Provided by WomensHealth.gov
How your skin looks is important to many women. You can take steps to keep your skin healthy. And, as a bonus, good skin care will help you to feel your best, too.
Caring for your skin
Good skin care involves:
- Eating a variety of healthy foods rich in vitamins and nutrients
- Keeping physically active
- Managing stress
- Practicing sun safety
- Limiting alcohol, and not using tobacco and other recreational drugs
- Drinking plenty of water
Unhealthy behaviors can take a toll on skin. For instance, habits like smoking and sunbathing dry out skin and cause wrinkles.
Follow this simple skin-care routine to keep your skin healthy and radiant:
- Bathe in warm — not hot — water using mild cleansers that don't irritate. Wash gently — don't scrub.
- Keep skin from drying out by drinking plenty of water and using gentle moisturizers, lotions or creams.
- Practice sun safety to prevent skin cancer. Sun exposure puts you at greater risk of skin cancer, whatever your skin color or ethnicity. To protect your skin:
- Limit exposure to the midday sun (10 a.m. — 4 p.m.).
- Wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and with both UVA and UVB protection.
- Avoid sunlamps and tanning booths.
- Check your skin for sun damage. Tell your doctor about changes on the skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal or a change in an old growth. Ask your doctor how often you should have a clinical skin exam to check for signs of skin cancer.
- Ask your doctor if the medicines you are taking can affect your skin. For instance, blood thinners and aspirin can cause you to bruise more easily. Some antibiotics and vitamins make skin sunburn more easily.
Common skin complaints
Women with sensitive skin may have itching, burning, stinging or tightness after using products such as soaps or makeup. Women of color are more prone to sensitive skin. Look for products made for sensitive skin. Talk with your doctor if these products don't help.
Pimples form when hair follicles under your skin clog up. Although acne is most common in the teen years, many women get pimples into their 50s. Acne is also common during pregnancy and menopause, when hormones are changing. Medicines, such as birth-control pills, can also lead to breakouts.
The cause of acne is unclear. What is known is that dirt, stress and foods do not cause acne. But stress and certain foods, such as chocolate or greasy foods, can make acne worse. Acne also appears to run in some families.
To care for acne, use mild soaps, avoid touching your skin and wear oil-free makeup. Your doctor may also suggest an acne medicine. If so, ask about the side effects — especially if you are pregnant.
Skin can dry out and become rough, scaly and itchy for a number of reasons. Dry skin can be caused by:
- Dry air
- Overuse of soaps, antiperspirants and perfumes
- Not drinking enough water
- The sun
If dry skin does not improve, talk to your doctor. Sometimes, dry skin signals a health problem, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Cellulite is fat that collects just below the surface of your skin, giving it a dimpled look. Women of all sizes can get it. Once formed, you cannot get rid of cellulite. No amount of weight loss, exercise or massage reduces cellulite. Spa wraps, creams and vitamins also do not help. To prevent cellulite, try eating well, being active and not smoking.
Rapid growth and weight gain, such as with puberty and pregnancy, can stretch your skin, leaving pink, red or brown streaks on your skin. Medicines, such as cortisones, and health problems, like diabetes or Cushing's syndrome, also can cause stretch marks. Creams that claim to prevent stretch marks are of little value, yet stretch marks often fade over time.
Good skin care is the foundation of beauty. But many women enjoy using makeup too. If you use makeup, follow these tips:
- Read the labels for product content and safety information.
- Wash your hands before applying makeup.
- Throw out products if the color changes or they get an odor.
- Throw out mascara after three months.
- Keep product containers tightly closed when not in use.
- Don't share your makeup.
- Call your doctor if a product causes skin changes like itching and rash — you may be having an allergic reaction.
Tattoos and permanent makeup
Tattoos are colored inks inserted under your skin. Permanent makeup is a tattoo made to look like eyebrow, lip and eye liner. If you like tattoos, keep these health risks in mind: Needles that are not properly cleaned can pass infections from person to person. Allergic reactions to tattoo ink are rare but can happen. Also, poorly applied tattoos can be costly to remove. Temporary tattoos and other skin-staining products, including henna dyes, can cause allergic reactions. Henna is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for use as a hair dye.
Cultural norms often affect a woman's choice to remove body hair. Many women shave their legs and underarms. Wet hair first, and then shave in the direction that your hair grows. Chemicals called depilatories dissolve unwanted hair. Depilatories can irritate, so always test on a small area of skin before using. Never use chemicals around your eyes or on broken skin. For laser, epilator (electrolysis), waxing, sugaring or threading treatments, find a licensed technician. Serious side effects of hair removal can include swelling, blistering, scarring and infection.
Before piercing — poking a hole and inserting jewelry in — any part of your body, learn about the health risks. Piercings in your tongue, cheeks and lips may cause gum disease. Infection is common in mouth and nose piercings, so talk with your doctor about signs of infection, as well as allergies. Also ask if your shots, especially hepatitis and tetanus, are up to date. And make sure the shop follows safety and sanitary steps as set by the law.
The content above was excerpted from the article "Skin and Hair Health" on www.womenshealth.gov. Please go to this site for additional and up-to-date information regarding this topic.