By Aparna Mele, MD
November is National Healthy Skin Month, sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology to remind us to pay more attention to our precious skin. Our skin’s health tells us a lot about our inner health too. This month raises awareness of all the processes we must do to keep our skin healthy, helps us gain understanding of how to treat and prevent common skin conditions, and stresses how to correctly apply sunscreen and perform regular skin checks to prevent skin cancer.
How can we take better care of our skin?
It starts by taking care of our overall wellness and health. Effectively managing and alleviating stress is vital, as stress can lead to breakouts and exacerbate preexisting skin conditions. Getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated to moisturize skin, and exercising regularly to better oxygenate the body tissues help skin health too!
Do regular skin self-checks. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and, affects almost 20 percent of the population. Winter is an especially good time to check yourself carefully for spots with unusual shapes or colors or new moles that might indicate skin cancer. Look for any asymmetrical shapes, uneven skin, spots with bumpy borders, different colored areas, or spots that might be changing in size, shape, and color. Conduct a thorough self-examination by looking at your body in a full-length mirror. Check your front, back, and sides with your arms raised. Be sure to scan over your forearms, underarms, palms, and elbows. Don’t forget to check your legs, toes, and soles of your feet. A hand mirror can help you examine other areas such as your neck, scalp, back, and buttocks. It should be noted that those with darker complexions are NOT exempt from skin cancer. Although skin irregularities are not often apparent on darker skin, people of ethnic backgrounds tend to die more often from skin cancer.
Sunscreen is a powerful weapon against skin cancer as well as aging, and it blocks dangerous ultraviolet rays which can cause irreparable damage to your skin. Don’t forget to apply your sunscreen even during the winter months, and it is recommended that you use an SPF 30 daily in any kind of weather.
Stop smoking, which increases skin aging considerably. Smoking reduces blood flow, thereby depleting the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients. It also directly damages the elastic fibers and collagen in the skin which leads to premature aging.
As we approach the holiday season, your skin begins to feel the dehydrating effects of the cool, dry, winter air. Keeping the skin well hydrated is important especially during extreme weather conditions to keep skin healthy and youthful. Moisturizing also prevents skin damage from the environmental elements that can lead to skin aging.
Wash your face daily with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water and also before going to sleep to remove any excess oil, toxins, and debris you may have encountered throughout the day. Establish a proper day time and night routine and stick to it. Be sure to determine your skin type (oily, dry, combination, normal, or sensitive) and choose skin care products that are tailored to your skin type. Keep in mind that as the seasons change you may need to adjust your products to adapt to your skin’s needs. It is okay to simplify your skincare routine. Less is more. Using too many products constantly can irritate and tire your skin, so be sure to focus on the basics first. A gentle cleanser and moisturizer should be first and foremost. Topical retinoids containing vitamin A can help keep your skin feeling refreshed by nourishing your skin and remove unwanted spots and superficial skin lines.
Yes, winter is for bundling up, but don’t ignore the skin hiding under those layers. Take good care of your skin and your inner health will also follow! Learn more at https://www.aad.org/public