Sun protection, stop smoking, washing, moisturizing
Mayo Clinic’s Four Habits For Healthy Skin, Winter and Summer
“Please write more about how to keep skin looking young.” Or, “What can I do to keep my skin from drying up like an old prune during the winter months?” I receive many requests like these asking me to write about medical problems. But whenever I write about skin care the response dwarfs other mail. So here’s what a prestigious clinic says about aging skin.
Mayo Clinic doctors don’t bother to soften the truth of how we gradually lose our baby-soft “body glove” in which we were born. Their studies show that our oil producing glands become less active and blood vessels decrease leaving us with thinner, fragile and finely wrinkled skin. But four habits will help to keep some of that youthful colour and glow.
Habit # 1
Protect yourself from the sun. It’s the invisible, intense ultraviolet light that causes damage to skin leaving deep wrinkles, rough dry skin and liver spots. It’s lifetime exposure that counts and this may also cause benign and malignant growths.
Remember that only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun”. But Mayo Clinic doctors suggest that when you do, wear long sleeves and tightly woven fabrics such as denim rather than knits. Today you can also buy protective (SPF) clothing that blocks out ultraviolet rays.
Habit # 2
Stop smoking! A study from Oxford University shows smoking decreases your time on this planet by 20 years! In addition, your skin won’t look as good when you enter “The Pearly Gates”! Years of smoking will have narrowed tiny blood vessels in the skin robbing it of oxygen and nutrients such as vitamin A. This also increases damage to elastic fibers and collagen which give the skin strength and elasticity.
Mayo physicians raise another interesting point about smoking. That by pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes when exhaling to keep out the smoke, you contribute to wrinkles. And that the heat from cigarettes damages the skin over the years. In fact they say these changes can happen in just 10 years of puffing on cigarettes.
Habit # 3
Wash all body skin with tender loving care. This means short baths and showers with warm water, not hot water. Not good news for me and others who prefer long, hot showers. Mayo Clinic also advises against strong soaps that strip oil from your skin leaving it dry. It suggests mild ones or detergent substitutes which contain added oils and fats. The good choices are Cliniderm, Dove, Cetaphil and Purpose.
Stay clear of soap additives such as perfumes and dyes which can irritate skin and also cause an allergic reaction. If you’re wearing makeup use a soft sponge or cotton balls to remove it. And for heavy, waterproof makeup you need oil-based products such as Aquaphor or petrolatum jelly. Finally, be sure to pat dry your skin with a soft towel. All of this is time consuming, of course, so I assume this is why more men end up with prune faces than women.
Habit # 4
In real estate the slogan for success is “location, location, location”. The secret for skin care is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize to prevent winter itch and leather-like skin. Over-heated homes, carpets, fireplaces and furniture all suck moisture out of the air. One study showed the average home is as dry as the Sahara Desert! It’s no wonder that so many people complain of dry, flaky and sometimes red skin.
Mayo doctors don’t mention any specific moisturizers. But there are two excellent lotions, Reversa and Neostrata which contain glycolic acid (AHA), a natural derivative of sugar cane. Research shows that these lotions not only moisturize but by improving the top layer of the skin (stratum corneum) seal and lock in moisture to smooth and soften the skin. Dr. Suzanne Gagnon, a prominent Montreal dermatologist, advises that for maximum effect Reversa or Neostrata lotion should be applied to dry skin. She reminds us that all parts of the body need moisture, especially where the stratum corneum is thick like the elbows, knees and feet. And remember that soft feet don’t tear nylons.
So moisturize, moisturize, and did I say moisturize?