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Category Archives: Beauty

Winter Skin’s Checkup

The telltale symptoms of dry skin are easy to spot: Skin just generally feels drier and tighter. Other signs may include roughness, itching, severe redness, flaking and scaling. Sometimes pores become less visible or skin may look dull. In severe cases, skin may crack and bleed, especially on the hands and fingertips.

Why does it happen?

Sun exposure or cold, dry air can cause skin to become dehydrated. Dry skin is more common in the winter because the air contains less humidity. It can also be genetic or hereditary, or a natural effect of aging.

What are your options?

  • Over-the-counter lotions, such as Eucerin and Curél, can relieve dryness and flaking. Or try a body cream that contains oil to help seal in moisture. Look for fragrance-free products with alpha hydroxy acids, which gently exfoliate to allow more water and moisture into the skin.
  • Avoid antibacterial and deodorant soaps, which can be harsh and drying. Instead, use a gentle cleanser, such as Dove or Aveeno, or a mild shower gel with added moisturizers.
  • Don’t take extremely hot baths, or shower or soak in the tub for more than 10 minutes. Doing so breaks down your skin’s natural protective oils, which keep it soft and smooth.
  • Use a humidifier during the winter. Central heating and space heaters can dry out the air in your home.
  • Choose natural, breathable fabrics, such as cotton and silk, for your bedding and innermost layer of clothing.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids to keep skin hydrated from the inside out. Omega-3s (essential fatty acids found in foods such as salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans and broccoli) can also help keep skin supple.

When should you worry?

See a dermatologist if dryness and itching keep you awake at night, if OTC lotions aren’t working, if you have open sores or large areas of scaling or peeling skin, or if you develop an infection from scratching. You could have a more serious condition such as eczema, psoriasis or another skin disorder.

Did you know?

  • Although everyone’s skin changes with age, a man’s skin tends to stay moist longer. That’s because a woman’s skin becomes much drier after menopause.
  • The best time to apply lotion is immediately after a shower or bath, when skin is still damp.
  • Since dry skin is extra-sensitive, it’s important protect it from the sun, especially if it’s snowing (snow can reflect as much as 80 percent of the sun’s rays). Apply SPF 15 or higher every day to your face, neck and ears.

Kick Dry Skin to the Curb

Winters here and with it come the harsh winds of irritated skin. The routine of cold and dry outside and hot and dry inside is wreaking havoc on our precious skin. So, what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, a lot according to Dr. Doris Day, MD, FAAD, New York dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift (Avery Books) and Dr. Loretta Ciraldo Miami dermatologist and author of Six Weeks to Sensational Skin (Rodale) who share their winter-protecting secrets.

Be on a hot bath boycott.

In certain parts of the country, it’s chillingly cold. And it is precisely those cold temperatures that may lead many to a huge dry skin culprit:hot, long, baths. “Hot showers strip away your body’s natural oils,” says Dr. Day, leaving your skin dry and tight. Instead Dr. Day recommends taking not-so-hot showers, and then patting dry rubbing totally dry after so your body is a bit damp. “It’s about water retention,” says Dr. Day.

Still using summer products? Aint gonna cut it.

Using a rich cream instead of a lotion will make a huge difference in your skin,” says Dr Day, as lotions are thinner and not as emollient as their thicker cream counterparts. Instead, Dr. Day suggests switching out your light warm weather lotion for a richer, more penetrating cream.

Don’t worry about wrinkles.

“Women often see an exaggeration of wrinkles in the winter,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “because of skins dryness.” So if you look in the mirror and see more fine lines around your eyes and mouth, don’t add more stress to your sensitive skin by freaking out. It is most likely a temporary thing. Instead, defend yourself with a hydrating night cream and a good night’s sleep.

Soak in it.

“It’s important to put moisture back in your body,” says Dr. Ciraldo, and she means literally. Dr. Ciraldo recommends relaxing in a bathtub of tepid water until your fingertips are wrinkled, however long that takes “Your skin has a great capacity for holding water,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “it’s important to get re-hydrated.”

Read ingredients.

Because our skin loses lipids in the winter (the barrier that keeps water in) it’s important to use products that contain lipids, like the ever-popular Ceramides. Dr. Ciraldo also recommends looking for products with Stearic Acid (an animal fat) and Glyco-Lipids, that can also help in preventing moisture loss.

Get oily.

