Skin Care and Repair - Harvard Health
Daily skin care in 3 simple steps
Image: Felix Mizioznikov/iStock
A widely advertised facial moisturizer claims to be the best on the market — and sells for $225 per bottle. Should you buy it? Another brand offers a complete skin care regimen — but it comes in 10 different bottles of lotions and potions that all need to be applied daily. Is it worth your time?
Despite manufacturers' claims, many cosmetic products will remove more cash from your wallet than dirt and oils from your skin. You don't need an expensive or lengthy skin care routine — and the good news is, the most effective and reliable regimen is also quick and inexpensive.
For daily skin care, you can limit your routine to three simple steps: cleaning your skin, protecting it from the sun, and tending to any specific skin problems you may have, such as dry skin, acne, or fine lines and wrinkles. Products for all three steps are available for very little cost at your local drugstore.
1. Clean your skin. Choose your skin cleanser based on whether your skin is dry or oily. If you have dry skin, choose a mild cleaning agent (such as Dove, Cetaphil, or Aveeno soaps or cleansers) and avoid products such as toners, which contain alcohol. For oily skin, choose a soap that removes the oil and clean your skin more frequently throughout the day.
2. Protect your skin from the sun. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and wear it every day. Higher SPFs are useful if you plan to spend hours outdoors, but if you spend most of your time indoors, SPF 30 is generally sufficient. If you have sensitive skin, choose a sunscreen product designed for sensitive skin.
3. Treat your skin's particular needs. For dry skin, there are plenty of effective and inexpensive moisturizers. There are also plenty of affordable over-the-counter products that can reduce lines and wrinkles, fade brown spots, or combat acne.
For more advice on caring for your skin and keeping it healthy, buy Skin Care and Repair, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Get relief from eczema
Eczema is an itchy rash that's often hard to get rid of. Most people can't help scratching it, which further irritates the skin. Eczema is often, but not always, related to allergies. A common cause is your skin overreacting to everyday irritants, such as dust, soaps and detergents, or even dry, cold air, which triggers an intensely itchy allergic reaction.
Skin affected by eczema becomes dehydrated and dry easily, so treatment involves rehydrating the skin. Baths and showers must be short and not too hot. Afterwards, gently pat your skin dry and promptly apply moisturizers while your skin is still moist. Thick creams that lock in the moisture help the most. Be sure to choose creams or lotions without fragrances or preservatives. Limit the use of soaps and shampoos, too. These products remove the skin's natural oils and worsen dryness. And over-the-counter oral antihistamines can help with the ferocious itch.
When moisturizers and antihistamines don't provide adequate relief, doctors often will recommend an over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid cream to help quell skin inflammation. If you need steroid cream, don't apply it at the same time you use your moisturizer. The barrier that the moisturizer creates to keep skin hydrated can also keep the skin from absorbing the medicine in the steroid cream. If your eczema is severe, your doctor may give you an oral medication that suppresses the immune system.
While it can be hard to get eczema under control, the good news is that studies suggest that once it is under control, you can help prevent flare-ups with regular use of a steroid cream. Your doctor can also help you develop a personalized plan to keep your eczema in check.
For more advice on treating skin conditions and keeping your skin healthy, check out Skin Care and Repair, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Skin Care and Repair
|•||What is skin?|
|•||Skin and the aging process|
|•||Common skin conditions|
|•||SPECIAL SECTION: Protecting your skin|
|•||... and more!|
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