Early recognition, prevention, and treatment of skin diseases is an important element in the overall care of the middle-aged and older person, according to research conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard School of Medicine.

Unfortunately, most of us take our skin for granted, especially during our younger years, when the thought of wrinkled skin seems almost unfathomable. However, decades later, we may wish we could bring our skin to the dry-cleaners to get the wrinkles out. But the reality is that the wrinkles in our skin are more stubborn than those in our clothing, and while we can’t undo the careless things we did to our skin in years past, we can start today with what we know about better skin care, nutrition, and exercise to maintain and improve what we’ve got.

A study conducted in Tokyo, Japan involved skin experiments on people over 30 years of age. These experiments suggested that when facial treatment and skin-care products were used on less soft- and elastic-skinned people, these groups experienced significant improvement in these two areas.

Approaching skin care face first

Wrinkles. For those visible spreading lines coming out from the eyes which we all know as crow’s feet, as well as other facial wrinkles, reach for topical vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which has been shown to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Sun exposure, the greatest contributor to skin damage, depletes vitamin C as well as causing other damage.

In fact, results of tests show that topically-applied products containing vitamins with antioxidants, like vitamin C, are having a noticeable effect on the appearance of the skin. As we get older, the antioxidants we get from our diets and supplements have a harder time reaching out to the skin. Applying products with vitamins that can penetrate and be absorbed externally give an additional boost to skin care.

Some wrinkle-ridding or preventing nutritionals are: primrose oil or black currant seed oil; vitamin A/beta carotene; B-complex; kelp; selenium; silica; vitamins C and E; zinc; copper; aloe vera; collagen cream; elastin cream; flaxseed oil; glucosamine sulfate or N-acetylglucosamine (NAG); oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs); alfalfa; chamomile; horsetail; ginger root; lemongrass; and pumpkin seed.

Acne: not just a teenage problem

Acne is a condition we see most commonly in teenagers, but what many people don’t know is that it can also strike adults between the ages of 25 and 44. It is usually brought on by hormones, heredity, stress, or some combination thereof.

All-natural clay masks may improve acne-prone skin; when such masks dry, excess oils and other pore-clogging matter are drawn out, clearing up skin. When shopping for the right mask to meet your needs, read labels carefully, as different masks are designed for different skin types.

The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research suggests practicing common sense: “Avoid resting your hands or objects on your face. Avoid wearing tight clothing or hats, especially if you’ll be sweating. Sweat, dirt, and oils can contribute to acne as well.’

Rosacea: a disease that can bloom later in life

Rosacea is a skin disease on the face, from which an estimated 13 million Americans currently suffer. For sufferers, this condition starts anywhere between 30 and 50 years of age. The onset of the disease is gradual and affects only the skin of the face, namely, the nose, forehead, and cheeks. In some cases, rosacea affects the eyes as well.

It is believed that people whose skin flushes (who blush easily) have a higher risk for the disease. Exercise can also cause flushing and exacerbate rosacea, so take particular care in washing away perspiration and caring for facial skin afterwards.

Although chronic and thought by dermatologists to be incurable, rosacea can be treated and controlled and, in some cases, reversed if caught early enough.

In the July 1996, Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., C.N.C., offered a variety of natural treatment options to a reader suffering from rosacea who wrote to her.

Lieberman suggested that people with rosacea avoid yeast-containing foods and sugar and/or gluten (wheat, rye, oats, and barley), since allergies to these foods may play a role in the condition. She says that pancreatic enzymes, hydrochloric acid, fish-oil, and B-complex supplementation may be beneficial. Herbs which may help rosacea and other skin disorders include: echinacea, goldenseal root, dandelion, burdock root, licorice root, yellow dock root, and cayenne. According to the National Rosacea Society, you should avoid products with ingredients that sting or irritate the skin, such as alcohol, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus oil, clove oil, witch hazel, or certain fragrances.

The eyes have it

To help avoid getting an eye infection or conjunctivitis, through the spreading of bacteria on hands, use the small spatula-type applicators for removing cream from jars and patting around-the eyes. Use clean, dry fingertips to lightly tap products into the skin surrounding the eye; never rub or pull, which will damage the delicate thin skin in this area.

Put your best hands forward

Your hands are probably the most visible, yet most abused, part of your body. They are continuously immersed in soap suds, cleansers, and disinfectants and exposed to germs and bacteria. They are constantly in motion and exposed to environmental elements. Hands are the most useful tools we have. Often they are the way we communicate and express ourselves to others.

Brown age spots, also called liver spots, appear from an excessive accumulation of melanin. They usually begin to occur on the backs of the hands and on the face and neck as we get older. They’re the result of a build-up of wastes called “lipofuscin accumulation,” a byproduct of free-radical damage. Causative factors include: poor diet, lack of exercise, poor liver function, and excessive sun exposure. Some age-spot preventing nutrients and compounds include: antioxidant supplements; vitamin B-complex; vitamin C with bioflavonoids; Lactobacillus bulgaricus and FOS; chelated calcium/magnesium; L-carnitine (unless included in multi-supplement already); lecithin; ginseng; licorice; Picrorhiza kurroa; milk thistle; elderberry; ginkgo biloba; burdock; and red clover.

