That's right. You don't see the word acne in the title of this chapter. And although the subject comes up here, it's not my primary focus. As a dermatologist, healthy skin is my thing. So, I wanted to provide you with some tips and tricks to keep your skin healthy throughout your life. Just think -- you're going to get your acne under control one day, but you'll have the skin you're in for the rest of your life. So, treat it right. In this chapter, I show you how.
1) Steering Clear of Excessive Sun Exposure
The sun is an immense nuclear reactor. As well as producing heat and light, it also sends out other types of radiation that can sometimes damage your skin. The Earth's atmosphere filters out much of the more dangerous solar radiation, but some of it gets through -- mainly in the ultraviolet (UV) band. The UV radiation in sunlight can cause painful sunburns and certain types of skin cancer, and can also age your skin.
If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer or you have very fair skin that never tans but always burns, do whatever possible to minimize sun exposure. If you have skin of color or are naturally very dark complexioned, you can probably ignore the following advice unless you develop allergic reactions from the sun, take medications that may make you extra sensitive to the sun, or have a medical condition that sunlight worsens.
The best way to prevent skin damage from the sun besides moving to the Antarctic -- oops, never mind, I forgot about the hole in the ozone layer there -- is to avoid excessive exposure to UV and the sun. You can accomplish this by following these tips:
- Shun the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m, especially during late spring and summer when the sun is most intense.
- Wear protective headgear such as a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, head, and the back of your neck. You can also wear a baseball cap, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants.
- Be aware of reflected light from sand, water, or snow.
- Avoid tanning parlors.
- Slather on the sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater -- at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, even on cloudy, hazy days.
- Reapply sunscreens liberally and frequently at least every two to three hours, and after swimming or sweating.
- Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVB (the burning rays) and UVA (the more penetrating rays that promote wrinkling and aging).
TIP: If you're a person of color and have the dark spots of PIP, they're often further darkened by sun exposure. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will offer you the best protection. (I cover PIP in Chapter 12.)
2) Opting for Sunless Tanning
Sunless tanners, sometimes referred to as self-tanners or tanning extenders, are promoted as a way to get a tan without the sun. You can try:
Self-tanners: These artificial tanning preparations contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA interacts with dead surface cells in the outermost (horny) layer of your epidermis and produces a color change. As the dead skin cells naturally slough off, the color gradually fades back to your normal skin color, typically within five to seven days after a single application. DHA-containing products are available as lotions, creams, sprays, and gels and aren't considered to be harmful. Airbrush tanning using DHA is now offered in salons.
Bronzers: The term "bronzer" refers to a variety of products used to achieve a temporary tanned appearance. These products contain a transparent color additive that also stains the outermost layer of your skin. You can choose a bronzing gel or cream that enhances your own skin color. The chemicals in bronzers may react differently on various areas of your body, producing a tan of many shades. It can be washed off with soap and water at the end of each day. Bronzers are also considered to be harmless.
WARNING: Although self-tanners and bronzers give the skin a golden brown color, these products don't offer protection from the damaging effects of UV radiation unless they also contain sunscreen ingredients.
Clinique, Estee Lauder, Clarins, and Bain de Soleil all offer sunless tanning products. Neutrogena has foams that are easy to apply to areas with body hair.
Other means of producing a tan without the sun, including tanning pills (which contain color additives) and tanning "accelerators" (which contain other chemicals), should be avoided. According to the FDA, there is a lack of scientific data showing that they work; in fact, at least one study has found them ineffective.
3) Dimming the Shine of Oily Skin
If you have oily skin -- you're lucky! Oily skin has great advantages. Your skin will probably be less likely to wrinkle, age, and sag. On the other hand, it may feel greasy and develop shiny patches even a short time after you wash it. The highest concentration of sebaceous glands is in the T-zone, and the excess sebum from this area plus the sweat glands on the skin can make your skin look even greasier and shinier. (Take a look at Chapter 4 to see the T-zone.)
But you can temporarily squelch the shine with many products now available such as blotting papers, oil-absorbing powders, and foundations. Even the application of medicated prescription products such as retinoids and benzoyl peroxide are temporary cosmetic maneuvers that remove the surface oil. The deeper oils (sebum) are bound to keep flowing despite what you do to the surface.
TIP: You can try tackling T-zone oiliness with Clinac O.C. (Oil Control) Gel, which can be purchased without a prescription. It mops up excess sebum without drying the skin. In addition, if you're looking for a matte finish, you can try a "mattifier," a shine-stopping product that helps absorb oil on your face and, ideally, prevents oil from breaking through. The following are a few suggestions:
Neutrogena Pore Refining Mattifier Shine Control Gel
Lancome Pure Focus T-Zone Mattifier
Loreal Hydra Mattify
4) Humidifying Dry Skin
If your skin is excessively dry, it may be due to a diminished production of sebum, reduced sweat activity, and environmental factors.
Xerosis, or dry skin, can affect anyone, but it tends to be more severe in certain folks, especially those with a hereditary predisposition. Modern lifestyles are also a contributing factor. In Western societies, we tend to over-bathe; use of harsh soaps and hot water also contribute. Xerosis is a common occurrence in winter climates, particularly in conditions of cold air, low relative humidity, and indoor heating.
Use moisturizers to help with dry skin. Moisturizers don't add water to the skin, but they help to retain or "lock in" water that was absorbed during your shower or bath. Therefore, apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp. The choice of product is based on personal preference, ease of application, cost, and effectiveness.
TIP: You can find numerous over-the-counter preparations in ointment bases, cream bases, and lotions. Eucerin, Nivea, Aquaphor, Oil of Olay, Moisturel, and Curel are just a few of the popular name brands. Am-Lactin (ammonium lactate 12 percent) lotion or cream is applied after bathing. It is very effective and is used for more severe cases of xerosis and may be purchased over the counter. If your skin is really scaly and dry, you can also get special, heavy-duty moisturizers that are available by prescription only.
5) Soothing Sensitive Skin
Acne medications, many of which are irritating in the first place, can wreak havoc with sensitive skin. Applying bland moisturizers such as Oil of Olay and Cetaphil Lotion over acne medications and using soap-free, gentle cleansers designed for sensitive skin is particularly important for people who have an underlying skin condition such as eczema (atopic dermatitis).
TIP: Women who have sensitive skin or eczema should discard cosmetics that have been on the shelf for a long period. That's because they can become contaminated if some of their preservatives break down or oxidize over time.
By Dr. Herbert P. Goodheart on Intent.com
Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D., of New York, NY, author of Acne For Dummies, is a practicing dermatologist who also teaches at the Mount Sinai College of Medicine. He is the author of a highly regarded dermatology textbook titled Goodheart's Photoguide to Common Skin Disorders: Diagnosis and Management, which is in its third edition. For more information please visit: http://herbertgoodheart.com