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The Informed Parent

Loving The Skin You’re In: Basic Skin Care

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Nov. 26, 2007

Our skin is an organ, like our heart, brain, liver, and the others. Without its daily functioning we could not survive our harsh environment. It protects against the damaging effects of radiation, bacteria, viruses, and toxic agents. And, importantly, it prevents dehydration and helps control our body temperature.

Its barrier can be compromised. The skin can become inflamed due to many factors: weather and humidity changes, sun exposure, hormonal changes, harsh cleansing, environmental irritants, trauma, infection, and genetic predisposition. Also certain disorders such as eczema or acne can effect the skin.

Despite the many differences in each individual's skin, there are some basic principles in skin care that everyone can follow, from childhood to adulthood.

1. Cleansing

  • Remove dirt, oil, bacteria and contaminants.
  • Use 1-2 times per day, especially before bed.
  • All cleansers are not the same. Harsh or drying cleansers can actually weaken the skin and cause more problems.
  • A mild moisturizing cleanser, without fragrance or additives, with a neutral pH is ideal for daily use.
  • Examples you often hear from the doctor: Dove, Cetaphil, Aveeno, Neutrogena are recommended.

2. Moisturizing

  • This is necessary to minimize water loss, dry skin and promote skin elasticity.
  • Apply moisturizer after cleansing/bathing. Continue using as needed throughout the day.
  • Three ingredients are necessary: emollients (oils/lipids), humectants (glycerol, and occlusives (petrolatum/Vaseline)
  • Different combinations of these ingredients produce a range of moisture, from light and smooth to thick and greasy. More expensive does not mean better.
  • Acne problems? Moisturizing is still important! It helps topical medication absorption and fights irritation. Use non-comedogenic products without extra acne fighting ingredients that will dry out skin.
  • Examples you often hear: Dove, Aveeno, Aquaphor, Eucerin, Neutrogena.

3. Sun Protection

  • Reduces the risk of skin cancer, drying effects and aging.
  • At least use SPF 15 to block 93% of UV rays. But any number is better than nothing.
  • Ideally use daily, even if it is overcast. Those damaging UV rays are still there.

These are just the basics for now. Be sure to ask your pediatrician or dermatologist if you have more specific questions.

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