You can see your skin in the bathroom mirror every morning. Once you step outside, everyone else can see it, too. The signs of aging and unhealthy living often appear first on the skin. So it’s little wonder that so many women invest so much time, money and effort to look healthy, youthful and beautiful on the outside.
ENEMIES OF HEALTHY SKIN
There are many obstacles to keeping skin looking and feeling good, from genetics, sun exposure and pollution, to unhealthy eating, too little exercise, and the aging process.
Fortunately, much of the potential damage inflicted on the skin is preventable usually through healthier living and some changes to our daily habits. And exciting new technologies and medical techniques to repair and reverse skin damage are helping millions around the world recapture that youthful look and feel.
As we age, our bodies build up oxygen molecules called “free radicals.” These molecules multiply from smoking, drinking, sun exposure, pollution, and even from foods we eat. Free radicals accelerate the breakdown of collagen, the skin’s supporting structural fibers, and as a result, our skin becomes less elastic and more prone to dryness. At the same time, new skin cells are created more slowly, and the visible results begin to show through wrinkles, drooping and sagging of the skin.
Inactive lifestyles also take their toll on the health of our skin. Regular exercise 30 minutes a day, four to five times each week improves blood circulation and boosts the body’s immune system. Studies also show that exercise helps our mood and positive thinking, which can keep frown lines and wrinkles at bay.
“To achieve healthy skin, you need to take many factors into account,” said Dr. Nussra Wongrattanapasson
. “Skin damage accumulates over time. So it’s a good idea to cut down on sun exposure and make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet that’s low in fat and high in fruit and vegetables.”
While Western cultures might consider sun-tanned skin a sign of health and vitality, sun exposure is among the most serious threats to healthy skin, especially to Caucasians and others with fair complexions. Compared to Asian skin, Caucasian skin contains less melanin, the skin’s pigment. Less melanin means less protection from the sun’s harmful rays, a higher risk of skin cancer, and a faster aging process.
Asian and other brown skin types contain more melanin, giving them more protection from both the sun and skin cancer. But no matter one’s skin type, exposure to the sun can lead to blemishes, patchy discoloration, pigment disorders
Changes to the environment are also causing skin damage. “Ultraviolet (UV) light today is stronger than ever due to the depletion of the ozone layer,” Dr. Nussra explained. “And daily exposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer.”
Whatever your skin type, it’s important to get in the habit of using sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. For maximum protection, apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out into the sun, and re-apply every 2 to 3 hours.
THE HEALTHY SKIN ROUTINE
Making a few changes to your daily routine can pay off in healthier, more youthful looking skin. Dr. Nussra suggested daily doses of vitamin E (200-400 IU) and vitamin C (500-1000 mg) as both have been shown to stimulate collagen production. Adults aged 40 and above should add a daily calcium supplement of 600-1000 mg. Multi-vitamins containing Evening Primrose oil and green tea extract can also benefit the skin.
Many skin care products now contain vitamins and antioxidants. Products with vitamin C can help against fine lines and wrinkles, stabilize collagen and help sunburned skin. Vitamin C also works to lighten darker skin pigment by decreasing melanin. Vitamin A can also help fight wrinkles and brown spots, a common problem after pregnancy for Asian women.
Before choosing your skin care products, it’s important to know your skin type. Those with dry skin should add moisturizer every day, while oily skin needs regular cleansing, with moisturizer applied only sparingly. Those with sensitive skin should avoid perfumed products and herbal extracts, as these can irritate the skin. If you’re unsure about your skintype, talk to your dermatologist
THE REVOLUTION IN SKIN TREATMENTS
Thanks to advances in technology and medical treatments
, repairing damaged skin and reversing the noticeable signs of aging has become easier, faster and less painful – and can often be done without surgery. Quite literally, it’s possible to have a treatment today and be back at work tomorrow.
Dr. Nussra cited the Long Pulse YAG laser
as a prime example of the revolution in non-invasive skin treatments. Until recently, removing moles, age spots and warts required surgery using a Carbon dioxide (CO 2) laser
; patients were sedated with a topical anesthetic, and healing took about one week.
With the advent of the non-surgical YAG laser
, treatment sessions typically last just a few minutes. The Q-switched Nd:YAG laser is used to treat blemishes and sun- damaged skin, and for removing tattoos. The new Erbium YAG laser is used to treat wrinkles and skin pigmentation, as well as for skin re-surfacing and reduction of scarring caused by acne. In most cases, improvements are noticeable after just a few sessions, and healing time is usually one week or less.
The revolution in skin treatments goes far beyond the laser. Light therapy is now being used around the world to treat sun damage, wrinkles and skin laxity. Thermage delivers a high-tech, non-invasive “mini-facelift” using radio frequency waves to lift and tighten the skin. It is now one of the most popular treatments for people under 60.
Many other aesthetic treatments have proven highly effective in repairing and rejuvenating the skin, including:
- Botox injections ease wrinkles in the upper third of the face. Effects typically last for 3 to 6 months.
- Chemical peel removes fine lines and smoothes the skin, especially around the eyes and mouth.
- New filler injections are used for lip augmentation and to treat wrinkles and skin folds. Effects typically last up to a year.
- Laser resurfacing treats sun-damaged skin, scarring, and other facial skin problems. It also works well on stretch marks, especially when treated early.
- Microdermabrasion erases ultra-fine lines, rejuvenates the complexion, and helps restore healthy skin tone and color.
- Dermaroller treatments erase fine lines, scars and blemishes while stimulating collagen production.
- Sclerotherapy reduces the appearance of varicose leg veins using injections of medicine directly into the veins.
HEALING AND SIDE EFFECTS
is the most common side effect from both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic treatments. Dr. Nussra advises patients that it’s normal to see minor skin color changes following treatment, and that these are usually temporary. For Asian and darker skin tones, normal color returns within two months, while the process is even faster for fair-skinned patients.
Fair-skinned patients are less likely to experience scarring, while Asians and those with darker skin tones are at slightly higher risk.
If you’re considering a cosmetic treatment, it’s important to have realistic expectations and to consult your doctor. He or she will discuss the various treatment options and risk factors, and recommend what’s best for your individual situation.
Eating the right foods pays dividends in healthier, younger looking skin. A diet rich in antioxidants helps fight free radicals and lessens the impact of the aging process. Here are some of the best skin-friendly foods:
Fruits and vegetables
Choose a variety of colors and types, and include garlic, onions, and peppers. Eat five servings a day.
Lentils, barley, and buckwheat all help keep blood cholesterol at healthier levels. Eat three servings daily.
Fatty types of fish are rich in omega-3 oils. Eat twice a week.
Nuts are high in B vitamins, which are good for your heart and brain, and the healthy fat benefits the collagen in your skin. Limit your consumption to two mall portions a week, as nuts are high in calories.