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The Skin Report

The Skin Report

Your skin is an open book about your health: how much you work out, how well you eat, even how active you are. Merlene Michael and Faith Chang of HealthAnswers report.

  • Are you staying out too much? Exposure to the sun's rays is the number one cause of ageing and damaged skin. Sunlight is a type of radiation that is nearly impossible to block. When this radiation finds its way to penetrate into your body's inner tissues, it breaks down the integrity of cells. In the long-term, this underlying cell breakdown surfaces to the skin as wrinkling, brown spots or more serious form of damage. The best thing you can do for your skin is to avoid the sun altogether. If you can't, load up on sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • Are you stuck in the haze? Healthy skin relies on a sufficient amount of oxygen, vitamins, minerals and nutrients, but these are often depleted by the sun, rain, wind and pollution. In fact, a new University of California-Berkeley study says ozone rapidly strips vitamin E from your face, an important component of healthy skin, from the uppermost skin layer. Skin conditions are aggravated in urban environments, generating itchy, red, inflamed and scaly skin. There is no way to avoid pollution entirely, but moisturisers are important because they can ward off harmful ultraviolet rays and boost the skin's ability to protect itself. Also helpful are vitamins E, C and A, which can act as a protective layer for the epidermis.

  • Are you smoking? Breathing airborne impurities is harmful to the lungs. What we often forget is that the lungs distribute these impurities to every organ of the body. Smoking has been likened to putting your lips around the exhaust pipe of your car and inhaling what it spews out. So besides increasing your chances of getting lung cancer and osteoporosis, smoking causes the wrinkling of skin, which makes your skin age faster.
  • Are you drinking too much? According to Australian researchers, alcohol use can contribute to malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Their study revealed that women who drank two or more drinks per day had two and a half times the chance of developing melanoma. A Harvard University also found that drinking more than one beer, glass of wine or cocktail daily led to an 80 percent higher melanoma risk.
  • Are your hormones out of whack? Many women are not aware, but hormones can get out of sync in pregnancy and give rise to itching, rash, and skin pigmentation. Itching is the most common complaint related to skin. Don't be surprised if the itching is accompanied by a fine, red rash over your abdomen. These symptoms are linked to an increased level of oestrogen in the body and will subside after the pregnancy.

    Facial discoloration also develops in many pregnant women. Chloasma or increased facial pigmentation is also known as the mask of pregnancy and affects over 50 percent of pregnant women. Although the discoloration fades after delivery, the skin does not normally return to its original colour.

    About 10 percent of women develop reddish skin spots on the face, neck and upper chest. These spots are actually dilated blood vessels, which may have a spidery appearance. Fortunately, most of these skin spots disappear after delivery.
  • Are you on any medication? Itching and rashes are the most common forms of drug reaction. Birth control pills are also known to cause a rash because they contain synthetic oestrogen. The principal skin effect however, is darkening of the skin, particularly over the face. This occurs up to 30 percent of women on birth control pills. Unfortunately, pigmentation may persist even if you discontinue birth control pills. Birth control pills contain synthetic oestrogen and progesterone.
  • Are you drinking enough water? If you don't drink enough water, your skin will show up scaly and wrinkly. Water helps to release the toxins accumulated and trapped in the skin's deep layer. Hydration enhances the suppleness and elasticity of the skin. And washing with water is a great way to refresh the skin.
  • Do you rest? If you don't sleep enough, or well enough, you'll develop dark circles under your eyes. Skin repairs itself during the night, so getting sufficient amount of sleep is vital for our appearance as well as for our general well being. If you need sleep to recharge your batteries, the same goes for your skin.
  • Are you working out? Sallow, sulky expressions say a lot about how little you enjoy moving about. Working out increases blood circulation, which bring a rosy glow to your cheeks. Exercise is also a great stress reliever, which makes you smile a lot more.
  • Are you eating well? Certain foods are known to "trigger" a reaction to the skin condition that a person may not know they had.

For example, people who suffer from Rosacea (a disorder involving chronic inflammation of the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, or eyelids or skin eruptions similar to acne) often find that spicy food, wine and coffee will cause their condition to flare up. This is because these foods can cause a person to sweat, which aggravates the condition.

For some others, avoiding chocolates seems to help. It is also possible that a low-fat diet (weight-reducing if necessary), increasing your intakes of fruits and vegetables, as well as a reduced intake of wheat may help control breakout problems.

Foods that you can slather on your face are:

Fresh cucumber juice. This is known for its soothing effect on oily and blemished skin. Rub a slice of cucumber over clean skin or use a toner with cucumber extract as one of its ingredients.
Oatmeal. It has soothing and softening properties which helps draw out impurities from the skin. Choose facemasks and scrubs with oatmeal as one of the ingredients.
Aloe Vera. The plant can soothe burns and rashes due to skin irritation. It also moisturises the skin without having to use any oils. The gel from the Aloe Vera leaves can be applied directly to the skin. Alternatively, you may buy gels and extracts at health food stores.
Papaya. The fruit is great as a natural exfoliator. The enzyme (papain) present in the fruit helps skin repair itself by removing dead skin cells.
Strawberries. Strawberries have a cleansing and contracting effect when used as a facial mask. This is particularly good for oily skin.
Yoghurt. It acts as a base for holding together ingredients used such as herbs and essential oils in a natural facemask.
Sesame oil. The fragrant oil can soften the skin and also helps in protecting the skin from ultraviolet rays, making it a perfect natural sunscreen.
Carrots. They are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, which are essential for the skin.
Green tea. Apart from its touted preventive ability against cancer, it helps maintain smoothness of the skin while protecting it from harmful UV rays of the sun.

Date reviewed: 31 May 2000

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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