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Keep Your Skin As Healthy As The Rest Of You


Thomas A. Cortese, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

Skin is the largest organ of our body. It is an organ that we abuse, take for granted, and subject to all kinds of severe climactic conditions. In short, if we did what we do to our skin to any other organ of our body, our body could not tolerate it. Taking good care of your skin is the best assurance that you will have to maintain its healthy, glowing and youthful appearance for years to come.

Many blame the poor condition of their skin on our natural aging process. In fact, those fine wrinkles which slowly appear around the eyes, mouth and across the forehead could be minimized through proper preventative skin care. Healthy looking skin is dependent upon three things: environment, diet, and our skin's natural elasticity.

The upper portion of the skin is called the epidermis. It consists of five very thin layers of cells; together they are cellophane paper thin and measure only one-tenth of a millimeter thick. Consider what happens when you damage this protective layer.  During the spring and summer months, the skin is subjected to heat, humidity, and to the sun's intense ultraviolet rays. These UVA and UVB rays have a double damaging effect. Over exposure to the UVA rays not only increases our risk to skin cancer, but causes the condition known as the "tanning effect" - or hardening of the skin – resulting in a leathery look. The UVB rays damage the skin when we sunburn. Cellular injury results in those unsightly and oftentimes pre-malignant brown spots and red scaly growths usually occurring some years later in the sun exposed areas. No amount of moisturizer or conditioner will rejuvenate or repair it. At that point, skin rejuvenation or treatment of sun damaged skin will require the intervention of your dermatologist and/or your plastic surgeon. That is why wearing a sunscreen with an SPF 30+ during prolonged outdoor exposure is so important.

Moreover, the sun's rays also affect the elastin, or elastic fibers, located in the lower portion of the skin, called the dermis. This precious commodity of your skin provides the necessary elasticity which allows your skin to recoil and stay youthful. The skin's moisture is maintained by the working combination of the sebaceous glands (oil), and the eccrine glands (sweat), along with the skin's natural fluids which determine the skin's softness and pliability

To maintain healthy skin during every season, it is very important for those persons with drier skin to keep it lubricated, especially during the drier months of the year. As autumn and winter approach, your skin is exposed to lower humidity and heated room temperatures which cause increased water loss. The end result is dry, flaky skin. For this reason, it is necessary to replenish your skin's moisture with an appropriate oil and water balanced moisturizer during the dry winter months. At the first sign of dryness, select a moisturizer suitable to your skin type, and use it regularly. Remember to apply a sunscreen during the cooler months as well.

Cleansing agents include soaps, detergents and soap substitutes. You should choose a cleanser that produces the least drying effects. If you're perfume sensitive or allergic to various cleansers, look for hypoallergenic and unscented products. Don't stop using some type of cleanser on your skin. Plain water will not remove the dirt or oil particles from your skin. There are also some new products on the market that do a remarkable job of buffing away the dry and old cells of the skin's outer layer. This buffing technique removes the surface grime at the same time it creates a smoothing effect.

Facial masques are highly recommended, for both men and women, but not for all persons. Masques absorb the oils from the surface layer of your skin. Applying a masque to a drier skin may increase the dryness and wrinkling effect. Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet also contributes to better looking skin. If you are on a weight loss program, keep in mind that it is best to lose weight slowly to allow the skin to adjust and conform with minimal wrinkling and sagging. The skin is the barrier that protects us from the environment, dangerous exposure to disease, and harsh climactic weather. Skin care should be a lifelong commitment.

Dermatologists can make suggestions, even help you improve your overall appearance, but only you can maintain the healthy attributes of your skin. Finally, make sure you are protecting yourself from skin problems by scheduling your family's annual skin wellness examination.

"Keep Your Skin As Healthy As The Rest Of You."


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