Spring cleaning: revitalizing your skin for the season

During the winter Jack Frost probably did far more damage to your skin than a simple nip at your nose. But now that blustery winds and frigid snowstorms have surrendered to warm breezes and gentle showers, it’s time to shed those heavy layers and bounce back from the winter skin blues with beauty and style.

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As nature’s protective armor, your skin–the largest organ of the body–shields fragile tissues and organs from the harsh effects of the environment and blocks out harmful germs and bacteria. The skin prevents the body from dehydrating, transmits nutrients to hair and nails, and disposes wastes and toxins through perspiration. It serves as a bridge to the sensations of heat, cold, pain and pleasure, and as a gauge of physical and emotional wellness.

Yet the skin is also a very sensitive organ. Even at the densest point, skin is only an eighth of an inch thick, which dermatologists say makes it extremely vulnerable. Everyday stresses (friction from clothing, indoor heating and air; bathing in hot water; frequent hand washing and exposure to harsh cleansers and chemicals) combined with the damaging effects of wind, cold and sun strip the skin’s surface of protective oils and moisture that keep it soft and supple, leaving it dry and defenseless. Also, improper diet and nutrition, poor health, inadequate rest, emotional stress, drugs and alcohol can all leave your skin in a bad state. Revitalize weathered skin this season by taking good care of it inside and out.

First, remember you truly are what you eat. What goes in your stomach can affect your skin. Be aware of how your skin reacts to common “problem” foods, such as caffeine in coffee and sodas, chocolate, citric acid in fruits and drinks, shrimp and other shellfish. Get your skin glowing by reducing fat, cholesterol, salt and artificial sugars and by increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables on your plate. In addition, stick to a balance diet that’s rich in nutrients and vitamins, like Vitamin A, which combats dryness and keeps skin clear: Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant, not only fights smog, cigarette smoke and other pollutants that compromise the skin’s health, but also battles blemishes and may help reverse sun damage. Also, foods rich in protein help prevent skin from prematurely aging. And by all means drink at least two quarts of water daily–not hard at all if you spread it out–to flush out impurities and keen your skin and body moisturized.

Once you take care of your skin from the inside focus on how you handle those areas that greet the world. Do you sometimes weal your makeup to bed because you’re too tired to wash your face? Forget to wear lubber gloves when you scour pots, pans, tiles and tubs? Skip the moisturizer because you have oily skin? Do you pound your puppies on tee pavement every day but never get a pedicure? Do you practically scrub holes in your skin trying to get it squeaky clean?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are doing your skin a serious disservice and should stop it light now! Once again, your skin is a sensitive organ and it doesn’t take much to damage its delicate cells. One of the biggest blunders women commit during their skin-care ritual is washing too vigorously, especially with harsh products.

Roughhousing neither makes your skin cleaner nor removes acne or blemishes faster. In fact, dermatologists say overzealous cleaning leads to irritation, dryness, blotchiness, even broken blood vessels, and will only aggravate a pre-existing problem. Instead, cleanse skin gently and only with products tailored to your skin type.

But before you shop for those specially formulated potions, notions and lotions, you need to know the category your skin fits in. There are basically three types of skin: dry, normal/combination and oily. However, your skin type can change depending on the season, the climate where you live, and even hormonal changes, so you may need to alter your cleansing and moisturizing products. Dry skin is characterized by tiny pores, a dull, ashen look, and little-to-no oil on the surface, and it usually flakes and sheds noticeably during the fall and winter.

During spring and summer, Sisters with dry skin can relax the winter skin-care regimen a bit and switch from superthick, creamy oil-based cleansers to lighter ones. Still stick with low- to no-alcohol toners and emollient-rich moisturizers. Normal/combination skin has the worst of both worlds–drier on the cheeks and oilier in the T-zone, which includes the forehead, nose and chin. In the spring and summer; reduce the oil in the T-zone of combination skin by washing with cleansers that contain glycerin, which acts as a humectant and draws moisture to the skin. And follow with an astringent to keep the oil in check.

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At the other end of the skin spectrum is the oily type. Oily skin usually has large more visible pores, is often prone to breakouts and can look shiny or greasy soon after cleansing. However, oily skin still requires moisture, so don’t skip the moisturizer. Also, women with acne-prone complexions tend to go ballistic with harsh cleansers that strip skin of oils, which only causes more acne as skin works even harder to make up for the loss. Or women use the wrong products, such as creamy cleansers that don’t rinse off well and leave traces of dirt and makeup, which further clogs pores. Instead, gently wash with oil-free, water-based products. Remove any leftover dirt and oil with astringents formulated for oily skin and moisturize with hydrating, oil-free lotions and creams.

If you’re wondering why sensitive skin is not listed among the basic skin types, the reason is that “sensitive” is not a skin type. It’s a condition that can affect anyone, regardless of the type of complexion. Sensitive skin is easily irritated by certain ingredients in cosmetics, soaps, moisturizers perfumes, food, and even clothing. You can tell that your skin is sensitive if it turns red, itches, or forms a rash upon contact with a substance. Dermatologists say the primary culprits include detergent-based bath gels (especially those with the chemical sodium lauryl sulfate), abrasive scrubs and strong deodorant soaps, toners with alcohol, solvents like nail polish remover, and shimmery cosmetics containing mica or bismuth oxychloride.

The best cleansers and moisturizers for sensitive skin are those that are free of fragrance, alcohol and lanolin which can irritate skin. Always be aware of a product’s ingredients before you apply it to your skin, and never ignore a warning on the label that cautions you to discontinue use if a rash develops. If you have a persistent rash and can’t pin down the source, seek help from a dermatologist. But proper cleansing and moisturizing is just part of what it takes to achieve healthy, beautiful skin. The other part involves pampering your skin. You have to stop taking your skin for granted, especially the skin on the face, hands and feet, which endures the most abuse because it constantly interacts with the world.

Most women love to put on makeup, but they hate taking it off. If you come in from a particularly late evening or are having a late-night guest, you too may be tempted to sleep in your makeup. Don’t. When you leave makeup on your face all night, it not only ruins your sheets and pillows, but also ruins your complexion. It jams deeper into your skin, making it harder to remove, and it sets the stage for clogged pores and acne. So it’s either an extra five-to-ten minutes at the face bowl or five-to-ten days with a big zit–your choice.

Hands are probably the most neglected area of the body, especially prone to dryness because we’re always using them, often without adequate protection. That leaves them prone to scrapes, scratches, dryness and damage. Protect your most important tools by wearing gloves when you’re doing housework and especially if you plan to grow that garden this spring. Keep your hands moisturized with a good lotion or cream, especially after washing hem, and always keep moisturizer handy.

The runners-up in the mistreated skin category are feet, which take a serious beating during the winter get about them until spring. Out of sight, out of mind. But then the time comes for you to slip into those toe-baring sandals and you discover all those overgrown toe nails and hang nails and calluses that have developed over the winter months. Soothe your battle-scarred footsies by soaking them in Epsom salts to reduce swelling, then soften calluses with a pumice stone. Trim those claws and cuticles, then massage your feet with a rich lotion or oil, stuff them into a pair of cotton socks, and let them marinate overnight. The next day, you’ll have a recipe for footloose and fancy feet. 

Quick tip: Choose the best razor for you skin will help you have healthy skin.

Now that you know the skinny on skin care, you can spring into this season of rebirth and renewal with healthy, vibrant beautiful skin.