The stats are startling. One in five Americans develop skin cancer in their lifetime, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation, and over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
And with an estimated 90 percent of skin aging caused by the sun, it's important to think not only about sun protection, but keeping skin healthy and vibrant, said Autumn Davis, during the Basic Sun Care Health class at Kankakee Community College.
Davis, an aesthetician and nail technician, owns Autumn's Nirvana in Bourbonnais. She calls herself a "personal trainer for the skin," and offers this advice to keep your skin glowing, vibrant and protected.
1. Keep hydrated.
Drinking water is vital to keeping skin healthy. Sometimes dehydrated skin can be mistaken for dry skin. In order to tell the difference, "pinch the skin between two fingers and release," Davis said. "If the skin stays tight, it is dehydrated, but it can be helped by drinking more water."
2. Protect from sun exposure
Look for products that offer full spectrum protection. "UVA rays are the most destructive because they penetrate further into the skin than UVB rays," Davis said. "But SPF is based on UVB rays." The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light.
Also, products offering high SPFs do not offer more protection. "An SPF higher than 50 only provides 2 percent more protection than an SPF between 20 and 30, which provides 97-98 percent protection against UVB rays," Davis said. That's why it is important to maintain consistent sunscreen protection.
"In order to fully protect your skin against sun damage, reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes, especially if swimming," Davis said.
Other protections include wearing long clothing or a hat and avoiding peak sun hours (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
3. Develop a skin care routine.
Make it a habit to cleanse, exfoliate, revitalize and moisturize. And, if you can only afford the basics of a good skin care routine, start with a really good cleanser and moisturizer, Davis said.
What you buy matters. Look for products that are pharmaceutical and not cosmetic, she said, because the ingredients are 90 percent pure. They are only sold by skin care professionals (by licensed professionals, aestheticians or in spas and salons), so "don't buy products claiming to be pharmaceutical in a retail establishment," Davis said.
She also suggested looking for products with peptides, because they trick the skin into producing collagen. These also are found in pharmaceutical products.
• Cleanser: "A good skin care regimen should consist of two cleansers," Davis said, adding that there's a cleanser for every skin type. Start with a cream cleanser that will remove dirt, debris and makeup, and then follow up with a gel-based cleanser that will clean the actual skin.
• Exfoliation: Exfoliate twice per week, but no more. There are two ways to exfoliate: chemical (using products that chemically dissolve dead skin cells) and mechanical (using a tool, like a brush or sponge, to physically remove the top layer of dead skin). Several types of peeling and exfoliating treatments are available.
If you're having trouble deciding what products are best for you, make an appointment with your local aesthetician for a consultation. "The best advice I can give is to have your skin analyzed by a professional," Davis said. "This way you will know what products to use and what treatments will specifically benefit your skin."
• Revitalize: Follow up with a serum (thin liquids made with vitamins, lipids and antioxidants) that contains ingredients targeted to specific conditions, like aging, acne, rosacea and pigment disorders. Look for products with retinol to help with aging and salicylic acid to help with acne. A licensed professional can help people with rosacea and pigment disorders find products specifically targeted to their conditions.
• Moisturize: After applying the serum, moisturize. "Moisturizers use ingredients to revive the skin's ability to repair and renew naturally, giving you a healthy natural glow," Davis said.
4. Visit the spa.
Treatments such as facials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and dermaplaning are only available through qualified professionals. "Aestheticians have been specifically trained in skin care," Davis said. "They understand skin types and what products and services work for each specific skin type and condition."
• Facials provide a deeper cleaning. They exfoliate; detox; relax senses, nerves and muscles; slow aging; treat dryness, oiliness and redness; and soften wrinkles.
• "Chemical peels involve removing excess accumulation of dead skin cells from the epidermis," Davis said. This allows the skin to revitalize and rejuvenate.
• Microdermabrasion is a mechanical type of exfoliation. It can stimulate collagen and help improve scaring from acne.
• "Dermaplaning is a simple and safe procedure for exfoliating the epidermis and ridding the skin of fine vellus hair – peach fuzz" Davis said. "Part of the reason men age more slowly than women is because they shave [their faces]." Dermaplaning, which gently scrapes off the top layer of dulling dead skin cells, allows women to enjoy the same benefits.