In most of the United States, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. Sure the solstice is a few weeks away and the kids are still in school, but the pools are open and the shorts and flip flops have been moved to the front of the closet. More skin exposure means more vitamin D production which is great, but it also means a greater risk of damage from overexposure…not so great.
Did you know that your skin is your largest organ? And it has many more functions than simply holding us together and looking good. Some of those functions include the retention of fluids, the excretion of toxins through sweat, regulation of body temperature, sensation of touch, heat and cold, synthesis of vitamin D, and it is your immune system’s very first defense against the invasion of germs and environmental toxins. With all of those important functions, we owe it to ourselves to keep our skin healthy.
By getting regular massages, you are already doing good things for your skin like stimulating circulation which helps to nourish the skin and encourage cell regeneration, stimulating the production of sebum (your skin’s natural oil which keeps it soft and supple), and improving your skin’s elasticity which helps keep your skin intact and able to protect against the penetration of germs. But there are things you can do on a daily basis to help keep your skin healthy and protect it from breakdowns.
Hydration- I know I must sound like a broken record, but staying well hydrated is essential for the optimal function of all of our systems, including your skin (Integumentary system) Skin that is hydrated from the inside should have good turgor (when you pinch a small bit of your skin together, it should bounce back without leaving wrinkles. If it stays wrinkled, you are in need of hydration).
Cleansing- Because our skin is our first defense against germs, it is important to keep our skin clean. Think of your skin like the windshield of your car, it keeps all of the bugs and dust and dirt from getting inside. But every now and then you’ve got to wash the bugs away. Washing with mild soap and water will get rid of the grime that accumulates, and using a shower brush or exfoliating mitt helps get rid of dead skin cells and stimulate circulation. **It is possible to OVERCLEAN your skin. Some studies have shown that frequent hand washing especially with harsh antibacterial soaps can actually dry the skin and lead to breakdown.
UVA/UVB Protection- While it is important to protect your skin from sun exposure all year, so much more of our skin is exposed in the summer increasing the risk of overexposure. Use sunscreen BEFORE you head out to the pool, beach or any outdoor activity. And reapply frequently, especially if you will be sweating or engaged in water activities. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet, the back of your neck and your ears! If you have sensitive skin, or if you’re like me and forget to reapply regularly, you may want to consider wearing sun protective clothing like rash guards while engaged in water activities, large brimmed hats while gardening, etc.
Know your skin- According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. It is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but the good news is that it is also one of the most successfully curable cancers when detected early. Do regular self exams in the mirror and be aware of your freckles and moles so that you can monitor if there are any new or changing spots. Don’t forget to check your back, the rims of your ears, the bottoms of your feet, and between your toes. If you notice anything new, especially if it is irregularly shaped or evolving in shape or size, consult your dermatologist.
Enjoy the sun safely and have a great summer!