By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
It’s an interesting coincidence that Thanksgiving and National Healthy Skin Month both take place in November. Though it is the body’s largest organ, the skin seems to go unnoticed. We see it everywhere on ourselves and yet most of us know only a little about the job – or jobs – it is doing. Overlooked, the skin works without thanks, and often without the care that could help keep it healthy.
In addition to defending us from germs and contaminants, protecting and supporting our internal organs, and helping to regulate body temperature, the skin plays a surprising role in nutrition by storing energy and metabolizing it when it is needed. The skin consists of layers and even layers within layers. It is by no means as simple as it looks on the surface.
Returning the Favor
With the skin taking such good care of us, what can we do in return? Thankfully, there are as many ways to care for our skin as there are jobs it is doing for us.
Moisturizing is a good idea to start with, because it’s the one that people might think of first, and at the same time it includes something most likely to be overlooked. You see, moisturizing has to come from within, too. Drinking plenty of water – eight glasses a day – is at least as important as any cream or lotion we might apply. Lotions perform mainly by holding moisture in the skin, and they do little good if there’s no moisture coming up from within to hold. You can feel great about this step because drinking plenty of water makes everything work better, not just the skin!
You can nourish your skin by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially vitamin C powerhouses such as oranges, sweet potatoes, berries, and broccoli. Avocados are a source of Vitamin E, great for the skin, and a tasty addition to sandwiches and salads.
Easier On You, Easier On Your Skin
Getting enough sleep and managing stress is good for everything from your skin to your outlook. Yes, stress shows up in skin texture, color, and lines. Sleep refreshes you outside as well as inside. Regular exercise is yet another example of better self-care as better skin care, too.
Need one more reason to stop smoking? Think about your skin. Smoking ages skin prematurely by decreasing blood flow and cutting off oxygen and nutrients. Puffing and squinting make lines around the mouth and eyes, too.
Watchful Care: The Key to Cancer Protection
One in five of us will develop skin cancer, and early detection is vital. Those of us blessed with coastal living have a special challenge because we live even more of our lives outdoors. Limiting exposure to the sun with hats and clothing, and wearing sunscreen year-round, are ideas that thankfully are catching on.
Let’s add to that an annual skin cancer screening. November is a good time for this because skin color usually has paled somewhat since the summer, revealing more easily any irregularities. Thanksgiving can be a fine reminder to get a once-over with the trained eye of our family physician.
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