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News and Health Information

How To Get Healthy Glowing Skin (PERIOD)

January 02, 2018

By:Nancy Garcia-Tan, MD, FPDS, MBA

Chief, Section of Dermatology

Cardinal Santos Medical Center

My son once asked if the word “patient”- referring to a person seeking medical treatment, came from the word “patient” meaning forbearing or uncomplaining, or it’s the other way around. I did not know the answer to that one, but one thing for sure, when it comes to persons seeking cosmetic treatments, patients are nothing but patient. Everyone wants to look good as quick as possible, with no pain and no downtime (and may I add inexpensively) especially when a party or an important event is just around the corner.

Quick fixes however, particularly when it comes to cosmetic procedures, may be most unwise; more often than not quick fixes are short-lived, ineffective and worse, may cause untoward side effects, at times detrimental, if the wrong procedure for the wrong patient is done by the wrong “doctor”.

So when asked to write an article on “How to get glowing skin this holiday season”, I had retitled it instead to: “How to get HEALTHY glowing skin (period).” The period to denote that this should be year-round and not just during the holiday season and emphasizing “Healthy” as this is more important than “Glowing” which may erroneously denote beauty but not necessarily healthy skin. So here goes..


Q: When should “skin care” start?

A: Skin changes which affect appearance increase with age. Vital skin care practices should therefore start from birth and not when obvious signs of aging have already set-in; by then, it may be too late or difficult to reverse. Would you wait until you are nutritionally deficient before you start a healthy diet? You wouldn’t right? Well, it’s the same premise when it comes to caring for your skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body, it is complex and dynamic. Unlike other organs that are inside the body, skin is in direct contact with the outside environment, hence aside from chronological aging (intrinsic aging), it also undergoes aging as a consequence of environmental damage (extrinsic aging). Intrinsically aged skin appears thin, atrophic, finely wrinkled and dry, whilst premature photoaged skin shows a thickened epidermis, deep wrinkles, laxity, roughness, dullness and mottled discoloration.

Take pigmentary changes (brown spots, uneven color) on the face of a woman in her 30’s (which she desperately tries to conceal with heavy foundation), these were not caused by the trip to Boracay a week ago, but by years of accumulated damage from UV exposure (extrinsic) coupled with genetic and/or hormonal factors (intrinsic). Though there is not much we can do to prevent gene-related outcomes, there is much we can do to alter skin changes brought about by extrinsic factors beginning for instance with simple sun protection.

Q: Does lack of sleep affect how my skin looks?

A. Yes. Whether you are a teenager or an adult, lack of sleep makes your skin age faster.

Q: How much sleep is enough?

A. The answer will vary according to your age and your health status therefore it is important to pay attention to your own individual needs. The US National Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hrs for school age kids (6-13 yrs), 8-10 hrs for teenagers (14-17 yrs) and 7-9 hrs for adults. No amount of anti-aging potion, cucumber slices nor expensive eye-creams in gorgeous containers can beat getting a good night’s sleep to give the body it’s much needed rest to reboot, regenerate and rejuvenate.

Patients often ask for anti-aging lotions and creams for dark circles around the eyes, but refuse to change their habit of staying up late whether to answer work related e-mails, watch telenovelas, play “candy crush” or surf the internet. Our cell phones, tablets, computers and other electronic gadgets have become a huge part of our daily lives that we fail to recognize how it has altered even our sleep patterns. Lack of sleep results to daytime sleepiness, irritability and poor attention span that affect work performance in adults, academic performance in school age kids and overall health of everyone no matter the age. Parents scold their kids for using their gadgets endlessly even hiding these under their pillow at night, but truthfully, adults are just as guilty.

So make SLEEP a PRIORITY, not just something you do after everything else is done for the day, and take those gadgets away from your bedside!

Q: Is there a diet or special supplement for perfectly smooth skin, hair and nails?

A: No special food regimen nor pill-popping routine replaces a well-balanced diet appropriate for one’s age and health status. Having said that, certain foods particularly fruits and greens are a vital source of antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals that contribute to wrinkles, brown spots and other signs of aging. The Mayo clinic recommends these “skin-friendly” foods: carrots, apricots and other yellow & orange fruits & vegetables, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, blueberries, beans, peas and lentils, salmon, mackerel & other fatty fish and nuts. On the other hand, evidence shows that diets high in processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats promote skin aging. Take into mind that diets for healthy skin also promote good health overall so rather than bugging your doctor for the best diet or pill for glowing skin, concentrate on a healthy diet in general.

