November is National Healthy Skin Month and with skin being our body’s largest organ, it’s important to take care of it. Our skin is important just not in its size, but our skin is visible and is able to tell us a lot about our overall health. Whether it’s acne, skin cancer or any other skin condition, you can learn a lot about what is affecting your body through the skin. In this week’s Health Journal, we take a deep dive into our skin health, how to maintain it and give you some tips to keep your skin healthy in the long term.
Tips to promote healthy skin:
We have probably all heard of those extensive skin care routines some of our favorite celebrities use, but we all might not have the time to dedicate to our skin. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be difficult to be effective. Here are a few tips to keep in mind and help keep your skin happy and healthy.
- Protect yourself from the sun: One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to help protect it from the sun and its harmful rays. Over the course of our life, exposure to the sun can lead to wrinkles, age spots and even increase your risk of skin cancer. To help protect yourself, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and re-apply every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or perspiring. You can also wear protective clothing that covers your skin like long-sleeve shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats.
- Limit the smoking: Smoking contributes to making your skin look older and also contributes to creating those pesky wrinkles. Smoking narrows the blood vessels on the outermost layers of the skin, which decreases blood flow and in turn makes the skin look paler. This process also depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are essential to skin health. Smoking increases your risk of squamous cell skin cancer and if you smoke, the best way to protect your skin is to stop.
- Limit bath time: Hot water and those long showers remove valuable oil from our skin, so try using warm water instead and limit the duration.
- Eat a healthy diet: The health benefits of eating a healthy diet have a wide range that includes our skin. It’s recommended that we eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It is not clear the exact association between our diet and acne, but some research suggests that a diet rich in fish oil and low in unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin. It’s also important to drink plenty of water in order to keep your skin hydrated.
- Manage Stress: Like a healthy diet, stress can have a variety of effects on our health, even with our skin. Stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts, among other skin problems. Some tips to manage stress include: get enough sleep, scale back your to-do-list and make time to do things you enjoy.
Skin Conditions by the Numbers:
Now that we’ve looked at a few tips to keep our skin happy and healthy, it’s time to look at some statistics to see just how prevalent some of the main skin conditions are. These statistics put into perspective how common skin cancer and acne are, and what it looks like for the common person.
- Acne: This is the most common skin condition in the United States and effects up to 50 million Americans each year. Acne usually begins during puberty and most commonly affects adolescents and young adults. It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of people between ages 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne. It is true however, that acne can occur at any stage of life and even continue into one’s 30s and 40s, and is increasing in adults and affecting 15 percent of women.
- Atopic Dermatitis: Also known as eczema, atopic dermatitis is a condition that makes the skin itchy and red and is commonly seen in children but can also be seen in adults. One in 10 people will develop atopic dermatitis during their lifetime, while 60 percent of people develop this condition during their first year of life and 90 percent develop it before the age of 5. It is also long lasting (chronic) and it tends to flare up periodically, but currently there is no cure.
- Rosacea: This is a skin condition that affects 16 million Americans. Rosacea is a condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels in the face and can also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps. These symptoms may flare up for weeks and months and then go away for a while. People of all ages can develop rosacea but it is most common in people aged between 30 & 60 and those with a family history of rosacea.
- Skin Cancer: This is the most common cancer in the United States. It has been estimated that more than 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer each day. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined, including breast, lung and colon cancer.