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4 Steps to Healthy Skin

4 Steps to Healthy Skin

1. Stay out of the sun

Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays is the main cause of skin ageing (as well as skin cancer).

There are two types of UV rays: UVB and UVA.

UVB rays cause sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. UVA rays are responsible for premature skin ageing.

Unlike UVB, UVA rays do not burn or heat the skin so you will not know when you are exposed to them. And UVA rays are present regardless of the weather or the season. These penetrate deep into the surface of our skin and damage the cells beneath causing wrinkles, sun spots and leathery skin.

The only way to protect yourself from sun-induced premature skin ageing is to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (or one that specifies that it contain UVA filters) on your face and hands all year round. Many daily moisturisers contain UVA filters or broad-spectrum protection.

2. Eat Healthily

A well-balanced diet will benefit you both inside and out. A healthy mix should include: fruit and vegetables (at least five 80g portions a day), fibres such as wholegrain bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, some milk and dairy products, some meat, fish, eggs beans and other non-dairy sources of protein and only a small amount of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar. As alcohol dehydrates it can dry out skin making you look tired and old. Stay within recommended limits. The NHS recommends that men drink no more than 3-4 units a day and women no more than 2-3 units a day.

Key vitamins will also help enhance your skin.

Vitamin A stops your skin becoming dry and flaky, C helps your skin to produce collagen, E rehydrates skin and helps heal scars, Coenzyme CoQ10 is an antioxidant-rich supplement that strengthens the epidermis against lines and wrinkles (it can be found naturally in some foods including liver, sardines and mackerel), essential Fatty Acids help regulate hormones and hydrate the skin, while zinc and calcium promote healthy skin cell growth.

3. Quit Smoking

If you are a smoker - try to quit. Smoking prematurely ages skin . It is thought to reduce the skin's natural elasticity by reducing collagen production (collagen is a protein that supports skin strength).Your skin also thrives on a healthy circulation. Smoking causes wrinkles by narrowing blood vessels in the outer layers of skin. This means less oxygen and nutrients can get to your skin. Smoking overloads the body with toxins which the skin is partly responsible for eliminating. With so much energy dedicated to ?waste disposal' it has fewer resources left to regenerate and repair itself leaving your skin looking old before its time. If you struggle to quit by willpower alone there are many Nicotine Replacement Treatments to double your chances of staying smoke free.

4. Care for your Skin

Cleansing:

Your skin accumulates all manner of unwanted debris including dead skin cells, oil, make-up, dust and airborne pollutants. These make your skin look dull and can lead to spots, blackhead and other blemishes. Your first step to healthy skin is to find a good cleanser that respects the natural balance of your skin.

If your skin is dry you should avoid using ordinary soap or harsh alcohol-based products as these will further dry-out the skin by removing natural oils from the skin's epidermis (surface). If your skin is greasy the opposite applies and you should avoid using oil-base products which may exacerbate acne.

Ideally you should cleanse your skin in the morning and last thing at night. Don't cleanse too often and never wash your face with water that is too hot or too cold as this can cause broken capillaries.

Exfoliating

Exfoliating simply means removing dead cells from the surface of the epidermis (the skin's outer layer). While the dead cells shed naturally over time, they can remain ?stuck' to the surface giving you a dull and lacklustre complexion. The answer is to use a facial exfoliant once or twice a week. These are similar to cleansers but contain mildly abrasive ?grains'.

Exfoliant products contain enzymes and acids to chemically remove dead cells from the skin. The most common ones are Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) and Beta hydroxyl acids (BHAs).

AHAs work by dissolving the sticky substance between the dead skin cells, allowing them to fall away without any massaging or rinsing. These are best for skin that is dry and rough because they exfoliate the surface of the skin and improve moisture content. If your skin is dry or sensitive take care using any type of facial exfoliant in case it irritates your skin. Before using it all over your face, patch-test the formula on a small area of facial skin, and wait 24 hours for any reaction.

If your skin is oily or you suffer from acne, then an exfoliant with BHA is better because it penetrates the oil that's clogging your pores and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Moisturising

A good moisturiser is probably the most important ?weapon' in your beauty-regime's arsenal.

Moisturisers are generally made up of tiny droplets of oil held in a watery base. Most products contain substances called humectants which attract and conserve the water in our skin and emollients which soften and smooth the skin. Many emollients are oils that also provide a barrier against water loss from the skin.

In dry skin, the skin cells are getting shed too fast so a good moisturiser works by increasing the water content and normalising cell turnover.

Many modern moisturisers also contain protection from UV rays to support anti-ageing and a range of antioxidants designed to fight ?free radicals' which are destructive molecules that contribute to the ageing process of the skin and other tissues in the body.

What Skin Type am I?

  • Dry skin: feels tight and uncomfortable after washing. It may flake and look dull, or become red, itchy and sensitive after using certain products such as detergents.
  • Oily skin: looks shiny and feels greasy within three to five hours of cleansing. It is prone to breaking out in spots and blackheads.
  • Combination skin: is dry on the cheeks, but oily on the forehead, nose and chin.
  • Sensitive skin: becomes red, dry and itchy on contact with many substances, including water, facial moisturisers and even some fabrics.
  • Normal skin: looks and feels good all day long, and experiences few problems.
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