This is a good time to get on the Flaxseed oil and Fish oil bandwagon. Besides, being high in good-for-you Omega-3’s, these oils help keep the skin supple. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements can also help improve skin’s appearance and reduce the pain of stiff sore joints, caused by the winter cold and possible the increase of you staying indoors and couch surfing.

Avoid Soap.

“Many soaps are drying, so it’s important to wash with a liquid non-soap cleanser,” says Dr. Ciraldo. In addition, Dr. Ciraldo suggests looking for cleansers or moisturizers that are possess botanicals, plant extracts like chamomile and lavender which are naturally body replenishing. Botanicals are often soothing as well; ideal for wind chapped or exposed skin.

Skin and Beauty Glossary

Acne conglobata: Type of acne in which interconnected nodules are located beneath the surface of the skin.

Acne mechanica: Acne caused by exposure to heat, covered skin, pressure, or repetitive friction.

Acne vulgaris: The most common type of acne, associated with blackheads, whiteheads, papules, and pustules, commonly referred to as pimples or zits.

Actinic keratoses: Precancerous growths that can appear red, thick, and rough; usually found on sun-damaged skin.

Age spots: Flat, brownish patches on the skin caused by sun exposure and perhaps aging; also known as “liver spots.”

Alopecia: Unusual hair loss, most often on the scalp.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs): Exfoliating ingredients derived from fruit and milk sugars and used to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.

Antioxidants: Vitamins A (including beta carotene), C, and E, thought to repair and protect skin cells by neutralizing damaging free radicals.

Atopic: When an antibody present in the skin makes someone more likely to experience allergic reactions.

Basal cell carcinoma: Type of skin cancer that forms at the base of the epidermis of the skin and usually does not spread to other parts of the body; associated with long-term overexposure to the sun.

Benzoyl peroxide: Topical acne treatment that kills acne-causing bacteria.

Blackhead: A clogged pore usually filled with hardened oil and dead skin cells; the tip is visible at the pore opening.

Blepharoplasty: Cosmetic procedure to remove excess fat and skin from around the eyes.

Chemical peel: Chemical solution applied to the skin to remove damaged outer layers.

Dermabrasion: Procedure in which a rotating brush is used to abrade, or remove, the outer surface of the skin.

Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin.

Dermis: The middle layer of the skin.

Eczema: Inflammatory response in the skin that can lead to redness, itching, and scaling.

Epidermis: The outer layer of the skin.

Exfoliate: To slough off the outer layer of skin cells.

Follicle: A shaft in the skin through which hair grows.

Isotretinoin (Accutane and other brand names): Oral vitamin A-based medication used to treat severe acne.

Laser resurfacing: Laser procedure to remove signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

Melanin: A chemical in the body that gives skin and hair their unique color.

Melanoma: Life-threatening form of skin cancer that usually develops in an existing mole.

Mole: Pigmented skin lesion also known as a nevus.

Noncomedogenic: A product not likely to clog pores and cause acne lesions.

Papule: Acne lesion that appears as a small, red bump on the skin.

Photo-aging: Skin damage that results from prolonged overexposure to the sun.

Phototherapy: Artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation treatment for some skin diseases.

Plaque: Raised, but relatively flat, patch of skin.

Psoriasis: Skin condition characterized by red, raised, scaly patches.

Pustule: Inflamed acne lesion containing pus.

Retinoids: Derivatives of vitamin A used to treat a variety of skin conditions.

Rosacea: Skin condition characterized by prominent spider veins and sometimes swelling.

Sclerotherapy: Treatment that reduces the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins by injecting them with a special solution.

Sebaceous glands: Oil-producing glands in the skin that are attached to hair follicles.

Seborrheic dermatitis: Scalp condition associated with itching and flakiness (dandruff) that can also occur on the face.

Skin biopsy: Diagnostic procedure in which a portion of the skin is removed for examination in a laboratory.

Spider veins: Small reddish or purplish sunburst-shaped veins under the skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma: Type of skin cancer that forms in outer layers of the skin, capable of spreading to other parts of the body, and associated with long-term overexposure to the sun.

Subcutis: The layer of fat beneath the skin.

Telogen effluvium: Hair loss that is temporary, often related to stress, illness, or recent childbirth.

Topical: A product applied on the skin.

Tretinoin: Topical retinoid used to treat acne by unclogging pores; also used to lessen signs of photo-aging.

Ultraviolet light: The sun’s UVA and UVB rays that can cause both skin damage and skin cancers.

