How do I know if my skin is healthy or not? This is one of the most common questions directed at us in Dermatology. There are several questions to ask yourself when assessing the overall health of the skin that will help you determine if it meets the bar or not. Is my skin smooth or bumpy? Is it hydrated? Is my skin color even or do I have new spots?
The overall consensus is that skin texture matters in terms of assessing the health of the skin. Skin that is bumpy, rough, tight or dry may need some work. Smooth skin of uniform texture is thought to be a sign of proper hydration. Certain skin conditions, such as acne, keratosis pilaris, and eczema can cause the skin to be rough and appear unhealthy. Hyper or hypopigmented spots on the skin can be a sign of the aging process or evidence of sun exposure damage over time. Dark circles and “bags” under the eyes are a common complaint and can be due to loss of collagen and elastin in the dermal layer of the skin or lack of sleep. Sleep is important for overall health and lack thereof can be evident on the skin. When you don’t get enough sleep, Cortisol is released leading to an overall degradation of the collagen and elastin over time. Another tip to avoid wrinkling changes, on the face especially is to be careful in the way they apply makeup, moisturizers, sunscreens, etc as rubbing and pulling on the skin leads to wrinkling changes due to breakup of collagen fibers. The earlier one can implement these changes the better. It’s important to note that genetics plays a large part in the overall health of the skin as well. There are several hereditary conditions that can cause drier, itchier skin or if you have fair, freckled skin you may be more susceptible to damage from UV radiation and thus be more at risk for skin cancers.
Tips for Healthy Skin
- Drink Enough Water
- Wear Sunscreen and Minimize UV radiation
- No Smoking
- Diet High in Antioxidants, Fatty Acids, Selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A
Diet and Healthy Skin
Over the years, we have learned that diet is important when it comes to healthy skin. What foods should I consume, and which should I avoid? Foods high in antioxidants such as, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plums, are great for healthy skin by fighting free radicals, which are typically due to sun exposure. They help to protect the cell’s DNA from damage. Fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6 are another huge proponents of healthy skin. Fatty acids found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed oils help to remove toxic waste from the cell membrane as well as protect against heart disease. Why does heart disease matter in Dermatology? It matter’s because there are certain skin conditions, such as Stasis Dermatitis, that are directly caused by poor circulation which can be a result of heart disease. Selenium is important to protect against oxidative damage as well and possibly protects against sunburn and the damage of UV damage to the cell’s DNA especially when combined with other nutrients. Green tea is another highly important element to maintaining healthy skin as it provides protection against UV light thus it is hypothesized that it may help prevent skin cancer.
One of the most important factors for maintaining nice, healthy skin is to make sure to protect it from harmful UV radiation. Sun damage leads to the breakdown of Elastin which is an essential fiber we need to maintain the firmness of the skin. Elastin breakdown shows up as wrinkling changes and loose, fragile skin that bruises easily. UV radiation leads to precancerous growths called actinic keratosis as well as skin cancers. How does this happen? Skin cancer occurs due to the increased production of abnormal skin cells. The sun causes damage to our skin’s DNA allowing tumors (cancerous and benign) to flourish. Cumulative damage also leads to pigmentation changes and thus overall the skin does not have that uniform, healthy appearance. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are typically due to cumulative sun damage however melanoma is more likely to develop out of areas of severe sunburns with blistering; however any combination is possible. The use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen blocks both the harmful rays of UVA and UVB radiation. It’s important to note that sunscreen should be applied every two hours and used whenever sun exposure is going to be a factor. Even driving in the car!
Hydrating the Skin
Drinking plenty of water is essential to maintaining healthy, supple skin via hydration. Water helps to remove toxins from the skin cells and helps improve the overall texture and smoothness of the skin. It’s amazing the difference you will see if you significantly increase the amount of water you consume daily. Moisturizing the skin with a gentle, creamy product is essential to the hydration of the skin. It’s most beneficial to apply a moisturizer such as CeraVe, Cetaphil or Vanicream when the skin is damp to allow maximum penetration and hydration. Make sure to avoid extended exposure to water, especially hot, as this will dry out the skin, leaving it itchy and unhealthy.
Written by Patricia Spitzer, PA-C. Patricia is one of our board-certified mid-level practitioners specializing in dermatology. Patricia has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. She received her master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies at Nova Southeastern University. Patricia has over 8 years of experience in dermatology.