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Monthly Archives: November 2016

How to Managing Dry Winter Skin

Winter brings cold, crisp days, fun seasonal activities, and snowy nights spent by a warm fire. But not all elements of winter are so enjoyable. For one, there’s dry winter skin, which can be exacerbated by the cold winter air outside and warm, dry air inside. This year, do your best to guard against the factors that cause dry, itchy skin.

Winter Itch Factors: How to Prevent Dry Winter Skin

Start by addressing the factors that irritate dry skin. Consider your indoor and outdoor environments, your skin care regimen, and even what you wear.

Low humidity. As temperatures fall, so do humidity levels, and the loss of moisture can cause your skin to become dry and itchy. Heat from furnaces, radiators, woodstoves, and fireplaces can also suck the moisture out of the air inside your home, which can dry out your skin even more. Put moisture back into the air by using a humidifier in the rooms you spend the most time in — both at home and in your office.

The loss of your skin’s natural oils. Washing your hands and showering frequently can actually strip your skin of its natural oils. One of the best ways to combat dry, itchy skin and keep your skin moist and supple is to moisturize it immediately after you wash your hands or take a shower. Moisturizers work by sealing moisture into your skin, so just pat your skin partially dry with a towel — don’t rub skin dry as this can remove your skin’s protective oils — and apply a moisturizing lotion or emollient to your damp skin.

Inferior moisturizers. Not all moisturizers are effective at alleviating winter itch. Water-based lotions and creams don’t lock in moisture as well as the oil-based ones. Thick, emollient moisturizers that come in ointment form typically contain the most oil, which makes them a smart choice for really dry skin. Petroleum jelly is a good example of this type of ointment-style moisturizer. Apply a small amount to your skin and be sure to rub it in well. If you prefer to use a moisturizing cream, look for one that contains petrolatum, mineral oil, or glycerin.

Chapped lips. Your lips are often the first to succumb to cold winter air. Find a lip moisturizer that you like and apply it often. Barbara R. Reed, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO, and in private practice at Denver Skin Clinic, recommends an emollient-based moisturizer for the lips that is soothing and has no irritants. “I do not recommend products with menthol or phenol as they may be irritating.”

Itchy fabrics. What you wear may also contribute to your dry, itchy skin. “Some people have very sensitive skin that will itch with certain fabrics, especially rough ones like wool,” says Dr. Reed. Reed suggests that before you put on a potentially irritating piece of clothing you should gently rub the fabric against your cheek to see if it feels scratchy and causes your skin to itch. If it doesn’t cause a reaction, it’s probably a safe choice. Remember that an itchy wool blanket can irritate your skin, too. For a more restful sleep, you can use a top sheet as a barrier, encase the blanket in a cotton or cotton flannel duvet cover, or switch to a cotton comforter.

Overdressing. As you dress for winter weather, remember that it’s not just what you wear, but how much you wear that can irritate your skin. Overdressing in winter can lead to overheating and sweating, which can further aggravate dry skin. If it’s cold outside, dress in layers. First, put on a thin shirt in a lightweight and breathable fabric, such as cotton or a polypropylene material that can wick moisture away from your skin. Put on a sweater for your next layer, followed by a fleece pullover or a jacket. When you come back inside, shed one layer at a time until you are comfortable.

You don’t have to accept dry, itchy, or flaky skin as a normal part of winter. By managing the factors that cause dry winter skin, you can eliminate your winter itch and enjoy healthy skin throughout the winter months.

5 Tips to Protect Your Skin

You need to protect your skin because of the vital role it has protecting your body. Skin care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and can quickly become second nature, like brushing your teeth.

These five skin protection tips can keep your skin looking and feeling great, by guarding against a slew of skin woes, from chapped skin to prematurely aging to skin cancer.

1. Limit Sun Exposure

You’ve heard the message a zillion times, and there’s good reason for that unrelenting repetition. Ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun cause many types of skin damage:

  • Skin cancer
  • Wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Discolorations
  • Benign growths

Using skin care products that offer ultraviolet protection is one of the best ways to help keep your skin looking fresh and youthful:

  • Use sunscreen every day and reapply regularly whenever you’re outdoors for extended periods.
  • Cover skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Stay indoors when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Keep in mind that tanning beds are just as harmful as direct sunlight, as they also emit ultraviolet rays.

