Your skin works hard to keep you healthy, and you can return the favour by taking care of it. Here are some tips to help you keep your skin looking and feeling good.
See the skin slideshow to learn more about common conditions
Skin is made up of an outer layer, the epidermis, and a layer of soft tissue underneath called the dermis. The epidermis constantly grows up towards the outer surface of the skin and sheds dead cells.
The skin acts as a barrier to protect our body from the environment. It also regulates temperature and detects and fights off infections. Nerves in the skin let us feel things such as touch. The skin is one of the biggest and most complex organs of the body, and contains hair follicles, oil glands, sweat glands, nerves and blood vessels.
You can look after your skin from the inside by eating well. “Maintaining a healthy diet is essential to skin health,” says Indy Rihal of the British Skin Foundation. “If your diet is healthy and well balanced, your general health will benefit and this will be reflected in your skin.”
Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are the main cause of skin ageing and can cause skin cancer. It`s important to protect skin against sun damage at any age, but take special care with babies, children and young people. A blistering sunburn before the age of 20 may double the risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
To protect yourself, don`t go in the sun between 11am and 3pm, cover up with clothing, hat and sunglasses, and use suncream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
“Strong evidence links smoking to ageing of the skin, and it`s one of the main environmental factors in premature skin ageing,” says Rihal. “It causes wrinkles and a leathery complexion, which makes the skin look old before it should.”
It is thought that smoking reduces the skin’s natural elasticity by causing the breakdown of collagen and reducing collagen production (collagen is a protein that supports skin strength). Collagen naturally degrades as we get older, leading to the formation of wrinkles. Smoking makes this happen sooner. “Smoking also causes the tiny blood vessels in the skin to constrict, reducing the supply of oxygen to the skin,” says Rihal.
When you drink alcohol, your body and skin can become dehydrated, leaving the skin looking older and tired. “Drink plenty of water to avoid drying out your skin,” says Rihal. When you’re drinking alcohol, try to drink within recommended limits and have a non-alcoholic drink, such as soda water or fruit juice, between alcoholic drinks.