Healthy Habits: Skin Care for Men and Women of All Ages

Happy New Year! Starting this month, I will introduce twelve healthy habits, one habit per month, to consider integrating into your life. There are no earth-shattering discoveries about fitness or health, however, these little changes go a long way. Why release one per month rather than rolling them all out in January  2019 whenever everyone is making their New Year’s resolutions? Is it the anticipation and suspense factor? It is actually less exciting than that. Changes take many weeks to become a habit. If we attempt to change too many factors in our lives simultaneously, that sets us up for failure and negative self talk. We are already great self-critics so it’s best to make gradual changes. The first topic (in the winter season) is skin care which is often overlooked as part of health care.

January’s topic: Skin Care for Men and Women of All Ages

Did you know that:

~ skin is the largest organ in our body?

~ skin is our protective barrier?

~ as we age, skin becomes paper thin tissue?

~ tiny cuts in our skin can lead to major infections?

Skin is the largest organ of our body, covering approximately two square yards and weighing six to nine pounds. It is a barrier against infection and viruses and regulates body temperature. It constantly regenerates new skin cells, but the process slows down with aging. Skin care is often seen from a cosmetic viewpoint; such as women receiving pedicures, people going to spas for extravagant exfoliation techniques, or individuals buying expensive creams to look younger. We want to look fabulous, but there are other important reasons to take time for skin care. Frequently, individuals concentrate on skin care for the face and neglect the rest of the body. It is also my observation that men spend less time on skin care than women.

Dry skin is common during the winter. Sometimes fingers can get tiny cuts and allow an opening for infections, bacteria and fungi to manifest. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a notorious deadly bacterial infection that is resistant to antibiotics. It is common in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, child care centers and in gyms (mostly among wrestlers). If you have ever known anyone to survive MRSA, they will recount the long, uncomfortable haul to recovery. When you see a little nick in your skin, keep it clean and cover it with Nuskin, a protective barrier in glue form that you “paint” over the cut. Nuskin works well for tiny cuts on the fingers or hands since it won’t fall off like a bandaid would when you wash your hands.

There are many other ways to take care of skin. Skin lotion or cream is a well-known method of caring for our skin. The type of lotion is important. Avoid lotions and soaps with alcohol, chemicals, or fragrances. Remember, the skin is highly permeable, so those chemicals are absorbed into the body. Choose essential oils to moisturize especially during winter months as it seals the moisture in. Coconut oil is wonderful for skin care, and is sold as a solid but melts and quickly becomes an oil once a small dab is in your hands. Hotter water in showers and baths can dry out your skin. Moisturize immediately after you shower. If your hands and feet are dry and cracked, apply the moisturizer, then wear gloves and socks for a while to keep the moisture in. Wearing them overnight works well but even a few minutes is helpful.

As the saying goes, you are what you put in your body. People who smoke are easy to spot because their skin is wrinkly and dry. They appear older than their true age. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels that travel to the outermost layers of skin, altering the health of the tissue. It also increases the risk of squamous cell skin cancer and impairs the body’s ability to heal itself.

Food plays a role in skin care. Consuming cucumbers, sweet potatoes, red peppers, carrots, and spinach can improve skin condition due to the anti-oxidants and beta-carotene. The omega- 3 fats in salmon, walnuts and olive oil aid in skin care. Drinking water to stay hydrated benefits your protective barrier immensely.

During the colder months, using a humidifier in your home prevents the air from becoming dry, thus preventing it from drying out your skin. It also warms the rooms so the heater turns on less frequently, saving on utility expenses and keeping more moisture in the air. Hanging wet laundry on a rack also humidifies the room (and dries your clothes) nicely.

Protecting your skin against sun rays is known to be important in the summer, and it is important in winter months as well. If you ski or hike, apply sunscreen on the face for a protective layer. The sun damages the collagen and affects the skin’s elasticity -- abundant exposure can lead to skin cancer.

Managing stress levels is important for skin care.  Get plenty of sleep, meditate, do yoga, exercise and take time for yourself. Some people take wonderful care of others, but my advice is that you must take care of yourself in order to take care of others effectively. It is not selfish, it is self care.

So, in the New Year, give your skin a little more attention by adopting some of the tips to care for our protective barrier and largest organ! Happy New Year!