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Looking After Your Skin

How to Keep Your Skin Beautiful

Your skin protects your body, but that's not all. It's the face you present to the world. When healthy, it's a source of beauty. The choices you make every day -- what you eat, where you go, how you feel -- affect how your skin looks. Here are a few recommendations.

Watch Your Diet

We all would like good skin? Diet plays a very important part. Higher intakes of vitamin C and a lower intake of fats and carbohydrates are associated with better appearance as your skin ages. Changing your diet will help your looks. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as fish, fruits, and vegetables, seem to help protect skin. To avoid breakouts, go for complex carbohydrates (like whole grains and pasta) and healthy protein.

Eat Foods Rich in Vitamins C and E.

Your antiaging cream may contain vitamin C or E. Put these antioxidants to work from the inside, too. Eating foods rich in these vitamins, plus the mineral selenium, can help protect your skin against sun damage. They may even help reverse signs of aging, like wrinkles and skin discoloration.

Exercise benefits Aging Skin

Exercise benefits every part of your body -- including your largest organ, the skin. Working out improves circulation, flushing toxins from your skin. Better blood flow also brings more oxygen and nutrients and may help your skin produce collagen, which staves off wrinkles. Don't fret about sweat -- exercise may actually help unclog pores. Wash your face right after a workout and avoid tight headbands, which can trap sweat and irritate skin.

Get 7-8 Hours Sleep per night

Burn the candle at both ends for a few nights, and you may see it reflected in your face: Dark circles under the eyes, pale skin, and puffy eyes. Getting 7-8 hours a night will keep your body and skin in top shape. It matters how you sleep, too -- rest your face on the pillow in the same position for years, and you'll get wrinkles where the skin is pressed against the pillow. Solution? Sleep on your back.

How Pregnancy Changes Your Skin

Stretch marks -- 90% of pregnant women get them. They should fade after delivery. Moisturizers can improve the appearance of stretch marks. Prescription vitamin A creams or laser therapy can help, too. Acne is another common skin problem, caused by the extra hormones in your body. Your best bet for avoiding breakouts is to wash your face twice a day (no soap) and use an oil-free moisturizer.

Avoiding Melasma

Some women develop dark patches -- melasma - on their faces when they're pregnant or taking birth control pills. An increase in melanin, the substance that gives skin its color, is responsible for these dark patches. Melasma usually fades after delivery or when you stop taking the pill. Prevent pigment changes by wearing sunscreen at all times and avoiding the sun. Melasma can also be treated with chemical peels or topical prescriptions of hydroquinone, retinoids, azeleic acid, kojic acid, or hydroxyacids that lighten the patches. But strict avoidance of sunlight is required.

Avoid Sun Rays

Due to the harsh sunlight of the Northern Beaches...whether or not you were a sun worshipper, chances are your skin has sun damage. About 90% of all skin damage is due to the sun. As your time in the sun goes up, so does your risk of skin cancer. Protect skin by always wearing broad-spectrum sunblock. Look for products that contain zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or avobenzone. Wear wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves, and avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when rays are strongest.

How to Care for Aging Skin

As you age, your skin changes. Your body doesn't produce as much collagen, and the elastin that allows skin to spring back into place gets weaker. You also don't create or lose skin cells as fast. To boost aging skin, exfoliate to remove dead skin,  and moisturize often. Use over-the-counter retinoids or vitamin C creams to reduce fine wrinkles. Most of all, stay out of the sun.

Should You Drink Coffee or put it on your skin?

Caffeine in coffee and tea is dehydrating, so it may cause your skin to dry out. But a study found that when applied topically to skin, caffeine may help reverse sun damage and lower risk of some skin cancers -- in mice, at least. Researchers are now trying to see if topical caffeine protects human skin, too.

Don't drink too much alcohol.

Too much alcohol is bad for your skin as well as your body. Alcohol is a diuretic; it causes the body to lose water. That can contribute to dry skin. It also dilates blood vessels. That's why drinkers often have red, flushed faces. Over time, these blood vessels can become permanently damaged, so that skin stays red. Alcohol, especially red wine, can also trigger rosacea flare-ups.

Don't Smoke!

Simply put, smoking is bad for your skin: It's second only to the sun in causing premature wrinkles and dry skin. In fact, under a microscope you can see wrinkles in smokers as young as 20. Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin and contributes to the breakdown of collagen. Less collagen means more wrinkling. And yes, pursing your lips repeatedly encourages wrinkles, too. You can't reverse the damage, but you can stop it by quitting smoking.

Wash the Day Away

Every day, your skin comes in contact with pollution -- cigarette smoke, car exhaust, or smoggy air. Keep skin healthy by keeping it clean. Depending on the needs of your skin, you can cleanse your face with a cleanser or exfoliate nightly with gentle scrubs and toners to remove dead skin cells, and then apply a moisturizer. (Oily skin still needs moisturizer; look for oil-free products.)

Inside and Out in Winter

Cold weather and wind bring on dry, flaky skin and can make eczema and rosacea worse. It's not just the weather outside -- dry heat indoors is harsh on skin, too. Fight back by using a humidifier at home, drinking lots of water, and applying moisturizer throughout the day. Remember the sunscreen when you go out.

Skin Care in Summer

Want a tan? Get a safe one: use a bronzer or sunless self-tanner. (But most don't contain sunscreen, so they don't offer any protection from the sun.) Remember to use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen on all exposed skin and to reapply every two hours. And unless you have persistently dry skin, switch to an oil-free moisturizer to avoid breakouts in humid weather. It's a good idea to rinse off after being in the pool to get rid of any chlorine on your skin.

Tips for Skin Care in the Air

It doesn't take long on a plane for skin to start feeling dry and tight, thanks to low humidity in the recirculated air. Have a travel plan for your skin that includes drinking water -- not coffee or alcohol -- and moisturizing before, during, and after your flight. Don't wear makeup on the flight if you can help it. Keep a 3-ounce travel-size lotion to put in the clear plastic zip-top bag with your other carry-on items.

Changing the Lighting can change the way you look.

Hollywood lives by it: Changing the lighting can change the way you look. Fluorescent lighting can make skin tone appear more red or yellow, while incandescent lighting softens colors and imperfections. Use mirrors with varied lighting to view your skin and makeup under different conditions. That way you won't look overdone or sallow as lighting changes. Go more dramatic at night, when lighting is lower.

Don't Scrub your Face with soap.

"When you scrub your face, you're taking off some of the protective oils and barriers, which tends to lead to rashes and even burns."  Instead,  use a gentle cleanser followed by a moisturizer or sunscreen.