For skincare, simpler is often better. For instance, you’ll find that wearing protective clothing to shield yourself from harsh elements is a better method of skincare than using very expensive beauty creams.
Baking in the sun may feel good, but it’s the worst thing you can do to your skin. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause wrinkling and skin cancer (see “Sun Sense“).
The wind dries and toughens the skin. Cover up on windy days wear a ski mask or scarf to protect your face and use a moisturizer regularly as a preventive measure.
Dry air, whether hot or cold, robs the skin of moisture. In winter, use a humidifier or put an open pan of water on the radiator. Plants are also good humidifiers since they emit water vapor. See page 206 for information on humidifiers.
Smoking is bad for your skin. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, interferes with the flow of oxygen and nutrient to skin cells, and can emphasize crow’s-feet.
Hot tubs and baths can take moisture out of your skin. The longer they soak, the more moisture you lose. Go easy on these, as well as hot showers. Shorter and cooler showers ‘are better for your skin, especially when the weather is cold.
Saunas will make your skin feel tight not because of its texture is improved but because it’s dried out. Don’t take saunas too often.
Diuretics are water-reduction pills sometimes used by dieters. They work by stealing water from body tissue, essentially drying the skin from the inside out.
Poor nutrition affects the whole body, but the skin may show it first.
Inactivity means sluggish skin. Exercise increases blood flow and bathes the skin in its natural moisturizer-sweat.
It may also help reduce the tension and stress that eventually etch the face with lines and creases.
If you sleep under an electric blanket, make sure that you’re not turning it up any higher than necessary. The heat promotes loss of water from the skin surface; the higher the setting, the greater the loss. See other safety precautions.
Facial exercises designed to fight wrinkles may instead actually produce them, since they tend to crease the skin into set patterns.
KNOW YOUR SOAPS
True soaps are composed of alkaline salts and fatty acids. Oils, scents, coloring, and antibacterial agents may be added to true soaps.
Synthetic soaps are less alKaline and are made from de targets (a term that does not necessarily indicate harshness), fatty acids, and other sources. They lather better in hard water and don’t leave a bathtub ring. They’re also called beauty bars, soap-free
cleansers, and nonsoaps.
Transparent soaps contain 10 percent more glycerin, a substance that helps the skin hold moisture. However, some contain alcohol and are therefore drying.
Superfatted soaps have extra fats or oils, such as cocoa butter and mineral oil. They work well for dry skin.
Antibacterial soaps have ingredients that kill bacteria on the skin’s surface. Older formulas, which tend to dry the skin, can sometimes help alleviate shaving irritation.
The new formulas are nondrying and so are especially good during winter and for older people.
Abrasive or exfoliant soaps, with tiny particles meant to slough off dead cells, can be harsh and drying. People with extremely oily skin may find them helpful when used occasionally (and gentle).
Acne or medicated soaps contain topical drugs in addition to the cleansing agent.
Although they can be helpful they also tend to be drying and can be irritating. If you
experience irritation, stop usage until the skin recovers.
Liquid soaps usually synthetics and have the same cleaning ability as the bars.
Some people find them convenient. More important, they may be less likely to attract bacteria than bar soaps.
Unscented soaps have little or no added fragrance, so they are a wise choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
Specialty soaps may have added vitamins, minerals, perfumes, wheat germ, or vegetable or fruit juices. (The additives aren’t on your skin long enough to have any effect.) They possess the same cleansing power as other soaps and should be selected based on skin type.
GENTLE FACE CLEANSING
Cleaning your face improperly may do more harm than good. Many of us assault the face with harsh products that can injure skin cells.
- Wash your face once a day with warm-not hot-water and a mild cleanser. Don’t massage the soap into your skin because this may clog your pores. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of soap.
- Use a soft washcloth to help remove dead skin cells and dirt. Be sure to rinse the cloth after each use.
- You needn’t worry too much about the pH (the numerical indication of acidity or alkalinity) of a soap. Your skin will return to its normal pH level soon after washing.
- If you live in a heavily polluted area, clean your face a second time each day using a cotton ball moistened with a
- For a gentle massage, stimulate your face with a dental irrigator. This will also flush out pores. Avoid your eyes and ears.
NUTRIENTS FOR THE SKIN
Vitamin C helps produce collagen, the substance that gives the skin some of its elasticity. Citrus fruits, green peppers, and tomatoes are high in vitamin C.
Vitamin E, an antioxidant, helps to counter the effects of pollution and ultraviolet rays. Among foods high in vitamin E are wheat germ, whole grain bread, oatmeal, and vegetable oils.
Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant. It is found in various fruits and vegetables, including carrots and broccoli. You may also want to take a multivitamin supplement containing beta carotene. Drink eight glasses of fluids a day to make sure your skin is getting enough moisture from within. Besides plain water, you can meet this quota with mineral water, seltzer, diluted fruit juices, herb teas, decaffeinated tea and coffee, and artificially sweetened beverages. (Drinks containing alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and salt, on the other hand, are dehydrating.)
If you have tiny facial sur face veins, avoid alcohol and hot or spicy foods; they aggravate flushing.
IF YOUR SKIN IS SENSITIVE
Remember that the term hypoallergenic means only that the most common allergens, fragrance, cocoa butter, cornstarch, cottonseed oil, have been removed from the product. There is no guarantee that you will not be allergic to one or more of the remaining ingredients.
The terms unscented and fragrance-free can be misleading. Masking scents may be used to cover the odor of some antiperspirant ingredients.
If you react badly to commercial antiperspirants and deodorants, try a mixture of equal parts of vinegar and water (the vinegar smell will disappear). Or wash twice a day with an antibacterial cleanser. Other options include using talcum powder, baking soda, or witch hazel. If none of these measures work, consult a doctor, who may provide an antiperspirant solution.
If you’re allergic to makeup, try a little beet juice for color. Apply it with a soft sponge or cotton ball.
If you have pierced ears and tend to get infections, try dipping the back of the steel posts in an antibacterial ointment before wearing them. And don’t wear earrings containing nickel; this highly allergenic metal can cause dermatitis.
KEEPING THE MOISTURE IN
There are two types of moisturizers. Emollients, such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil, work best on dry or chapped skin. Humectants-glycerin, sorbitol, lactic acid, and urea-are good for oily or sensitive skin.
The best time to put on moisturizer is right after washing when your skin is still damp. Apply a light coating to seal moisture in.
For extra moisture in your face, wring out a washcloth and drape it over your face for a few minutes. Then apply moisturizer.
Makeup helps reduce water loss from the skin, so if you don’t wear makeup, be sure to use a moisturizer.
Don’t assume that expensive products offer special advantages. Cheaper creams and lotions may be just as effective.
Let a moisturizer set for 10 minutes before applying makeup. Most foundations are oil-based and don’t mix well with the water in moisturizers.
To make your own bath pillow, fill a hot-water bottle with warm water, or roll up a big bath towel and seal it inside a plastic bag.
TUB OR SHOWER?
Your limbs become slightly buoyant in bathwater. This causes a drop in muscle tension, making the bath a good way to relax. A shower is more invigorating, probably because of the temperature disparity-part of your body is exposed to hot water and the rest to cooler air and the fact that you’re standing instead of reclining.
Taking baths can ease arthritis, muscle injuries, skin maladies, and poor circulation. Combining baths and massage therapy will often alleviate stress.
Before entering a bath or shower, always test the water the temperature at the tap with your elbow, which is more sensitive to heat than your hand. Heaters in some homes can bring the water to a scalding 145°F (62.S0C).
If you feel flushed or sweat profusely within a couple of minutes of getting into the tub or shower, lower the water temperature.
People with heart trouble should take cool or warm- but never hot-baths. When the water is hotter than normal body temperature, the body tries to compensate by expanding the blood vessels near the surface of the skin. This can cause a drop in blood pressure.
Every few days, stay in the bath or shower long enough to soften the dead skin on your feet, elbows, and elsewhere. Then rub those areas with a wet pumice stone, loofah, or abrasive puff. After removing rough skin, rinse off and apply body lotion.
No talcum powder? You can substitute cornstarch (unless you’re allergic) if you like a dusting after your bath.
Avoid bath oils. They don’t add moisture to the skin, and they can make the tub dangerously slippery. Instead, dissolve 112 cup salt in your bath water; it helps to prevent drying and “winter itch.”
Most people need to warm the skin and hydrate facial hair so that it’s erect and easier to shave. The hot, wet tow-els of the old-fashioned barbershop are ideal, but the next best thing is to shave immediately after a shower, bath, or sauna.
You can also shave in the shower; fog-free mirrors are now available. Those who like to use a razor but suffer from neck irritation or ingrown hairs will especially benefit from this method. Don’t stay in the shower longer than 15 minutes-oversoaked skin prevents a smooth shave and may cause nicks.
If you use a softening agent, consider the traditional shaving brush for lathering. It makes the beard stand up more than foams and gels do. To preserve the brush, stroke up and down rather than in a circle.
Aftershaves are a matter of personal preference. All you really need is a warm-water rinse. If you have sensitive skin, use an aloe lotion.
Forget “the perfect shave.” If you move the razor both in and against the direction of the hair, you’re literally shaving your skin, promoting irritation and ingrown hairs.
Those who do become irritated (redness, small bumps) should use an antibacterial soap twice a day to help avoid infection. After the first wash-right after shaving-apply 1/2 or 1 percent cortisone cream (but avoid the eye areas). This will have an anti-inflammatory effect.
