The Skin You’re In, Part 2: A Guide to Tender Loving Care
By Martin Brown
While wrinkle relief is more hype than reality, there is a lot that you can do to take better care of yourself.
Begin with the recognition that all of us, males and females, are subject to the effects of aging skin. If you should ever forget what your skin was once like many years ago, just hold an infant in your arms for a few minutes. That plumb, soft, fresh skin of a baby is an amazing reminder to us all that with age our skin gradually becomes thinner and laced with a network of fine lines. This happens for a variety of reasons some of which include the fact that our oil-producing glands reduce their levels of production and that creates drier skin. Additionally, the number of blood vessels in your skin decreases, as that occurs your skin becomes thinner and increasingly fragile to the effects of wear and weather, and it loses an increasing degree of what we think of as healthy glow and color.
The aging of our skin is inevitable. What is not inevitable is the rate at which this process occurs. Here are four essential points for maintaining the youthful vitality of your skin at age thirty, sixty, or beyond.
Essential #1: Never forget that the sun accelerates the rate at which your skin ages.
The single most important way to extend the youthful vitality of your skin is to protect it from the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet light does great harm to your skin, particularly between the hours of 11am and 3pm, every day.
There has been so much talk of the sun and skin cancer. But what gets lost in that message is the simple fact that the sun is the most common cause in prematurely aging our skin. You don’t need to read this in a science research paper. If you have a sun bunny friend who loves to lay out every weekend at the pool, just look at the condition of her skin. Chances are its aging process is well ahead of where it should be. Think of overexposure to the sun as pressing a fast forward button on your skin’s aging process. If you’re 38 and you want to have the skin of a seventy-year-old, just spend lots of time in the sun.
Here are three smart moves for protecting your skin from damaging ultraviolet rays:
- Avoid mid day sun, cover your skin with clothing, long-sleeved tops, long pants and wide-brimmed hats.
- Tightly woven fabrics like denim are better than loosely woven fabrics such as knits.
- And, of course, always use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15. Apply sunscreen generously about 20 minutes before exposure and remember to reapply about every two hours or immediately after swimming.
Just about everyone enjoys a sunny day hiking, biking, playing at the park or beach. So you have to compromise. No one is suggesting that you live in a closet by day and come out and play at night. But there is a lot you can do to reduce your level of sun exposure and just keep reminding yourself that the best way to keep healthy, soft, fresh looking skin is to reduce your daily exposure to the sun!
Essential #2: Don’t let your skin become a victim of smoke damage.
If you don’t smoke you can skip this part. But be warned, if you do smoke, your doing serious damage to the health of your skin because smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of our skin and thereby cheats you of oxygen and nutrients that are vital to the skin’s overall health. The damage occurs earliest to the face, but in time spreads to the rest of your body. And that fast-forward button doubles its speed when you add smoking to the mix. It may not be a serious concern of yours at twenty-three but at thirty-five the damage you have done to your skin will be irreversible. As of today, there is no known way to reverse this type of skin damage. To stop it from getting worse, the only thing you can do is stop smoking today!
Essential #3: Always wash your skin tenderly.
Cleansing your skin is fine, but scrubbing it with hot water is not. Just two gentle reminders here to start:
- Use warm water, not hot; and
- Limit time in both the bath and shower time to 15 minutes or less.
Avoid strong soaps which strip oil from your skin. They might leave your skin feeling fresh and dry, but what they are doing is accelerating the body’s natural tendency to lose vitality as body oil production reduces with age.
Always choose mild soaps that offer detergent substitutes and come with added oils and fats. Two over-the-counter soaps that accomplish this are Dove, and Cetaphil.
Always avoid irritating additives, particularly if your skin is sensitive to various perfumes or dyes. Remember to remove eye makeup gently using a soft sponge to avoid unnecessary damage to the delicate tissue that surrounds your eyes. Remember also that if you wear heavy, waterproof makeup; purchase an oil-based product, such as Eucerin, or good old petroleum jelly, to remove makeup.
Finally, after washing your face,or body, pat it dry, but don’t rub it dry. The ultimate goal here is to keep as much of your skin’s natural moisture intact as you possibly can.
Essential #4: Moisturize faithfully.
After you have washed and patted yourself dry, remember to always moisturize your skin with oil or cream. This is an essential step in helping your skin to maintain its naturally high level of moisture.
If you have sensitive skin, purchase products that are free of dyes, perfumes, and other additives. If your skin is naturally dry, apply an oil, such as baby oil, while your skin is still moist from a shower or bath. Finally, remember to moisturize as you shave your legs. Shave in the direction of hair growth, not against it and rinse your skin afterward with warm water.
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