Urticaria: Raised reddish, itchy areas, also called hives.

Varicose veins: Large blood vessels that appear as blue bulges beneath the skin; may be associated with swelling, pain, and other symptoms.

Whitehead: Closed acne lesion caused by a clogged hair follicle.

A Guide to Natural Skin Care Products

In today’s world of eco-conscious living, being good to the environment is a high priority, whether you’re buying light bulbs or a cream for dry skin and wrinkles. And cosmetics companies take advantage of that by offering natural skin care products with ingredients that are touted as being better for your skin and environmentally friendly.

“Natural skin care is more of a marketing term than a scientific one,” says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a dermatologist and professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and president of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation.

“Products that have botanical ingredients that come from plants or nature — think honey or beeswax — tend to be labeled as natural,”’ says Dr. Glaser. They may or may not have the same ingredients that other products do. And you can find them everywhere, from drugstores to department store makeup counters to boutiques and even at dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices. In fact, so-called natural skin care products are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to tell whether they’re any better for you than other products.

“‘Natural’ really doesn’t tell you anything,” Glaser says. “It’s a way of marketing [a product] to make you feel good about its use when people are trying to be green and think environmentally.”

In some cases, natural skin care products may be the way to go, but not always. “Poison ivy is natural, but that doesn’t mean you want to rub it against your skin,” Glaser says.

The Benefits of Natural Skin Care Products

There are some ingredients in natural products that are soothing and calming to the skin, even if your skin is sensitive. Glaser notes the benefits of these ingredients:

  • Soy. Products that contain soy can soothe the skin while fading dark discolorations.
  • Feverfew. This herb can calm irritated, dry skin that’s prone to eczema.
  • Antioxidants. Vitamins C and E have real benefits for the skin. They scavenge for free radicals, which damage cell DNA, leading to wrinkles and skin aging. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter products don’t have a high enough concentration of antioxidants for them to be effective. But you can buy products such as CE Ferulic (which contains vitamins C and E) and Revaléskin (made from coffeeBerry extract) from a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon, Glazer says.

Natural Skin Care Concerns

Sometimes natural skin care products aren’t the best choice when you’re shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin or a cream to treat your wrinkles, Glaser says. Among the drawbacks are:

  • Sensitive skin irritation. Your skin type should dictate the type of products you can use, Glaser says. Someone with rosacea or sensitive skin — and about half of all women think they have sensitive skin — can be irritated by alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid, which are natural ingredients.
  • Allergic reaction. Allergens in natural skin care products can cause problems for some people.
  • Breakouts. Someone who’s acne-prone may not be able to tolerate natural lotions that contain oils because they may clog pores and lead to breakouts.
  • High cost. You can find expensive traditional and natural skin care products, but in general, natural skin care products tend to be a bit more costly. An oil-free traditional face cleanser is about $5 for 5.5 ounces, while a natural cleanser that contains bark, chamomile, rosemary, and echinacea costs about $9 for 6 ounces at the drugstore.

What to Look For in Natural Skin Care Products

The key to choosing natural skin care products is to choose wisely. When you’re shopping for skin care and you’re considering natural products, keep these things in mind:

  • The fewer ingredients, the better. When you’re buying any type of skin care product, including natural products, look for one with few ingredients, Glaser says. Natural skin care products tend to have extra ingredients added to them, but the more that’s in it, the more likely it is to cause irritation or an allergic reaction, she says.
  • Big brands tend to be better. Big companies such as Neutrogena, Dove, Oil of Olay, Aveeno, Cetaphil, and others test their products before putting them out on the market, so they’re unlikely to cause skin problems, notes Glaser.
  • Try retinol or retinoids. Retinol, sold over the counter in various products, and retinoids, which are available by prescription as tretinoin (Vesanoid) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), are derivatives of vitamin A that help reduce wrinkles. They’re natural products that really work, Glaser says.

The bottom line is that you should choose products that work for your skin, gives you results, and have the feel and fragrance that you enjoy.

It’s a matter of trial and error, says Glaser “Part of the challenge is to find ingredients that work for you.”

Dry Skin Care Essentials

Your body is wrapped in a blanket of skin — about two square yards of it. We all want hydrated and healthy skin, but that blanket can become dry, flaky, and rough. Learn what causes dry skin and how using a skin moisturizer and other treatments will help.

