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Start Saving Your Skin Today
You know that sunlight can be a searing skillet on your skin, upping your risk of skin cancer. So avoiding prolonged exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—the hours of fiercest sun—is just common sense, says dermatologist Susan Weinkle, M.D., president-elect of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
It's also a no-brainer to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 45 and UVA protection, says Charles E. Crutchfield III, M.D., medical director of Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, Minnesota. "UVA rays are responsible for aging signs such as wrinkles and liver spots as well as for skin cancer," he says.
In addition to these smart moves, there are other more surprising tricks that can also do wonders for your skin. Read on to get started.
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1. Change Your Sheets
"It makes no sense applying anything to your face before bed if at night you're cozying up to bacteria," says Amy Wechsler, M.D., a New York City dermatologist and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection. Change linens at least once a week—and wash the dirty ones in hot water (130° F). Change them more often (particularly the pillowcases) if you've been sick.
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2.Take a Salt Bath
It sounds counterintuitive, but adding 2 cups of Epsom salts, or magnesium bath salts, to warm bathwater for a soak is a boon for your skin and more, says Carolyn Dean, M.D., ND, author of The Magnesium Miracle: "It helps detoxify the body through the skin, which helps with acne, eczema, and other skin conditions. And it soothes tired muscles and promotes sleep."
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3. Lighten Your Moisturizer
"As weather gets warmer, change heavier moisturizing creams and ointment to lighter lotions and serums. That helps reduce acne," says Heidi Waldorf, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Switch to lighter shampoos too.
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4. Dump Your Dead Skin
Exfoliate! Buy a loofah or an exfoliating brush or glove, an exfoliating cleaner—oil- or cream-based—and gently rub your skin once or twice a week. "You'll brush away dead dulling cells and stimulate new cell growth," says Dr. Wechsler. "But don't overscrub, or you'll cause irritation and inflammation."
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5. Garden with Gloves
Remember how Scarlett O'Hara's potato-digging hands gave her away? Don't be caught out. "And when you come indoors, wash your hands, arms, and any exposed skin with a gardening soap to remove any poison ivy oils," says Dr. Waldorf. "The sooner you clean off the oil, the less likely you'll develop the allergic rash."
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6. Baby Your Feet
Here's a brilliant little invisible fix that will make a huge difference to your feet: Add moleskin—fabric with a soft pile on one side—to the underside of sandal straps so you won't blister, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City and author of Skin Rules, out next year. You can find moleskin strips in the foot-care section of drugstores.
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7. Get a Safe Golden Glow
A golden glow makes everybody look better and can camouflage skin flaws like spider veins on your legs. The best way to go for the glow? "Use a gradual self-tanner so you will have a golden sun-kissed look without the damage," says Dr. Jaliman. "The daily ones look more natural."
A big no-no: the tanning bed, says Andrea Cambio, M.D., FAAD, medical director of Cambio Dematology in Cape Coral and Bokeelia, Florida: "Indoor UV tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned outdoors." Melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, is the most common cancer among young adults 25 to 29.
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8. Wear Sun-Shielding Clothes
Go ahead and buy that Easter bonnet big as a satellite dish. It will protect your neck, eyes, ears, forehead, nose, and scalp, says Dr. Weinkle, who practices in Bradenton, Florida: "And pick protective clothing with a thick weave." Some fabrics are treated with a chemical sunblock; look for fabrics with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50+. You can also add a powder sunscreen called Tinosorb FD, sold as SunGuard (available online and at some big box stores), to your laundry; according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the protection will last through 20 washings.
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9. Tackle a Pimple with TLC
You want that pimple gone but squeezing it with your fingernails leaves scars and pushes in bacteria, says Dr. Wechsler. "And you get a new pimple right next door in a few days." Instead, apply a warm compress to loosen the plug of oil. Place two clean cotton swabs on each side of the pimple and gently apply inward pressure. If goo comes out, pat dry. If not, leave it alone, she says.
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10. Load Up on the Free Skin Saver
"Sleep is free cosmetic medicine," says Dr. Wechsler. "Logging eight hours per night can make you look three years younger." Too little sleep and our blood circulation slows, making us look wan.
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11. Be Prepared
Whether you're having a backyard barbecue, enjoying a picnic at the outdoor symphony, or cheering the Little League season opener, be armed with an antihistamine and topical cortisone for bug bites, says Dr. Jaliman. Dealing with a bite as soon as possible can keep it from becoming really irritating and prevent you from damaging your skin by scratching.
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12. Pamper Your Hands
Don't let your hands make you look older than you are. They need extra TLC in warm weather when they may be in water more often and exposed to the sun, says Jessica J. Krant, M.D., M.P.H., founder of Art of Dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY in New York City: "Apply a thick, moderately greasy hand cream after every exposure to water." And don't forget to apply sunscreen to your hands too.
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13. Eat Fish to Look Younger
Eating fish or taking a daily fish oil supplement can help keep your skin looking young, says Ariane Hundt, M.S., a nutritionist, personal trainer, and founder of the Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camps in New York City. "Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, herring, walnuts, or supplements are potent anti-inflammatory agents and help keep your skin moist."
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14. Work Out for Your Skin
Dr. Wechsler calls exercise a magic bullet for improving your skin: "It boosts circulation to deliver nutrients to the cells, lowers inflammation, and reduces stress. That's the healthy glow you get after a great workout." Current government Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (health.gov/paguidelines/) recommend getting 150 minutes of exercise per week.
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15. Eat the Rainbow
"Load up on antioxidants in berries and lots of green vegetables to prevent cell damage and slow the aging effect of the sun," says Hundt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating two to four half-cup servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables every day.
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16. Skip the Sweets
You know sugar adds pounds but it also raises blood sugar. And the insulin your body produces in response increases inflammation in your arteries, joints, and skin, says Hundt: "Keep sugar to a twice-weekly treat and your skin will be smooth, less red, and free from breakouts."
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"Keeping your organs hydrated is vital—and your skin is actually the largest organ of all," says Regina Hamlin, M.D., a clinical professor of medicine at UCSF Fresno. "Excess heat, lack of humidity, and less fresh air can starve your body of moisture. And water is key to overall health and beautiful skin." Divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water every day.