Diet and good skin care to prevent premature aging

Thu. November 2, 2006 12:00 AM
by Omeed Memar, M.D.

Your skin is your body's first defense against disease and infection, and protects internal organs from injuries. The largest organ in the body, skin helps regulate body temperature, prevents excess fluid loss, and it helps your body remove excess water and salt. There are a number of ways to keep your skin healthy, and many options available to treat skin problems. Consult a dermatologist if you feel skin treatment is necessary. Some of the more common skin conditions and tips include:

1. Dry skin in the winter months. Lower air temperatures and humidity combined with forced hot-air heat can cause dryness. To help combat this drying, Dr. Memar recommends: (a) no hot showers or baths; (b) use of mild soaps, and (c) moisturizing your skin immediately after a shower or bath.

2. Acne. Small lesions, blackheads, and whiteheads can be controlled by (a) gently washing the affective area(s) with warm water and a mild soap twice a day to remove dead skin cells and excess oil, and (b) using a topical (applied to the skin) over-the-counter acne treatment containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

3. Premature aging. Some signs of aging that appear on the skin indicate more than advancing years; they warn of an underlying medical condition. Changes that occur as we age also make us more susceptible to skin conditions, such as shingles and skin cancer. If you spot any of these changes, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. With early detection, many of these conditions are easily treated. If allowed to progress, some conditions can be difficult to control. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, can be deadly without early treatment. In the United States alone, one person dies from melanoma about every 68 minutes.

4. Eczema. When it comes to treating atopic dermatitis, dermatologists consider moisturizing and gentle cleansing to be indispensable. Yet, a recent survey revealed that 23% of adults living with atopic dermatitis say they do not do not apply moisturizer and 29% do not use a cleanser. The researchers also found that most of the people who participated in the survey wanted more information about moisturizers and cleansers.

5. Skin Cancer. The facts say it all: (a) More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, (b) both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma have a better than 95 percent five-year cure rate if detected and treated early, (c) 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime, and (d) five or more sunburns double your risk of developing skin cancer.

6. Rosacea. An estimated 14 million people in the United States have this common skin condition. However, many are unaware that they have rosacea. Most people develop only a few of the signs and symptoms of rosacea, which include: (a) a tendency to blush or flush easily — redness may eventually last longer than 10 minutes; (b) persistent redness in the center of the face that may gradually affect the cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose; (c) Dryness on the face. If you have any of these signs or symptoms, be sure to see a dermatologist. Repeatedly applying a topical steroid — the medication that many people use to calm red, swollen, or itchy skin — often aggravates rosacea.