Understanding Dry Skin

The outer layers of your skin are put together in a type of brick-and-mortar system. Healthy skin cells are stacked with oils and other substances that keep skin moist. When those substances are lost, skin cells can crumble away, which leads to dry skin.

Itching is the No. 1 symptom of dry skin, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. Your skin may look dull, flaky, or ashy (if you have dark skin), which can progress to skin being scaly or cracked. In the worst-case scenario, skin becomes thick and leathery, Dr. Fusco says.

Conditions Causing Dry Skin

Dry skin can affect anyone whose skin loses water or oil, particularly in climates with low humidity, or during winter months when low humidity and indoor heat affect the natural balance of healthy skin, Fusco says. However, some people are more prone to dry skin than others because of certain medical conditions:

  • Keratosis pilaris. As many as 40 percent of people in the United States have an inherited dry skin condition called keratosis pilaris. More common in children and adolescents, the condition causes tiny red or flesh-colored bumps on the skin, particularly on their upper arms and thighs or on the cheeks in children. The bumps are dead skin cells and make skin feel rough, like sandpaper. Skin may also itch during the winter or in low humidity.
  • Atopic dermatitis. Up to 20 percent of people around the world have atopic dermatitis, a common type of eczema in which itchy patches of skin form. When the skin is scratched, it may become red and swollen and could crack, weep fluid, or scale. This type of eczema often occurs in people who also have asthma or hay fever.
  • Hormonal changes. When your body is going through hormonal changes, you may notice dry or flaky skin cropping up. It’s something that happens even in babies. Newborns commonly develop cradle cap — flaky, scaly skin on the scalp — as a result of being exposed to mother’s hormones in the uterus, Fusco says. Women may notice a change in their skin’s oil production when they begin (or stop) using hormonal contraceptives. And hormonal changes after menopause can also lead to dry skin, she says.
  • Thyroid disease. One of the early symptoms of hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone) is dry skin.
  • Diabetes or kidney disease. People with diabetes or kidney disease may notice dry, itchy skin on their legs due to poor circulation, Fusco says. It’s a result of the skin not getting the proper amount of blood flow.

From Dry Skin to Healthy Skin

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Apply a skin moisturizer to your body and face at least once a day, when the skin is still damp from the shower, Fusco says. In the summer, a thinner lotion will do the job, but in the winter when skin becomes drier, use a thicker cream or ointment.

If over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t doing enough for your skin, your doctor can suggest a prescription-strength moisturizer. Products that contain lactic acid soften the top, hard layer of the skin, Fusco says. She recommends applying it at night so it can work while you sleep, and then buffing it off in the shower in the morning. The only downside: It can cause an allergic reaction in some people, leading to red, bumpy, itchy skin.

Another prescription option is a barrier cream. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers and contain humectants, which hold onto moisture better and longer.

For those with keratosis pilaris, moisturizing with creams that have urea or lactic acid helps the itch, but doesn’t necessarily smooth the skin. However, mild chemical peels or topical retinoids may soften the skin.

People who have eczema may find relief with a skin moisturizer and can also use cold compresses on itchy skin. Over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid creams may also be needed, but prolonged use can thin your skin, so carefully follow your doctor’s directions about using them. Your doctor may also prescribe oral corticosteroids, but they’re not intended for long-term use.

Other dry skin treatments include:

  • Taking short, warm (instead of hot) showers
  • Using a moisturizing body wash
  • Placing a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air

Fusco also advocates adding healthy oils into your diet through foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados.

With the right tender, loving care (and a good skin moisturizer), you can restore a healthy luster to dry skin.

Finding Skin Creams That Work

Walk through any drugstore or department store aisle, and you’ll see dozens of skin cream options that promise to erase wrinkles, eliminate dryness, and bring back that youthful glow. Some creams are highly specialized, while others focus on treating a specific issue.

Most skin creams with a rich texture will soothe dryness, but there are many that say they can reverse the signs of aging — and that’s where you need to be careful. Fortunately, some skin creams do what they promise and deliver that healthy, youthful glow everyone wants.

But with so many to choose from, how do you know that you’re picking the best cream for your needs? Before you start shopping, learn more about the ingredients that you should be looking for on the labels.

