The last time you went outside, did you wear sunscreen? Did you bring a water bottle? It may seem vain to care about the appearance of wrinkles and age spots over time (and they will appear), but the health of your skin is a reflection of your overall health.
More seriously, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Close to home for me, a few years ago, a friend died due to complications of melanoma at age 54, and my father-in-law survived melanoma in his 50’s but now has lymphedema (excess lymph fluid collecting in his arm). Genetic factors aside, you can take steps to avoid the environmental factors that promote the mutations that lead to skin cancer. Besides, in youth-obsessed Western culture, your skin (and hair) reveal your age. Some simple habits can help you look younger—and feel healthier.
Protect your skin from the sun
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply every two hours –more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
- Stay out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Cover your skin by wearing tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats.
- Additionally, certain laundry additives are specifically designed to block UV rays.
- (Now I know when you’re at the beach on vacation, you’re going to be outside during peak hours. Reapply sunscreen often, drink plenty of water, and wear appropriate cover-ups.)
Don’t smoke (tobacco or other substances)
- Smoking decreases blood flow in the outermost layers of your skin, depletes oxygen and nutrients, and damages your skin’s strength and elasticity.
- Ask your doctor for tips to help you quit smoking.
Be gentle to your skin
- Use mild soaps and limit long, hot showers to avoid stripping the natural oils from your skin.
- After bathing, pat your skin with a towel to dry off and leave a little moisture on your skin.
- Find the right moisturizer for your skin type and consider moisturizers with SPF for wearing during the day.
- Load up on high water content foods, such as melons, cucumbers, and pineapple.
- Eat collagen-containing foods (the aforementioned high water content foods, as well as berries, lean meats, egg whites, and wheat germ). Eating collagen stimulates the production of collagen (check out these protein bars for a big dose of collagen).
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine dehydrates the body, contributing to ageing of the skin.
- Stress can make your skin more sensitive and cause acne breakouts.
- Take time to relax and set reasonable limits to keep your mind and your skin healthy.
A relaxing technique for your skin (and your brain) is the hot towel scrub. Whether it’s before or after you’ve bathed, scrubbing your skin with a hot towel is a relaxing self-care practice.
- Turn on the hot water. (Alternatively, you can boil a pot of water, about a quart, and have it at the ready.)
- When the water is almost too hot to handle, soak the towel.
- Wring out the towel.
- While the towel is still hot and steamy, begin to scrub the skin gently.
- Do one section of the body at a time, making circular motions, and moving on to the next section once the skin has become slightly flushed.
- Re-soak and wring out the towel as needed to scrub everywhere—face to toes.
- If you’re really getting into the spirit of the exercise, you can say some affirmations to yourself as you scrub. Something along the lines of “I will always have gratitude for my body” and “I appreciate my body” might make a nice addition to the exercise.
Your skin should feel awakened and tingly, and you’ll have had a little meditative moment all to yourself. Not-scientifically-proven benefits include promoting circulation, opening the pores to release stored toxins, and activating the lymphatic system.
You only have one body, and one skin (that’s constantly renewing itself). What’s good for your skin is good for your whole body.