People spend millions of dollars a year on products and services that promise to improve the appearance of the skin, hair and nails. An important key to beauty, however, is to adopt healthy habits. Healthy skin IS beautiful skin! The following simple tips will help you maintain the health and beauty of your skin for life.
- Wear sunscreen everyday. Winter and summer, we come into contact with ultraviolet rays that can damage the skin. Even if one does not burn or get a tan, over a lifetime one can accumulate sun damage. Having brown skin reduces, but does not eliminate, this risk. In addition to skin cancer and wrinkles, sun exposure can cause a rough texture, enlarged pores, unwanted brown spots (especially in people with dark skin) and medication reactions that may scar or discolor the skin. Wearing a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection (SPF 15 or higher) can prevent some of the cumulative damage of sun exposure. There are many brands now available for all types of skin.
- Avoid the sun. Sunscreen is important but it is not enough. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is your skin’s response to sun damage. Do not sunbathe. Avoid direct sun exposure especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest. At the beach or outdoors in direct light, reapply sunscreen every two hours (more frequently if you swim or sweat). Wear long pants and sleeves and a hat with a brim.
- Don’t smoke. If the health consequences of cancer, as well as heart and lung disease, are not compelling enough reasons not to smoke, consider the negative consequences to your appearance. Smokers are more likely to develop fine lines on the face, a rougher skin texture and a poorer ability to heal wounds.
- Gentle hair care. Kinky, curly hair tends to be drier and more delicate. Harsh grooming practices may lead to temporary or even permanent hair loss. Tight braids, ponytails or curlers should be avoided. If your hairstyle causes pain it is too tight. Loosen it! Deep condition your hair every one to two weeks, particularly if your hair is chemically treated. Use a leave-in conditioner daily. If you relax your hair, get touch-ups. The junction between treated and untreated hair is where hair often breaks. Get split ends trimmed every three months.
- Seek help when needed. If you are having a problem with your skin, hair or nails, seek advice from a dermatologist, the earlier the better. Although most skin conditions are not life threatening, many can lead to scarring, discoloration and permanent hair loss if not diagnosed and treated early. Skin conditions may be a sign of another, more serious health problem. Expert advice can help you protect your health and beauty.
Dina D. Strachan, M.D., www.dinastrachanmd.com, is a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in New York. She is an expert in ethnic skin.