Your skin is your protector that meets and greets your external world. As your body’s largest organ, the skin serves as a waterproof covering that helps keep out foreign invaders and protects against temperature changes and sunlight. Your skin is tough and it can take a lot of punishment, but some things can make it look bad and weaken it. The following are ten actions that are harmful to your skin.
1. Picking, Popping, or Squeezing
REMEMBER: Popping zits doesn’t make things better; in fact, it often makes things worse. I realize that it’s tempting to think that squeezing them will help them heal more quickly — especially the swollen, red goobers filled with stuff! But scrunching these guys only pushes the inflamed gunk deeper and wider into the skin and that’s what most often results in scars. So, lay off the lumps! Having said all that, I realize that it’s hard to resist a squeeze or two here and there, but only do so when dealing with blackheads and whiteheads.
TIP: If you’re a do-it-yourselfer or plan to become a dermatologist or a cosmetologist, you can buy your own comedo extractor at a medical supply company. Better yet, see a dermatologist or go for a facial to have your blackheads and whiteheads extracted professionally.
2. Pre-tanning at a Salon
Pre-tanning at a tanning salon to get ready for the intense sun at the beach isn’t the great idea that it’s been cut out to be. In fact, whether you acquire a tan quickly or slowly, you still damage your skin. Just like the sun, artificial tanning equipment beds and sun lamps emit UV rays that can cause burns, premature aging, and skin cancers, especially if you’re a higher risk, fair-skinned person who produces less melanin.
You’ve heard about the risks of smoking (like lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema). But have you ever noticed that the skin of elderly smokers tends to have a yellowish coloration? Next to sun exposure, smoking is the highest factor in wrinkling. In other words, smoking makes you look older!
TECHNICAL STUFF: The nicotine in cigarette smoke also causes small blood vessels and capillaries of the skin to contract. This diminishing circulation deprives the skin of much essential oxygen it needs to create and maintain healthy skin cells.
There’s no controversy about this one — don’t smoke!
4. Taking Too Much Vitamin A
You may have heard that vitamin A helps cure acne. What you may not know is that if you take too much of it, vitamin A can accumulate in your liver to dangerous levels and cause serious health problems. It’s best to get your vitamin A in moderation, from whole foods. Good sources include leafy greens (like spinach and watercress) and orange veggies (like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and carrots).
There are safer derivatives of vitamin A to treat your acne — topical retinoids and oral Accutane — that your healthcare provider can prescribe.
5. Traveling the Perilous Peel and Dermabrasion Route
If your complexion is dark, you may run the risk of having streaking, uneven pigmentation after chemical peel or dermabrasion procedures. Moreover, if you scar easily or tend to form keloids, you should probably consider these procedures as being potentially too risky.
TIP: Get a second or third opinion from practitioners experienced in these procedures on patients with your type of skin before embarking on something you might regret.
6. Treating Rosacea with Over-the-Counter Medications
Don’t try to combat your rosacea alone. You should discuss your rosacea skin-care with a dermatologist. People with rosacea tend to have red, inflamed, sensitive skin.
TIP: Consult with a dermatologist before experimenting with products.
7. Applying Topical Steroids to Your Face
Okay, if you have a mild rash or itch, you can go to your local store and buy the over-the-counter, low-strength cortisone cream or ointment to treat the symptoms for a few days or so. However, don’t make it a regular habit! Topical steroids can cause acne and potentially thin your skin after continuous use.
WARNING: You definitely should not use a potent prescription-strength topical steroid on your face unless instructed by your doctor or dermatologist. Steroid-induced rosacea and skin thinning are much more likely to occur with the high potency creams.
8. Shaving with Four-In-One Razor Blades
If you have acne, shaving bumps, or sensitive skin, four-in-one razors–those that guarantee the closest shave– aren’t for you. Ignore the ongoing battle between razor companies to see who can stick the most blades on a single disposable razor head. Besides costing an arm and a leg, incredibly sharp blades will wind up shaving closer than what is necessary and really irritate your skin!
TIP: Easy does it. Let your hairs grow a little and when you do shave use a single blade safety razor such as the Aveeno PFB Bump Fighter Razor.
9. Using Mystery Products
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
Exercise caution — some of these drugs may have fraudulent claims, and others may even hurt you. Herbs can be as toxic and dangerous as prescription drugs. Look out for and avoid:
- “Secret” formulas (real scientists share what they know)
- Amazing breakthroughs or miracle cures (real breakthroughs don’t happen every day, and when they do, real scientists don’t call them “amazing” or “miracles”)
- Guaranteed cures
Let your healthcare provider or dermatologist know about any of these products you may be taking or are considering taking.
WARNING: There have been reports of severe toxic reactions, so you should be very cautious before trying anything that is untested.
10) Looking in the Mirror too Much
If you’re undergoing treatment for your acne, you should know that it won’t improve overnight and by examining it continuously, you just magnify any flaws — real or imagined. Finding those flaws can cause stress to both you and your face.
TIP: When you apply makeup, use a “soft focus” with your eyes and don’t take magnified close-up looks at your zits or comedones. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your skin will improve if you ignore it for a few days at a time while your medications have a chance to work!
Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D., of New York, NY, the author of Acne For Dummies, is a practicing dermatologist who also teaches at the Mount Sinai College of Medicine. He is the author of a highly regarded dermatology textbook Goodheart’s Photoguide to Common Skin Disorders: Diagnosis and Management, which is in its third edition.
For more information please visit http://herbertgoodheart.com/
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By Dr. Herbert P. Goodheart, Intent.com