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Protecting Your Skin

When it comes to daily habits that keep our bodies healthy, we often think of eating the right foods and getting plenty of exercise, but a lot of us neglect to take care of our largest organ: our skin. When we worry about our skin, it is usually related to wrinkles and the aging process, but healthy skin does so much more than just keep us looking young. Our skin is the first line of defense against germs and diseases, helps regulate our body temperature and helps manage our bodily fluids making healthy skin habits are so important to our overall health. Below are some simple tips you can use to protect your skin and prevent future skin issues.

Man wearing a watch applying sunscreen on his arm.

Drink plenty of water

One of the easiest things you can do to keep your skin healthy is to drink plenty of water. When you are dehydrated your skin can lose its shine and become flaky, saggy and dry. This will lead to unwanted wrinkles and scaly skin that might allow bacteria to pass through into your body. Staying hydrated means your skin is less likely to become chapped and gives you greater protection against infection. SEARHC recommends drinking at least eight cups of water daily, which is the equivalent of a two-liter bottle. Also, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in addition to your water intake to make sure your hydration needs are met.

Protect your skin from the sun

Putting on sunscreen when you are outdoors to prevent sunburn seems like a no-brainer, but did you know protecting your skin from the sun will help prevent long-term skin damage? If left unchecked, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can wreak havoc on your skin by causing premature aging, wrinkles, discoloration, freckles, and increased risk of skin cancer. Even though it is often cloudy in southeast Alaska, SEARHC recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. You can also protect your skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses in the direct sun. Try to avoid going outdoors without protection when the sun is at its brightest, usually late morning to midafternoon.

Keep your skin clean but don’t overdo it

Washing your skin excessively can damage it. Although it is important to wash your skin to remove dirt, germs and debris, too much soap and scrubbing can strip your skin of its natural oils that protect you against microbes and bacteria. Too much bathing will dry out your skin, especially if you use hot water. SEARHC recommends washing your skin only once daily using a gentle, hypoallergenic soap and warm water. Try to stay away from bathing products that use artificial scents and ingredients. When drying, instead of rubbing the moisture away with your towel, try patting your body down instead and letting it air dry, so you don’t aggravate your skin.

Don’t smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco

In addition to contributing to cancer, tobacco use can have long term negative effects on the health of your skin. When you smoke, the blood flow to your skin is pinched because your skin’s blood vessels on the outermost layer become narrow and the fibers that keep your skin flexible become damaged. This can lead to pale skin, yellow discoloration or other signs of premature aging. Chewing tobacco chokes out additional oxygen from flowing to your skin because of the toxins released into your cardiovascular system. Also, smoking increases your risk of cell skin cancer. If you use tobacco products, the best way to protect your skin is to quit. For free support to quit tobacco, call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or enroll online at alaskaquitline.com. 

See a dermatologist for unusual skin issues

A doctor who specializes in the health of your skin and hair is called a dermatologist. When you have chronic skin issues that can’t be solved by home remedies or by the daily maintenance tips recommended above, you should seek medical advice from a dermatologist. Skin issues you should consider seeking professional treatment on include:

  • Chronic swelling, itching or redness
  • Unexpected hives, rashes, or blisters
  • Moles or bumps that change color or shape
  • Sores that ooze or leak puss

If you have any of the above issues or wish to be screened for skin cancer, attend one of our Dermatology Clinics at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. SEARHC has partnered with Swedish Medical Center to bring a trusted Dermatologist to Southeast for your skin care needs. Our next clinic is on April 29th and 30th from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call 907.966.HERE to schedule an appointment.

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The SEARHC Crisis Help Line, 1.877.294.0074, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to residents of Southeast Alaska.