How to Keep Your Skin Healthy

A woman wears a hat and log sleeves to protect her skin from the sun.

There are many skincare beauty products with proven ingredients helpful for fighting age spots, wrinkles, sagging skin, blemishes, skin tone inconsistencies and dull skin – including retinol, vitamin C, peptides, ceramides, retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), hydroquinone and Kojic acid. But when it comes to skin health, beauty only goes skin deep.

To keep your skin in its healthiest condition, these lifestyle choices play an important role.

Protect your skin from the sun 
Sun exposure over years can increase skin cancer risk, cause age spots, increase wrinkles and spur other skin problems. Your best defense is to use broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, applied multiple times a day. Seek shade and avoid the sun’s strongest rays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear sun-shielding protective clothing – wide-brimmed hats, long pants and long-sleeved shirts or specially designed UV-blocking clothing. This is especially important when swimming outdoors – the sun can burn your skin through the water from direct sunlight and scorch you with rays that bounce off the water’s surface.

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet 
The foods you eat help support healthy skin from the inside out.

  • Dietary carotenoids found in colorful vegetables and fruit such as cantaloup, watermelon, pink grapefruit, corn, kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, orange bell peppers and tomatoes can protect skin from UV damage. A 2017 study in the journal Nature suggested that eating tomatoes daily may help protect against skin cancer due to the pigment lycopene, which gives tomatoes their rich red color. 
  • Antioxidants protect skin cells from reactive oxygen species that the National Institutes of Health say are linked to skin aging, photodamage, inflammation and cancerous skin melanomas. The best food sources of antioxidants are fruits like apples, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and prunes along with pinto beans, red kidney beans, Russet potatoes, pecans and plums.
  • Flavanols in dark chocolate support our skin’s defense and healing from UV damage, reduce skin scaling and roughness and help improve the overall biological functions of the skin.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids in foods including walnuts, pumpkin seeds and oily fish such as mackerel, and sardines can help prevent skin scaling and dryness.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil, avocado and many nuts are backed by research to help lower risk of photoaging – the combination of dark spots, discoloration and wrinkles from overexposure to sunlight.

Reduce Stress 
Research also shows that stress can increase occurrences of scaly, flaky or red itchy skin, as well as increase the oily substance in the skin called sebum that blocks pores causing pimples and acne.

Avoid Alcohol 
A study led by researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that alcohol can increase your risk of developing non-melanoma cancers, including cutaneous squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, which rose 11 percent and 7 percent respectively for each 10-gram increase of alcohol consumed daily. 

Quit Smoking 
Smoking decreases blood flow to the skin, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy, which can particularly age facial skin. It can also reduce the production of and breakdown collagen and elastin which give skin its elasticity and strength. Pursing the lips when smoking can also contribute to the development and increase of wrinkles around the mouth.

Retain skin moisture 
Moisturizers keep the top epidermis layer of skin hydrated and contain emollients that help keep the spaces between skin cells smooth. To best prevent your skin drying by keeping moisture in, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends bathing in warm for 5 to 10 minutes daily and using gentle, fragrance-free cleanser instead of harsh soaps. Avoid washcloths and abrasive sponges or brushes that might damage your skin surface, use hypoallergenic laundry detergent, avoid proximity to sources of high heat, and use a humidifier in dry weather. These can all help your skin.

Finally, avoid sun lamps and tanning beds. They emit intense levels of skin-damaging UV light.

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The Future of Skin Cancer Detection Seems to Be Improving / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / July 19, 2019

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