Moisturizing: Enemies of the skin

Keep your skin healthy and radiant

If you want a beautiful complexion, you must wage war on your skin’s enemies. Sudden dietary changes, smoking and the sun all take a toll on your face and body. But with a little help from the experts, you can outsmart your skin’s five worst enemies.

If you’ve got problem skin and you live in the city, air pollution may be to blame. “There are a lot of particulates and solvents in air pollution,” explains Gordon Searles, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Alberta. “They can interfere with the way the skin lubricates by taking out its natural oils.” If you’re an urban dweller, avoid abrasive cleansers that will strip your skin of more oils. Use a mild cleanser and moisturize your skin daily after you bathe or shower.

Sudden dietary changes
Skimping on healthy foods can alter the appearance of your skin. “A healthy well-balanced diet contains the necessary nutrients and antioxidants your skin needs to do its job properly,” says Dr. Searles. Vitamins A and C are especially important. If you’re not getting enough of these nutrients from fruits and vegetables, talk to your doctor about taking vitamin supplements and make sure to inquire about recommended dosages.

The elastin and collagen in your skin are constantly regenerating, according to Dr. Searles. But smoking interferes with the amount of oxygen the skin gets and its ability to repair itself, which accelerates wrinkling and makes skin look dull and blotchy. The action of pursing your mouth to inhale a cigarette also creates lines around your lips. If you don’t smoke, never start. If you are a smoker, quit soon. “Even after you quit, your skin is slower to repair,” says Dr. Searles. “It will improve with time but it may take a couple of years.” Combat the damage of smoking by moisturizing regularly. Use a water-based product if you’re prone to acne.

When you’re constantly under stress, your immune system is compromised, which inflames certain skin conditions, such as eczema, says Lyn Guenther, a professor of dermatology at the University of Western Ontario. Save your sanity and skin by partaking in stress-reducing activities, such as yoga or walking.

Sun overexposure
Tans and sunburns are the skin’s way of responding to injury, explains Dr. Guenther. “Too much sun breaks down the elastin and collagen in your skin which makes it saggy and wrinkled.” Ward off the sun’s harsh rays by wearing a broad-spectrum sun block with at least SPF 15 in winter and at least SPF 30 during the warmer months. To cope with previous sun exposure, regularly moisturize your skin to keep it smooth and hydrated.