Johns Hopkins Health - Love Your Skin
Issue No. 25
Love Your SkinDate: July 8, 2014
We tend to think of skin superficially. But Johns Hopkins dermatologist Manisha Patel, M.D., says our body’s largest organ plays an important role in our health, and explains how we should care for it
What can my skin tell me about my overall health?
The skin—unlike, say, diabetes or high blood pressure, conditions you can’t really see—manifests symptoms and literally tells us when something is wrong. Often, that could be minor, something that is truly just skin deep, but in some cases it’s signaling that something is going on inside. Typically, it’s not just one skin finding, but a collection. For example, skin tags alone are not a sign of type 2 diabetes. But skin tags, thickening of the skin and thickening of the knuckles—those together in someone who is overweight can be a sign of type 2 diabetes. Similarly, adult acne alone is not a sign of a hormone imbalance, but acne with unwanted hair plus irregular periods can be.
What’s the most important thing I can do to keep my skin healthy?
Keep it hydrated! The environment and the medications we take can cause dryness. Keeping the skin moisturized helps maintain its barrier function. Remember, part of the skin’s job is to keep the outside out and the inside in. It protects us from injury, infection, ultraviolet light and extremes of temperature. At the same time, it stores water and fat, creates vitamin D and regulates body temperature. Staying hydrated, by using moisturizers and drinking water, helps the skin do these important jobs.
How do I choose the right moisturizer?
There are many types: lotions, creams, ointments, oils and humectants. Each differs in the ease of application, consistency, moisturizing properties and composition. There are pros and cons to all of these, but a good rule of thumb is that for a facial moisturizer you want to find an oil-free product. Your daytime product should contain a sunscreen, while your evening product may have more humectants—that is, substances that promote the retention of moisture.
Do you have a recommendation for sunscreen?
There are a lot of options for sunscreens, too. But it comes down to this: You need at minimum an SPF 30. You need something that says “broad-spectrum protection” or “UVA/UVB protection,” meaning it will screen out damaging rays. My preference is to get a layer of lotion or cream, as opposed to a few squirts from a spray-on sunscreen. Most important, find one you like—not too greasy, not too pasty.
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