Common Skin Cream Ingredients

  • Retin-A and Renova. Some of the more popular beauty-counter skin creams include an ingredient called retinol, a form of Vitamin A. However, the only form of Vitamin A that has been proven to be effective as an anti-wrinkle agent is called tretinoin, and it’s only available as a prescription. It comes in two formulas: Retin-A and Renova.Scott Gerrish, MD, founder and CEO of Gerrish & Associates, PC, describes collagen as “the skin fibers that give your skin support and its plump, youthful look.” Retin-A and its sister formula Renova actually stimulate collagen growth, plus increase the thickness of your skin, skin-cell turnover, and the flow of blood to your skin.

    First used to treat acne more than 30 years ago, Retin-A was created by dermatologist Albert M. Kligman, MD, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Dr. Kligman’s older acne patients reported that their skin was not only clear, but more youthful after using it — an amazing side effect of the formula.

    Because Retin-A was aimed at people with oily skin and breakouts, it was drying to older complexions. Renova was developed in the 1990s to deliver the same anti-aging effects in a cream base without the side effect of dryness.

    A physician has to prescribe the right formula for your skin type and give you careful instructions for proper use. Either version can costs over $100 for a tube, but because only a pea-sized amount is used at a time, it lasts for months and, unlike some skin creams that cost hundreds more, it’s a skin care treatment that works. Dr. Gerrish adds this caution when using either Retin-A or Renova, “Make sure you use a sunscreen daily as it will make your skin more sensitive to the sun.”

  • Vitamin C. Skin creams treat and affect the epidermis, which is the thin, outer layer of the skin that protects the underlying dermis, where your body makes collagen. “Skin creams with a high level of vitamin C help your skin produce collagen and can make your skin look brighter,” says Gerrish. “But in order to penetrate the epidermis and affect the dermis, the vitamin C has to be formulated as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, or MAP.” Look for products with MAP on the label, such as Isomers Vitamin C Serum MAP + E.
  • Hydroxy acid formulas. Skin creams that contain one of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) offer exfoliation and moisturizing benefits. Says Gerrish, “The glycolic acid family, one of the AHAs, has been further studied and aside from its beneficial effects on the epidermis, with a high concentration of 25 percent, glycolic acids improve the quality of collagen and elastic fibers, improving the dermis and brightening your skin, too.” Over-the-counter concentrations are not quite that strong, but Glytone Rejuvenate Facial Cream 3 and Neostrata Face Cream Plus – AHA 15 are two to consider.
  • Peptides. The latest skin cream on the horizon packs peptides inside. “Collagen cannot penetrate the epidermis; however, peptides are small pieces of collagen that can penetrate it and reach the dermis, the layer where collagen is actually produced.” Peptide creams now available on the market contain Matrixyl or the Argireline molecule. “Another positive of Argireline is its relaxing effect on facial muscles, which reduces wrinkles,” states Gerrish. Faitox-25 contains both Matrixyl and Argireline, and Peptide 6 Wrinkle Cream has Argireline.

“All people can benefit from a good skin cream,” says Gerrish. To help you choose between over-the-counter options, he sums it up this way: “Those with dry skinbenefit from the moisture-preserving Vitamin C creams. If your skin is oily, look toward the retinol and glycolic acid creams, which have a beneficial exfoliating and acne-preventing effect. Young people can also benefit from the Vitamin C creams, which preserve moisture in the skin. And everyone should wear a good sunscreen daily.”

A number of skin creams have been proven to help keep your skin looking younger. While none can totally eliminate the aging process, the most effective ones can slow it down and help you look your best.

Tips for Acne Treatment

If you have acne, you’re among more than 70 million people in the United States who have suffered from this skin condition at some time in their lives. It is so common that acne affects about 80 percent of Americans 20 to 30 years old. During the teenage years, acne is more common in boys than in girls, but in adults it’s more common in women.

Despite the fact that it’s so commonplace, there are many misconceptions about acne, says Guy Webster, MD, PhD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and founder of the American Acne and Rosacea Society.

Getting to the Root of Acne

Whether you call it acne, pimples, or zits, in order to treat the condition, it’s important to understand the causes:

  • Clogged pores and bacteria: In your teens, the glands in the skin begin secreting sebum, an oily substance. This normally comes out through the pores, but in some people, sebum clogs up in the pores, allowing a bacterium, called P. acnes, to begin to grow.
  • Hormones: In your teen years, hormones start changing and affecting your body, including causing acne. This also happens during pregnancy, which explains why pregnant women or women having their periods often have acne breakouts. Hormones released during stressful times can also cause acne.
  • Genetics: You may be more likely to develop acne if your parents had acne when they were younger.

