Did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the body? The skin serves several essential functions, so maintaining healthy skin is important for our overall health. The skin helps regulate body temperature, keeps nutrients and water inside the body, provides a barrier against outside substances such as infections, chemicals and UV radiation, and also provides the sense of touch to protect us from pain and tissue damage. For all of these reasons it is vital to maintain healthy skin, and this can be accomplished by avoiding harsh chemicals and fragrances, moisturizing and using sun protection regularly, and getting annual skin exams.
Avoiding skin care products with harsh chemicals and fragrances is important to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Chemicals can break down the skin causing excessive dryness and irritation. Fragrances are a common allergen and can cause skin rashes further reducing our ability to ward off infections. Look for skin care products and laundry soaps that are “fragrance free” to ensure they are the safest choice to use. Moisturizing regularly at least once daily after showering can help the skin retain moisture, reduce irritation and itching and overall improve the integrity of the skin.
Sun protection is vital to maintaining healthy skin. UV radiation damages the skin and can cause unwanted skin pigmentation, wrinkles, and skin cancer. A broad spectrum sun block with an SPF of at least 30 should be used daily to all sun exposed skin. It should be reapplied every 80 minutes when there is prolonged sun exposure. Sun blocks with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the most effective and safest sunscreens to use. Other sun protection tips include avoiding tanning beds, seeking shade especially between 10 am to 2 pm, and wearing other UV protective clothing, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses.
1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and it accounts for 33% of all cancer diagnoses. It is one of the most preventable and curable types of cancer if caught early. Dermatology providers are trained to recognize early signs of sun damage and abnormalities in skin lesions. Seeing a dermatologist annually can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer and skin cancer related death. Monthly self skin exams are also important for early identification of skin cancer. Things to look for are changes in size, color or border of a mole, sore pink rough patches on the skin that do not improve with lotion, and any wounds that bleed easily and are not healing.
Maintaining healthy skin is extremely significant in the health and well-being of us all. Since the skin is such an important organ we need to take certain measures as outlined above to make sure we keep our skin healthy. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your skin, schedule a consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional.