Sunday, March 1, 2009

Taking Care of Your Skin

Since I was down with asthma triggered by a cold this weekend, I had little strength more than to just lie on the couch. I am feeling so much better now and am thankful that even this temporary bout of an ordinary cold has reminded me to be thankful for health, to take care of my health, and to remember that the things of real importance are the eternal things, not the temporal ones.

Anyhow, I found it hard to concentrate enough to read or blog or do crafts. So, I searched for something to watch on TV. The best I could come up with was PBS's fundraiser. (I was desperate!) Anyhow, sandwiched in the appeals for funds were some interesting health and beauty tips. I learned some things about skincare from Dr. Roizen, Paula Beguon, and a doctor whose name I can't remember.

This is what I gleaned:

Given time and care, you can do some things on your own to reverse past sun damage to your skin. This is good news for me. As I came of age in the get-a-tan 70's, grew up under the Florida and Georgia skies, and have ultra fair skin, I'm a poster child for what not to do sun-wise. So far, I have escaped the skin cancer that has afflicted both of my parents, but I do have some sun damage.

Of course, once I reached adulthood, I became much more careful about wearing sun skin when I know I'm going to be out in the sun for a while. Even so, I'm not very careful about putting it on just for dashing out to the garden or sitting on my garden swing for a bit.

The collective advice from the show was to wear sunscreen all day every day -- even if there's snow on the ground. Now, I do think there are some health benefits from a limited amount of sun exposure -- such as acquiring Vitamin D naturally rather than through supplementation. (At my doctor's advice, I do take Vitamin D supplements, though.) However, sun damage is cumulative, and most of us do receive more sun than we realize during a normal day. Even sitting near a sunny window or driving in a car exposes us to the most damaging kind of sun rays, which penetrate through glass. So, as a very fair-skinned person, I am determined to be more conscientious about wearing sunscreen more often. It's a simple, not-very-time-consuming way to protect both health and appearance.

According to Paula Begoun, inexpensive sunscreens work as well as more expensive ones. She says that you need a lot of sunscreen to do the trick. If you buy a sunscreen that is expensive, you will likely skimp on it. So, in her opinion, it's better to buy a less expensive sunscreen and slather it on than to buy the top of the line sunscreen and not use enough for it to be effective.

Of course, no matter what price you pay, you need to make sure that the sunscreen you are buying really does its job. Even if you are trying to save money, look for a quality product.

In an article by Paula Begoun, she states, "The basics to look for are a product rated SPF 15 or higher, and make sure it has one of these ingredients listed as active to ensure adequate protection from UVA rays: avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789 or butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane), titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. Outside the United States, Mexoryl SX and Tinosorb are effective UVA-protecting ingredients." She also adds later on, "A state-of-the-art sunscreen contains not only effective UVA-protecting ingredients but also includes antioxidants and other ingredients that help skin look and feel better."

According to her, research is showing that antioxidants boost a sunscreen's effectiveness and also reduces the free radicals and inflammation that sun exposure causes.

You can get this type of sun protection in a makeup foundation or a facial moisturizer, but don't forget to have a sunscreen for your body, as well.

A nighttime skin routine that was advocated on the show I watched is as follows:

1) Use a makeup remover if you wear makeup
2) Wash your face using a bar soap. (The reasoning for bar soap is that bar soap contains fewer perfumes and allergens. Some people are allergic to face cleansers. Bar soap is just as effective, less likely to cause a reaction, and less expensive. But, if you have a face cleanser that you like and are not allergic to it, that is fine.)
3) Exfoliate with a washcloth -- a gentle method for exfoliation.
4) Cover with a nighttime nourishing cream. A good ingredient is Vitamin C. Vitamin C does many wonderful things for your skin. However, it breaks down when exposed to light. So, even though you may use a moisturizer in the morning that has Vitamin C in it, it's great to use one at night, also. Since you sleep in a darkened room, the Vitamin C can really sink into your skin without being compromised by the light.

It was suggested that some great ingredients for the skin are Vitamins A and C and E. Niacin and panthoic acid are great, too.

Here's something surprising I had heard a long time ago when I was young, but was repeated by Dr. Roizen: Before age 60, you really don't need a moisturizer unless you have naturally dry skin. In fact, if you over apply moisturizers before that age, you can actually cause your skin to stop producing the right amount of its own protective oils. Your skin makes its own moisturizer, which would actually be quite costly if it could be bottled. Oops!

Of course, no talk about skincare would be complete without talk of nourishment from within: plenty of Vitamin C rich foods, healthy proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, salmon or salmon oil -- You know the recommendations.

Of course, as with any health and beauty information, you have to do your own research and decide your own opinions. There are some who think that exfoliation actually decreases your skin's natural ability to handle sun exposure, for example. And some of the suggested ingredients in the nourishing creams might not work for you if your skin is sensitive to them.

One thought about sun exposure: It seems to me that the majority of cultures throughout history -- though not all of them, of course -- characteristically wore lots of coverings against too much sun. I'm thinking of turbans, hats, shawls, veils, long-sleeved garments, scarves, long garments, parasols, etc. In many cultures, both men and women have traditionally worn protective coverings. I wonder if one factor in the fact that skin cancer and premature sun damage have become more common in the last few decades is the fact that during the last few decades much of the world has given up wearing hats and head coverings and also wear garments that expose much more skin to the sun than in former times.

Here's to happy and healthy skin!


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