Protecting Your Skin With Preventive Skin Care

Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

Your skin reflects your health. It's your body's canvas and one of its most valuable assets. For good skin care, start developing healthy habits that guard your valued possession from outer (and inner) forces. It's the only skin you'll ever get, so your daily habits mean everything.

Are You Ready to Take Charge?

  • Start simple. You can spend all the money you want on the most complex skin care routine, but it won't really matter if you haven't developed healthy habits. So before you charge a few hundred dollars worth of skin care products, evaluate your current skin care routine. Do you have healthy habits? For instance, do you properly cleanse your skin? If you're a woman who wears make-up, be sure to remove all traces of make-up at the end of the day. No matter what your gender is, you should drink plenty of water, providing your skin with vital moisture from the inside. When you're out in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen. Even though you won't see immediate results, those little steps make a big difference over time.
  • Start early. Integrate a proper skin care routine into your day early. If you're a teenager or if you have a teenager at home, start now to develop healthy habits. If you're an older adult, lead by example! You can't replace the skin you're in, but you can nourish and pamper it to protect it for the future. With the proper care, your skin can stay fresh as you age.
  • Seek professional help for skin problems. Skin's not going to be perfect. It can be dry or oily; it can develop rashes and acne, among many other issues. Address the problem with a professional skin expert, either a skin aesthetician at your local salon or a dermatologist for more severe skin problems.
  • Block the sun. Protecting your skin from the sun is important because the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Over time, exposure to UV radiation causes many changes in the skin, including wrinkles, discoloration, freckles or age spots, benign (non-cancerous) growths such as moles, and pre-cancerous or cancerous growths such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. In fact, most skin cancers are related to sun exposure.

Exposure to the sun is so damaging to skin that is worth understanding this problem thoroughly. There are two main types of UV radiation: UVB and UVA. UVB rays cause sunburns and UVA rays cause tanning. UVA rays are believed to be responsible for photoaging ? the damage that occurs to the skin from many years of exposure to the sun. Both rays contribute to the risk of developing skin cancer.

Most sunscreen products available in the past were developed to prevent sunburns by blocking UVB rays. Fewer sunscreen products have been equally successful in blocking UVA rays. For that reason, sun protection recommendations emphasize certain behaviors, as well as the use of sunscreens. The recommendations include:

  • Avoiding mid-day sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Wearing wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts and pants
  • Using a generous amount of sunscreen and reapplying it frequently (every 2-3 hours)
  • Using sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15, and that have UVA and UVB coverage
  • Avoid tanning beds

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dermatology.

Edited by Michael W. Smith, MD, April 2003, WebMD.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003.

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