So this is the time of year when nearly everyone is thinking about things they can do to better themselves. After all of the holiday food and festivities, it tends to be a natural purge and cleanse period so what better time to have a list of a few simple things you can do to improve your skin? Here are 9 tips for 2019!
1. Check your birthday suit. Not everyone needs annual skin checks by a dermatologist, but everyone should be familiar with their skin. Here is a helpful guide form the American Academy of Dermatology: HOW TO PERFORM A SKIN SELF-EXAM. Checking helps you to know what is normal for you so if something new shows up or a previously present lesion changes, you are aware of the change and get it checked out by a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is typically highly curable when caught early.
Those with risk factors for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer such as prior history of skin cancer, family history of skin cancer, many moles, abnormal moles, significant sun exposure, history of many sunburns, and anyone with a new/changing/concerning skin lesion should be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.
2. Wash your face twice daily. What to use depends on your skin type, but wash your face at least upon waking and before going to bed. You’ll also want to cleanse your skin after exercising/sweating. See my Aug blog for more of my tips on face washing.
3. Moisturize. Especially this time of year, dry skin is rampant. Be kind to your skin and use a nice thick cream or ointment moisturizer immediately after showering and drying off your skin. Avoid use of alcohol on the skin as that can worsen dryness. Some of my favorite body moisturizers include:
Cetaphil Cream. Simple and easy to find, this moisturizer saved me when I first encountered the dry cold winter in Iowa when I was a medical student years ago. A fellow student, Deb, happened to see me incessantly scratching my severely itchy arms and legs while studying and mercifully told me about Cetaphil. At the time I moisturized with good ole’ baby oil which had served me well the first 25 years of my life, but was no match for the freezing Iowa wintry weather. I was amazed at the relieve Cetaphil Cream provided to my parched skin. (Thanks Deb!)
Epionce Medical Barrier Cream.* This is excellent for locking moisture in to hydrate extremely dry skin, reduces itch and inflammation and is perfect for sensitive skin. This is my current wintertime moisturizer, though I really like the new kid on the block below. . .
Epionce Renewal Calming Cream.* I am loving this new Epionce product. It has some of the wonderful qualities of Medical Barrier Cream with the addition of colloidal oatmeal to soothe and calm skin. It is my go to moisturizer for my kiddos and provides lasting skin hydration that keeps itch and dryness away.
For the face, look for a moisturizer with “non-comedogenic” on the label as that means it will not clog your pores. More tips on face moisturization can be found in my prior blog here.
(*Available at our office or online. Online use code 20171206 for free shipping.)
4. Add a retinoid. It can be daunting trying to decide what to do to fight the barrage of antioxidant damage our skin combats. One simple start is to add a topical retinoid. Most over-the-counter “retinols” that you can purchase at the grocery store or pharmacy are far too mild to provide the results I desire, but there are still many options that are both prescription and non-prescription. We carry several in office including very mild ones for sensitive skin and highly potent ones for oily skin or those needing a strong agent. They can be relatively drying (depending on the strength) so I usually pair my retinoid with a moisturizer. Some people cannot tolerate a retinoid daily—especially this time of year. However, because of the benefits of boosting collagen formation, reducing discoloration and dark blemishes, and smoothing fine wrinkles, retinoids are an important part of my anti-aging skin regimen. I plan to cover more on the benefits of retinoids in a future blog.
5. Don’t smoke. Smoking accelerates skin aging and impedes wound healing. Avoid or stop smoking to advance your skin—as well as your overall—health. See #3 in this blog for a bit more on smoking and its effect on skin.
6. Avoid excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It’s tough to get excess sun in Oklahoma in January, but we sometimes forget about this with travel to sunny destinations. Check the UV index and if 3 or higher, you may need protection (depending on your skin type—see here for more on that). Applying sunscreen, wearing hats and sunglasses and sun protective clothing are important steps and some of the easiest things you can do to fight UV radiation damage that causes sunburns, skin discoloration, wrinkles, damaged collagen, and skin cancer.
7. Antioxidants anyone? Vitamin C and E are the two most important antioxidants in the skin. They help protect it from UV damage, boost collagen formation/reduce collagen breakdown, and inhibit excess pigment formation. Adding topically applied formulations can brighten your skin and help it to look more vibrant and youthful. As vitamin C can be unstable, be sure whatever formulation you use is stabilized and in an amber or opaque container to help maintain potency. It is also important to know that your product penetrates into the skin as some forms just sit on the surface where they have no biological activity. I use a number of antioxidants on my face and neck including our VibrantSkin Vita-CE with ferulic acid. The ferulic acid, an antioxidant in its own right, also helps the vitamins to penetrate into the skin where they can get to work neutralizing free radicals, reducing wrinkle formation, evening out skin tone, and increasing collagen.
8. Give ’em a break. If you constantly have acrylic nails consider leaving your nails free at least a few days per month. Acrylics can be very damaging to the underlying nails. This damage can sometimes be extensive and even permanent, leading to the undesirable cycle of continued acrylic nails to cover the damage and then further nail injury. Gel based nail prosthetics may be less harmful. When your nails are free, leave polish off as well and moisturize nails and cuticles with a nice nail moisturizer such as Elon nail cream. If you notice that your nail is separated from where it normally is attached to the underlying skin (a condition called onycholysis), see a board-certified dermatologist right away. Onycholysis can be treated in the short term, but if prolonged, can become permanent.
9. If you notice hair loss, seek care early. Hair loss can be extremely distressing, yet I see many patients who seek care only once it is severe. Most types of hair loss can be treated and much or some of the lost hair regained. However this is most true when treatment is sought early. Extensive hair loss or hair loss that has been present for many months or years may have few effective treatments and little chance of reversal. Treatments for hair loss are typically determined by the underlying cause but there are many options including topical and oral medications, injections, microneedling (which I pair with growth factor application), light therapy, surgical reduction, hair transplantation, and hair prosthetics (wigs). Even if you feel it is too late for your hair loss, I still encourage you to seek care from a board certified dermatologist to determine the right plan for you.
Hope these tips help you to get started on your best year yet. Happy 2019!
Kesha Buster, MD FAAD (board-certified dermatologist
January 2019 Specials!