Do you feel as if it’s time to turn in your skin resignation? Or, have you reconciled with the skin you inherited from your parents? Don’t give up! Having nice skin can be at least partly attributed to our genetics; however, there are environmental impacts that should be considered as well.
Air, water, health, diet, sun exposure, heat, and products applied to our skin, all have a significant impact on our skin, health, and look.
In my book 30 Day Skin Fix I help you learn rapid, simple, and scientifically proven steps for better looks and healthier skin; brushing aside unnecessary detail I immediately hone in on what you need to know and help you separate the fact from fiction; giving you real results and confidence to find the best skin care suited for you. Let’s ‘face it’ living at a higher altitude in the Wasatch Back, we have unique forces affecting our skin daily. Here are a few tips from my book that can help you know how to deal with the elements and learn to love the skin you were given!
Dry air, common to Utah’s arid climate may trigger dry skin problems like winter itch or eczema, which can lead to an increased risk of skin infections and hypersensitivity. Daily moisturizing with a moisturizing cream is a crucial first step to protecting your skin from rashes, winter itch, and eczema. You can also use a humidifier in your bedroom or humidify your central air to help combat the effects of our dry climate on your skin.
Humid air or climates tend to result in better moisturized skin but sometimes over-moisturized skin is prone to yeast or fungal infections. You may need to dry your skin better after bathing to avoid rashes and infections, especially in skin folds. Applying a powder to your skin folds, and other areas that get oily or moist may be helpful. Antiperspirants that are clinically strong may be helpful to apply not only on your armpits but to other areas like feet, inner thighs, mid chest, and under breasts. Use the antiperspirant sparingly or you can over-dry and irritate the skin.
Hard water contains minerals that can worsen your dry skin, aggravate acne, and even accelerate aging of your skin. Some studies show more dry skin problems like eczema in communities with hard water. It is theorized that soap surfactants do not rinse off the skin as easily with hard water and, instead, may clog pores worsening acne. Also, the minerals in hard water can remain on the skin as cations, which can form harmful free radicals. Free radicals cause the break-down of the youthful collagen and elastin in your skin and lead to premature skin aging. If you have hard water, don’t panic, you just may need to use extra moisturizing and gentle soaps. If you do suffer from recurrent eczema or similar rashes, then you may want to consider getting a water softener in your home.
If you love swimming, be aware that sometimes we can catch mild rashes from microorganisms found in our local lakes. It is best to rinse off with a mild soap and warm water immediately after swimming in a lake, pool, or hot tub. A trick I recommend for the rash-prone regular swimmers is to apply an occlusive moisturizer like Vaseline ointment all over your skin prior to getting in the water. The ointment creates a barrier to protect your skin and can reduce your odds of getting a rash.
In order for your skin to be healthy, the rest of your body has to be healthy too. That includes getting regular, or at least, annual primary care doctor checks. An annual skin cancer screening with your dermatologist is also critical to the early detection of skin cancers. For the healthiest skin, quit smoking, minimize alcohol intake, exercise regularly, and eat a well-balanced, low glycemic diet. When we are at our healthiest, our skin is said to glow. Some of us get trapped into trying too hard to get our skin to glow or be colorful and resort to tanning salons or heavy makeup. This can be counter-productive and, when overdone, may actually look unhealthy. Finally, the ultraviolet radiation we get in tanning salons is just as harmful, if not more harmful, as tanning outside in the sun. Cumulative tanning can cause not only wrinkly aged skin, but deadly skin cancer too. There is no such thing as a safe tan. Unless, it is the fake spray tans, those are ok. Just don’t inhale them.
For better overall skin health it is best to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, antioxidants, and omega 3 fatty acids. If you are acne-prone, then avoid sugar and lactose. If you are wart-prone, try increasing your zinc intake. For healthy skin, hair, and nails, make sure you get adequate vitamin D and B12 in your diet or consider obtaining those nutrients in a supplement. If you tend to have rashes such as eczema, psoriasis, or other inflammation in the skin, you can try a turmeric dietary supplement. Turmeric is known to calm inflamed skin.
Recent science has shown that acne is worse in sugary or high glycemic diets. New studies have even shown that the gut bacteria in people with acne are different than normal. A healthy and low glycemic (low sugar) diet should protect most people from this imbalance in bacteria or you can see a gastroenterologist MD for testing.
Sun Exposure and Heat
With the sunny, high altitude we experience living in Wasatch County we have the advantage of getting adequate vitamin D — even if we are outside for only ten minutes per day. I do not recommend sunbathing for vitamin D — or ever — for any reason. It is a false myth that sun is good for acne. The sun does suppress our skin’s immune system briefly after exposure which gives the illusion that the acne is better. However, all the dead damaged skin cells left by the sun exposure clogs the pores and creates more acne later.
Bottom-line, avoid the sun like the plague with protective clothing, hats, and mineral sunblocks that are applied evenly, and repeatedly every one and a half hours. The sun ages our skin with more force than any other factor. Just like those who live by a sunny beach, we who live on a sunny mountain will be at increased risk for aging brown spots on our skin, wrinkles, pre-cancers, and skin cancers. It is believed that for every 1,000 feet above sea level, we get at least 5% more UV radiation.
Heat may amplify some of the damage that we already experience to our skin from sun. Are you one of those people that flushes easily with heat? If you have this heat-sensitive condition you may be particularly at risk of experiencing skin problems like rosacea or melasma from heat. With this sensitivity, you should avoid hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, hot showers, hot yoga, and other vigorous exercise in heat if you do not want to worsen or trigger your condition.
Moisturizers may add moisture by containing ingredients that absorb water from the environment or lock-in moisture already there on the skin. Ideally, you may want both kinds of moisturizers in your collection. Petrolatum and Dimethicone are common ingredients in moisturizers that lock-in moisture and act as effective barriers to the elements. Both are non-comedogenic (won’t cause acne). While petrolatum is known by dermatologists as the most effective moisturizing skin barrier, dimethicone is less greasy and more cosmetically acceptable for use on the face. Water-absorbing Humectants such as glycerin, sorbitol, propylene glycol, hyaluronic acid, and sodium PCA, are also important ingredients to look for in moisturizers. For more severe dry skin, the moisturizers that lock-in and absorb moisture are the best choice.
Recently there has been a lot of chat about “ceramides” in moisturizers. Ceramides are fats or lipids that are part of our skin and allow formation of our protective skin barrier. When you have eczema or dry skin, you may be naturally deficient in ceramides, and daily replacement might be helpful. Make sure to look for the ingredients best suited to help your skin’s situation as you shop your favorite brands.
While we may get frustrated by our unique set of skin problems, inherited or not, we can be empowered to take charge of our environment and how we care for and protect our skin. Understanding our skin’s environment is a simple but rewarding step we all can take.