What You Need To Know About Protecting Your Skin
By Elyse Notarianni

Taking care of your skin isn’t just about how you look – it’s about your health. Damage to your skin builds up slowly over time and shows more clearly than damage to any other part of your body. At best, it leads to wrinkles and discoloration. At worst, it’s cancer.

It’s all about the lighting.

Warren Heymann, MD

Skincare 101: protect your skin from the sun, says Warren Heymann, MD, professor of medicine and head of dermatology at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

“It’s the same thing you’ve been hearing from your mom since you were a kid: Wear your sunscreen,” says Heymann. “Even better, minimize exposure to the sun in the first place.”

If you’re going outside, he says, stick to the shade, and try to go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun isn’t at its fullest. Grab your sunglasses, hat and make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Clothing with tightly-woven fabrics, like denim or satin, protects better than looser fabrics like linen, where light can still shine through.

Many people don’t realize that there are different types of light, he says.

“UV is a spectrum. UVA penetrates down to the dermis, which causes your wrinkles. UVB causes sunburn, and even cancer,” says Heymann. “You need to protect yourself from both, which is why you should always be looking for a broad spectrum sunscreen.”

Which, he notes, you should wear year-round – regardless of the weather.

“Light can shine through even on a cloudy day,” says Heymann. “It can come through your car windows or even reflect off snow in the winter.”

Lifestyle plays a big part.

Steven Davis, DO

“There are people who say, ‘I stay at home, I stay out of the sun, so I should have healthy skin,’ but there’s much more to it than that,” says Steven Davis, DO, founder of Davis Cosmetic Plastic Surgery.

For starters, it’s not just sunlight you need to worry about, he says.

“Even blue light, like from your laptop or fluorescent lights in an office, can cause skin aging over time,” says Davis.

Diet is equally important. Many of the vitamins and nutrients in skin care products can be found just as easily – and much cheaper – in everyday foods.

“Something as easy as making sure you’re eating fruits and vegetables of different colors can make a big impact on your skin,” he says. “That’s where you’ll get vitamins like collagen or vitamin C, which protect your skin and keep it looking young.”

That’s not to say vitamins and supplements are not worthwhile. The right ones can fill in the gaps your diet leaves behind – just make sure to make the plan with your doctor, since everyone’s body is different and all supplements are not equal.

One universal rule for good skin? “When you drink enough water,” Davis says, “you’re able to see the difference in your skin almost immediately.”

A good skincare routine is essential.

No, you don’t have to have a 30-product, 45-minute nightly routine to keep your skin healthy, says Heymann. You just have to find the regimen that works for you – and stick to it.

“If in doubt, simplicity is always best,” he says. “The complex routines aren’t necessarily bad, but if you’re a busy person, you’re going to be better off with a simple routine you can stick to every day than to have an intensive routine that you only have time for a few nights a week – if that.”

There’s one rule to follow, Heymann says. Protect during the day, repair at night. In the morning, gentle cleansing – without harsh soaps – is best. Sunscreen and vitamin C will shield you from light. At night, you can repair your skin with a product like retinol, which can be drying, so make sure to pair it with a moisturizer, he says.

“It all sounds pretty basic, but that’s exactly the beauty of it,” says Heymann. “It’s easy, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and it works.”

If you are the type of person who enjoys the nightly routine, what’s important is finding what’s right for you and your skin. “Skincare isn’t one-size-fits-all,” he says. “What works for a beauty blogger on social media may not be the right regime for you.”

Health and beauty go hand-in-hand.

The best way to keep your skin healthy is to prevent damage in the first place. But for many, that ship has already sailed. That doesn’t mean you can’t correct it.

“Plastic surgery isn’t necessarily just for vanity,” says Davis. “People come to plastic surgeons for things like melanoma, skin cancer, deformity, breast augmentation, tummy tuck, stretch marks.”

But, he says, purely cosmetic reasons are also valid. “An important part of your health is feeling good, and if reducing your pores, getting laser treatment, or doing micro-needling for a smoother texture makes you feel good about yourself, then that’s for your health.”

Cosmetic surgery won’t fix everything. You’ll only get the best results if you deal with the root problem along with it, says Davis.

“If you come to a plastic surgeon for a facelift, for example, it’s usually because the skin has become aged. As a surgeon, we can lift that up and make you look more youthful, but what we’re not talking about is the quality of your skin,” he says. “The same surgery can have drastically different outcomes. If you have healthy skin that you’ve protected and maintained, the facelift will do so much more for you than for someone who has been tanning and smoking cigarettes for 40 years.”

July 2022
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