Now that your tan has faded, don’t let your skin care fall by the wayside. November is typically known for celebrating Thanksgiving and as the month to begin holiday shopping, but did you know that November is also designated as National Healthy Skin Month? Declared by the American Academy of Dermatology, Healthy Skin Month aims to increase awareness about the importance of keeping your skin healthy year-round.
This year alone, the American Cancer Society estimated 76,690 new cases of invasive melanoma to be diagnosed in the United States, giving us all the more reason to be proactive in our skin health. Truth is, your skin is your body’s largest organ, and there are many things you can do to keep it healthy and protected all year long, to have healthy aging and to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer or melanoma.
Over time, your skin continues to change. Typically as you age, your skin becomes drier, thinner, it begins to sag and develops wrinkles, and new spots appear. Moles and other skin lesions and growths can change over time, as well, including its shape, size, color, elevation and asymmetry. We may not notice many of these changes, as they may be subtle and difficult to recognize with the naked eye. To give you peace of mind that your changing skin is aging healthily, moles and skin lesions can be imaged and evaluated over time by skin experts, who can identify suspicious changes and potential signs of melanoma. By enrolling in an early detection and surveillance program, melanoma can be detected in its earliest, most treatable stages, and the number of unnecessary biopsies will be significantly reduced.
In addition to receiving annual skin checks, here are a few tips to optimize your skin health:
- Protect with sunscreen. Whether or not you are engaging in sunbathing, UV rays are still intense on both clear and cloudy days, all months of the year. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, specifically to your face, hands, neck and scalp, 30 minutes prior to going outdoors. You can buy a moisturizer with an SPF in it, and apply it daily.
- Avoid Tanning Beds. Indoor UV tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than individuals who do not tan inside. If you want that glowing tan, try self-tanners, or a spray tan.
- Cover your skin. Wear clothing that protects your skin from the weather. Protect all areas of your body. If you are in cooler weather, wear hats, scarves, gloves, long pants, and a jacket, but if you are in warm weather, wear hats, wraparound UV-blocking sunglasses, and if possible, clothing and bathing suits that contain a UPF (ultraviolet protective factor).
- Wash and exfoliate your face. You should wash your face at least twice a day to rid your skin of dirt, oils, and dead skin cells to help prevent acne and to keep your face looking fresh. About once a week you should exfoliate your body with and oil-based scrub. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells uncovering fresh new ones, which will absorb more moisture and allow your skin to look fresh and stay healthy longer.
- Moisturize. It is best to lather your skin with a rich cream multiple times per day, especially soon after you get out of the shower, to seal the water into your skin. There are several creams and ointments available to fit the needs of different skin types, but some key ingredients to look for are products that contain lactin acid, urea, lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum. Be sure to moisturize your entire body, paying close attention to the areas that are most frequently exposed when outdoors. You should also apply a moisture-rich lip balm with SPF to protect your lips.
- Skip hot showers. Keep your baths and showers short, and the temperature of the water warm, rather than hot. Hot water will strip the natural oils and protection away from your skin, and dry it out.
- Adapt a healthy lifestyle. Keep your skin in good health by adapting a healthy lifestyle. Eat a diet full of fruits vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Replace vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that includes vitamin supplements, rather than the sun. Manage your stress; uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger breakouts. Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night and drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated. Part of having a healthy lifestyle includes not smoking. Smoking impairs circulation causing the skin’s color to look more grey, and it changes the skin’s texture, making it thicker and more like leather. Also, smoking accelerates the aging process.
Healthy Skin Month reminds us to be proactive in our skin health this November, and every day of the every day. Follow these tips, take the time to make an appointment to get your skin screened by enrolling in an early detection and surveillance program, and perform self-checks monthly. Healthy skin reflects a healthy body, so I encourage you to celebrate the skin you’re in, and address any problems that may be preventing you from achieving healthy skin.
The Skin Cancer Foundation (http://www.skincancer.org/) and Melanoma Research Foundation (http://www.melanoma.org/) are two great resources for relevant information and skin care tips.
For more information on skin and melanoma screenings and early detection programs, visit us at www.molesafe.com.
Richard Bezozo, M.D.,
President of MoleSafe U.S.A., the world’s most advanced melanoma screening program