Your busy lifestyle leaves little time for pampering skin care. The result: Your skin isn’t the baby-soft body glove you were born with. As you age, your skin gradually becomes thinner and finely wrinkled. Oil-producing (sebaceous) glands grow less active, leaving your skin drier. The number of blood vessels in your skin decreases, your skin becomes more fragile, and you lose your youthful color and glow.
Good skin care – such as avoiding the sun, washing your skin gently and applying moisturizer regularly – can help delay the natural aging process and prevent many skin problems. These simple skin-care habits will help you protect your skin to keep it healthy and glowing for years to come.
1. Protect yourself from the sun.
The most important way to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. Ultraviolet light – the invisible but intense rays from the sun – damages your skin, causing deep wrinkles, dry, rough skin, liver spots, and more serious disorders, such as noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) skin tumors.
2. Don’t smoke.
Smoking accelerates aging of your skin and increases wrinkles. Skin changes from smoking can appear in young adults after 10 years of smoking.
Smoking causes narrowing of the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin. This decreases blood flow, depleting the skin of oxygen and nutrients, such as vitamin A, that are important to skin health. All of these factors increase damage to the elastic fibers (elastin) and collagen, which give your skin strength and elasticity.
In addition, the repetitive facial expressions you make when smoking – such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke – may contribute to wrinkles. It’s also possible that repeated exposure to the heat from burning cigarettes may damage your facial skin over time.
3. Wash your skin gently
Cleansing is an essential part of caring for your skin. The key is to treat your skin gently.
- Use warm water and limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time to about 15 minutes or less, and use warm, rather than hot, water.
- Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps – those most capable of stripping oil from your skin – can leave your skin dry. Instead, choose mild soaps or detergent substitutes with added oils and fats. Good choices include Dove, Vanicream, Cetaphil and Purpose.
- Avoid irritating additives. If your skin is sensitive, avoid products containing perfumes or dyes. These can irritate your skin and may trigger an allergic response.
- Remove eye makeup carefully. Use a soft sponge, cotton cloth or cotton balls when removing eye makeup to avoid damaging the delicate tissue around your eyes. If you wear heavy, waterproof makeup, you may need to use an oil-based product, such as Eucerin, Aquaphor or petroleum jelly, to remove makeup.
- Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on the skin. Immediately moisturize your skin with an oil or cream.
4. Moisturize regularly
Moisturizers help maintain your skin’s natural moisture levels. They work by providing a seal over your skin – to keep water from escaping – or by slowly releasing water into your skin.
- The moisturizer that’s best for you and the frequency with which you need to moisturize depend on many factors, including your skin type, your age and whether you have specific conditions such as acne. A good way to test if you need a moisturizer is to wait 20 minutes after bathing. If your skin feels tight, you should
5. Shave carefully
Shaving is a common and inexpensive way to remove unwanted hair. But shaving can cause skin irritations, especially if your skin is thin, dry or very sensitive. For a smooth shave:
- Press a warm wash cloth on your skin before shaving to soften the hair. Or shave after a warm bath or shower.
- Don’t shave dry skin, which can cause razor burn. Apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving to protect and lubricate your skin.
- Use a clean, sharp razor. If using an electric razor, don’t use the closest setting, which can aggravate the skin.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth, not against it.
- Rinse your skin afterward with warm water.
If irritation does occur, apply a lotion that doesn’t contain ethyl or isopropyl alcohol. Though alcohol and alcohol-based products may feel cooling, they don’t really soothe irritated skin because the alcohol evaporates rapidly from the skin.
The old adage “you are what you eat” not only applies to our overall health and nutrition, but how our skin looks and feels as well. As the largest organ in the body, our skin can benefit from the same nutrition we get from foods that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs. In fact, new research suggests that eating foods rich in protein and certain vitamins and minerals might provide valuable anti-aging effects.