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November 26, 2010 > Beauty Really is Only Skin Deep

Beauty Really is Only Skin Deep

Healthy Skin Month Highlights Good Care

Want to fight the signs of aging? Take good care of your skin. It's the best way to stay looking young and healthy.

"There are no magic creams or miracle foods," said Dr. Anna McNay, a dermatologist and member of the Wash
ington Hospital medical staff. "It's just good basic skin care and healthy living."

November is designated National Healthy Skin Month to highlight the importance of taking good care of your skin. Your skin is more than just a pretty face. It's your body's first line of defense against disease and infection. The largest organ in your body, skin also maintains temperature control and fluid balance, McNay said.

"We don't always think about the important role our skin plays," she added.
Genes and exposure to environmental factors like sun and wind affect how your skin ages, according to McNay. Visible signs of aging include wrinkles, brown spots, and thin or transparent skin.

"Sunlight is very damaging to skin," she said. "The sun's ultraviolet rays are much stronger today than when we were kids. Despite the current vitamin D controversy, the American Academy of Dermatology still recommends obtaining vitamin D through diet and/or supplements instead of direct exposure to the sun."

McNay offered these tips for protecting yourself from the sun and taking good care of your skin.

Wear sunscreen. She recommends an SPF of 30 or higher. You need to reapply it every 80 minutes under regular conditions, sooner if you are sweating or swimming. "Teach your kids how to put it on at an early age so they get into the habit," she added. "Use waterproof, sweat-proof sunscreen and don't forget a hat and sunglasses."

Keep your face clean. Most people should wash their faces twice a day, in the morning and at night, according to McNay. "If your skin is very dry, you might want to wash your face only at night," she said. "Use a cr¸me-based moisturizing cleanser if you have dry skin and never use soap on your face. If your skin is oily, you can use a cleanser that has a mild salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in it." She recommends against using harsh astringents on oily skin because the skin may produce more oil to compensate.

Use moisturizing lotion. McNay encourages people to moisturize their skin daily unless they have extremely oily skin. "We live in a dry climate here in California," she said. "That causes your skin to dry out."
She recommends applying moisturizing lotion or cream, depending on the skin type, to your entire body. "You don't have to pay a huge amount for fancy creams," she added. "There are plenty of good brands on the market that don't cost a fortune."

Don't smoke. Smoking causes deep lines and wrinkles to appear on your face prematurely and depletes the skin of oxygen, according to McNay. "Smoking can make your skin look yellow and leathery," she added. "It speeds up the aging process."
Drink in moderation. "Too much alcohol can also damage skin," McNay said. "Alcohol causes small blood vessels in the skin to widen, producing broken capillaries near the surface of the skin. It can exacerbate rosacea in patients who are prone to this skin condition."

Exercise regularly. An active lifestyle leads to better health, including better skin health, according to McNay. Exercise brings more oxygen and nutrients to the skin, keeping it firmer and more nourished. "Exercise increases circulation and gives the skin a healthy, radiant glow," she added.

Get plenty of sleep. Exercise also helps you get a good night sleep, important for your skin. "Sleep helps to avoid eye puffiness," McNay said. "The hormone melatonin is a released into your body during sleep, and that has a positive effect on the skin."

Eat right. McNay also recommends eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables and avoiding junk food. "Your mother was right, you are what you eat," she said. "Fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to nourish the skin."

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