Age spots, leathery texture, sags and wrinkles—they’re telltale signs of neglecting the skin, the human body’s largest organ. Skin is a complex cover of protective cells that, despite its amazing strength and endurance, should never be taken for granted.
While sunlight is the single biggest cause of serious skin disorders, it isn’t the skin’s only enemy. Aging itself makes skin thinner, drier and less elastic. Exposure to the elements creases the skin of outdoor workers. Smoking constricts the blood vessels that carry moisture and nourishment to skin surfaces.
The good news? By treating your skin with care and changing the lifestyle habits that put your skin at risk, you can halt and sometimes even reverse skin damage:
Different soaps for different folks. Different types of skin, such as normal, oily, dry and even combination, need various soaps and skin cleansers. Ask your dermatologist’s advice if you aren’t sure what’s right for you.
Get under your skin. Gently wash your face with warm, not hot, water no more than twice daily. Then apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to seal in moisture.
Be shady. The delicate skin around your eyes suffers from too much sun. Wear quality sunglasses with dark UV-protected lenses anytime you’re outdoors.
Have a drink. Drinking lots of water and caffeine-free beverages daily keeps skin hydrated and healthy looking. Regular exercise improves circulation and delivers oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, keeping them toned.
Cool off. Steaming hot showers strip away the skin’s moisture. Turn the water to a cooler setting, especially if your skin type is dry. And take bubble baths sparingly—they contain chemical foaming agents that can cause redness and rashes.
Make the A-list. Though all sunscreens help block UVB rays, some don’t block dangerous UVA rays. Buy products with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or avobenzone to protect against both.
Find out. If you’ve got creases, ask your doctor about prescription creams used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Eat your ABCs. Antioxidants from a diet high in fruits and vegetables (recommended to fight heart disease, hypertension and cancer) might lessen photoaging and sagging of the skin. What’s more, studies suggest vitamin A inhibits the growth of precancerous squamous-cell lesions (cells on the skin surface) and that a low-fat diet may reduce the risk of melanoma.
Finally, if you’re considering surgery or a medical procedure like skin resurfacing to revitalize your skin, make sure your surgeon is a board-certified specialist with plenty of experience in the therapy you want. And discuss the procedure thoroughly with your doctor first. Though generally safe, each procedure has risks, too.
What’s more, very few insurers pay for cosmetic treatments, and some treatments must be repeated every few months to maintain the desired results.