Try creams with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to minimize brown spots. Afterwards, wear gloves or apply sun block for protection from the sun. Use natural moisturizers on the hands frequently throughout the day to reduce the effect of drying from constantly washing hands. Wear specially-made gloves when using detergents or harsh chemicals.

Stand up for your feet

There are several skin problems associated with the feet. Several of these are aggravated, or caused, by wearing improperly-fitting shoes, especially for athletes, who place more demands on their feet than their sedentary counterparts. Proper foot care includes keeping feet clean and dry. Perspiration can allow fungus to grow, so wash and dry feet thoroughly and wear absorbent socks, especially during exercise.

Athlete’s foot. Tea tree oil dabbed across infected areas can help to control and sometimes cure fungal conditions, like athlete’s foot, which is actually ringworm on the feet. Applying silica gel to feet may help to prevent athlete’s foot since it can help reduce excessive sweat and wetness between the toes.

Other athlete’s foot-avoiding and helpful products include: acidophilus and FOS; topical colloidal silver; garlic; B-complex; vitamins A, C, and E; beta-carotene; essential fatty acids; tea-tree oil; and pau d’arco tea.

Corns and calluses are a thickening area of the skin (called hyperkeratosis) caused by. excessive pressure and friction from poorly-fitting shoes, staphylococcus or streptococcus-type infection, misalignment of the foot, and an acid/alkaline imbalance in the body. Soak the foot to soften the skin and sand the area with a pumice stone, removing the central keratin plug of the corn.

After a nice foot-soak featuring such oils as lavender and/or peppermint oil, nothing beats a good foot massage. However, if there is any broken skin on your feet, be careful of applying lotions or oils which may be irritating.

Other anti-corn/callus approaches include topical application of alcohol-free golden seal extract and tea-tree oil and a real increase in raw vegetables and juices for three days.

Skin care that ‘works out’ with you

“Exercise boosts circulation and helps diffuse oxygen into the tissues of the skin. Although it doesn’t rebuild collagen and elastin, it does tone skin up,” according to Stuart Zweibel, M.D., in a recent article on exercise.

Studies out now show that even in their 60s, people can increase their muscle agility and strength through exercise and especially through a light weight-lifting program. Toned and stronger muscles, increased circulation, and overall improvement in health is certainly a determining factor in the appearance of the skin.

Exercise can also be an irritant to skin because of the bacteria that thrives in perspiration and damp clothes. Wear clothes that wick moisture away from the skin and speed up evaporation. Friction with damp clothes (particularly socks) can also cause chaffing, which is usually best treated with an all-natural moisturizer.

Before a work-out, remove all make-up and clip hair away from face to keep hair products from dripping onto face and neck, as these tend to clog pores and suffocate the skin, leading to blemishes and inflammation. Avoid excessive showering, which dries out the skin making the sebaceous glands work harder. Moisturize immediately.

Feed your skin

What we put inside our bodies, or feed our skin, certainly reflects on the outside. Meeting daily nutritional requirements, including vitamins and minerals, improves overall skin health.

Don’t forget the importance of water to healthy skin. Water is necessary to keep skin supple and hydrated and to replace what we lose through perspiration, respiration, etc. If you are exercising, try to drink eight ounces an hour. Otherwise, eight glasses a day is the usual recommendation. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, do so throughout the day before you get dehydrated. When you feel hungry, try drinking water first to see if that is what your body really needs.

The best thing you can do for your skin is to maintain cleanliness, practice good nutrition – including plenty of whole foods, pure water, and dietary supplements – exercise, practice stress reduction techniques, and use natural skin treatment products that work well for you.

Other 40+-skin age-proofing

Do’s

  • Consume a diet high in vegetable protein (including raw fruits, raw vegetables, grains, and seeds).
  • Consume high-sulfur foods and supplements, which help keep the skin youthful, including: garlic, onions, eggs, and asparagus, and the amino acid L-cysteine.
  • Always moisturize your skin after cleansing.
  • Use skin-care products with natural humectant-compounds which attract water to the shin and hold in moisture. Natural humectants include: vegetable glycerin, vitamin E, and pantothenic acid vitamin B5).
  • Keep your home/work environment humidified (and purified, if possible).
  • Ask your licensed health-care practitioner about the dry-skin-causing qualities of diuretics, antispasmodics, and antihistamines.
  • Limit sun-exposure and use all-natural sunscreens when you are outside.

Don’ts

  • Avoid caffeine, fried foods, saturated fats, excess red meat, processed foods, sugar, and heat-processed supermarket oils.
  • Avoid junk foods such as soft drinks.
  • Don’t smoke and try to avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Don’t use harsh soaps or hydrogenated-oil-based cleansing/cold creams. Instead, use pure olive, avocado, or almond oil.

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