Over the past few months, I’ve gained a great appreciation for the skin I live in. Our skin is the largest organ of the human body and it doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for the vital role it plays each and every day. From the simple things like providing sensation and body temperature regulation to the almighty protection from injury and disease it provides for our muscles, bones and internal organs. And let’s not forget it’s incredible ability to self-heal and repair. Our skin has a tough job, so we need to do our part in taking good care of it.
Our skin is a reflection of our overall health. Healthy skin is soft, smooth and self-repairing. The main goal of skin care is to balance the skin’s pH level with proper cleaning and moisturizing, slow down aging, correct any problem areas and protect it from the environment. To properly care for your skin, it’s best to know your skin type so you can chose products to help maintain skin balance. The three main skin types are dry, oily and normal (neither too oily nor too dry). At a minimum, our skin needs to be washed and moisturized daily to help keep it clean and hydrated. Exfoliation and toning of the skin are additional steps that can be added to your skin care regimen to help increase natural oil production, promote cell renewal and further hydrate the skin.
My interest in skincare sparked a little over six months ago after a primary care physician performing a comprehensive physical recommended I see a dermatologist to have my skin, particularly the nevi (moles) scattered on my body, checked out, just to be safe. I decided why not and scheduled an appointment with a top dermatologist in the area with their next open appointment six months later.
My appointment was just last month which included a full body examination and resulted in sampling one particular nevus on my back the doctor “didn’t like”. A week later the biopsy results came back confirming a dysplastic nevus, or atypical mole. I learned isolated dysplastic nevi along with a lack of family history of melanoma are less frequently premalignant (precancerous), which is the case for me, but to ensure they got everything, they wanted to go back and remove a little more as these nevi can have “roots” that are not pigmented like the rest of the mole on the surface of the skin. The second biopsy results confirmed everything had been completely excised requiring no further treatment.
What proved to be a minor scare, ended up being a very enlightening experience. After growing a greater appreciation for the skin over the past few months and ultimately accepting the fact this is the only skin I will ever have, I have set out to better understand the skin and the role I can play in caring for it. In addition to maintaining a daily skincare routine including cleansing and moisturizing, below are what I have found to be the four best ways to care for your skin from the inside out.
Maintain a healthy diet. Introducing vitamins A, B, C and E into your diet are great for your skin, whether through the foods you eat or by adding to your daily vitamin repertoire. Additionally, probiotics, referred to as the “good bacteria”, help your body digest food and stay balanced. They are also great for your skin, specifically eczema and psoriasis, and your overall health. Probiotics are naturally found in foods like yogurt, fermented vegetables (sauerkraut and pickles) and cheeses with live and active cultures like Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella or cottage cheese. These foods or probiotic supplements can boost the good bacteria in your body, giving your skin a little extra glow.
Exercise to help the body get rid of toxins. Exercise increases blood flow which helps flush waste and cellular debris out of the system. This helps cleanse and nourish skin cells from the inside. Exercising can also help keep stress levels low which can help improve acne, or other skin conditions like eczema, from being aggravated, as well as help slow down the effects of aging. Sweat itself will not cause breakouts if you wash your skin after. Breakouts are a result of the oils building up after a good sweat that can attract particles floating around us that get caught in the oils and ultimately block our pores.
Use sunscreen daily all year round. If there is anything you add to or change about your skincare regimen, make it this! The best thing you can do for your skin is to stay out of the sun. The next best thing is to always wear sunscreen. Sunscreen protects our skin from harmful UV rays that can permanently damage skin cells, cause pre-mature aging of the skin and even sometimes lead to cancer. Even in the winter, use a moisturizer with high SPF (30+) on your face daily. We still get sun through the windshield of the car while driving or even just by sitting near a window. Just think of the plant you keep inside but put near the window so it still gets sun…the same goes for our skin so apply that sunscreen whether inside or outside, cloudy or sunny, winter or summer.
Pay your dermatologist a regular visit. We must proactively protect and care for our skin so we don’t learn by the time it is too late. We don’t have to be an expert in skin, but we can be the expert of what is normal for our skin so we know when there might be something atypical. If you haven’t been to the dermatologist in a while, schedule an appointment for a full body scan to baseline what is normal for you, as well as to learn what all you can be doing to better care for your skin based on factors like your skin type, age and family history.
Whether we realize it or not, we are in the middle of a movement of changing the way we think of health and self-care. Instead of being reactive, we are shifting towards a more preventative approach. Health and well-being is making its way to the forefront of our lives instead of being an afterthought only once visible signs can no longer be ignored and have reached a point of unmanageable and many time irreversible side effects. There’s no need to wait when you can get ahead of it and be proactive. When you view the time and effort spent in bettering you as making an investment in yourself, you will begin to see and feel the great reward of living in a healthy body and in this case, healthy skin.