Protect Your Skin

As you wake up this morning and head outside, your skin is the best way to measure the weather. Do you feel cold or warm? Our skin’s primary role is that of temperature regulation. The skin consists of three layers—the epidermis (top layer), the dermis (the under-skin that’s much thicker) and subcutaneous fat.

The outermost layer, the epidermis, is in charge of protecting your body. Believe it or not, its skin cells are part of the immune system and are our first defense against infection. This is the layer of skin that regenerates every four weeks and sloughs off in the shower when you do an exfoliating scrub. The dermis is the working layer of the skin. It produces sweat, grows hair and brings blood to and from the surface. Subcutaneous fat is responsible for temperature control. The three layers together work in conjunction to keep us healthy. They’re also victims of the greatest damage when we’re out in the
sun unprotected.

Here are 6 ways to protect this vital organ:

1. Wear sunscreen

The sun dries out our skin and creates wrinkles, “sun spots” and potentially, skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and is preventable. Applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and reapplying every two hours while in the sun, will protect your skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays. In addition, I personally have added a hat to my skincare protection, for two reasons—first, to protect my scalp against skin cancers, and second, to protect my face against aging.

2. Eat the right foods

In addition to sunscreen, the skin is directly affected by our dietary habits. For example, eating healthy and drinking at least eight glasses of water a day help to nourish the skin. Smoking can damage the skin by reducing blood flow and causing increased wrinkles. Superfoods (like blueberries, olive oil, green tea and dark green leafy vegetables) help protect your skin by removing damaging free radicals that can age you prematurely. The less free radicals, the smoother and shinier is your skin.

3. Adopt good skincare products into your arsenal

Healthy habits are important to establish at a young age. If you protect your skin and treat it properly, it will reward you as you get older. The first step is using a gentle facial cleanser twice a day to remove all make-up and follow with a toner or exfoliator. This exfoliating lotion helps slough off dead cells and allows your moisturizer to be better absorbed. Moisturizers are very personal; some people like heavy, thick creams and other people like lightweight formulas. Whichever you choose is fine, but don’t skip this step. I use Chanel Sublimage products, which contain a combination of ingredients that allow my face to shine all day.

4. Feed your skin its vitamins

Retin-A, or tretinoin, is a form of vitamin A. The topical application of Retin-A helps with acne, fine lines and wrinkles. It makes the skin extremely dry and flaky and can increase your sensitivity to sunshine. So use it only at night and protect your skin with sunscreen every morning. It is best to start out using a small amount (pea-sized in your palm) twice a week and slowly increase. Retin-A products are prescription items, so consult your dermatologist before using.

5. Hydrate while you sleep

A nighttime moisturizer is important to hydrate the skin overnight. There are many brands on the market and it is best to experiment to find which one works for you.

6. Educate yourself on skin cancer

There are several forms of skin cancers, the most common being basal cell carcinoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. There are more than four million cases of basal cell cancers each year in the U.S. These cancers can be easily treated in a dermatologist’s office. Other cancers, such as squamous cell cancers and melanomas, are more rare. The best treatment is prevention. Remember to always wear sunscreen and get yearly skin checks by your dermatologist.

For more from Dr. Nancy Simpkins, read her recent columns on the site or visit her online.

Ben Kruger