9 Ways to Improve Your Skin Health
Your skin reflects the overall health of your body. As the body’s largest single organ, it requires plenty of care to look its best.
When you think of the human body’s organs, it’s a fairly safe bet that your mind first goes to the internal organs of your circulatory, digestive, reproductive, and respiratory systems. In so doing, you overlook your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ — your skin.
In addition to being the largest organ of the body, your skin is the primary organ of your body’s integumentary system, which also encompasses head and body hair, fingernails, and toenails.
According to an article at NationalGeographic.com, the skin of an average-size adult weighs roughly eight pounds and covers 21 square feet. In addition to providing a protective cover for our bodies, skin is a complex system that includes glands, nerves, and multiple layers of tissue.
Skin Reflects Overall Health
Dermatologist Valerie Goldburt, M.D., points out that ¨your skin is a reflection of your general health.¨ You can expect your skin tone, color, and condition to show it if you’re sick, tired, or overly stressed. To properly care for your skin and improve overall skin health, you need to know a little bit more about it.
Your skin has three layers: epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. The epidermis is the thin outermost layer that is readily visible. The dermis is a thicker middle layer that consists primarily of connective tissue and contains blood vessels, hair follicles or roots, nerve endings, and sweat glands. Skin’s third and innermost layer is known as the hypodermis, and it is the thickest of all three layers. The hypodermis is made up in large part of cells known as adipocytes, which specialize in accumulating and storing fat.
Start Skin Care Early
When it comes to the health of your skin, don’t wait until you’re in your 40s to start paying close attention to it. From the moment of birth, your skin and the rest of your body as well begins the aging process. Anti-aging skin expert Aaron Tabor, M.D., notes that ¨a 20-year-old loses collagen in her face at the same rate as a 40-year-old. By using full-strength products right away, you can help delay collagen loss and other signs of aging.¨
Now that you know a little bit more about your skin, here are some suggestions for its care that hopefully, if followed, will keep it looking as healthy as possible.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet: Because your skin reflects your overall health, you cannot keep it looking its best if you’re not eating well. This means steering clear of the empty calories and high-fat content that characterizes most fast-food fare. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fish, particularly fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Such fish include albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel, salmon, and sardines. In selecting fruits and vegetables, opt for those rich in vitamins A, C, and E, all of which are antioxidants.
2. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, is essential for good overall health, and it is particularly important to keep your skin looking good. Atlanta dermatologist Kenneth Ellner, M.D., tells WebMD.com that ¨dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration.”
3. Avoid Stress: While it may be easier said than done, avoidance of unnecessary stress is not only good for your overall health, but it can do wonders for your skin as well. Pennsylvania dermatologist Richard G. Fried, M.D., says that ¨stress can manifest itself on one’s appearance in many ways but primarily by making the skin more sensitive and more reactive.¨ Fried goes on to explain that stress can worsen skin conditions such as psoriasis and rosacea and trigger attacks of fever blisters and seborrheic dermatitis.
4. Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity has multiple benefits for your skin, according to cardiologist Mehmet Oz, M.D. Aerobic exercise increases your circulation, which boosts the speed with which blood carries oxygen and vital nutrients to your skin, while perspiration helps to unclog pores and may make outbreaks of acne less likely. On top of that, exercise helps to reduce your feelings of stress, which as previously explained can be harmful to your skin’s health.
5. Quit Smoking or Don’t Start: Lowell Dale, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic Tobacco Quitline and an associate professor of medicine at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, points out that smoking accelerates the normal aging process of your skin and leads to wrinkles. Such skin changes may occur after only 10 years of smoking, according to Dale. Wondering how smoking leads to wrinkles? Dale explains that the nicotine in cigarettes causes a constriction of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin, impairing blood flow. Impaired blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen and vital nutrients that actually reach skin cells.
6. Cleanse Your Skin Regularly: It’s impossible to overstate the importance of keeping your face clean, but you must be careful to avoid harsh soaps or cleansers that can leave your face looking dry and irritated. Using a gentle cleanser to remove the excess oil and impurities from the surface of your skin helps to prepare it to take the fullest advantage possible of other skin care products you apply after cleansing. Ideally, you should cleanse your skin twice daily, once in the morning and then again before retiring.
7. Tone Your Skin: Cleansing and toning your skin go hand in hand, and, in fact, toning is considered an integral part of cleansing your skin by some skin care experts. A good toner often extends the cleansing process by removing any oil, dirt, or debris that was missed by the cleanser. Most importantly, of course, toning restores your skin to its natural pH balance, which is essential to good skin health.
8. Moisturize: Regardless of your skin type, it’s important to moisturize regularly, according to dermatologist Hilary Baldwin, M.D., who notes that there are moisturizers available for all skin types. If your skin is dry, Baldwin suggests opting for a moisturizing cream or ointment instead of a lotion, which may be too light to get the job done. Specifically, she suggests looking for moisturizers that contain ingredients such as lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly. If your skin tends to be oily, Baldwin recommends using a light, oil-free moisturizer.
9. Protect Your Skin from Sun Exposure: Protecting your skin from sun damage is one of the most important steps to good skin health. While a stunning tan may briefly make you the envy of all your friends, the damage that sun exposure does to your skin ages it prematurely and can lead to skin cancer. It’s also important to guard against sun damage even when you’re going about your regular daily routine and not lying out on a beach somewhere. Most moisturizers and other skin care products have sun protection built in, so try to use only those products with an SPF of 30 or higher.
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Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.