Skin care and ageing: how to reduce the risks to your skin’s health
From the heat of the sun to the softness of certain tanning oils, your skin has its own special tastes. Unfortunately, overuse of UVs and chronic exposure to certain skin products can have particularly worrying consequences for your skin’s health.
Burns and dry skin are the most common, but the repeated trauma to your skin can go much further.
Indeed, for those who suffer from dermatitis, psoriasis or other skin diseases, protecting your skin from the sun’s rays, air pollution and cheap creams is necessary to avoid having to deal with an “episode”.
But these environmental factors in direct contact with your skin are not the only dangers to its integrity.
Quality of sleep, your level of stress and your dietary balance (quantity and quality) play a complex and increasingly obvious role in the onset of disease.
What does science say today about how you can take care of your skin? When should you seek advice from your doctor? Is it possible to prevent certain skin disorders?
From itching to redness, skin lesions are not usually a cause for concern. However, some benign occurrences can be a sign of a real problem. On the other hand, some symptoms are difficult to differentiate and sometimes a skin condition is diagnosed as something else entirely.
So, not only are our skins regularly challenged, but even more disturbingly, finding the right treatment is actually trickier than many think.
It is through studies such as the one conducted in 2021¹ by researcher Panpan Liu’s team that we find confirmation of the leads laid out by Dr Michael W Piepkorn in his 2019 research²: certain skin conditions are routinely misdiagnosed.
Liu’s problems are of particular importance to Europeans, as the subject of his study turns out to be the diagnosis of melanocytic lesions.
These skin conditions have a particularly high incidence in Europe and in Switzerland, where the inhabitants hold a sad record, especially in Geneva.
They were indeed the subject of a publication in the Swiss Medical Journal in 2007, through the work of researcher Talph P. Braun³.
From melanocytic nevus (mole) to cancer: diagnosing to reduce your skin health risks
While the prevention of skin problems is largely based on controlling the factors that can trigger them, there is an essential monitoring component.
It’s important to keep an eye on your skin through careful and regular examination of its surface.
As Braun explains in his 2007 article “Monitoring melanocytic lesions”, fortunately, melanomas are now being identified earlier through a systematic screening policy and the use of appropriate examination techniques.
Early detection is vital because it is only in the early stages of the disease that it is possible to prevent significant development of the cancer and thus improve life expectancy.
The recent success of the medical profession in combating the spread of malignant skin lesions was not easy to predict, as :
- A melanocytic (benign) nevus cannot be easily differentiated from a melanoma by naked eye examination, for which dermoscopy (microscopic dermatological study using an illuminated magnifying glass) is necessary;
- Dermoscopy alone is not sufficient to make a diagnosis, as the ABCDE criteria (Asymmetry of the lesion, Irregular border, Multiple colours, Diameter greater than 6 mm, Significant progression) are usually not yet met for early stage melanoma. In other words, the melanoma is initially no larger and no more pigmented than a freckle or benign melanocytic nevus.
For these reasons, suspicious spots on the surface of your skin should be carefully examined by an experienced dermatologist as soon as they appear.
This is one of the cornerstones of an effective health routine as you age.
When to ask your doctor for an examination?
It is not always necessary to be alarmed by the appearance of a new coloured area, particularly because it is normal for lentigo – brown spots – to emerge as part of the ageing process.
It is therefore necessary to define what is meant by a “suspicious spot”.
In general, there are two key criteria for deciding whether or not to contact your dermatologist:
- The evolution of a spot without any noticeable change in your environment (ephelides, for example, or “freckles”, are not likely to change significantly in appearance without exposure to the sun or extreme cold);
- The rapid appearance (within a few days) on the surface of your skin of an irregularity combining at least two of the following three criteria: increase in volume, change in colour, change in texture.
However, a routine visit to your doctor will provide an opportunity to monitor the evolution of potentially malignant lesions that you cannot detect with the naked eye.
Preventing skin disorders naturally: proven methods
While scientific research continues to advance the human genius, the proven methods of prevention remain the ones that prevail both in terms of results and respect for your health in the long run.
Sleep, stress, sport and diet: the 4 pillars of really effective prevention
While waiting for more efficient tools to treat skin problems at the root, the most efficient way is to take care of your skin by controlling the key factors of its health.
Indeed, much more than genetics, it is epigenetics that now seems to attract the attention of practitioners. In this respect, it is now understood that the triggering of many diseases (particularly skin diseases) depends on factors whose presence activates the corresponding genes.
So, whether you are concerned about the potential development of melanocytic nevus, psoriasis or dermatitis, remember that the prevention of your skin problems depends above all on a healthy lifestyle.
This means that you should ideally :
- Protect your skin from UV rays with a sun cream adapted to your needs before any exposure;
- Nourish your skin to prevent it from becoming too dry by providing it with fatty substances through a cream that corresponds to your skin type;
- Clean it carefully and systematically after prolonged exposure to compounds that can cause it to react (make-up, cigarette smoke, rainwater in regions known for their atmospheric pollution, etc.).
Nevertheless, on a daily basis, you should also, of course, observe 4 points that are essential for the maintenance of your skin health:
- Get the amount of sleep your skin needs to activate its daily regeneration processes;
- Regulate your stress level in order to limit the risks of hormonal and immune disturbances that can impact the metabolic processes of your skin (very important to prevent the appearance of dermatitis, psoriasis and even the evolution of your skin type towards oily skin due to excess sebum);
- Daily physical exercise as the mechanical stress on your skin will help it to maintain its firmness and suppleness (in addition to the role that sport plays in eliminating toxins from your skin and activating the process of cell regeneration);
- A balanced diet (quantitatively and qualitatively) so that your skin has the raw material it needs to rebuild and maintain itself on a daily basis.
Nutrition is an often forgotten element of a proper skin care routine. Remember that potential vitamin C deficiencies (to name but one) can make your skin more fragile. In fact, certain vitamins and trace elements in your diet play a fundamental role in the effectiveness of your antioxidant protection mechanisms.
The proper functioning of these mechanisms is essential because without them, oxidative stress would contribute to premature ageing of your skin.
Practical tips to nourish your skin's health routine
However, beyond these commonplaces, a few daily tips will allow you to take better care of your skin.
The ideal remains to :
- Protect your skin from external aggressors (using a suitable sun cream systematically before each exposure and removing make-up thoroughly without irritating the skin are the keys to preserving optimal skin health);
- Develop a skin health routine that suits you (choose a cleanser adapted to your skin, systematically apply a cream after showering to avoid dehydration, use a thermal water in the morning and at bedtime to cleanse your skin);
- Exfoliate regularly but not too often (mature skin finds it increasingly difficult to get rid of its dead cells without exfoliation, so topical application products penetrate poorly. Prefer fruit acid-based exfoliants, massaging gently once or twice a week;)
- Avoid exposure to blue light (the light emitted by LED screens has the effect of destroying collagen prematurely and contributes to the appearance of hyper-pigmentation);
- Massage your skin regularly (upward movements have a natural lifting effect).
Ready to start a new skin life? Check out our other blog posts to learn more about how you can care for your skin at any age.
- Study by Panpan Liu’s team: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8383488/
- Work by Michael W Piepkorn: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31603483/
- Ralph P. Braun’s paper published: https://www.revmed.ch/revue-medicale-suisse/2007/revue-medicale-suisse-109/surveillance-des-lesions-melanocytaires