7 Essentials for a Healthy Skin Care Regimen

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Healthy skin is in and great skin is achievable by anyone! I’d like to share my skin care essentials, beyond your usual skin creams and topical treatments.

  1. Sun Protection: While there are multiple skin care products and ingredients that I think are important to a comprehensive skin care regimen, first and foremost is always sunscreen. A morning moisturizer that contains SPF ensures that your face is protected on a daily basis. These moisturizers have SPF built in but come in a variety of types suitable for your skin type- some are tinted as well. Water-resistant sunscreen for outdoor activities helps prevent sunburns and skin cancers. SPF usage also protects you from unwanted cosmetic effects from UV exposure, like uneven skin tone, splotchy complexion, sun spots or pigmentation, and early wrinkles. Sun protection doesn’t only mean using sunscreen lotions or creams. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, and pants, as well as wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses, are also part of comprehensive skin cancer prevention. Clothing made with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) offers added protection.
  2. Use a Retinoid: These topical vitamin-A derivatives help increase skin turnover and renewal, unclog pores, and stimulate more collagen production. This creates more radiant and clear skin and fights fine lines and wrinkles. Prescription strength versions like Retin-A (Tretinoin) or Tazorac (Tazarotene) are only available through your dermatologist. Over-the-counter versions now include Differin gel or milder strengths like Retinols. Retinoids should be applied at night before bedtime, after washing your face. If dryness or peeling occurs, try using it every other night in the beginning or applying moisturizer over it.
  3. Sleep and Eat Well: You’ve probably all noticed the effects on your skin when you’ve had a late night, gotten poor sleep, eaten unhealthy, or over-indulged with alcohol. Indeed, healthy skin relies not only on creams and serums (“lotions and potions”) but on overall healthy habits too. Uninterrupted sleep allows your body to optimize blood flow to essential organs (including your skin!) and begin regenerative processes and cell renewal. Sleep-deprivation leads to increased cortisol which then promotes increased inflammation in your body, and can worsen skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. In terms of your diet: For optimal healthy skin, choose foods high in antioxidants (like berries, spinach, and leafy greens), foods with omega-3s (like walnuts, wild salmon, and mackerel fish), drinks such as green tea, and avoid high-glycemic and processed foods (like cakes, candy, soda, and processed foods). Plus, be sure to drink lots of water!
  4. Don’t Smoke: Smoking is not only detrimental to your lungs and overall health, it is also known to promote premature skin aging and wrinkle formation. Smoking causes earlier and deeper wrinkles, uneven skin tone, sagging skin, lines around the mouth, stained fingers and nails, and hair thinning; not to mention many other damaging health effects. Bottom line: if you want healthy-looking, youthful skin, don’t smoke!
  5. Moisturize Appropriately: We often forget to moisturize beyond our face. Other areas need to be taken care of as well, including arms and legs. Especially during the winter season or in dry climates, not adequately moisturizing your body can lead to inflamed, scaly, red, itchy patches (dermatitis). And don’t forget your neck. This area is oft-forgotten and can betray your age with sun damage and loose skin.
  6. Minimize Stress: Stress of all types (mental, emotional, physical, environmental) creates free radicals and oxidative damage, leading to high levels of inflammation throughout your body. This can include pollution, psychological stressors, overly vigorous high-intensity exercise, and lack of sleep. In your skin, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol break down collagen and elastic tissue, accelerating the aging process and promoting early wrinkles. Cortisol also increases oil production which can cause acne breakouts. Stress has been proven to worsen other skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. Whatever your preferred stress-reduction techniques are (yoga, meditation, exercise, reading, massages), know that you are promoting healthy skin by minimizing your stress!
  7. Antioxidants: Think about when your sliced apple or avocado starts to turn brown. This is caused by oxidation. At a cellular level on our skin, free radicals cause oxidative damage which can lead to accelerated aging and breakdown of optimal skin functions. Antioxidants are important in fighting this damaging process. Getting natural antioxidants through your diet is most effective, so try to add foods high in vitamin C and E, selenium, and CoQ10. Topical antioxidant serums or lotions can also be helpful, but make sure to apply them to clean skin to maximize penetration.