By Dr. Anatoli Freiman
Care for your skin and establish a skin care routine
Skin is the largest and most visible organ of the body. It acts as a shield, protecting our insides from external stresses such as infection, allergens, temperature change and environmental factors (e.g., sun, pollution), and it can show manifestations of underlying health problems. Skin is an important part of our appearance, as it can reveal age, sun damage and overall health. Every skin type is different, so speak to your dermatologist to receive a personal assessment, recommendation and, if needed, proper treatment.
Moisturize your skin with a facial non-comedogenic cream, and exfoliate once or twice a week depending on your skin type. Cleansing your face with a mild soap, or more preferably a cleanser, is a great way to wash your face without irritating or over-drying it. Acne-prone skin benefits from products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide; prescription treatments from a dermatologist may be required. Various anti-aging preparations are available and can be beneficial, including glycolic acid, vitamin C, vitamin A, antioxidants and stem cell extracts.
Make proper lifestyle choices
Exercise, sleep well, reduce stress and maintain a proper diet: all of these can help to improve skin health. Drink water—lots of it. Avoid smoking, as it is associated with numerous dermatological conditions including poor wound healing, wrinkling and premature skin aging, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, oral cancer, acne, psoriasis, eczema, hidradenitis suppurativa and hair loss.
Develop sun awareness
One of the easiest and most vital steps to minimize sun damage, aging and the risk of developing skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun through sunscreens, clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sun avoidance during mid-day hours. Dermatologists recommend that a broad-spectrum (UVB and UVA protection) and high-SPF (30+) sunscreen be generously and evenly applied to the skin 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. It should be reapplied in sufficient quantities every two hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Please note: 30 mL (approximately an ounce or a shot glass) of sunscreen is needed to adequately cover the body skin surface, while a teaspoon’s worth is needed for the face.
Be aware of skin cancers
One in six Canadians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common type of cancer. Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily are at particularly high risk for developing this disease. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are the main types of skin cancers. The “ABCDEs of melanoma” is a useful tool to help you monitor your moles; please see below. As well, develop a routine to inspect your body for any skin changes. If a growth, mole, sore or skin discoloration appears suddenly or begins to change, see a dermatologist. It is wise to have an annual skin examination by a dermatologist, especially for adults who have fair skin, lots of moles, significant past sun exposure or a family history of skin cancer.
Ask to see a dermatologist
If you have concerns about your skin, tell your family physician that you wish to seek the professional expertise of a dermatologist so that you can receive the following expert care.
Diagnosis: Dermatologists diagnose skin disease quickly and effectively by noting your symptoms and checking your skin. They sometimes perform biopsies, blood tests or other tests to determine the diagnosis.
Treatment: Dermatologists are skin experts who can provide the best advice and therapies for skin conditions.
Prevention: Dermatologists can help you prevent unnecessary damage to your skin through education and by showing you how to examine your skin for signs of skin cancer and other skin problems.
Surgery: Dermatologists are trained and skilled in skin surgery. They often perform surgery on the skin to prevent disease, treat skin cancer or improve the skin’s appearance.
Cosmetic procedures: Dermatologists can improve the appearance of skin damage caused by genetics, aging, sunlight or disease. Various treatment modalities are employed; these can include cryotherapy, electrosurgery, fillers, lasers and light devices, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or removal of skin growths or discolorations.
Toronto Dermatology Centre