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Good skin health not only can increase the vibrance of our face, limit wrinkling, and reduce skin cancer risk, but it also can benefit our immune system. As our largest organ, the skin serves as the brick wall between your body and the outside world. When skin is dry or poorly nourished, it doesn’t do its job as well, which can cause skin conditions such as:
- Itchy skin
- Reactive skin
Left untreated, these conditions can lead to skin infections. People can maintain healthy skin by following several different lifestyle modifications, ranging from the use of certain skin care products to following certain diets. Let’s discuss my favorite recommendations.
#Healthyskin not only is good for our appearance, but it also helps us avoid skin conditions, such as #itchyskin and #rashes, that can lead to infections. Learn 5 tips for maintaining healthy skin. https://bit.ly/31GMwy9 via @MedStarWHCClick to Tweet
1. Get a Good Night's Sleep
A good night’s sleep benefits many aspects of our health, including the skin. If you’ve ever had to pull an all-nighter for school or work, you’ve probably noticed your skin appears dull the next day. This is because when we rest, our body rebalances fluids, which restores moisture and removes excess water from our body. This helps limit the effects of sleep deprivation on your appearance, such as under-eye circles and puffy bags under your eyes. For folks with autoimmune conditions that affect the skin, such as lupus, poor sleep can also trigger flares.
Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Beyond your skin, sleep deprivation and deficiency is associated with serious health implications, including:
2. Keep Your Skin Hydrated
As the skin is a barrier against infection, it’s important to keep your skin hydrated. If you allow your skin to become dry, it can become cracked—which could allow the bacteria that live on your skin to get inside and cause an infection. Furthermore, moisture affects the appearance of your skin. Without moisture, the skin’s natural processes, such as exfoliation, or the removal of dead cells on the skin’s surface, can’t occur naturally. As a result, skin typically will look less radiant and healthy.
Make sure to use an emollient, such as a lotion or cream, on a regular basis. Speak to your dermatologist to discover which moisturizers are best for you.
3. Use the Right Sunscreen
Regularly using sunscreen is important for your health, even if you typically don’t experience sunburns without it. This is because sunscreen helps protect us from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can have implications such as:
- Skin cancer: UV radiation is arguably the leading skin cancer-causing agent in our environment. We have strong evidence that the three main types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma—are caused, in part, by too much exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. Remember, there is no such thing as a “healthy tan”. A tan is the body’s way of trying to protect the DNA in skin cells from radiation and damage which might lead to skin cancer.
- Aging skin: UV radiation speeds of the aging of skin, as it destroys collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, and connective tissue beneath the top layer of the skin. This can cause wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging and draping of the skin due to loss of skin elasticity.
- Mottled or uneven pigmentation: Folks with deeper skin tones benefit from daily sunscreen and photoprotection. Certain pigmentary disorders are more common in brown or deeply pigmented skin types, such as melasma, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
I recommend using a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher every day. Even if you’re only spending 15 minutes outside to and from your walk to work every day, using sunscreen can go a long way in preserving your skin health.
4. Use Mild, Gentle Cleansers
It’s important to use mild, gentle cleansers, ideally one that is fragrance-free. These cleansers are less damaging to the skin compared to most standard soaps, which can strip skin of its natural moisture, causing irritation and dryness that can lead to infection, as well as more dull-looking skin.
Appropriate cleansers come in bar, liquid, foaming, or fluid formulations which may be appropriate for your skin type, and don’t have to cost a lot of money to be effective.
5. Consume a Healthy Diet
Foods with a high glycemic index—a ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood sugar levels—can contribute to skin conditions such as acne and bullous pemphigoid, an autoimmune disease that causes skin blistering. Common foods with a high glycemic index include doughnuts, french fries, and white rice. Moreover, a diet in which you consume healthy amounts of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids can help you avoid certain rashes, as some are specific to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies or the over-consumption of them.
I typically suggest that patients avoid highly processed foods and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and all-natural foods that were available to our great-grandparents—before processed foods became so popular.
Additionally, some popular weight loss trends have resulted in rashes. One such trend right now is the ketogenic (keto) diet, which emphasizes foods packed with protein and suggests avoiding the consumption of carbohydrates. Some individuals strictly adhering to this diet have developed a rash called prurigo pigmentosa, which resolves when some carbohydrates are reintroduced into the diet. If you’ve been following the keto diet and experience any abnormal rashes, make sure to speak to your doctor.
How Genetics Impact Skin Health
Like most other things in life, genetics can affect your skin’s health, such as your skin cancer risk from the overexposure of UV radiation from the sun and other skin diseases. Skin appearance, such as the size of your pores and developing acne, also can be due to genetics. However, just because you have a genetic predisposition to certain skin conditions doesn’t mean you’re certain to develop them—especially if you take good care of your skin.
Maintaining healthy skin not only helps us avoid infection, but it also makes us look and feel better. Make sure to incorporate these tips into your life to keep your skin as healthy as possible.