by Jennifer Lee, MD and Medical Director of REN Dermatology, Pi Delta (U of Maryland)
1. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month
The first thing I recommend for everyone, at least once in their lifetime, is to get a full body skin cancer screening. I recommend this because skin cancer is the number one diagnosed cancer in the United States. Over five million new cases will be diagnosed each year and it occurs in over three million people. One in five people will develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetime. In fact, skin cancer cases per year exceed breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer combined, but the great news is skin cancers are highly curable. If we can catch your skin cancer quickly, in an early stage, diagnose it and treat it, it is a very good chance we can appropriately cure it. I recommend all of you, if you have never done so before, to go and see your local dermatologist for a full body skin check. They are not scary and are harmless, painless, noninvasive but they can catch things early. Prevention is key.
2. Use SPF/sunscreen
This is the best piece of advice you can receive in terms of your skin care products. SPF products are available widely and come in all different formulations. I recommend a daily use of at least SPF 30, but if you are going to be outside for several hours I recommend SPF 50. Most people forget that they should be reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours. Really, your sunscreens will start to wear off around an hour and a half. If they are water resistant (we no longer have the terminology waterproof), the label will show whether they are resistant at 40 minutes or 80 minutes. After that time, you have to reapply your sunscreen or else it will no longer be effective.
I personally like using tinted moisturizers on a daily basis because I just put it on first thing in the morning and I won’t need to use a foundation. A product that I really love is Laura Mercia.
If you are looking for a sunscreen that has more physical sunscreen products, including Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, Supergoop has a really good options! I recommend their Mattescreen, it is their 100% mineral matte sunscreen. This formulation does not have any chemical sunscreen ingredients, for those of you wanting to avoid chemical sunscreen ingredients. This has a really light tint and is water resistance for 40 minutes.
Drug store brands like Neutrogena are also great and they in particular make a wide range of different products at different SPF levels and different formulations.
A really unique product by a company called Color Science and has broad spectrum SPF 50. It looks like a makeup brush and is perfect for during the day when you don’t want to reapply your sunscreen. You can carry it on the go and use it if you may be stuck outside for a while.
3. Dealing with acne
I actually struggle with acne and am big fan of Differn Gel, you can get this for less than $20 at your local drugstore, grocery store or Target. The generic of Differn Gel is called Adapalene and it is only available by prescription similarly to Retin-A cream or Tretinoin cream. Both of these fall into the category of Retinoids. You probably have also heard of Retinol, which is the gentler, lighter, over the counter, non-prescription version. These vitamin A derivative creams and gels work to help turn over your skin cells which enhance skin renewal, they help unclog pores and can also help boost collagen production. This is why they are helpful for treating acne and also helping for anti-aging because it helps to fight fine lines and wrinkles and a little bit of sun damage or complexation issues.
I recommend Differn Gel for people of all ages. It is a great option for teenagers, who are starting to get some clogged pores and early mild acne. This is something they can try before they can get in to see their dermatologist. I also recommend it for adults who want to begin an anti-aging regimen and incorporate a Retin-A at night time.
4. Exfoliate your skin
Exfoliation is helpful for your skin because, as you may or may not know, your skin cells go through a cycle where they mature, die off and then shed. This is why when you scratch your skin, you will sometimes see some white, dry dead skin fall off. Your body normally sheds these skin cells but as your get older this cycle and shedding begins to slow down and that is when your skin can appear dull or dried out. Exfoliation can help with this.
You can exfoliate in two different ways. The first is by physical exfoliants, that contain physical scrubs. The second is chemical exfoliating, which is typically done by hydroxy acids. I recommend both.
I really love the brand Usana Celavive and they have a new product out called Exfoliating Scrub Plus Mask. This product uses gentle hydro beads, which are plant based and safe for the environment. These gentle beads help exfoliate the skin and make your skin so soft after using; it also includes charcoal which is able to deep cleanse your pores and detoxify your skin from any pollution or environmental stressors, sun or oxidative damage on your skin. I use this product almost every day in the summer.
For those who want to use a chemical exfoliant, consider these chemical exfoliations. Commonly used are Alpha Hydroxy or Beta Hydroxy acids like Glycolic Acid, AHA Acid or Salicylic Acid. A brand you can find at Ulta or Sephora is Skinbetter, I like their Exfoliating Peel Pads, which come packaged as singles. After you wash your face at night use the wipe on your face. It may sting for around 10 seconds but then it goes away immediately. I normally add a moisturizer afterwards and the next morning your skin will feel nice and smooth. Most people will use these type of exfoliating products two to three times a week. Nighttime is the most common to use these products.
5. Cheap and easy acne pimple treatment options
When you can’t get to your dermatologist office for a cortisone injection, I recommend getting over the counter Hydrocortisone Cream. This is normally in the first aid aisle and comes in different names such as Cortaid or Cortizone. Most are just one percent Hydrocortisone and are very mild, but it will help if you need it in a pinch. I recommend taking a little bit of it and dabbing it on the inflamed cyst or pimple and keeping it covered. You could also grab some five percent Benzoyl Peroxide gel from your local drugstore, these are brands such as Clearasil or Persa-gel, many items we have used since our teenage years. Benzoyl Peroxide is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial which will dry things up. Make sure not to use too much or it can peel and leave white patches on your face.
Once last DIY thing you can do that is more holistic for acne or acne breakouts is spearmint tea. Two or three cups of spearmint tea (and it has to be spearmint tea) has been shown to help acne breakouts. Totally safe and could be worth a try for something natural.
This can be found at any store and is not expensive. This is one of my hardest working products and my most used product. It is for dry skin and is very thick, but I use it for dry spots and sometimes even use it for chapped lips. I used this as my eye make-up remover especially in the winter because it is soothing and not harsh on your skin.
7. Your Diet
A healthy diet can be great on your overall body but also can be wonderful for your skin. I recommend a diet high in antioxidants including leafy greens such as spinach, blueberries and green tea which is also cancer fighting. Green tea in the morning is great for your skin. Try to eat foods high in Omega3, we think of these for heart health but they’re also great for your skin, such as walnuts and wild salmon. Try to minimize food that are processed or high in glycemic index such as cakes, chips, cookies and sweets, which are my comfort foods, but we want to try to minimize those because they can be bad for your skin.
Sleep can also be very important for your skin. Getting sleep for eight hours a night is an important time for your body to rest and blood flow to get to essential organs including your skin. It is also a time for your cells to renew and regenerate including your skin cells. In addition, when we are sleep deprived, it can lead to increased cortisol levels and increased stress on our body. This can lead to inflammation in our skin which can worsen diseases like Psoriasis or Eczema and even acne breakouts. Getting good sleep is also very important for your skin.
Those are my eight quick tips on things you can do from home and simple inexpensive ideas on helping to maintain healthy and clear and bright skin!