There are things we can do to protect our skin, but we won’t find most of them in a fancy jar.
Those miraculous “before” and “after” photos in skin care ads? All the “miracles” usually come from photo editing.
FDA Cracks Down on “Miracle” Skin Products
Last year, the Assisting Hands “Hand in Hand” newsletter reported on the proliferation of products and services being marketed as “anti-aging.” Here’s an update: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned a number of cosmetics companies that their marketing and advertising had crossed the line into making drug claims when they claimed their products could treat disease or change the body’s structure and function.
Many of these products promise to reverse wrinkles and otherwise make us look younger. According to the FDA, these cosmetics makers claim their products can regenerate cells, boost the activity of genes and increase collagen and elastin in the skin. Said Dr. Linda Katz, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, “Consumers need to know that these drug claims have not been proven to the FDA when they are making a decision to purchase one of these products.”
Dr. Katz reports that the FDA has seen a huge growth in the number of products making these claims. Anyone who watches late night TV, goes on the Internet or riffles through the back pages of a magazine will probably agree with her! She says that if makers of a skin care product claim their lotion or supplement can “turn back the biological clock,” consumers should remember the old saying: “If a product seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do to keep our skin as healthy as possible as we grow older. Though to an extent, the appearance of our skin as we grow older comes from the genes we’re born with, many important lifestyle choices can keep our skin healthy-looking:
- Use sunscreen. According to dermatologists, this is the top step we can take to protect our skin from premature aging. Sun exposure leads to freckles, age spots, leathery skin, spider veins and, of course, skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.
- Use a moisturizer. Especially during dry winter months, avoid chapping and cracking by applying a moisturizer to face, hands, and wherever else skin feels dry. Moisturizers need not be expensive. If yours has a high price tag, you may be paying for packaging and hype.
- Cleanse gently. Washing our face and hands regularly is so important for infection control, but some cleansers can strip the natural oils from our skin, leading to cracks and wrinkles. Look for a skin-friendly, gentle cleanser.
- Eat well and stay hydrated. A well-balanced diet that provides the nutrients we need helps keep our skin healthy. And drinking water helps us avoid dehydration of the skin. (Remember that alcoholic beverages have the opposite effect.)
- Avoid stress. A number of skin disorders have been linked to the effects of stress. Reduce stress triggers in your life as much as you can, and talk to your healthcare provider about stress management practices. Don’t forget that exercise is a top stress reducer, and is beneficial to the skin in many ways.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is the time when the body repairs and renews its various systems—including our skin. You’ve probably noticed that after a poor night’s sleep, your skin looks dull and saggy. This effect can be permanent if you continue to miss out on a good night’s sleep.
- Stop smoking. This is another big one! Smoking causes premature wrinkling and sagging of the skin by narrowing the blood vessels so skin can’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to remain supple. Tobacco smoke also contains carbon monoxide and many harmful chemicals that destroy collagen and elastin.
If you have questions about your skin, talk to a dermatologist. These specialists can recommend products and procedures that improve the appearance and comfort of our skin as we grow older. Taking care of our whole body is the key to healthy-looking skin: It seems that beauty really isn’t just skin deep!
For More Information
Read more about skin health on the websites of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the American Academy of Dermatology.