Updated Jan. 10, 2008 – It’s very tempting to pick at a pimple, squeeze a blackhead and scratch a bump in front of the mirror, but the more you traumatize your skin, the greater your risk of scarring. If you want your skin to be on its best behavior, you need to clean up your act and follow a few rules, particularly during winter.
Here are 10 skin commandments to live by.
1. Protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen and avoid direct sunlight between the hours of 10 and 12.
2. Don’t smoke. Your skin needs a lot of circulation and instead of having oxygenated blood delivered to the surface of the skin, smokers are getting poisons and oxidants. That's why a smoker's skin looks dull and gray.
3. Get enough rest. It’s true what they say…early to bed, early to rise, is healthy and wise.
4. Protect yourself from stress. Let bygones be bygones. Dwelling on the past inflicts unnecessary stress.
5. Wash your face regularly. How often depends on your skin type. All but the most sensitive types benefit from cleansing both morning and night, but dermatologists agree that if you only have time for one, wash your face at night. Doing so removes all the sweat, makeup, pollution and dirt that accumulate over the course of the day.
6. Touch your face less and wash your hands more! Think of everything that comes in contact with your hands on a daily basis: your cell phone, mail, kids’ hands, door knobs and food! Unless you’re faithful about cleaning everything before it touches your skin, you’re most likely transferring bacteria onto your face, promoting breakouts and even spread infection. Keeping such skin wreckers away is as simple as washing your hands more frequently throughout the day, keeping hands away from your face and always drying your face with a clean towel.
7. Clean your makeup tools at least every two weeks. And now and then, toss the whole works and start fresh. The average shelf life for cosmetics is 6 to 12 months. When you’re on the go, reach for hand sanitizers and portable wipes to stay fresh. Beware of counter girls. If it were up to them, you’d be in the bathroom for two and a half hours each morning – putting 80 layers on your face. Keep your regimen simple. Each skincare or makeup product has an average of 20 to 40 ingredients, so you’re introducing 20 to 40 potential allergens to your face every time you try something new.
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8. Eat less fatty foods and more nutrients to keep your skin glowing. It’s true; water will help your skin look its prettiest. Salmon and avocado both contain omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in the body like puffy eyes and sagging skin. Berries and melon are both low-sugar fruits and help to make skin firm. Avoid high-sugar fruits like pineapple and banana.
9. Exercise in moderation. Twenty to 30 minutes of any aerobic exercise will give you a glow. Exercise increases blood flow, which brings nutrients to the skin.
10. Please don’t pop the pimple. The urge to squeeze or pick a pimple can sometimes be a true test of will. Popping a pimple will make your breakout worse, never better. A pimple is filled with bacteria, dead cells, and sebum, and digging into the skin with fingernails can push those materials deeper into the pore, worsening inflammation. Moreover, picking can spread bacteria to other pores, leading to new breakouts. Now, if you have the kind of begging-to-be-popped zit, where you can actually see the white stuff and you’ve gotta do something about it, at least do it safely. First, clean the area with warm water to soften the skin. Then, wash your hands to prevent spreading germs and infecting the pimple. Next, take clean tissue or a piece of toilet tissue and gently press on each side of the pimple, using the tissue (not your fingers) to apply pressure. If the white stuff can be squeezed out easily, do it. Stop when blood or clear fluid comes out.
We all dream of getting a miracle in a bottle. But our obsession with being flawless is absurd. Wrinkles happen. We get scars, freckles and other dings and dents. Are these catastrophes or merely adding character to our face? Certain products can help, but aging is a natural process that happens to all of us. And acceptance, not denial, looks better on everyone.