2. Stay Hydrated

Keeping your skin moist is essential to skin protection. Skin that is properly hydrated retains pliability and prevents chapped skin or scaly, flaky skin:

  • Drink lots of water. This is key to hydrating your skin.
  • Use the right moisturizing cream or lotion for your skin type and apply it right after drying off from your bath or shower. Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, as this ingredient removes natural oils needed by your skin.
  • Take warm (not hot) showers or baths, and limit them to between 5 and 10 minutes. It seems counterintuitive, but exposure to water actually dries out your skin. If dry skin persists, consider cutting back on the number of baths you take.

3. Take Health Precautions

Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin bordering the lips, while bacteria can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Practicing skin protection means paying close attention to what touches your skin, to lower your chances of exposure to germs:

  • Don’t share any personal items, such as lip balms or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t share drinks with other people.
  • Avoid touching your face with your fingers or with objects like telephone receivers that have been used by others.

4. Use Gentle Skin Care

Washing your face is important to remove dirt, oils, germs, and dead cells. However, scrubbing your face causes irritation that can lead to chapped skin that, in turn, can leave skin vulnerable. For best results, you should:

  • Wash your face twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  • Gently massage your face with a washcloth, using a circular motion.
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing to remove all soap and debris.
  • Pat your skin dry — don’t rub — then apply your facial moisturizer.

5. Know Your Skin

Pay attention to odd freckles, moles, and growths on your skin, and consult your doctor if you notice any changes. For example, a change in a mole can indicate potential skin cancer. Be sure to treat any cuts that may occur to prevent infection. Other skin conditions that merit a dermatologist visit include frequent acne, inflamed or irritated dry skin, and skin rashes and irritations that don’t go away, as these could be signs of one of the many types of dermatitis, or skin inflammation.

With proper skin care to pamper skin from the outside and with a good diet to nourish from within, skin protection comes down to a few simple steps. But should you ever notice any problems, get medical attention to resolve them quickly and avoid putting your skin at risk.

Tips to Care for Your Skin Type

Makeup experts and skin care specialists refer often to various skin types — dry, oily, combination — assuming you know which category you fall under. Your skin care regimen depends on your skin type, but not everyone has a good understanding of their skin. As a result, their skin care plan is more of the hit-or-miss variety.

Know Your Skin Type

Unsure of what skin type you have? See which description fits you best:

  • Dry skin. “Dry skin can be flaky and easily irritated. It’s more sensitive,” says Linda Franks, MD, director of Gramercy Park Dermatology and clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York. She says if your skin has these qualities and also tends to react to some (or all) of the skin products you have tried, you have dry skin. The extreme version of dry skin is sensitive skin.
  • Oily skin. The primary test for determining if you have oily skin is when you start to feel some oil on your face. Most people can feel a little oil by late afternoon, but if you feel oil around midday, you have oily skin. Oily skin rarely reacts negatively to skin products like dry, sensitive skin types do. It has slightly better natural sun protection, but is also prone to acne.
  • Combination skin. If the description of dry skin matches your cheeks, but the description of oily skin matches your “T-zone” (nose and brow area primarily), you have combination skin.

Matching skin care to skin type is important. Dr. Franks notes that there are two commonly used skin care products that just about everyone can steer clear of: toner and too-frequent exfoliation, both of which can strip away the protective layers of your skin. If you have a good skin care regimen, you don’t need either one, although you could plan for a semi-annual exfoliation as seasons change.

Caring for Dry Skin

Dry skin needs babying and lots of tender, loving care. Here are the key components of dry skin care:

  • Cleanse. Use a gentle cleanser. You should be able to cleanse at night and not have to cleanse again in the morning. “Mild cleansers are best for all skin types,” says Franks, who recommends Purpose, Dove bar soap, or Cetaphil cleanser. These cleansers should easily remove makeup as well as dirt.
  • Apply retinol. “Stick to a retinol for anti-aging. Retinol can be very good for dry skin,” says Franks. However, not everyone with dry skin can use retinol products due to sensitivity. If irritation appears, the frequency of use can be decreased.
  • Apply products with hyaluronic acid. “The other thing that can go on underneath a moisturizer is a hyaluronic acid product. That molecule is very hydroscopic — it pulls water in around it. That would be a great augmenting moisturizer for someone with dry skin,” says Franks.
  • Moisturize. “The stratum corneum, which is the dead skin cell layer that protects the surface of the skin, tends to get easily interrupted with dry skin. You want to try to repair that,” advises Dr. Franks. Look for moisturizers that contain phospholipids, cholesterol, and essential fatty acids. She recommends CeraVe Moisturize in the morning (with an SPF of 30) and more moisturizer before bed, using a thicker cream, such as Olay’s Regenerist.
  • Proceed with caution. It helps to take your time adding new products to your skin care routine, says Franks. Try them one at a time and wait to see if you get a reaction before adding another new product.

