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Skin Care Tips - Summer & Winter Skin Care

October 20th, 2011 Healthy Living

Are You SPF Savvy?

Sure, you know that you should use a sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 when you go to the beach or pool, right? But that’s not all. The sun shines year-round, and you need to protect your skin year-round, too. Act on these sun protection tips to keep your skin healthy while you enjoy any outdoor activity at any time of year.

  • Choose the right sunblock for your activity. There are shelves of sunscreens and sunblocks available and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. In fact, you shouldn’t. Use a sweatproof sunblock with a high SPF (30 or more) if you will be exercising outdoors in the sun for a long time, and choose a non-greasy, moisturizing sunblock for a relaxing afternoon barbecue or a day of running errands that takes you outside often.
  • Choose a sun product that blocks both types of ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB). Both types can damage your skin.
  • Are you a gardener? Be sure to wear a hat with a very wide brim (at least 4 inches). Gardeners are always bending forward, so your neck and ears are vulnerable to sun damage.
  • Don’t forget to put sunblock in the odd places: On and behind your ears, your lips (use a chapstick with SPF), around your eyes (especially if you aren’t wearing sunglasses or a hat), and around your neck and scalp (especially if you aren’t wearing a hat and you have thinning hair). And don’t forget your hands and feet. If you neglect your feet the tan (or burn) lines from your sandals may remind you to protect all exposed areas of skin.

Be sure to reapply sunblock or sunscreen every 2 hours, especially if you have been swimming, sweating, or drying yourself with a towel.

Control Dry Skin

Nearly everyone experiences dry skin now and then. Fortunately, most cases of dry skin aren’t serious. For example, you may notice that the skin on your hands, arms, and legs gets dry in the winter, or after you go swimming. Most people can manage these cases of dry skin easily with one of the many moisturizers available. It may take some trial and error to find the one that you like best. And remember, the moisturizer that you use on your face is not usually what you want to use on your dry elbows and knees.

For a daily facial moisturizer, choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. If you are prone to breakouts, make sure the product is oil-free and non-comedogenic. For an all-over body moisturizer, the choices are numerous, but if you have sensitive skin, avoid products that contain heavy fragrances or oils that might irritate you.

Also, you can stop dry skin before it starts by keeping these skin-drying factors in mind:

  • Dry air. Cold temperatures can dry out your skin, but humidity is more of a factor than temperature. If you live in Arizona, you may suffer as much or more from dry skin as if you live in Minnesota.
  • Long, hot showers. Yes, they feel great, but long and/or hot showers can promote dry skin. Showering or bathing several times a day causes dry skin, too, by breaking down your skin’s natural moisture barrier. Hit the pool often? Chlorine has the same effect.
  • Strong soaps. Some types of antibacterial or deodorant soaps and shampoos can overdry your skin. If you think your soap or shampoo is too drying, try a different product that claims to be gentle or contains moisturizing ingredients.
  • Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions can contribute to dry skin. Be sure to see your doctor if you have large areas of dry or peeling skin, if you have sores from excessive scratching, or if your dry skin persists and doesn’t improve despite your attempts to take care of it.

Corn and Callus Care: What You Can Do

Corns and calluses are thickened layers that your skin builds up in order to protect itself from friction and pressure. What causes the friction and pressure? For example, cramming your feet into tight shoes, or neglecting to wear work gloves when gripping tools for an extended period of time can lead to calluses or corns. Although these thickened areas don’t look pretty, they are usually harmless. In most cases, reducing or eliminating the source of friction (by adjusting your shoes or wearing gloves, for example) will solve the problem and the corns and calluses will go away on their own.

But if the corns and calluses are stubborn, try these at-home treatments:

  • Soak. Soak your hands or feet in warm, soapy water to help soften the area.
  • Rub. Use a pumice stone or washcloth to remove the toughened skin. Don’t shave or cut corns or calluses; you could open the door for a skin infection.
  • Moisturize. Apply a moisturizer to the area to help keep the skin soft.
  • Try padding. You can buy corn and callus pads that are designed for the toes or other high-friction areas where corns and calluses develop. But beware of medicated pads; they may be irritating if you have sensitive skin.

To avoid ongoing irritation of a corn or callus on your feet, avoid tight shoes until the condition resolves, and when you buy new shoes, be sure that they aren’t too tight. If you can’t wiggle your toes, you need a bigger size.

