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Skin care tips: Good habits for healthy skin (...and no pricey products)


Despite what many people think, having skin that glows with good health doesn’t require a huge investment in expensive skin products.

Gina Flaxman
January 2020

In most cases, looking after your skin is a matter of having a daily routine in place that’s based on protection and common sense.

There are a few simple, practical ways to improve your complexion and maintain your skin’s long-term health.

Try to incorporate these five healthy skin habits, recommended by Dr Catherine Reid, dermatologist and fellow of The Australasian College of Dermatologists, into your daily routine.

1. Apply sunscreen every day

Dr Reid says the most important thing you can do for your skin is to apply sunscreen to your face every single day of the year.

“Exposure to ultraviolet light is the most important factor in skin ageing,” she says. Long-term sun exposure can cause wrinkles and age spots and increase your risk of skin cancer.

Dr Reid says you should use a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. “Apply it every morning as part of your routine,” she says. “If you don’t wear make-up every day, look for a moisturiser that contains sunscreen. Otherwise, apply your moisturiser first, then sunscreen and finally foundation.”

If you have sensitive skin, Dr Reid advises looking for a sunscreen with a physical blocker such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are minerals that sit on top of your skin and physically block the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreen, which is absorbed into your skin and absorbs the harmful rays, is just as effective at protecting you from the sun and will not cause a skin reaction in most people.

Both kinds of sunscreen should be reapplied often if you’re out and about, particularly if you’re swimming or sweating a lot. Apply sunscreen to all the parts of your body that will be exposed to the sun.

To ensure you’re keeping on top of your mole health, try using a service like Molemap, which takes a photographic image of your skin compares this to others after three, six or 12 months. The Molemap check takes 10 minutes – find your closest clinic at molemap.net.au.

For healthy skin, try to follow the sun safe rules all year round – stay in the shade as much as possible and wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts.

2. Moisturise your skin after showering

Dr Reid says regular moisturising is the best way to keep your skin hydrated, particularly if your skin is dry or you’re prone to eczema or dermatitis (skin inflammation).

She says while drinking lots of water has plenty of health benefits, skin hydration is not one of them. “Drinking more water does not contribute to skin hydration unless you’re severely dehydrated,” she says. “Most of us eat and drink regularly, and our skin is well hydrated.”

An Israeli study review also found that drinking lots of water makes no difference to wrinkles or skin smoothness.

Dr Reid says long showers or baths strip oils from your skin, so it’s important to apply moisturiser straight afterwards and try to keep your baths and showers short. While a warm shower is preferable, a hot shower is fine as long as it’s less than five minutes, she says.

3. Reduce skin irritants (and lay off the exfoliant)

As much as you can, try to limit the number of potential irritants you use on your skin, particularly if your skin is dry. “This includes soap and cleansers,” says Dr Reid. “Overzealous cleaning can exacerbate problems such as eczema and dermatitis. Choose a gentle cleanser to remove make-up.”

If you have sensitive skin, she recommends using hypoallergenic, fragrance-free products. Wear gloves when you’re washing up or gardening to protect your hands.

Dr Reid doesn’t recommend exfoliating your skin. “Our skin exfoliates naturally, renewing all its layers every three weeks.”

4. Stop smoking – it damages collagen

“If you smoke, stop, as this causes skin ageing [among other detrimental effects],” says Dr Reid.

Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the skin’s outer layers, which decreases blood flow. It also damages collagen and elastin, the fibres that give your skin strength and elasticity, and increases your risk of squamous cell skin cancer.

If you smoke and find it hard to give up, ask your doctor for tips or treatments to help you quit.

5. Eat antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables

While there’s no definitive link between diet and healthy skin – one study review found “nutrition and skin ageing still remains a controversial and conflicting subject” – Dr Reid says fruit and vegetables containing antioxidants “are necessary to maintain skin health”.

The study review says consuming antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables is a promising strategy for enhancing skin protection.

Though you should always consume a wide variety of fruit and vegies, those containing high amounts of vitamins may help protect your skin from damage:

  • Vitamin C - oranges, strawberries
  • Vitamin E - avocados, spinach
  • Beta carotene - carrots, sweet potatoes

Dr Reid also says some fast foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) may be linked to acne, so avoid those types of foods – such as white bread burgers, chips and soft drinks – to help maintain healthy skin.

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