Seven Essential Things You Should Be Doing to Protect Your Skin

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What should everyone know about skin, skin care, and dermatology? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Emily Altman, board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist, specializing in general dermatology, cosmetic dermatology and dermatologic surgery, on Quora:

There are a few things that everyone should know about skin.

Skin Cancer Risk

  1. Sun damage is cumulative from the very beginning. Sun exposure and sunburns, particularly before age twenty, are a risk factor for skin cancer and especially melanoma. Teaching children about sun safety and skin cancer prevention is of utmost importance. The Enright Sun Safety Certification Course offers a fun educational online activity designed for children and young adults to raise sun safety awareness and to help prevent melanoma through education and early detection.
  2. Sun avoidance should be practiced during the peak hours between 10 am and 4 pm. Sunblock should be used regularly and reapplied often, particularly if swimming or sweating.
  3. Any new or changing lesion on the skin needs to be examined by a dermatologist
  4. People with fair skin, light colored eyes and hair are most susceptible to skin cancer but it can and does happen in every skin type.
  5. 80% of everything we consider aging changes on the skin (sallowness, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, etc) is due to sun damage.
  6. Learn how to do a skin self-examination and do it monthly. That way your eyes are familiar with everything on your skin and will be able to pick up new or changing lesions. Here is a link to a video from the American Academy of Dermatology on how to do a skin self examination: How to perform a self-exam.
  7. After age twelve, see your dermatologist once a year for a full body skin examination.
  8. Please do not use any of the "natural" skin mole removal products available on the internet. First of all, you don't know what you are removing and whether it is benign or not. Second, these products leave awful scars.

Basic Skin Care

  1. Avoid things that dry and irritate the skin, such as fragrances and dyes in soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, etc, particularly during the cold months when the air is hot and dry inside and cold and dry outside.
  2. Washcloths, loofahs, sponges or anything that abrades the skin will contribute to skin dryness.
  3. Not everyone needs moisturizers or toners as the cosmetics companies will have us believe. There is no use for a moisturizer for oily skin. And using a toner that dries your skin and then a moisturizer afterwards makes little sense.
  4. Don't squeeze out pimples. That contributes to scarring.
  5. Topical medications that contain neomycin, bacitracin, lidocaine, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and vitamin E can cause allergic reactions in a significant number of people.
  6. Applying vitamin E on scars does not improve scar appearance and may even worsen it according to studies.
  7. Make sure to check yourself, kids and pets for ticks after being outdoors. Ask your doctor if the tick can be sent to the lab to be analyzed.

I am sure there are many other things you can do, but these are good to start with.

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