If you have diabetes and you have a corn or callus, see your doctor. Even a minor foot problem can develop into a foot ulcer if left untreated.

FYI: Acne

Oily skin and the acne that can result from it can occur at any age. In fact, some people, both men and women, experience more acne in adulthood than they did during their teen years. Contrary to the many myths about acne, it is caused by three things:

  • Excess production of oil by the sebaceous glands that are connected to hair follicles in your skin.
  • Incomplete shedding of dead skin cells, which can block the follicle and cause a backup when the oils can’t get to the surface as they naturally would.
  • Buildup of bacteria that occurs if the blocked hair follicles become inflamed.

Some common acne myths:

  • Sweat causes acne. False. The sweat glands are separate from the sebaceous glands. While sweat can promote the buildup of bacteria on the skin, sweat glands themselves aren’t usually contributing to acne.
  • Chocolate or greasy food causes acne. False. Studies have shown that what you eat has little or no effect on acne. But eating a healthy diet is important to promote healthy skin.
  • Dirt causes acne. False. Dirt doesn’t cause acne, and excessive face-washing may irritate your skin and make it worse. Stick to a regimen of oil-free products.

If your acne is especially bothersome, see a dermatologist who may suggest some prescription skin care products. But you can often do just as well with some trial and error of the many products available for acne and oily skin.

FYI: Wrinkles

The first thing to know about wrinkles is that you can’t really prevent them. Some lines and creases appear as are a normal part of aging process because your skin becomes thinner and drier.

If your wrinkles bother you, see a dermatologist for advice, but remember that treatments such as Botox, chemical peels, and face lifts may provide a temporary fix, but they won’t stop the aging process. That said, you can take some steps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cut down on the formation of more wrinkles.

  • Be sun smart. You can postpone and reduce the appearance of wrinkles by wearing sunblock when you go outside at any time of year, and by wearing a hat and other protective clothing and by wearing sunblock when you are outdoors.
  • Choose skin care products with SPF. Thanks to increased awareness about the need to protect skin from excessive sun exposure, many skin care products contain a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. For daily wear (even to the office) opt for one of the many daily moisturizers with SPF. Moisturizers will delay the development of wrinkles and reduce their appearance by helping your skin maintain its natural moisture.
  • Quit smoking, and don’t start. Even if you have smoked for years, it’s not too late to help your skin by quitting. Among the many reasons to quit smoking: You can improve your skin tone and texture and help postpone the formation of additional wrinkles.

Moisturize: A Tip For All Ages

You’re never too young or too old to take good care of your skin, and three top skin care tips to remember are: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

The right moisturizer for you depends on many factors including your age, sex, the climate where you live, and your skin type. Remember that moisturizers are considered cosmetics by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, they are not regulated, and there is no guarantee that they will live up to any of their claims (such as “prevents wrinkles, promotes younger-looking skin”).

The basic role of a moisturizer is to hold water on the surface of your skin to prevent it from drying out and to encourage the cells on the surface of your skin to repair themselves.

Most moisturizers contain one or both of two products: Humectants and emollients. Humectants absorb moisture from the air into the skin, while emollients work to smooth rough skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells. In addition, most moisturizers contain fragrances to make them smell good and preservatives to keep bacteria from contaminating the product once you open it. Beyond that, you can find moisturizers that contain everything from vitamins, plant extracts and sunscreens to tints that will make you look tan.

Some tips on choosing a moisturizer for:

  • Dry skin. Choose an oil-based moisturizer; it lasts longer than water-based products.
  • Sensitive skin. Look for allergy-free or fragrance-free products.
  • Oily skin. Seek out products that are water-based, oil-free, and noncomedogenic.
  • Mature skin. Because your skin tends to get drier with age, look for an oil-based product that also has alpha hydroxy acids, which may prevent dry, flaky skin.

Poison Ivy Primer

Most people will have some reaction to the irritating oil in poison ivy, but if you are especially sensitive, you probably know it from having had an uncomfortable, itchy experience.

The signs of poison ivy include redness, blisters, swelling, and itching, and they usually appear one or two days after you have either touched an actual plant or touched a pet or clothing item that has poison ivy’s oily resin on it. Although you have to have direct contact with poison ivy’s oily resin (called urushiol) to develop the rash, you don’t have to have direct contact with the plant. For example, you can walk through some poison ivy and then touch your shoes, or touch a pet that has the resin on its fur. If you get the urushiol on your hands, you can transfer it to your face or other parts of the body that you touch.