The Right Acne Treatment

There are many ways to take care of acne, depending on what causes it and how bad it is. Moderate and severe acne usually needs acne treatment recommended by a doctor, but mild acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and a few pimples can usually be treated at home.

Dr. Webster says one big misconception is that acne is caused by dirty skin. “The goal is not to scrub acne away,” he says. “If you scrub, you’re taking off skin, and there’s a reason for the skin being there.” Skin is a protective barrier.

Here are some tips that Webster shares with people who have acne:

  • Wash gently; don’t scrub.
  • Use a gentle soap to wash your face.
  • Wash with your hands, not a washcloth or “scrubby.”
  • Use a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide product.
  • Treat your whole face — don’t “spot treat.” This way, you’re treating pimples still under the skin but not yet visible.

And what should you stay away from?

  • Facial scrubs of any kind.
  • “Face puffs” or abrasive pads.
  • Expensive cosmetic regimens that people try to sell you.

Acne Treatment: Other Tips

Other tips to keep acne from getting worse:

  • If you’re a male, be careful shaving.
  • Don’t pick or scratch at pimples.
  • Avoid the sun. While many people feel that sun exposure makes their acne better, this is not always so. The rays can also cause other unwanted issues, such as premature aging and skin cancer.

When Should I See a Doctor for Acne Treatment?

According to Webster, if the pimples are leaving scars or if your treatment isn’t working, then it’s time to see a family doctor or dermatologist.

And while acne is a bummer, it doesn’t have to take over your life; take action and take control of your skin.

5 Ways to Protect Your Skin

You need to protect your skin because of the vital role it has protecting your body. Skin care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and can quickly become second nature, like brushing your teeth.

These five skin protection tips can keep your skin looking and feeling great, by guarding against a slew of skin woes, from chapped skin to prematurely aging to skin cancer.

1. Limit Sun Exposure

You’ve heard the message a zillion times, and there’s good reason for that unrelenting repetition. Ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun cause many types of skin damage:

  • Skin cancer
  • Wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Discolorations
  • Benign growths

Using skin care products that offer ultraviolet protection is one of the best ways to help keep your skin looking fresh and youthful:

  • Use sunscreen every day and reapply regularly whenever you’re outdoors for extended periods.
  • Cover skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Stay indoors when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Keep in mind that tanning beds are just as harmful as direct sunlight, as they also emit ultraviolet rays.

2. Stay Hydrated

Keeping your skin moist is essential to skin protection. Skin that is properly hydrated retains pliability and prevents chapped skin or scaly, flaky skin:

  • Drink lots of water. This is key to hydrating your skin.
  • Use the right moisturizing cream or lotion for your skin type and apply it right after drying off from your bath or shower. Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, as this ingredient removes natural oils needed by your skin.
  • Take warm (not hot) showers or baths, and limit them to between 5 and 10 minutes. It seems counterintuitive, but exposure to water actually dries out your skin. If dry skin persists, consider cutting back on the number of baths you take.

3. Take Health Precautions

Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin bordering the lips, while bacteria can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Practicing skin protection means paying close attention to what touches your skin, to lower your chances of exposure to germs:

  • Don’t share any personal items, such as lip balms or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t share drinks with other people.
  • Avoid touching your face with your fingers or with objects like telephone receivers that have been used by others.

4. Use Gentle Skin Care

Washing your face is important to remove dirt, oils, germs, and dead cells. However, scrubbing your face causes irritation that can lead to chapped skin that, in turn, can leave skin vulnerable. For best results, you should:

  • Wash your face twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  • Gently massage your face with a washcloth, using a circular motion.
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing to remove all soap and debris.
  • Pat your skin dry — don’t rub — then apply your facial moisturizer.

5. Know Your Skin

Pay attention to odd freckles, moles, and growths on your skin, and consult your doctor if you notice any changes. For example, a change in a mole can indicate potential skin cancer. Be sure to treat any cuts that may occur to prevent infection. Other skin conditions that merit a dermatologist visit include frequent acne, inflamed or irritated dry skin, and skin rashes and irritations that don’t go away, as these could be signs of one of the many types of dermatitis, or skin inflammation.

With proper skin care to pamper skin from the outside and with a good diet to nourish from within, skin protection comes down to a few simple steps. But should you ever notice any problems, get medical attention to resolve them quickly and avoid putting your skin at risk.

