Exam stress, late-night pizza runs, and lax hygiene habits can wreak havoc on your skin. But it’s easy to develop a regimen that will leave you with a clear complexion. Check out the ABCs (and Ds) of skin care.
No one knows for sure what causes acne. If you think certain foods, such as chocolate or french fries, irritate your skin, then give them up for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference. Also keep your hair off of your face, neck, and back, and avoid going to bed with wet hair. When choosing over-the-counter treatments, pick a cleanser and medication that contain benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid. If the treatment works for a while but then your acne flares up again, find a few brands that work for you and rotate them every couple of months to avoid developing resistance. Always test a small patch of skin before smearing your entire face with a new product.
If over-the-counter meds don’t do the trick, then see a dermatologist rather than continuing to invest in stuff that doesn’t work. Your doctor can prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic and may also use a laser to reverse scarring. And FYI, birth control pills help regulate your hormones and therefore, breakouts. For personalized acne treatment recommendations, complete the questionnaire at www.acne.org.
Freshly inked? Your tattoo artist should provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for your new tat. As a general rule, clean the skin with soap and water, moisturize it, and avoid sun exposure for the first few weeks. Do not pick at the scarred area.
If piercings are more your thing, then, again, follow the instructions your piercer gives you. Always clean your hands before touching your piercing. Soak with a saline solution at least three times a day, and cleanse with warm water and a mild soap no more than twice a day, and dry with a new paper towel. Tea tree oil may help soothe your irritated skin, but never apply rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Also note: Your piercer may tell you to rotate your jewelry, which sometimes does more harm than good. Just clean the piercing and jewelry without moving it, thereby exposing raw skin to bacteria.
Ladies, these days there’s a makeup for every skin type, so experiment until you find one that’s easy to apply and leaves you radiant. Consider oil-free or mineral makeup, and look for one that contains sun screen. If your skin is extra oily, then for a matted finish apply rice powder, which is available at beauty supply stores.
Damage You Can Prevent
Take steps to save your skin now, and you’ll thank yourself later. Your best defense against wrinkles is to stay out of the sun from 10 AM to 4 PM, and avoid tanning beds. For an everyday safeguard, choose a sunscreen that blocks ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB, and look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Even dark-skinned people can develop skin cancer—reggae great Bob Marley died from melanoma—so wear sunscreen regardless of your complexion. The other half of the battle is using sun block properly. Apply the lotion so generously that it looks white on your skin for the first half hour or so. The color will fade once your skin has absorbed the sun block. Reapply every two to four hours.
Another skin saboteur is smoking. Cigarettes decrease blood flow, depriving your body of oxygen and other skin nourishing ingredients, like vitamin A. As a result, your skin’s collagen gets damaged and your face succumbs to wrinkles. There’s yet another good reason to kick the habit.