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Ten Things You Should Never Do to Your Skin
by Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D.

Your skin is your protector that meets and greets your external world. As your bodyapostrophes largest organ, the skin serves as a waterproof covering that helps keep out foreign invaders and protects against temperature changes and sunlight. Your skin is tough and it can take a lot of punishment, but some things can make it look bad and weaken it. In this chapter, I review some actions that are harmful to your skin.

1) Picking, Popping, or Squeezing

REMEMBER: Popping zits doesnapostrophet make things better; in fact, it often makes things worse. I realize that itapostrophes tempting to think that squeezing them will help them heal more quickly -- especially the swollen, red goobers filled with stuff! But scrunching these guys only pushes the inflamed gunk deeper and wider into the skin and thatapostrophes what most often results in scars. So, lay off the lumps! Having said all that, I realize that itapostrophes hard to resist a squeeze or two here and there, but only do so when dealing with blackheads and whiteheads.

TIP: If youapostrophere a do-it-yourselfer or plan to become a dermatologist or a cosmetologist, you can buy your own comedo extractor at a medical supply company. Better yet, see a dermatologist or go for a facial to have your blackheads and whiteheads extracted professionally.

2) Pre-tanning at a Salon

Pre-tanning at a tanning salon to get ready for the intense sun at the beach isnapostrophet the great idea that itapostrophes been cut out to be. In fact, whether you acquire a tan quickly or slowly, you still damage your skin. Just like the sun, artificial tanning equipment beds and sun lamps emit UV rays that can cause burns, premature aging, and skin cancers, especially if youapostrophere a higher risk, fair-skinned person who produces less melanin.

3) Smoking

Youapostropheve heard about the risks of smoking (like lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema). But have you ever noticed that the skin of elderly smokers tends to have a yellowish coloration? Next to sun exposure, smoking is the highest factor in wrinkling. In other words, smoking makes you look older!

TECHNICAL STUFF: The nicotine in cigarette smoke also causes small blood vessels and capillaries of the skin to contract. This diminishing circulation deprives the skin of much essential oxygen it needs to create and maintain healthy skin cells.

Thereapostrophes no controversy about this one -- donapostrophet smoke!

4) Taking Too Much Vitamin A

WARNING: You may have heard that vitamin A helps to cure acne. What you may not know is that if you take too much of it, vitamin A can accumulate in your liver to dangerous levels and cause serious health problems. Get your vitamin A from veggies. Good sources include leafy greens (like spinach and watercress) and orange veggies (like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and carrots).

There are safer derivatives of vitamin A to treat your acne -- topical retinoids and oral Accutane -- that your healthcare provider can prescribe.

5) Traveling the Perilous Peel and Dermabrasion Route

If your complexion is dark, you may run the risk of having streaking, uneven pigmentation after chemical peel or dermabrasion procedures. Moreover, if you scar easily or tend to form keloids, you should probably consider these procedures as being potentially too risky.

TIP: Get a second or third opinion from practitioners experienced in these procedures on patients with your type of skin before embarking on something you might regret.

6) Treating Rosacea with Over-the-Counter Medications

Donapostrophet try to go it alone when you have rosacea. You should discuss your rosacea skin-care with a dermatologist. Thatapostrophes because folks who have rosacea tend to have red, inflamed, sensitive skin.

TIP: Consult with a dermatologist before experimenting with untried products. And definitely check out Chapter 18 for more tips on treating rosacea.

7) Applying Topical Steroids to Your Face

Okay, if you have a mild rash or itch, you can go to your local store and buy the over-the-counter, low-strength cortisone cream or ointment to treat the symptoms for a few days or so. However, donapostrophet make it a regular habit and use the stuff every day! It can cause acne and potentially thin your skin if you use it continuously.

WARNING: You definitely should not use a potent prescription-strength topical steroid on your face without being instructed to by your doctor or dermatologist. Steroid-induced rosacea and skin thinning are much more likely to occur with the high potency spreads. Go to Chapter 18 to find out more about topical steroid-induced rosacea.

8) Shaving with Four-In-One Razor Blades

If you have acne, shaving bumps, or sensitive skin, those razors that guarantee the closest shaves arenapostrophet for you. Ignore the ongoing battle between razor companies to see who can stick the most blades on a single disposable razor head. Besides costing an arm and a leg, two, three, or four incredibly sharp blades will wind up shaving you two, three, or four more times closer than is necessary and really irritate your skin!

TIP: Easy does it. Let your hairs grow a little and when you do shave use a single blade safety razor such as the Aveeno PFB Bump Fighter Razor. I discuss razor bumps in Chapter 19.

9) Using Mystery Products

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isnapostrophet true.

You may hear about alternative medications from friends, relatives, or the news media. Ads may suggest that alternative treatments can produce positive results in patients who have acne or rosacea.

Exercise caution -- some of these drugs may have fraudulent claims, and others may even hurt you. Herbs can be as toxic and dangerous as prescription drugs. Look out for and avoid:

  • "Secret" formulas (real scientists share what they know)
  • Amazing breakthroughs or miracle cures (real breakthroughs donapostrophet happen every day, and when they do, real scientists donapostrophet call them "amazing" or "miracles")
  • Guaranteed cures

The problem with herbal medications is that itapostrophes hard to know exactly whatapostrophes in them because there is no regulation regarding their contents. For example, there have been reports of actual harm caused by St. Johnapostrophes wort, which has been found to make some people more sensitive to the sun.

Let your healthcare provider or dermatologist know about any of these products you may be taking or are considering taking.

WARNING: There have been reports of severe toxic reactions, so you should be very cautious before trying anything that is untested.

10) Looking in the Mirror too Much

If youapostrophere undergoing treatment for your acne, you should know that it wonapostrophet improve overnight and by examining it continuously, you just magnify any flaws -- real or imagined.

TIP: When you apply makeup, use a "soft focus" with your eyes and donapostrophet take magnified close-up looks at your zits or comedones. Youapostrophell be amazed at how quickly your skin will improve if you ignore it for a few days at a time while your medications have a chance to work!

The above is an excerpt from the book Acne For Dummies by Herbert P. Goodheart, MD. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Excerpt from Acne For Dummies by Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D. provided with permission by John Wiley & Sons. Available wherever books are sold.

About the author:

Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D., of New York, NY, author of Acne For Dummies, is a practicing dermatologist who also teaches at the Mount Sinai College of Medicine. He is the aut