are affecting your skin and if there are possible side effects or interactions with other medications.
The dermatologist will also take a close look at your hair and nails. This is especially important if you have a condition that affects them, such as autoimmune hair loss or nail fungal infections.
A full-body skin exam will normally take about 15-20 minutes. During the exam, your dermatologist will check your skin and may remove moles or other lesions that are suspicious for skin cancer.