Your skin is your main line of defence from the elements. Think about what it has to withstand on a daily basis; sun, wind, pollution, and chemicals from products you use. So, how can you keep skin in optimum health so it can do its job?
Tips for healthy skin
Protect yourself from the sun
One of the most damaging and ageing things for your skin is sun exposure. Over a lifetime, it can cause wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancers. Always use a sunscreen when you are outside. Wear at least an SPF 15 and at least SPF 30 if you are in a hot climate. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every 2 hours, especially if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
Try and avoid being out in the sun when it’s at its hottest, between 10 and 2pm, but if you must be outside, wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts or long trousers, and of course, a hat to protect your hair and scalp.
Smoking is another very damaging thing you can do to your skin. It makes your skin look older and it causes wrinkles. It decreases the blood flow to the skin which deprives it of oxygen and nutrients that it needs to stay healthy.
Smoking also damages collagen and elastin which are what gives the skin its strength and elasticity.
Treat your skin with care
Don’t take hot baths or showers as this can deplete moisture from the skin. Avoid using harsh soaps or cleansers for the same reason, and pat skin dry rather than rubbing it. Always use a moisturizer, ideally one with an SPF.
Eating a healthy diet will help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Current research suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C and low in unhealthy fats and processed or refined carbohydrates can make your skin look younger.
Say goodbye to stress
Stress can make your skin more sensitive and can trigger breakouts and other skin problems. Try to live a more balanced lifestyle and try to do things that you enjoy.
Not all skin is equal
The thickness of your skin varies depending on where it is on your body. Some parts of your body are subject to more wear and tear than others, so it figures that the skin needs to be thicker to protect these parts, for example, the soles of your feet. Here’s how to adapt your skincare routine to meet your skin’s needs:
Just as skin thickness varies, so does the number of hair follicles, sweat and oil glands in different areas of the body. These protect your skin and keep it healthy.
Areas of the skin where there are more oil glands and hair follicles can potentially heal more quickly from injury than places such as the neck and chest where there are very few glands or follicles.
Splash your face with lukewarm water, then massage your cleanser all over your face using your fingers. Do this for about a minute to make sure the product is given time to work, rinse thoroughly and pat the skin dry with a towel. Don’t rub the facial skin as it’s a lot thinner than the skin on the body. And don’t cleanse too much or use harsh products as this will cause the skin to produce too much oil to compensate for stripping its natural oils away.
Just as you should use hair care products for your hair type, you should use the right products for your skin type on your face.
In general, use richer formulations for dry skin, or dry areas like the elbows and knees, and use an oil-free moisturiser if your skin is oilier. Look for ‘non-comedogenic’ on the label, which means that it won’t clog pores and cause breakouts.
Steer clear of fragranced formulas if you have sensitive skin as they can cause irritation.
The problem of acne
Breakouts on areas of the body such as the back may be hard to treat, as they are hard to reach, and they might be exposed to sweat more after a workout, for example. Bacteria can then build up in the hair follicles and cause breakouts.
If body acne only occurs occasionally, such as in the summer, use a body wash which contains ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Use it every day and avoid scrubbing the skin, as this can cause irritation and can make acne worse.
Protection from the sun
It’s also important to use a daily moisturiser with sun protection all year-round on any exposed areas of skin to keep it healthy, glowing and to minimise damage. Keeping the skin well-hydrated and using a sunscreen will help to protect the skin from ageing and disease-causing free radicals.
Acne is a common skin condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that’s hot or painful to touch, if it becomes infected. Acne most commonly develops on the face, back, and chest.
What causes acne?
Acne is most often caused by changes in hormone levels during puberty, but it can start at any age.
Certain hormones, particularly testosterone, cause the skin’s oil-producing glands next to hair follicles in the skin to produce larger amounts of oil.
The excessive oil changes the activity of a skin bacterium called P. acnes, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus.
The hormones also thicken the lining of the hair follicle, which blocks the pores and causes breakouts.
Acne is also thought to run in families. If your mother and father had acne, it’s more likely that you’ll also have acne.
Hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can also lead to the development of acne in women.
Who gets acne?
Acne is very common in teenagers and younger adults, due to hormonal fluctuations. As much as 80% of people aged 11 to 30 are affected by acne. Acne is most common in girls from the ages of 14 to 17, and in boys from the ages of 16 to 19.
Most people have acne flare ups for several years before their symptoms start to improve as they get older. Acne often disappears on its own when a person is in their mid-twenties.
In some less common cases, acne can continue into adult life. About 5% of women and 1% of men have acne over the age of 25.
Types of spots caused by acne
There are 6 types of spots that are caused by acne:
Blackheads: These are small black bumps that develop on the skin; the black is not caused by dirt, but by the appearance of the inner lining of the hair follicle which produces pigmentation.
Whiteheads: These have a similar appearance to blackheads, but they tend to be firmer and won’t burst when squeezed
Papules: These are small red bumps that may feel tender or sore
Pustules: These are bumps which have a white tip, caused by a buildup of pus under the skin
Nodules: These are large hard lumps that build up under the surface of the skin and can be painful
Cysts: These are the most severe type of spot caused by acne; they’re large pus-filled lumps that look like boils and can cause scarring if they burst.
Self-help for acne
Don’t wash the affected areas of skin more than twice per day. If you wash the skin too frequently, this can cause irritation and makes acne worse.
