Your busy lifestyle leaves little time for pampering skin care. The result: Your skin isn't the baby-soft body glove with which you were born. With 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.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
The best way to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. Ultraviolet light — the invisible but intense rays of 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.
For the most complete sun protection, use all three of these methods:
- Avoid the sun during high-intensity hours
- The sun's rays are most damaging from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reduce the time you spend outdoors during these hours.
- Wear protective clothing
Cover your skin with clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. Also, keep in mind that certain clothing styles and fabrics offer better protection from the sun than do others. For example, long-sleeved shirts offer better protection than short-sleeved shirts do. And tightly woven fabrics such as denim are better than loosely woven fabrics such as knits.
- Use sunscreen
Apply sunscreen liberally 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, after heavy sweating or after being in water.
Smoking can accelerate the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles. Skin changes from smoking can be seen in young adults who have been smoking for as few as 10 years.
Smoking causes narrowing of the 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.
Wash your skin gently
Cleaning 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 with oils and fats added to them during the soap manufacturing process.
- 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 petroleum jelly.
- 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.
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 depends 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 apply a moisturizer.
Select a moisturizer with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to help protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet rays. If you have sensitive skin, look for products free of heavy dyes, perfumes or other additives. If your skin is very dry, you may want to apply an oil, such as baby oil, while your skin is still moist. Oil has more staying power than moisturizers do and prevents the evaporation of water from the surface of your skin. If your skin is oily, you may want to skip moisturizing.
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 irritate the skin.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth, not against it.
- Rinse your skin afterwards 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.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The association between diet and acne isn't clear — but some research suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C and low in unhealthy fats and processed or refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin.
Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — take steps to manage your stress. Set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.