10 ways to save your skin

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We all want to have healthy-looking skin. Here are 10 easy ways to go about it.

1 Stay out of the sun. Yeah, yeah, we all know this one, and for many women the damage was already done back in the 70s and 80s before the news got out. But there is nothing to stop you protecting your skin from now on. Winter and summer alike, every day you should wear a moisturiser with at least a factor 15 sunblock in it (30 is better) and at the slightest hint of sunshine, up this to a factor 60.

2 Drink. And drink water. When your body’s thirsty it’s not asking for tea, or diet Coke, or a smoothie – it wants water. Give it what it wants. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s now known that thirst is a poor indicator for hydration, so you shouldn’t wait till you’re thirsty before you drink. You should be drinking a good two litres of water per day. If, like me, you find drinking large quantities of liquid quite difficult, try downing a pint of warm water on rising, on going to bed and a couple of times during the day, such as when you’re preparing a meal – raising the temperature of the water makes it easier to glug it down. By the way, for every alcoholic drink, or tea or coffee you take during the day, you need to add another one third of a pint of water to your intake because alcohol, tea and coffee are diuretic and are therefore robbing your body of fluid.

3 Don’t smoke. Besides the numerous other nasties that smoking merrily gives you, such as heart disease, cancer and death, it also ages your skin. It does this in three ways – firstly, the repeated pursing of your lips as you take a drag adds up to hundreds of thousands of lip-pursings that, in time, result in deep vertical lines around the lips which are almost impossible to get rid of. Secondly, smoking destroys collagen and elastin, which are what keep your skin plump and youthful. Thirdly, smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin, which impairs blood flow. This depletes your skin of oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A.

4 Keep hydrated. That means externally, with water sprays, humidifiers, water reservoirs on your radiators etc. If the humidity level in your home drops below 50 per cent, it begins to have a detrimental effect on your skin – not to mention your health generally, particularly the mucous membranes in your nose, throat and lungs. As a clue, if your hair becomes static in winter when you brush it, your house is too dry. Even standing a shallow bowl of water on the sideboard will help – but make sure you change the water daily to prevent bacteria building up.

5 Don’t use soap on your face and neck. I would have thought we’d all know this by now. It’s generally better for your skin to cleanse with creams and oils, then apply creams and oils, unless your skin is very greasy. If you like the feeling of water on your face, try washing with emulsifying ointment. Available from any pharmacy counter (you’ll have to ask, because it’s so cheap it isn’t given display space) , this comes in big tubs and is hypoallergenic, non-drying and contains no colour. Other non-soap bars include Neutrogena Dry Skin Soap (which isn’t really soap at all) and aqueous cream bars, which are simply a solid version of aqueous cream BP, a kind of moisturiser.

6 Maintain good skin hygiene. In other words, don’t keep touching your face all day. Wash your hands before you do your makeup. Keep your phone handset clean with a mediwipe each day. Don’t rest your chin in your hands. Don’t pick at your spots – dot a drop of tea-tree or geranium oil on spots, using a cotton bud and allow to air dry before applying moisturiser.

7 Don’t drag at your skin. The skin on your face is much more delicate than the skin on your hands and body, and it’s particularly delicate on your eyelids. When applying or removing makeup, don’t be rough – use good-quality cottonwool pads and enough product so that you’re not pulling and tugging at yourself. Pat on moisturisers and blend lightly with clean fingertips – don’t rub until your skin changes colour.

8 Exercise. Exercise oxygenates your skin, which improves collagen production. Any exercise that raises your body temperature and reddens your skin is helpful, but the best for your face are specific facial exercises – I’ll write about these tomorrow.

9 Don’t have long, hot baths. If you stay in long enough to prune, that’s a sign that your skin is losing moisture. 15-20 minutes is about the maximum time you should spend in the bath and if you can, shower instead.

10 Use bath oil. Preferably an organic-based oil such as sunflower, rather than an inorganic oil such as baby oil. A good squirt of this into the water and broken up with the head of the shower hose will coat your skin nicely, preventing too much water loss. It also saves time, as you don’t have to moisturise afterwards. Add a little lavender or geranium essential oil to it for a pleasant scent. If you shower rather than bathe, mix your oil with equal quantities of sea salt and use it as a body scrub – make sure to use a non-slip mat, though, as it will turn your shower into an oil slick. Generally speaking, only your armpits, crotch and feet actually need soap – these are the areas where you have apocrine glands which produce pungent sweat, as opposed to the eccrine glands that produce odourless sweat all over the rest of your body. The rest of your body doesn’t need to be soaped on a daily basis.

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