There are so many reasons to follow some basic house rules about looking after your skin. Not only will it help to keep you looking younger and healthier, in the longer-term it will protect you from a range of debilitating and potentially lethal diseases. So what are the most basic, crucial aspects of skin care you should be most concerned about?
Exposure to the sun
Of all the environmental issues that can have considerable impact on your skin, exposure to the sun's rays definitely tops the list. The importance of protecting yourself from the sun cannot be overstated. Sun exposure is at the root of a diverse range of damaging issues to your skin. It can cause age spots, wrinkles, blemishes, and various other skin problems. Needless to say, the worst of these is increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.
So what are the best ways to go about protecting yourself from this silent menace? The optimum method of avoiding damaging rays is to keep in the shade. No matter where you are in the country, the sun approaches its zenith between 10 am and midday, and stays potent until later in the afternoon. During this period its rays are at their fiercest.
If you do have to go outdoors then you should always employ a suitable sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15, reapplying the lotion on a two-hourly basis. Should you happen to be on holiday in a climate that is particularly hot, as this will cause you to perspire you will need to reapply your sunscreen even more frequently. The same goes if you have been indulging in any watersport activity such as diving, sailing or swimming.
Protective clothing is another excellent way of combating sun exposure. You should cover your skin with long sleeved T-shirts and wear trousers that cover all of your legs. Wide-brimmed hats or baseball caps with a peak are also good choices. Laundry additives give your clothes an extra layer of ultraviolet protection for a certain period of time – but not indefinitely. Check the manufacturers' recommendations on the instructions.
You only have to look at seasoned smokers to see the destructive effect this habit has on their skin. Smoking has the effect of making skin look older, contributing to the wrinkles that can make even middle-aged people appear elderly. The reason for this phenomenon is that when people smoke it narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of their skin, thus decreasing the blood flow to this part of their body.
Smoking also has the effect of depleting vital nutrients that are so important to the health of anyone's skin. It also starves the skin of oxygen. Adding to the negative effects of this habit, it damages the fibres that give your skin its elasticity and its strength – collagen and elastin. This is what makes your '20 a day' addicts such a leathery appearance!
If smoking couldn't get any worse, the action itself - pursing lips around the tip of the cigarette for inhaling, squinting eyes to keep out excess smoke, and repetitive facial expressions - all contribute to creating excessive wrinkles.
By far the best way to look after your skin in this respect is to not smoke. If you are seriously addicted to nicotine, you can refer to your doctor for advise about stopping.