Fortunately, poison ivy is rarely serious and the rashes usually go away within a few weeks. You can buy over the counter products to relieve the itching and irritation, or try calamine lotion, cool compresses for 15 minutes several times a day, or a cool bath in an oatmeal soak product. In the meantime, try (try hard) to avoid scratching. If your rash is severe, see your doctor, who may prescribe a prescription cream.

You are most likely to spread poison ivy to someone else right after you have been exposed, so don’t scratch and then touch someone else or share a towel or clothing.

Seasonal Skincare Tips: Change Your Tactics With The Calendar

You may think that you have found the perfect skin care regimen. But suddenly the temperatures heat up and that great moisturizer that gave you a glow in January is making your face break out in June. Cold, harsh winter weather dries out your skin, so you may be happy using a heavier moisturizer during the winter months. But if you use that same product when the heat and humidity rise, you may have too much moisture on your skin, which can lead to breakouts.

Keep these two tips in mind to transition from winter to summer skincare:

  • Exfoliate. Use a washcloth or skin puff to apply an exfoliating cream or cleanser to damp skin and massage gently. If you have sensitive skin, check the labels on exfoliating products and choose those that claim to be designed for sensitive skin. Also, if your skin is sensitive you may not need to exfoliate as frequently. If your skin is flaky and irritated, look for a different exfoliating product. It may take some trial and error to find one that works best for you. Try a skin toner for the warmer months, too. You may find that during the winter a toner is too drying, but in the spring and summer it can be helpful to control excess oil.
  • Moisturize. You may need less moisturizer in the summer, but you need something to protect your skin (face and body) from sun damage. For summer daytime, choose a product that contains sunscreen. Want a summer glow without subjecting your skin to the sun’s harmful rays? Choose a day moisturizer that’s tinted. You can find tinted sunless tanning product for your face and body.

Shaving 101

Shaving is the most cost-effective way to remove excess or unwanted hair. But how’s your shaving technique?

Many more men are recognizing the importance of proper skin care to reduce the appearance of aging and prevent skin cancer. But for most of them, their skin care regimen starts and ends with a daily shave. To turn shaving into a total skin care opportunity, divide the process into four parts:

  • Prepare. If you can, shower before shaving so the steam can soften the hair, or press a warm washcloth against your skin before shaving.
  • Lather. Apply shaving cream with a shaving brush if possible. The brush will help the shaving cream to lift the hair away from the face for easier shaving.
  • Shave. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to use a shaving cream or lotion when shaving, and use a razor that is clean and sharp. Shaving dry skin can cause razor burn and irritation. Shave in the direction that the hair grows, not against it. Note: if you opt for an electric razor, avoid the closest setting to reduce skin irritation.
  • Moisturize. After shaving, apply a moisturizer (ideally, choose a moisturizer that has an SPF of at least 15).

These same principles apply to women who want to shave their legs, armpits, or any other area.

Tough on Nails? Keep Nails Healthy

Drug stores abound with nail care products, but products alone won’t make your nails healthy. In fact, overuse of certain products (such as nail polish remover) can dry out your nails. Healthy nails help protect your fingers. Also, nails that are discolored or weak can be an early indicator of larger medical problems. For example, chronic bronchitis may cause discoloration in the fingernails. If you have any nail discoloration or problem that persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, see your doctor.

To keep your nails strong, healthy, and looking their best, keep these points in mind:

  • Trim them neatly. Use sharp nail scissors or nail clippers to trim your nails periodically, and smooth the edges with an emery board.
  • Don’t pull hangnails. Doing so could pull healthy tissue and cause an inflammation or even infection.
  • Moisturize. When you moisturize your hands, don’t neglect your nails. Rub moisturizer onto them, too.
  • Don’t bite your nails. Don’t pick at your cuticles, either. Even small cuts along your cuticles can be entryways for bacteria or nail fungus.
  • Be gentle. Don’t use your fingernails as tools to pry open cans or pick apart gadgets. Use the right tool for the job.
  • Take care with manicures. Be sure that your manicurist sterilizes all tools. Don’t have your cuticles removed (this can lead to infection). If you wear nail polish from a manicurist or that you apply yourself at home, don’t use nail polish remover more than twice a month. Look for polish removers that are non-acetone (acetone can dry out your nails).
  • Wash. Clean underneath your nails and use a nail brush, especially before handling food.