Caring for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, you’ll have an easier time finding skin care products that won’t irritate, but your challenge is managing the oil:

  • Cleanse. People with oily skin or acne should wash with a gentle cleanser morning and evening. Franks offers this tip for cleansing properly: Use your fingertips and rub it in for 30 seconds before rinsing.
  • Use salicylic acid. Apply an alcohol-free salicylic acid product, such as a Stridex pad, or a salicylic acid medicated cleanser on the oily areas of your skin. Do this two or three times a week.
  • Apply retinol. Retinol products also cut down on oil production and reduce the appearance of large pores. They are a good anti-aging choice for those with oily skin, who are less likely to find them irritating than those with dry skin.
  • Moisturize. Use an oil-free moisturizer with SPF 30. “One of my favorites is Complete Defense in the Olay line,” says Franks.

Caring for Combination Skin

People with combination skin will follow the same basic routine, but have to make it a balancing act, drawing from skin care routines for both oily and dry skin:

  • Cleanse. Stick to gentle cleansers. “Do not use a medicated cleanser at all — keep it mild,” says Franks. Once a day should be fine unless you have significant oil in some parts of your face.
  • Spot-treat with salicylic acid. Apply this to the oilier areas of your face every other day.
  • Moisturize. Go for oil-free products with SPF 30 and spot-treat the drier areas of your face with richer moisturizer.

Take some time to develop the skin care routine that’s right for your skin type. If you are still unsure of how to care for your complexion, talk to a dermatologist about the products you are using and how they affect your skin. With a little work, you can achieve a healthy glow, no matter what your skin type.

Simple Acne Treatment Tips

If you have acne, you’re among more than 70 million people in the United States who have suffered from this skin condition at some time in their lives. It is so common that acne affects about 80 percent of Americans 20 to 30 years old. During the teenage years, acne is more common in boys than in girls, but in adults it’s more common in women.

Despite the fact that it’s so commonplace, there are many misconceptions about acne, says Guy Webster, MD, PhD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and founder of the American Acne and Rosacea Society.

Getting to the Root of Acne

Whether you call it acne, pimples, or zits, in order to treat the condition, it’s important to understand the causes:

  • Clogged pores and bacteria: In your teens, the glands in the skin begin secreting sebum, an oily substance. This normally comes out through the pores, but in some people, sebum clogs up in the pores, allowing a bacterium, called P. acnes, to begin to grow.
  • Hormones: In your teen years, hormones start changing and affecting your body, including causing acne. This also happens during pregnancy, which explains why pregnant women or women having their periods often have acne breakouts. Hormones released during stressful times can also cause acne.
  • Genetics: You may be more likely to develop acne if your parents had acne when they were younger.

The Right Acne Treatment

There are many ways to take care of acne, depending on what causes it and how bad it is. Moderate and severe acne usually needs acne treatment recommended by a doctor, but mild acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and a few pimples can usually be treated at home.

Dr. Webster says one big misconception is that acne is caused by dirty skin. “The goal is not to scrub acne away,” he says. “If you scrub, you’re taking off skin, and there’s a reason for the skin being there.” Skin is a protective barrier.

Here are some tips that Webster shares with people who have acne:

  • Wash gently; don’t scrub.
  • Use a gentle soap to wash your face.
  • Wash with your hands, not a washcloth or “scrubby.”
  • Use a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide product.
  • Treat your whole face — don’t “spot treat.” This way, you’re treating pimples still under the skin but not yet visible.

And what should you stay away from?

  • Facial scrubs of any kind.
  • “Face puffs” or abrasive pads.
  • Expensive cosmetic regimens that people try to sell you.

Acne Treatment: Other Tips

Other tips to keep acne from getting worse:

  • If you’re a male, be careful shaving.
  • Don’t pick or scratch at pimples.
  • Avoid the sun. While many people feel that sun exposure makes their acne better, this is not always so. The rays can also cause other unwanted issues, such as premature aging and skin cancer.

When Should I See a Doctor for Acne Treatment?

According to Webster, if the pimples are leaving scars or if your treatment isn’t working, then it’s time to see a family doctor or dermatologist.

And while acne is a bummer, it doesn’t have to take over your life; take action and take control of your skin.