How to protect your skin

 BY STEPHEN SEMUJJU 

People say that beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s on the “inside” that counts. Our insides are certainly important, but skin is your first layer of defence against the outside world.

Skin can also give important clues to your overall health. Learn to take good care of your skin, so your skin can keep taking good care of you.

The skin provides a barrier to protect the body from invasion by bacteria and other possible environmental hazards that can be dangerous for human health.

Skin plays other roles too. It contains nerve endings that let you feel when an object is too hot or sharp, so you can quickly pull away.

Sweat glands and tiny blood vessels in your skin help to control your body temperature. Cells in your skin turn sunlight into vitamin D, which is important for healthy bones.

The skin can also alert you to a health problem. A red, itchy rash might signal allergies or infections, and a red “butterfly” rash on your face might be a sign of lupus.

A yellow tint might indicate liver disease. Dark or unusual moles might be a warning sign of skin cancer. Be on the lookout for unexpected changes to your skin, and talk with your doctor if you have concerns. Your skin can become too dry if you don’t drink enough fluids or spend too much time in sunny or dry conditions.

While washing hands is important for good hygiene. Washing your hands too much can also lead to dry skin, especially if you wash with hot water and harsh soaps.

To treat dry skin, use moisturizing creams or lotions, and use warm instead of hot water when you bathe and wash your hands.

The sun can damage your skin as well. Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) light that causes sunburn and makes your skin age faster, leading to more wrinkles as you get older.

There’s a strong link between UV exposure and skin cancer. So restrict your time in the sun during the late morning and early afternoon hours, when sunlight is strongest.

Many skin researchers are studying the skin’s microbiome which is the bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live on your skin. Some of these microbes can be helpful.

Evidence suggests that they boost the body’s infection-fighting immune system and help keep you healthy. But there are some skin diseases with known associations with certain microbes.

Researchers are still trying to understand how those microbes differ between healthy people and people with skin diseases. In the long run, scientists would like to find ways to support healthy skin microbes while reducing harmful ones.

For a healthy skin, one ought to consider the folowing options:

  • Bathe in warm not hot water; use mild cleansers that don’t irritate; and wash gently don’t scrub.
  • Drink plenty of water, and use gentle moisturizers, lotions, or creams.
  • Get enough sleep. Experts recommend about 9 hours a night for teens and 7-8 hours for adults.
  • Talk to your doctor if you notice any odd changes to your skin, like a rash or mole that changes size or colour.
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