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Save Your Skin: A Guide to Common Problems

It’s common knowledge that your body changes drastically between childhood and adulthood, but you may have also noticed that your skin can become collateral damage in these hormone-fueled transitions. Here are three common skin problems and a few ways to combat them:


What is it? Acne is a condition caused when sebum, an oil produced by the skin, gets clogged in the skin’s pores, causing dead skin cells and bacteria to accumulate in the area. A pimple develops as a result of inflammation from this excess buildup and can be aggravated by stress, friction from leaning on or rubbing skin and pressure from clothing, hair or glasses.

How to treat it: Try over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid, which dries up pimples, or benzoyl peroxide, which decreases acne-causing bacteria. Make sure to switch between products every two to three months to maintain effectiveness. If OTC treatments don’t work after eight weeks, consult a dermatologist, who may prescribe medication or antibiotics to help control acne.

– Wash your face twice a day, but don’t overdo it—you might end up irritating the skin. Rather than scrubbing, gently massage your face with warm water and mild soap. Afterwards, apply lotion that contains benzoyl peroxide to decrease bacteria buildup.
– Avoid touching your face with your fingers or items that tend to collect skin oils, such as your cell phone.
– Change your pillowcase often to avoid the oils from your skin and hair that rub onto the pillowcase. Also, make sure to remove your makeup, which probably has many preservatives in it, before going to bed.
– Hair products like conditioner and hair gel contain ingredients that can also contribute to clogged pores. Try to keep your hair away from your face by tying your hair back or wearing a headband.
– Never pop a pimple—doing so only drives bacteria further into the skin, creating scars. Use skincare products that are oil-free or “non-comedogenic” (meaning they won’t clog pores).
– Sun exposure can irritate skin and make acne worse, so apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 daily, even in cloudy weather. Use a sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays, usually labeled “broad-spectrum protection,” and is non-comedogenic.

Heavy Sweating

What is it? Excess sweating occurs in many places on the body, not just under the arms. Perspiration glands are especially active during adolescence, and, what’s more, they begin secreting chemicals into the sweat that can cause a stronger odor once puberty starts. Body odor occurs when sweat mingles with bacteria on the skin.

How to treat it: Try an antiperspirant to reduce sweating. Whichever product you use, follow its directions carefully. If over-the-counter antiperspirants aren’t effective enough, speak to a doctor.

– Make sure to shower daily with mild soap and dry yourself completely after, especially in the armpit area.
– Wear clean clothes. If you sweat a lot during workouts, wash your gym clothes after each session before wearing them again.
– Let your shoes dry out between wearings and alternate between pairs. If your shoes get smelly, leave them out in the sun for a day to kill bacteria.
– Wear clothes with natural fibers, such as cotton or linen, to absorb sweat.
– To address greater concern about underarm stains, buy underarm shields or dress shields in the lingerie section of your local department store. These are pads that attach to the armpits underneath your clothing, which soak up sweat.

Dry Skin

What is it? Dry skin may be itchy and occurs when the skin sheds cells excessively, resulting in a rough, scaly appearance. Common dry areas include the hands, legs, the soles of the feet and the abdomen. Your skin might be drier during the winter, when humidity is low and the heater is on at full blast indoors.

How to treat it: Use a moisturizer that contains ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone and glycerine—these all help the skin retain water. In addition, petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, and mineral oil can be massaged into the skin after a bath. If your skin itches, place a cool compress on the trouble spot and, if necessary, talk to your doctor about creams you can use for relief.

– Stay hydrated—drink lots of water.
– Limit your baths or showers to around 10 minutes and use warm water instead of very hot water, which can strip your skin of moisture. While in the shower, use a mild soap-free cleanser on your skin and then apply moisturizer after.
– Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 to help your skin lock in natural oils. These foods include salmon, sardines, walnuts and flaxseed.

Disclaimer: The advice above is given only as a general guideline and is not meant to replace the guidance of a doctor or dermatologist.

Header credit courtesy Helga Weber via Flickr

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