Wash the affected area of skin with a mild soap or cleanser and warm water, not hot or cold water, as this can make acne worse.
Don’t squeeze spots. This can cause irritation and infection, and cause permanent scarring.
Avoid wearing too much makeup or other cosmetics. This may be tempting, as you will want to try and cover spots up, but it can clog pores and make breakouts worse. Use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic on the label. This means that the product will not block your pores.
Always remove makeup before you go to bed.
Shower as soon as possible after exercise to ensure that bacteria on the skin won’t clog pores and cause breakouts.
Treatment for acne
There is no cute for acne, but it can be controlled with creams, lotions, and gels. If you develop acne, you will most likely need to use a product containing benzoyl peroxide. This can be effective, but be aware that it can bleach clothing.
If your acne is severe or it appears on your chest and back, it may need to be treated with antibiotics or stronger creams that are only available on prescription from your doctor.
When to see your doctor
Even mild cases of acne can be distressing for a suffer. If your acne is making you feel very unhappy or medication is not working for you, speak to your doctor.
If you develop nodules or cysts, they need to be treated properly to avoid scarring, so speak to your doctor about options. If you pick or squeeze them yourself, they can cause permanent scarring. Stronger treatments can take around 3 months to work, but they are usually effective.
These are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as being bad, and associate them with illness and disease. But the body is full of bacteria, and most of them are harmless. You will most often hear probiotics being referred to as “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help to keep your gut healthy.
Probiotics occur naturally in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements.
Probiotics hit the headlines in the mid-1990s, and since then, their health benefits have been examined more closely.
How do probiotics work?
Researchers are still trying to determine the exact mechanism by which probiotics work. But it is known that when the body loses some good bacteria, such as after you take antibiotics, probiotics can restore the balance.
What types of probiotics are there?
Many types of bacteria are classed as probiotics, and they all offer different benefits, but most fall into 2 groups:
This is probably the most commonly found probiotic. You will find it in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains of the bacteria can help to treat diarrhoea and may help to ease symptoms in people who are lactose intolerant.
You can often find this probiotic in dairy products. It might help to ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel conditions.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics help to move food through your gut. Some common conditions they are known to treat are:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Infectious diarrhoea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
There is also evidence to suggest that they can help with other conditions such as:
Eczema and other skin problems.
Urinary and vaginal health
Preventing allergies and colds
Are probiotics safe?
Probiotic foods and supplements are thought to be generally safe for most people, though some people with immune system problems or other chronic health conditions shouldn’t take them. Speak to your doctor first, just as you would before taking any other medication or supplement. In some cases, mild side effects might occur, including upset stomach, diarrhoea, gas, and bloating for the first couple of days after you start them. They may also cause allergic reactions. If you notice any adverse effects, stop taking them and talk to your doctor.
Probiotics for acne
Probiotics are thought to help treat acne because your gut health has a big role to play in the health of your skin.
Probiotics help increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. There are millions of bacteria in our gut and digestive tract. Most are harmless, and actually quite helpful. They break down the food we eat so our body can absorb the nutrients, they support our immune system and protect the gut from invasions of bad bacteria.
So how is this linked to your skin? Too much bad bacteria in the body can lead to inflammation, and inflammation can lead to acne, bloating, fatigue, stress, joints problems, and inflammatory bowel conditions.
Having a balance of good and bad bacteria is vital for gut health and overall health. If the digestive system isn’t working properly, the body can’t absorb the nutrients it needs or get rid of toxins. And this tends to show in the skin.
So, if you are suffering from fatigue, bloating, or acne, the chances are that there is an imbalance of bacteria in your gut.
How to use probiotics for acne
Using probiotics for acne can be very effective, but you will need a bit of patience. Any treatment that involves the whole body as a system can take at least a few weeks to show effect. Though, you might notice that your gut feels better sooner than this. In general, though, it will take around 3-6 weeks for you to feel better, and to notice the effects in your skin.
Taking a probiotic in pill form
Taking a probiotic in pill form is convenient, and you get a higher number of readily available bacteria strains this way than trying to get enough in your daily diet. Supplements are a very concentrated form of the probiotic.
A good quality probiotic will deliver live strains of bacteria straight into your system, as many as 1 billion organisms per gram!
When you read the label, look for ‘Lactobacillus acidophilus’ and ‘Bifidobacterium’, and you’re on the right track.
Take probiotics after antibiotics
Antibiotics are often prescribed for severe acne as they control the bad bacteria that is responsible for the inflammation and they treat any infection that is present. A course of antibiotics for acne can be a very successful treatment. However, antibiotics can destroy the good bacteria in the gut as well. Antibiotics can irritate your gut, indigestion, bloating, fatigue, and nausea.
So, this is why it’s a good idea to introduce some good bacteria back into your gut after taking a course of antibiotics, for your skin health, and for your overall health.
Acne can be an embarrassing and painful condition. It mostly affects teenagers, but it can occur at any age. As with many conditions, the problem often comes down to an imbalance somewhere in the body. In the case of acne, it is often the hormones that need to be balanced. But for good skin health, and good overall health, the levels of good and bad bacteria in the body need to be balanced.
Good bacterial balance equals good skin. By taking probiotics when you have acne, you will find that not only your skin clears up, but your energy levels increase, you will feel less bloated, and your immunity improves.