Dr Lauren Evans is a Dermatology Specialty Doctor with a special interest in Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetics. Here, she goes through her ultimate guide on skin health, focusing on the best ways to look after your skin and make it look and feel healthy.
Your skin and the sun
When to wear sunscreen
We all know it’s important to wear sunscreen when it’s sunny outside, but did you know that we really should be wearing sunscreen all year round, even when it’s cloudy?
On sunny days, make sure you're reapplying it regularly throughout the day and avoiding direct sun completely at peak times of the day. This not only helps slow down the signs of ageing and pigmentation, but also reduces the risk of developing skin cancers.
Choosing your sunscreen
There are two different types of sunscreen; physical and chemical. In my opinion, physical sunscreens are better than chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and absorb the ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can not only lead to cell damage, but also means they take 20 minutes to work.
On the other hand, physical sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin and deflect UV rays, making them much safer. They also work as soon as you put them on and contain active mineral ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which are naturally broad spectrum, meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
And don't forget to wear your sunglasses. That’s the best way to protect the delicate skin around your eyes and keep yourself from wrinkle-causing squinting.
This may seem obvious, but please don’t use sunbeds! They give out harmful UV rays that damage your skin and can make it age must faster. The UV rays from sunbeds can also damage the DNA in your skin cells, increasing your risk of skin cancer.
One study found that the average skin cancer risk from sunbeds can be more than double that of spending the same length of time in the Mediterranean midday summer sun.
As we get older, the amount of UV damage our skin has accumulates. We can’t always see the damage straight away. I can always tell those that have been sun worshippers or sunbed users, even if it was years ago. The skin really doesn't forget!
Your skin and nutrition
Healthy skin really does start with how you nourish it from within.
Skin needs moisture to stay flexible. Water not only helps your body transport nutrients and oxygen to your skin cells, but it also plays a key role in fighting off dehydration, which can cause your skin to look dry, tired and slightly grey.
Try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces —more if you are active or live in a warm climate. For example, someone who weighs 160 lbs. should aim to drink at least 80 fl. oz. of water.
Get plenty of antioxidants
Our skin is constantly being exposed to free radicals from pollution and UV exposure. Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that help to protect skin from the damage caused by free radicals.
Eat a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables and aim for at least five portions a day. Beta carotene, found in orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, lutein, found in kale, papaya and spinach, and vitamin E, found in almonds, avocados, hazelnuts, pine nuts, are potent antioxidants that are important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.
Consume ‘good’ fats
Make sure your diet contains good fats, the types found in avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds. These provide essential fatty acids that act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple and improving elasticity.
Omega-3 fatty acids encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help skin, particularly inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. You will find omega-3s in oily fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and trout, and plant sources such as linseed, chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil.
Did you know that sugary foods make your skin age more? Excess sugar in the bloodstream can encourage a process called glycation, which in turn damages collagen in the skin, causes age spots, and accelerate wrinkles.
To avoid this, aim to cut back on sugary foods and choose low glycaemic index foods, which release sugar into the bloodstream more gradually.
Do you touch your face? Your hands and nails can be trapped with dirt and bacteria, so as tempting as it is, try to keep your hands off.
This applies when you’re putting on make-up, too. Use make-up brushes and clean them regularly.
Also, according to a Stanford University study, your iPhone might be more germ-infested than a toilet in a subway bathroom. All those germs on your phone rub right up against your cheek and jawline every time you use it. To keep your phone (and face) fresh and clean, use an antibacterial wipe a few times a day.
If you have a spot, don’t touch that either. Every time you press against a spot, it causes more inflammation, which makes it get worse and can lead to more spots. If you pop your spots, you’re also likely to be left with purple/brown marks (called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks) on your face that can last for several months after the spot has gone.
Top tips for daily skincare
The cornerstone of any good skincare routine is cleansing, and I recommend you do it both morning and night. If you don’t regularly clean your skin, or you do not always remove your makeup, then your skin will definitely suffer.
When your face is clean, it also allows the other products you use to work even better. Make sure you use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving it looking and feeling drier than ever before.
A good cleanser gently removes excess sebum, dirt and makeup and leaves your skin feeling clean and fresh, ready for the next steps in your skin care routine.
Choose your skincare products carefully
Optional next steps in your skincare regime include a toner, chemical exfoliators, and a serum.
Toners are often overlooked, especially as they used to be laden with alcohol and stripped your skin of its natural oils. Nowadays, the right toner will leave your skin smoother, soothe redness, and even help improve the appearance of enlarged pores.
Chemical exfoliators (AHAs or BHAs) are effective for treating sun damage, wrinkles, blackheads, clogged pores and breakouts. AHAs exfoliate the surface of skin and are most effective for dry, sun damaged skin. BHAs exfoliate the surface of skin and inside the pores, are best for breakouts and blackheads and are suitable for sensitive skin.
Serums contain high concentrations of powerful antioxidants that penetrate deeper into your skin than moisturisers do.
Invest in a quality eye cream
I’m a big believer in using eye cream. The skin around your eyes is different to that on the rest of your face.
The eyelid is the thinnest skin on your body, it's more prone to becoming dry, is more fragile, and it's constantly active (think about how much you blink, squint, and move your eyes about throughout the day), so it’s one of the first areas to show signs of ageing.
Eye creams are usually designed with specific ingredients that address problems that occur just around the eyes, such as dark circles by targeting the weakened blood vessels, or puffiness by targeting blood flow and fluid retention.
Find the right moisturiser
Finally, use a moisturiser loaded with antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients. Choose a moisturiser that is specifically made for your skin type, and the moisturiser you put on in the morning should contain SPF 20 sunscreen or higher.
I always recommend that people use mineral-oil free skincare and make-up. Mineral oil is a by-product of the petrol industry, also called ‘petrolatum’ or ‘paraffin oil’.
It is frequently used as a ‘filler’ in skincare and cosmetics to make your product go further. It accumulates in your body, stops your skin functioning properly, accelerates skin ageing, and increases your risk of acne.
Use upward strokes
Apply each skincare product with light, sweeping motions upward to help fight the effects of gravity. Make sure to continue your skincare regimen down to include your neck and décolletage and work the product in with upward strokes.
Find more women’s health advice
If you’re looking for more ways to look after your health, you’ll find plenty more expert advice with Push Doctor, including our period survival guide, pregnancy fitness tips and ways to stay healthy at work.