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Ten Ways to Improve Your Skin

Andrew
March 18, 2013
Truck+Driver+Sun+Effect.jpg
The effects of UV radiation (sunlight). See item #1 for an explanation.
I am at the age where my skin is starting to showing initial signs of aging. So in the last year or so, I've done some research on skin care. The lessons I've learned apply just as much to women as they do to men, so I want to share them here. Some of these points will be obvious to some readers, but they will be news to others - as they were to me. Full, vibrant, healthy skin is the primary sign of a your youth, and your youth plays a big role in your physical attractiveness. Whether consciously or subconsciously, men notice your skin; so take care of it.

1. Wear a daily moisturizer with sunblock. Wearing sunblock daily should be something you do as regularly as brushing your teeth. Get into the habit of realizing that when you walk out into the daylight without protection, your skin is being abused and bombarded with UV radiation - even when it is cloudy (clouds don't block UVA light).

If it is difficult to recognize the severity of this effect, take a look at the picture here of William McElligott, a 66-year-old truck driver, who didn't wear sunblock. He spent 28 years on the job. While driving, half of his face was shaded from the sun by the cab of his truck, which reduced the effects of UV radiation. The effect is obvious. Imagine your face looking like his (but on both sides) every time you go outside, and you will probably find yourself motivated to start wearing daily moisturizer with sunblock.

SPF 15 should be enough for most people (use a higher SPF is you spend more time outside than average). Note that it is also worth getting a daily moisturizer that has anti-oxidants such as green tea and cucumber extracts, vitamins C and E.

(I shouldn't need to mention that tanning beds are the devil. By tanning, you are seeking out the skin abuse described above and merely trading a nice but temporary skin tone now for premature aging later in life - and possibly cancer.)

2. Use Retinol, which is a form of Vitamin A. It essentially tells your skin to act and look younger. It is the drugstore version of the FDA-approved anti-wrinkle compounds often prescribed for aging skin and wrinkle treatment (retinoids). Make sure retinol is an ingredient in the anti-ageing or tone-correcting serums you use. Neutrogena makes a great fragrance-free and oil-free option: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream. (Don't worry if your skin feels dry or a tad flaky for the first few weeks of use - it will wear off.) You can find more information about Retinol here.

3. Wear facial moisturizer while you sleep. This will lock in moisture, which will be used to repair your skin while you sleep. There are special types for night use, but the general rule of thumb is that you should use a thicker cream if you have drier skin, while those with oily or acne-prone skin should use a lotion or gel. Try CeraVe PM or Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel.

4. Wash your pillowcases frequently, at least every time you do a load of laundry. Your pillow case accumulates dirt from your hair, face, hands, and even from the air (dust). This is all transferred straight to your face every time you lay your head down at night. Get two sets of pillowcases and get in the habit of putting the fresh ones on every time you take a load out of the dryer

5. Pad your face dry after you shower or, even better, let it air-dry. Don't scrub your face dry with the towel the way you dry the rest of your body, as this will irritate the newly washed skin and push bacteria into your pores.

6. Use lukewarm water to wash your face, even in the shower. When water is too hot or too cold it shocks your skin and can cause capillaries to rupture. This brings with it discoloration, which is unattractive.

7. Choose your soap/cleanser carefully. Soaps dissolve dirt, but in the process remove the oils that your skin produces to protect itself. The ingredients that hold most bar soaps together also clog your pores, and the added fragrances can be irritating. Many people are still accustomed to using bar soaps, and remain victim to the heavy marketing of their favorite soap's scent (they can't feel clean without it). Don't follow their lead. Choose a fragrance-free and sulfate-free cleanser, such as CeraVe or Cetaphil foaming face wash - particularly for use on your face. These will clean without the loss of oils and irritation.

8. Exfoliate with caution. While exfoliating scrubs are praised (and heavily marketed) as giving a deep clean, your skin doesn't need a deep clean every day. When you use exfoliating scrubs, you are using abrasion to remove impurities and dead skin; but in the meantime, the abrasive particles cause damage to the healthy skin underneath. You are effectively putting thousands of tiny scratches on your face - removing the bad stuff, but also creating potential sites for infection. Pay particular attention to #5 and #4 when you are exfoliating, and moisturize immediately afterwards  Note that scrubs with polyurethane beads, (round, plastic, smooth ones) will not tear skin and are fine for use as an exfoliant. There are also chemical exfoliants available that have anti-aging properties.

9. Wash your towels frequently. Just like your pillowcase, your towel accumulates dirt. When you touch it to your face, especially right after washing it, you are infecting your open pores with bacteria.

10. Moisturize immediately after washing your face or showering. You know that "dry" feeling you get after standing in front of the mirror for a few minutes after showering, especially in the winter when the weather is cold and dry? That is the feeling of the immediate evaporation of moisture due to the lack of oils in your skin. Shorter showers with lukewarm water will prevent this, but you should also apply moisturizer immediately to your still-damp skin after getting out of the shower. This will lock in the moisture.

Thanks to reader and medical esthetics student Laura Payne for her help in adding some depth to these points for me, as well as the product recommendations. Check out her work here: (Blog) (Twitter) (YouTube)


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