How to Treat Winter-Dry Skin

A scratchy wool sweater may make your skin itchy and sensitive during the cold months, but winter weather itself poses a special threat to your skin. There’s little humidity in the air and revving up the heat indoors makes it even worse. The result:Dry skin in need of moisture, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation.

When you have dry, sensitive skin, it itches, appears dull, and may be flaky. Darker skin tones may look ashy, Dr. Fusco says. Dry skin can become cracked and even split. In an extreme case, dry skin can look thickened and leathery, she says.

Before you decide to relocate to a warmer, more humid climate, take these steps to sea in the moisture and repair winter skin.

Your Moisturizer: Go From Thin to Thick

While you might only need a thin lotion on your body during summer months, Fusco suggests switching to a thicker skin moisturizer, such as an ointment or cream, in the winter. Apply it when your skin is still damp from a shower.

An ointment such as petroleum jelly is the thickest skin moisturizer you can buy and will work well for treating dry skin, Fusco says. Although it can be greasy, if you put it on when your skin is damp, the greasiness will go away. “But don’t put it on the bottom of your feet because you could slip and fall,” Fusco cautions.

Creams are also thicker than lotion and are great for winter skin. If your skin is very, very dry, you may want to try one that contains alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, to exfoliate dead skin, Fusco says.

Winter Complexion Protection

Be sure to use a separate moisturizer specifically designed for your face, Fusco says. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so always choose a moisturizer that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores or lead to pimples. If you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to look for a hypoallergenic moisturizer, adds Fusco.

Go with a lighter moisturizer such as a lotion if you have oily skin and a heavier formula if you have dry skin. If you have a combination of oily and dry skin on your face, use a lighter lotion overall and dab the areas of dry skin with the thicker cream, Fusco says.

The sun’s damaging rays can still reach your skin in the winter. Fusco recommends using a face moisturizer with an SPF, or sun protection factor. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a sunscreen all year round, with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

Switch Up Your Shower Strategy

It may be hard to resist a long soak in a hot bath when it’s cold outside, but it doesn’t do your skin any favors. “Sitting in hot baths has a drying effect on the skin,” Fusco says. A better idea: Take a short, warm shower.

Keep showers under 10 minutes and apply your skin moisturizer within three minutes of stepping out. Also, avoid soaps with deodorants, fragrance, or alcohol because they can strip your skin of its natural oils.

Other Ways to Add Moisture

Using a humidifier in your home will help put moisture back into the air and keep your skin from getting dry, Fusco says. No humidifier? Fill a bowl with water and put it near the source of your heat, suggests Fusco.

Getting good-for-you fats into your diet from unsaturated sources like oils and nuts will also help skin look healthy and stay supple during the winter, Fusco says. Drinking plenty of water helps to moisturize your skin from the inside out.

Winter doesn’t have to mean itchy, flaky dry skin. Choosing the right skin moisturizer and taking some simple steps can help you look your best all season long.

Hair Care Can Pose Health Risks

Certain hairstyling practices can result in serious hair and scalp diseases for some black women, an expert warns.

“Hair is an extremely important aspect of an African American woman’s appearance,” Dr. Diane Jackson-Richards, director of Henry Ford Hospital’s Multicultural Dermatology Clinic in Detroit, said in a hospital news release. “Yet many women who have a hair or scalp disease do not feel their physician takes them seriously. Physicians should become more familiar with the culturally accepted treatments for these diseases.”

Black women tend to shampoo their hair less often than other ethnic groups, and about 80 percent of black women use chemical relaxers, Jackson-Richards said.

She also said frequent use of blow-dryers and hot combs, combined with popular hairstyles such as weaves, braids and dreadlocks, cause physical stress to the hair and contribute to scalp diseases such as alopecia, or hair loss.

Proper hair care can help prevent diseases such as alopecia and an inflammatory skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, Jackson-Richards said Monday during a presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual conference in San Diego.

She said dermatologists need to become more aware of the hair and scalp issues that can affect black women, and also offered the following grooming tips to reduce the risk of developing a hair or scalp disease:

  • Wash hair weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, and limit the use of blow-dryers, hot combs and other heated hairstyling products to once a week.
  • To detangle hair, use a wide-tooth comb while conditioner is still in the hair.
  • Use natural hair oils with jojoba, olive, shea or coconut oils.
  • Allow two weeks between relaxing and coloring.
  • Wash braids or dreadlocks every two weeks. Don’t wear braids too tight and don’t wear them longer than three months.