Skin is our largest organ and it has to last us a lifetime. It is not only a key element in our appearance, but it functions as a protective barrier that allows us to touch and feel the world around us. Rightfully, skin care has become a big business – with tons of products and procedures promising healthier skin. But proper skin care is just as much about what not to do – the sins of skin care, and there are 7 big ones:
- Skipping Skin Checks
Skin cancer is the only type of cancer we can see before it spreads. Caught early, it is almost always curable. Regardless of skin color, every single person should conduct self-skin exams monthly and visit the dermatologist for a full body skin examination at least once a year. Neglecting skin checks could mean missing the opportunity to catch a skin cancer in its earliest stages.
Tanning is a response to skin injury by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial lamps. The body increases melanin production to avoid further DNA damage. UVA is the dominant tanning ray. It accounts for 95% of the UV radiation reaching earth’s surface, penetrates more deeply than UVB, is present with equal intensity during all daylight hours all year long, penetrates clouds and travels across glass. Tanning booths primarily emit UVA with high-pressure lamps that can be 12 times as strong as the sun. Studies have shown indoor tanning is associated with a 50% increased risk of Basal Cell Carcinoma and a 100% increased risk of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. People who started tanning before age of 35 increased their risk of melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, by 75%. Not to mention, the deep penetrating wavelength of UVA is the main culprit behind premature wrinkling earning it the nickname – Ultraviolet Aging.
- Improper Use of Sunscreen
Besides skin cancer and wrinkling, UV radiation also causes other signs of aging such as hyperpigmentation, sunspots and broken blood vessels. Sunscreen is protective on all fronts, if it is used properly. This means choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen that covers UVA and UVB, SPF 30 or higher, applying it 20 minutes before exposure and every 2 hours while outside. As a rough measure, you need a teaspoon of sunscreen for the face and a shot glass to cover the body – it is quite a lot! If you swim or sweat, sunscreen should be reapplied after 40 minutes. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen!
- Smoking Cigarettes
Aside from age, smoking is the strongest predictor of facial wrinkling in men and women. The nicotine is cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin. This means there is decreased blood flow with less oxygen and fewer nutrients reaching the skin. In addition, thousands of chemicals in smoke break down collagen and elastin. Through twin studies where one identical twin smoked and the other didn’t, we can see that the smoking twins had increased skin laxity of the face and body, more wrinkling, more age spots and more etched in lines around the eyes and mouth. If that isn’t enough, smoking accelerates balding!
- Over Washing
We wash our face, hands and body to ensure we are clean and to get rid of potentially harmful germs. However, over washing can actually have the opposite effect by stripping the skin’s natural protective barrier. If you have acne, over cleansing with harsh products can put your oil glands in over drive. Wash your hands too much and you can get rashes, fissuring and cracking. Love long hot showers? This makes skin dry, ashy and prone to irritation. In addition, when the skin barrier is impaired, infections have easy access.
- Using the Wrong Products for your Skin Type
Skin care products that are not skin-type appropriate can aggravate underlying skin conditions. If you are prone to acne, oil based products can caused clogged pores and breakouts. For rosacea patients, irritants like fragrance, scrubs or salicylic acid can cause increased redness. Eczema prone? Look out for alcohol-based products. The moral of the story – if you do not know your skin type, be sure to ask your dermatologist!
- Delaying Treatment
In general, most skin issues are best treated early. If you have a new growth or a changing mole, delaying treatment can be life threatening. For other dermatologic conditions, waiting until things progress in severity makes treatment more challenging and increases the risk of scarring. Whether it is hair loss, acne, eczema, psoriasis or something else – the sooner you begin treatment, the better your results will be.