Fountain of youth? Wash your face
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 31, 2007 at 6:32 p.m.
There is no way around the fact that every body - skin included - ages over time, a process over which humans have long grieved. "It is the blight man was born for,'' the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in 1880, anticipating the Botox era.
Still, many skin experts recommend practical steps to maintain skin as it ages and to mitigate external factors - like sun exposure and chronic stress - that could accelerate changes.
These eight skin-care resolutions for 2008 are simple and inexpensive. Research in medical journals supports some of them. Others are based on the experience of skin doctors.
1. DISCARD OLD, USED BEAUTY PRODUCTS:
Because people may transfer bacteria from their fingers to pots of face cream, possibly leading to the growth of micro-organisms, some dermatologists recommend discarding products one year after opening them. Because micro- organisms may also grow in mascara tubes, creating the risk of eye infection, experts recommend replacing mascara three months after opening it, according to the Web site of the Food and Drug Administration.
2. STOP SMOKING
What's good for your lungs may also may have positive effects on your skin.
Some dermatologists, for example, said the nonsmokers among their patients generally had younger-looking skin than smokers, whose skin appeared to have aged prematurely.
Several studies have linked smoking to an increased risk of skin cancer. But doctors said it is not clear whether smoking per se may increase the risk of skin cancer or whether smokers tend to sunbathe more than nonsmokers.
3. UNHAND THOSE PIMPLES!
For those who can't help squeezing their pimples, think again.
"People think they are squeezing something bad out, but they could actually be pushing bacteria deeper into their skin, creating an infection,'' said Bradford R. Katchen, a dermatologist in New York City. Subsequent inflammation could cause pigmentary changes, or worse. "It could scar your face,'' Katchen said. The same goes for your zit-popping beautician.
4. MORE SLEEP, LESS STRESS
Psychological stress may impair the skin's barrier function, which keeps bacteria out and water in.
"Studies have shown that the skin of people under chronic stress - caregivers of Alzheimer's patients or medical students during exam time - will heal more slowly,'' said Ladan Mostaghimi, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
5. WEAR SUNSCREEN
Clinical studies show that using sunscreen regularly can impede the development of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Less conclusive evidence suggests that sunscreen might also hamper basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. But dermatologists encourage patients to make sunscreen a habit for another purpose: vanity. Sunscreen use may inhibit sun-induced changes to the skin's pigment and texture.
Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or Mexoryl SX, ingredients that work against both the sun's longer- and shorter-length rays.
6. SIMPLIFY YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE
Some dermatologists advise their patients to restrict skin-care regimens to no more than three or four products daily.
Katchen's prescription: a mild cleanser; a sunscreen or moisturizer containing sunscreen; a product that contains antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, pomegranate, soy and green tea; and an anti-wrinkle product containing ingredients like retinoids, a form of vitamin A, or protein fragments called peptides.
7. WASH YOUR FACE
Doctors say that skin picks up environmental debris during the day. Washing off minute dirt particles, along with makeup, every evening gives the skin a rest from exposure to possible irritants.
"As a general hygiene principle, it's good to wash your face at night,'' Sundaram said. "But if you apply a greasy night cream after that, it is just going to clog your pores.''
8. RETHINK PRODUCTS THAT COST MORE THAN $30
The FDA, which regulates cosmetics, does not require beauty manufacturers to publish rigorous studies on the efficacy of their products. So consumers do not have a proven, objective method by which to determine whether more-expensive beauty products work better - or whether they simply look fancier and emit more exotic perfume - than less-expensive items containing similar ingredients.
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