Let me ask you this: How often do you think about the health of your skin? When you do, how often do you consider the skin that’s NOT on your face? After all, the skin is the largest organ in the human body, safeguarding everything underneath. Want to learn a little more about this protective organ and how to take better care of it? Read on.
Skin has many functions, including shielding our bodies from germs and the harsh elements outside. It also helps control the temperature inside the body and enables us to feel touch. It is composed of three main layers, the epidermis, or outermost layer; the dermis, the middle layer; and the hypodermis, the deeper tissues.
Because it is exposed, skin is susceptible to a variety of health problems, including the serious and potentially fatal cancer, melanoma. There are also a number of other disorders of the skin that are less serious (although often annoying and unsightly) such as acne. This scourge not only affects the face, but also the neck, back, shoulders and chest.
Eczema, which causes itchy, dry and red skin due to inflammation; seborrheic dermatitis, which leads to oily, waxy patches on the scalp (as well as other forms of dermatitis); and non-lethal types of cancer are other common skin disorders. There’s also psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that can cause rashes. In many cases, these rashes turn into thick, scaly plaques on the surface of the skin.
Some of these disorders, like many skin cancers, can be avoided by taking the appropriate preventive steps. Others, like acne and eczema, you can’t escape but you can control with the right skin care products and proper skin care routines. That leads us into the second half of our story: caring for your skin.
Keeping your skin hale and hearty is the focus of Healthy Skin Month, which is celebrated in November. Just look on the Internet and you’ll find numerous articles with tips on being good to your skin. There are a few suggestions many have in common, like “drink plenty of water” and “avoid taking hot, hot showers and baths.”
To make for a quicker read, I’ve put together a list of common tips for maintaining healthy skin, including some tips for winter skin care. More tips can be found in these articles. But to sum them up, here are a few highlights:
- Don’t skimp on sleep. The cells of your skin use the nighttime hours to refresh and repair themselves. If you don’t sleep, your cells don’t get a chance to do their thing. Then your skin starts to show the wear-and-tear of constant exposure to the elements such as the sun and air pollution.
- Get sweaty. Doing some form of aerobic exercise in the morning increases blood flow to your skin, which keeps it supplied with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy and glowing.
- Resist over-exfoliating. Exfoliating too often can lead to microscopic tears in the skin that can result in inflammation, redness, dryness and peeling. Many common exfoliating scrubs recommend you use them no more than twice a week.
- Use softer soaps. Harsh bath soaps and laundry detergents can irritate the skin. Try softer soaps like fragrance-free or sensitive skin brands. The same holds true for deodorants. Try a sensitive skin or natural deodorant instead of scented versions.
- Remember to humidify. Use a humidifier, especially in the winter months, to keep moisture in the air, which moisturizes the skin as well.
- Avoid wet gloves and socks. If your gloves and socks get wet due to rain or snow, get them off. If you linger in these wet clothes, it can lead to itching, cracking and sores on the skin, even flare-ups of eczema.
- Support your immune system. The typical winter ailments, colds and flu, can stress your skin to the max. Try to avoid these illnesses by taking preventive measures, such as consuming Vitamin C and getting your flu shot. Practice general good hygiene to avoid picking up or spreading cold and flu germs.
There are many more healthy skin tips out there, so don’t stop here. During National Healthy Skin Month, take some time and investigate more ways to keep your skin looking and feeling its best!