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Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It makes up roughly 15% of your body weight and is made up of water, protein, lipids, minerals and chemicals. Skin has three layers:
Your skin works hard 24/7, removing toxins from the body as it sheds old cells, helping the body to eliminate oil and perspiration, drawing in the oxygen that’s vital for cell life, and protecting you from infections and other environmental attacks.
So what can you do to protect your skin?
You probably already know that the sun—or more specifically, ultraviolet rays from the sun—can change the look of your skin more than any other environmental factor. But climate, seasonal changes and air pollution can also wreak havoc on your skin.
But, so can your lifestyle. Stress, lack of exercise and sleep and poor diet—routine for college students—can all affect the way your skin looks, repairs itself and ultimately ages.
Whether you’re worried about acne or athlete’s foot, dry skin or razor burn, a mysterious rash or common warts, skin problems can happen at any age. Most skin problems will resolve on their own or can be treated easily with over-the-counter remedies. Others—like frequently recurring cold sores or a sore that does not heal—could be a symptom of something more. When in doubt, check with the school physician or your family doctor. And be sure to seek medical help immediately if you develop a rash while taking a medication. This could be a sign of a dangerous allergic reaction!
The more you know about taking care of your skin, the better you’ll be able to make smart decisions about your skin care. See how many of these questions you can answer!
Q. How can I tell the difference between a normal mole or freckle—and skin cancer?
A. Most moles and freckles are harmless—but not always. Look at yourself in the mirror and get to know what your moles and freckles look like. Keep an eye out for unusual changes, and if you see something suspicious make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist. Know the ABCDEs of skin cancer:
The Skin Cancer Foundation says, “If you can spot it, you can stop it.” Examine your skin regularly, and check out www.skincancer.org for more information.
Q. Is it a cold sore or an STI?
A. Almost everyone gets a cold sore on their mouth or face at some point in their life. A cold sore is usually caused by herpes simplex-1. Genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease, is usually caused by herpes simplex-2. However, both forms of this virus are highly contagious and are spread through contact with an active blister. And both can spread from the mouth to the genitals, or vice versa.
Q: What about warts?
A: Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain types of HPV cause common warts on hands and feet, while others cause genital warts. Both are highly contagious, but only genital warts are typically spread through direct contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Genital HPV is the most commonly transmitted STD. There are 40 different strains of genital HPVs!
Q: Are tattoos safe?
A: Getting a tattoo is a pretty big commitment, and it’s not without risk. The most common risks are infection, allergic reactions and scarring. And if the needles used to create your tattoo aren’t cleaned properly, you’re also at risk for hepatitis, tuberculosis, tetanus and HIV—the virus that causes AIDS. Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so be sure you want one before you get one. If you do get a tattoo, don’t pick at the scabs or you might increase the chance of infection (and damage the design). To find out how to care for a new tattoo, click here
Q: Is permanent makeup safe?
A: Permanent makeup is a lot like a tattoo. Over time, permanent eyeliner, for example, may fade and blur and wind up looking like eye shadow. Permanent makeup may be removed by laser surgery, but be warned. The procedure may leave darkened patches or spots just under the surface of your skin, and these are irreversible.
Q. Is tanning safe?
A: Only if you’re dying to get skin cancer! Over 90% of skin cancers are related to UV exposure. Tanning also leads to skin discoloration and premature wrinkles. And tanning beds are just as unhealthy as the sun.
Q: What can I do about my acne?
A: No matter what you call them, zits can really ruin your day. Lifestyle changes like these can help you control most breakouts.
Q: Can Botox prevent wrinkles?
A: Yes, but only where there is muscle movement, like between the eyebrows, around your mouth or across the forehead. For larger areas, like your cheekbones, the only things that will keep you wrinkle free are wearing sunscreen, not smoking and using products that promote collagen production.
Q: How can I tell if a product is safe for my skin?
A: Read the ingredient list for starters. Log on to MakingCosmetics.com to check the safety of ingredients in the makeup you use. Also check out the Cosmetic Ingredient Review for nine unsafe ingredients that could cause cancer, loss of skin color or extreme skin sensitivity. Look for products that have been tested for safety and will not harm the environment. Know the name of the manufacturer and try to buy organic when you can.
Q: Are there hangover helpers for my skin?
A: Alcohol is dehydrating, so it’s a sure bet your skin will look parched and blotchy after a night of drinking. Your eyes will probably be puffy, too. No matter how wasted you feel, try to remove your makeup before you hit the sack. A good bronzer, blush and concealer will help cover up the damage the next day. Click here to try College Candy’s tips for face-saving hangover concealers. But remember, the only real cure for your skin is time, rest and drinking plenty of water.
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