When it comes to fad diets, they are likely to be just that, a fad. With weight-loss diets in particular, bear in mind that the skin being the largest organ of the body, is the first to be deprived of nourishment particularly if weight loss is abrupt; skin becomes dry, dull looking and sags due to the loss of fat, and may be accompanied by brittle nails and hair loss.

We have all heard about the detrimental effects of “diet pills” and “skin whitening” products and treatments that have resulted to serious health problems, including death. So quit consulting “Dr. Google” and be wary of false advertisements, marketing testimonials, products sold over the internet or getting duped by direct selling marketers of supplements with “no therapeutic claims” because it is likely, there is nothing to claim. What’s worse, you may end up with an adverse effect that may take long to crop up and be irreversible.

There’s no second guessing when it comes to your health; treatments and recommendations particularly for the largest organ of your body, must always be evidence-based!

Q: Does smoking and alcohol affect the appearance of my skin?

A: YES. One of the primary effects of smoking is vasoconstriction which causes a decrease in capillary blood flow to the skin. This deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients that lead to premature aging. Smoking also releases free radicals into the skin tissues which lead to the decrease in new collagen production, degradation of existing collagen and an increase in degenerative changes in the elastic tissue of the skin. These lead to the breakdown of the skin’s vital scaffold which results to the development of fine lines and deep wrinkles. Decrease in keratinocyte migration also leads to textural change making the skin dry, rough and appear dull. A smoker’s face typically looks dry, coarse, blotchy and yellow-grey, with prominent facial wrinkles and furrows particularly around the lips, accompanied by baggy eyelids and slack jawline.

Alcohol on the other hand increases the rate at which the body excretes water and restricts the uptake of amino acids, vitamin and minerals that are essential to maintain youthful skin. Dehydrated skin ages more quickly and if drinking is accompanied by smoking, that’s speeding up the degenerative changes in your skin that lead up to premature aging. The double bad news for women is, research shows that for both smoking and drinking, women are more susceptible to their harmful effects.

So instead of spending for those exorbitantly priced elegantly bottled “anti-aging” potions and surgical interventions, quit smoking and drinking first! It’s the cheaper and wiser alternative.

Q: What basic skin care routine is advised?

A: Most material on skin care categorize people as to what they should do when they reach a certain age - for instance what is best for a woman in her 20’s or a man in his 40’s. Truth is, skin has the same basic needs at every age. No matter your age, gender or skin color, your skin needs three basic things: gentle cleansing, hydration, and sun protection.

Expensive cleansers, moisturizers and sun blocks are not necessarily better than the cheaper ones but in general, the more abrasive the cleanser, the more harm it can do to your skin and the more fragrance or ingredients a product has, the more likely you will react to one or more of its components. As specific skin concerns arise, you expand your routine appropriate for the concern e.g. topical antioxidants for textural changes or retinoids for fine lines.

Q: What are simple anti-aging treatments that can be done?

A: Procedures and treatments must be suited to the person and to the specific need of that person. What is good for one may not be good for the other. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail but in general, anti-aging treatments include chemical peels for textural changes, botulinum injections for dynamic lines, filler injections for deep furrows, energy-based devices for skin rejuvenation, resurfacing and tightening.

Caution is advised when consulting “skin clinics” particularly those that give free consults to sell their products or procedures. Likewise, not all “aesthetic practitioners” are doctors who have in depth understanding of the skin and the adverse effects of treatments, some of which may have disastrous results particularly when done by unskilled practitioners. It is your right to ask for the effects, side-effects, pain, downtime, cost of procedure and specific kind of medication or laser device that will be used, and who will perform it. Do not be coaxed into promotional offers. Ask all your questions then go home and weigh your options. Only when you are certain that all your concerns and questions have been answered, do you sign that consent form.

Remember, there are no quick fixes for healthy, glowing skin. Eat well, sleep well, quit the smoke & the drink, and if you still don’t have a skin care regimen, now is a good time to start!