Stashing a bottle of sunscreen in your purse or beach bag is key to protecting your skin. So is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and washing your face every day. But there are several other serious skincare steps that you might be overlooking. Here are five essential ways to keep your skin healthy and safe that you might not think about — but should.
Check your medication.
Do you take any medications? (Yes, the occasional aspirin for headache and pain relief also counts.) If so, it may be making you extra sensitive to the sun, which could put your skin at risk. According to Reader’s Digest, the following medications can make you photosensitive:
- NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen
- Oral contraceptives
- Skin treatments with vitamin A
- Saint John’s Wort
Even if your medication didn’t make the list, talk to your pharmacist about whether your medication might be increasing your vulnerability to the sun. Be especially diligent with your sun care routine, and apply sunscreen with SPF 30 at a minimum every few hours. Also, check out these 10 lesser-known facts about smart sun protection.
- Use antioxidants. Various vitamins can deliver vital nutrients to your skin and keep it healthy. One effective way to foster healthy skin is to fortify your skin’s outer protective barrier. Vitamin B3, for instance, helps to boost the production of ceramides and fatty acids, which are components of your skin’s barrier. Specifically, a brawny barrier helps skin retain moisture and keep irritants out, Leslie S. Baumann, M.D., director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute, tells Prevention. When searching for skincare products with B3, look for the ingredient niacinamide.
Also, seek out formulas with vitamin C, which defuses skin-damaging free radicals. Other skin-protecting antioxidants include coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid. If you’re not sure what type of product you’d like, consider investing in a serum. Serums are usually highly concentrated and can sink deeper into the skin. Here’s more information on how various antioxidants can help your skin.
- Beware harmful bacteria. According to Dr. Baumann on The Skin Guru, her Yahoo! Health blog, bathrooms are a breeding ground for cosmetic contamination — and in some surprising ways.
Do you keep your cream in the shower? Have acne and use a loofah? The humidity can harm your products and your skin. In fact, humidity fosters fungi growth and can even decrease a product’s effectiveness. Instead, keep your products in cool, dark locations. Using the same loofah when you have acenic skin can spread the acne to other spots of your body. Rather than cleansing with a reusable loofah, Dr. Baumann suggests using Pond’s Cleansing Towelettes.
Other ways to prevent contamination concerns? According to Dr. Baumann, avoid sharing makeup with others, don’t use your saliva to remove eye makeup (it can cause an eye infection) and wash beauty brushes once a month and makeup sponges once a week (be sure they’re thoroughly dry before using).
- Know when products expire — and ditch them. You might be surprised to learn that both skincare and beauty products can spoil, and keeping them around any longer once they’ve expired can actually harm your skin. You may feel guilty about throwing away a half-used product, but beauty products that’ve gone bad can cause everything from eye infections and recurrent cold sores to skin irritations and allergic reactions. Check out ourcomprehensive guide to expiration dates on when to pitch products — and how to prolong their shelf life.
- If you have a skin condition, be cautious at the spa. Do you have eczema, rosacea or psoriasis? Some spa treatments can worsen these skin conditions, according to dermatologist Susan Evans, M.D., on her blog, Healthy Skin, on WebMD. Before scheduling an appointment, Dr. Evans suggests asking the spa if they specialize in your skin condition.
If you have rosacea, avoid getting microdermabrasion or chemical peels, she says. Go to a dermatologist for these treatments instead. Also, avoid facials with “alcohol, eucalyptus, fragrance, menthol, peppermint or witch hazel,” she says, along with potentially triggering “hot towel treatments to the face, facial steaming, steam baths and saunas.”
If you have moderate to severe acne, avoid spa treatments, like facials, altogether. For instance, estheticians should never perform extractions on inflamed acne lesions like nodules, according to About’s acne guide Angela Palmer, M.D. If you’re using a retinoid formula, exfoliation is also prohibited. Overall, it’s best to make an appointment with a dermatologist. And if you’re thinking about having a spa treatment, consult the dermatologist about that, too.
In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to research any spa you’re thinking about attending and to inquire about the esthetician’s experience. Here are some general tips on selecting a spa.
Keeping skin healthy and safe means following a few important steps: checking your medication to see if it boosts your sun sensitivity, using antioxidants to fight free radicals, ensuring your skincare products are safe and still effective and taking precautions when visiting the spa.