Monday, July 28, 2014

It's HOT! How to keep heat from destroying your skin


We all know that triple digit heat can make us feel heavy, sweaty, labored, tired and in extreme cases can even make us feel nauseous, light-headed or faint, and even physically sick. But can heat affect our skin?

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Heat affects how we feel and what we do. Exposure to heat also can take a toll and effect unwanted changes in our skin. Considering that skin is our largest organ, and does more than you might realize, it's very important that we take care in our exposure to heat.

We all know that sun exposure is a danger in itself because of the increased risk of bad burns and potential skin cancer. But, we also know that it's difficult to escape the heat in Southern climates and especially here in Texas where we now have temperatures in the triple digits.

In order to fully appreciate why you need to protect your skin, you first need to know the facts about the skin you live in!

Skin is AMAZING - Facts about skin you might not know!
  • Skin is the largest and heaviest organ in our body
  • The average adult has 8 pounds of skin!
  • Skin is 70% water, 25% protein, and usually less than 5% fat
  • Skin protects everything inside your body (veins, arteries, blood vessels)
  • There are 3 layers in human skin: epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous
  • Skin is your body's waterproof covering
  • Skin is a barrier to harmful chemicals and germs
  • Skin is a shock absorber
  • Skin moderates your temperature and helps keep you cool in the heat
  • An adult has about 22 square feet of skin (the size of a twin bed or doorway)
  • Skin helps you retain water 
  • Skin produces nutrients and vitamins
  • Skin helps prevent infections
  • Skin is the organ primarily responsible for our sensory functions (feel/touch)
  • Skin is constantly evolving
  • We shed about 40,000 skin cells per minute
  • Skin self-lubricates
  • Skin renews itself once every 35 days
  • Skin holds us together!
You can see how skin is a truly amazing and that it is a most necessary and important part of our bodies. What isn't talked about much is the damage that HEAT can do to our skin. 

Heat can rob skin of vital nutrients, making skin look older. With prolonged exposure, fine lines and wrinkles become more pronounced. With age and continued exposure, sun spots (also called age spots) pop up seemingly overnight. What was once beautiful smooth skin is now marred. It is also much more difficult to keep well hydrated.

Heat can also lead to skin problems such as heat rash. Many people are familiar with heat rash in infants and young children, but it also occurs in adults, with the same annoying bumps and blisters that trap moisture under the skin and can itch, cause peeling, and soreness as they burst open. Heat rash can occur anywhere on the body, but is most often seen on the torso, legs, back and neck areas where perspiration can accumulate and cause rashes. If your skin is prone to breaking out (acne), take extra precautions by washing skin periodically with a gentle cleanser and pat drying. Even those not prone to acne can develop a type of acne common in hot weather called acne mechanica.

To minimize negative effects of heat on your skin:

  • Use sunscreen (and use it on your face and body)
  • Wear protective clothing including hats and lightweight clothing
  • Shower to reduce the risk of heat rash and to help keep your core cool
  • Use gentle skin cleansers so your skin isn't dried out or irritated
  • Gently exfoliate to release trapped irritants and remove dead skin cells
  • Use facial and body moisturizers to lock hydration in following showers
  • Hydrate from the inside out! Drink lots of water!
  • Alternate water with fruit juices and other nutritious beverages 

Quality Sunscreens Rule!

There are a number of excellent sunscreens in SPF ratings that can help keep your skin safe. I love NeoCutis' Journee Day Cream SPF 30 with PSP growth factors (great for those who don't want to look like they're using a sunscreen). And, fantastic for those who must spend time outdoors is the ViDerm SFP 55 Sunscreen with titanium dioxide and octinoxate that provides oil-free and water resistant 98% protection from UVA and UVB rays at the same time providing EGCG antioxidants as well as vitamins A and E.

As a board certified plastic surgeon, San Antonio's Dr. Robert N. Young suggests you get in the habit of using sunscreens every day. He states, "Remember that even the best sunscreens wear off. If you're spending the day at the pool or beach, they also wash off eventually, even if they are water resistant or waterproof. Reapply sunscreens periodically and use them even on overcast days. As you age, you'll be glad you did. Women I see who have protected their skin from the damage of sun and heat age much better and have fewer complaints about their skin."

Bottom line:  Take care of your skin. Although it is forever changing and renewing itself, the damage that comes from the sun and exposure to heat can last a lifetime!

Andrea Algar is an author who writes on topics that interest her. Over the last 30 years she has written articles on a variety of topics and currently contributes to several blogs on a regular basis.