To prevent dulling, never run a razor blade across a towel.
Shave in the direction the hair grows-downward, except on the neck (for most men).
Women shaving their legs should do the opposite: shave against the grain so that the razor can lift up the hairs before cutting them. Use long, even strokes, and moisturize your legs afterward.
Never use deodorant right after shaving under your arms. If possible, shave underarms at night, pat on witch hazel, and then give your skin an overnight rest.
If you plan to use a bleaching or depilatory cream on facial hair, test it first on your forearm or the inside of your wrist to see if your skin can tolerate it.
To treat a shaving nick, apply a tea bag moistened with cold water.
Hold on to your towel after each warm bath or shower. In only a few minutes, you can do exercises involving the shoulder, arm, and chest muscles for improved upper-body
flexibility. Stretch until you feel a slight pull in the muscle, and then hold for 10 seconds.
You should feel some tension, but not pain.
- Hold the towel above your head with your hands about two feet apart. Pull backward until you feel a stretch in your armpits.
- Then gently pull your right hand straight up in the air as you pull to the side with your left hand. Reverse.
- Next, drop the left end of the towel behind your back and use your left hand to pull down on the towel. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Finally, grasp both ends of the towel behind your back and try to lift your arms up and back. Do not arch your back.
DEALING WITH ACNE
In treating acne, start with the mildest medication, such as a 2.5 percent solution of benzoyl peroxide. Check the label to make sure the product does not contain lanolin or mineral oil. If the skin tolerates this mild solution but the acne does not improve, try 5 percent strength. When using any benzoyl peroxide, avoid the area around the eyes. Persistent acne may require a prescription medication; consult a dermatologist.
Check your medications. Dilantin, cortisone, and other steroids, and hormone preparations, including birth control pills and estrogen, commonly trigger acne. If you’re taking any of these drugs, pay extra attention to skincare.
Iodides and fluorides-found in kelp, spinach, seaweed, shellfish, and iodized salt-may
worsen problem skin.
Although some foods can aggravate acne, chocolate isn’t one of them. Numerous studies show that even large amounts of chocolate will not provoke outbreaks.
Working out may also mean breaking out, especially at the start of an exercise program,
when the skin isn’t used to the increased sweat and oil. Remove makeup before exercising, change out of damp clothes afterward, and spritz your face with water or toner if you can’t shower right away. Wipe off a communal gym mat-with alcohol, if possible-before using it.
Cosmetics may contribute to acne problems. Buy products labeled “noncomedogenic,”
which means that they are free of oil and other ingredients that can clog pores.
Noncomedogenic moisturizers and sunscreens are also available. Always use moisturizers sparingly.
Certain hair-care products mousses, conditioners, sprays-may lead to skin outbreaks. Stay away from those that list oils among the ingredients.
Dirty makeup brushes can harbor bacteria and germs. At least twice a month, soak brushes for 10 minutes in a dish of warm, soapy water ( use a liquid, antibacterial soap). Then rinse them thoroughly and blot them dry with a clean towel. Stand brushes, handle ends down, in a glass until they’re completely dry.
Does your chin, cheek, or forehead break out? Notice whether you tend to rest it in the palm of your hand Cor, with the chin, against a telephone receiver). If so, change this habit.
Lip balm can cause acne or blackheads around the mouth.
Check your brand; if it contains mineral oil, buy another kind without that ingredient.
Men with acne should shave as seldom as possible and always use a sharp blade. A
translucent, rather than opaque, shaving gel will help you to see sensitive areas.
Treatment varies according to the underlying cause, but here are some all-purpose remedies.
Try a soothing bath. Tie about a cup of oatmeal in a cheesecloth bag, and swish the bag through warm bath water until the water looks somewhat milky. Or add 1/2 cup salt to a tub of tepid water. Soak in the tub for 10 minutes.
For temporary relief, calamine lotion without added antihistamines, which may cause allergic reactions or nonprescription hydrocortisone cream may help. You can also try a product containing pramoxine, which is somewhat anesthetic and can give rapid relief; use it alone or along with the hydrocortisone cream. Don’t apply any of these, however, if you have an infection, and consult a doctor before treating a rash in this way. Also, limit use to four or five days After this, see a doctor-persistent itching may indicate a serious condition.
Experiment with different fabrics. Many people cannot tolerate wool; others react badly to dyes and synthetics. Your detergent may also be the culprit; try putting clothes through an extra rinse cycle. Wear plain white cotton which seldom provokes a reaction, next to the skin.
If you tend to have itchy skin, watch what you eat and drink. Coffee, alcohol, and spicy or steaming-hot foods cause the blood vessels in the skin’s outer layer to swell and can trigger itching.
Find relief for itchy skin in your freezer: apply crushed ice wrapped in a towel to the area.