Start by Avoiding the Obvious
First things first: what are the big important things you need to do to protect your skin? If you are looking for the TL;DR version of this guide, here it is:
- Be gentle when treating your skin
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight without protection
- Never continue to use any product that irritates your skin
- Eat a diet high in anti-oxidants & anti-inflammatories
- Be cautious of exposing your skin to extreme temperatures
Now we’ll cover this in more depth, but these are the three big things you absolutely must do if you are going to give your skin a fighting chance. Remember, even if you don’t feel or see inflammation from these three things – there could still be things going on under the surface that will lead to serious long-term issues.
Now let’s look at few specific things you can do as well as issues that affect your skin care in a bit greater detail.
Stop Washing Your Face Like You Wash Your Hands
Though women figured this out long ago, many guys still go in and scrub their face vigorously like they do their hands when they want to cleanse it. Simply put – the skin on your face doesn’t need such rough treatment. Instead, treat it gently. Always make sure your face is well protected from the sun and only use the most gentle skin-care products you can find. You can try looking for ones that specifically say “non-irritating” and that are free of any scents or dyes. This isn’t unmanly at all, it’s just being smart.
Don’t give up on your daily face cleansing ritual. It’s important, but do it gently. One final tip: if any product ever irritates your skin in any way – ditch it immediately and try something new. More on this in the next section.
Use the Right Skin Care Products
Making sure you pick the right skin care products requires being aware of a couple of different things. First, you need to make sure you are picking out products that don’t contain any ingredients your skin is allergic to. Second, you want to also pick out products rich in ingredients that actually the inflammation and breakdown other irritants may be causing your skin. Allergies and irritations look the same on the surface of the skin, but what’s going on underneath is vastly different. Keep in mind that not all inflammations come from simple irritation. If redness, flaky skin, swelling, itching, or other common signs of skin irritation persist, you may actually be having an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions typically happen when you come into contact with a substance you are allergic to, and the inflammation associated with them tends to last longer than an irritant. Often times the source of the allergic reaction can be a soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener, deodorant, conditioner, or anything else your skin comes in direct contact with.
Most of the time you simply need to prevent repeated exposure for the allergy-related inflammation to clear up, but if severe enough, treatment may be required. Consult your doctor if you have any persistent or serious inflammation.
Because of the large amount of research on irritation & inflammation and their negative effects on skin, many skin care products today contain anti-inflammatories and anti-irritants that both relieve and soothe skin. There are all kinds of cosmetic and dermatology products with ingredients included to specifically help reduce irritation and better protect skin.
Don’t be afraid to try new products as they emerge either. It was only a few years ago that free-radicals were discovered as the cause of much skin irritation and that antioxidants are particularly effective at combatting them. Keep an eye out as even greater breakthroughs in skin treatment products are likely to hit the shelves in the future.
Eat a Diet Rich in Anti-Oxidants & Anti-inflammatories
Studies over the last twenty years have really revolutionized what we know about the relationship between what we eat and the health of our bodies. This includes our skin. Today, all kinds of studies prove the effectiveness of different kinds of food in improving your skin’s ability to fight off wrinkles and reduce its risk of serious skin-borne illnesses like cancer. Though it sounds like an oversimplification, the research overwhelmingly proves one thing: the role of chronic inflammation is central in the onset of signs of aging, breakdown of elasticity, and potential exposure to diseases.
If there’s one change you could make to your diet to help your skin it would be to consume as much anti-inflammatory foods as possible. So the big question is: what foods make up an anti-inflammatory diet? Here’s a good list to get you started:
• Apples • Pomegranates • Strawberries • Grapes • Blackberries • Kiwi • Cranberries • Blueberries
• Wild Alaskan Salmon • Anchovies • Sardines • Cold water fish • Walnuts, etc. • Flaxseed
• Avocados • Broccoli • Olives & Olive Oil • Cabbage • Kale • Red Peppers • Chilies
Seeds & Spices
• Green Tea • Ginger • Turmeric • Curry • Tamarind • Cumin • Cardamom • Coffee
And take this to heart: there is no supplement or pill that can ever replace the endless benefits of a diet full of foods whole, unprocessed foods. Additionally, if you are considering using a supplement to boost your anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory intake, consult your doctor beforehand to ensure it’s a safe.
Understanding the Effects of Heat on Your Skin
Another big problem with skin care is the paradoxical effect of heat on our skin. There’s no way around it – a hot shower, sauna, steam, or bath feels invigorating and refreshing. Unfortunately, this process is dangerous for skin, as it strips out essential protective oils, leaving skin raw and overexposed.
The best thing you can do is avoid direct and/or prolonged with heat and to instead use lukewarm water when cleansing your face. Just like hot water can burn and cause irritation, cold water can shock the skin, making it more rigid and easier to damage as you wash – so choose cool or lukewarm when it comes to your face.
Dry heat, like that in a sauna or a harsh living/work environment like a desert, is even worse for your skin than wet heat because of the dehydrating effects. If your face is routinely exposed to dry heat – moisture is literally being sucked right out of it leaving exposed, flaky skin behind. If you live or work in such an environment, your moisturizing routine is even more essential than ever to keeping your skin healthy and protected. Be sure to always moisturize your skin after a hot shower or sauna to ensure that any oils lost during the process are replenished to keep your skin supple and protected.
To Sum it All Up…
Remember, take care of your skin by treating it gently and by protecting it from the environment. Use products that help (not harm) it, and enriching your diet with the right kinds of nutrients. This will keep your skin looking and feeling younger and healthier so no matter what life throws at you, you know you’ll look, feel, and be your best when you meet it face-to-face.
BONUS TIP: Stop Smoking Cigarettes Right Now!
Now I know this is going to be tough for some of you – and not because you don’t have the facts. The research is done, the jury is back, and the verdict has long since been delivered: smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. And while you might be well aware of what it does to your lungs and heart – you may not realize it can be almost as bad for your skin. Despite all this – people still smoke. If you currently smoke cigarettes, developing a plan to quit as soon as possible needs to be a priority for your body and skin.
Smoking may be the worst thing you can do to your skin because of the intense free-radical damage it causes as well as how it disrupts the body’s natural oxygenation process. What’s even worse than this, is that smoking can actually cause necrotic (dead) skin tissue to develop that cannot repair itself leading to yellow, irregularly thickened skin. Overall, smoking provides no positive health benefits whatsoever and more issues than could possibly be covered here.
The damage to your skin from smoking goes on under the surface as well. Restricted blood flow and reduced oxygenation capacity impairs your immune system’s ability to respond to threats that your skin comes into contact with. Overtime, your skin begins to look dull and worn because it cannot repair itself efficiently. Couple this with the usual deep lines, discoloration, and wrinkling around the lips and mouth that smoking causes and a not-so-pretty picture emerges.
Of course underlying all this is the fact that smoking is deadly. It’s not just your skin and appearance that are at risk when you smoke, it’s your life. Quitting smoking immediately is perhaps one of the healthiest decisions you can ever make. Not just for your skin, but for your body and loved ones as well.