Your skin is the first glimpse someone catches of you, and what your skin says about your health can be very telling in terms of your diet and hygiene habits, as well as your level of stress. Skin conditions are often concerning or frustrating to deal with, but you can stay informed regarding what to expect and follow tips that promote healthier skin. Here's what to look for -- and what to do about it.
Common Skin Conditions
Skin conditions run the gamut, but here are some of the most common:
- Acne. It's not just for teenagers! Many people deal with adult acne, which is generally caused by oily skin that clogs pores.
- Athlete's foot. Athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection that leads to peeling, redness, itching, and burning sensations on your feet. There's also the potential for blisters and sores.
- Eczema. Eczema can mean a variety of noncontagious skin issues that lead to red, inflamed, dry, and itchy skin.
- Psoriasis. Psoriasis looks like thick, red patches of skin covered with white or silvery scales. The condition forms when your immune system produces skin cells that grow too quickly.
- Stretch marks. If you are overweight or become pregnant, you may see pinkish or reddish streaks that can form just about anywhere, but usually on the abdomen, thighs, and breasts.
- Rosacea. Rosacea is characterized by the tendency to flush easily, as well as redness on your nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead. It can be caused by abnormalities in facial blood vessels.
- Shingles. Shingles are a rash of raised dots that can become painful blisters and leave your skin feeling sensitive, itchy, tingly, or with a burning sensation. It is caused by a virus that hides out in your nerves until it wakes up, causing the shingles to appear.
- HPV. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that infect the skin and can cause warts on the hands, feet, or genitals. It is a very common STD, usually harmless, that is spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Skin and Psychology
Have you ever thought about how your mental and emotional well-being can affect your skin -- and vice versa? The mind-body connection, or mind-skin connection, is real, according to the American Psychological Association.
Psychologists have identified three main types of psychodermatological disorders:
- Skin problems affected by stress or other emotional states.
- Psychological problems caused by disfiguring skin disorders.
- Psychiatric disorders that manifest themselves via the skin.
If you've ever noticed your skin break out when you're stressed, or experienced a more negative mood or lower self-esteem when a skin issue such as acne or psoriasis flares up, you've seen psychodermatology in action.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, "Stress can worsen psoriasis or rosacea, result in acne lesions that are more inflamed and persistent, cause brittle nails and ridging of the nails, lead to hair loss, worsen or cause hives, and induce excessive perspiration." Knowing healthy stress management tips can help alleviate some of these skin conditions.
All About Skin Care
Some people are luckier than others in terms of genetic predispositions to certain skin conditions, but anyone can take good care of their skin. Here are a few good skin-care habits:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wash your face in the morning and before bed.
- Take a shower or bath daily.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of vitamins A, B1 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, C, and D (preferably from your diet, but supplements or a daily multivitamin work, too).
- Avoid using products containing harsh dyes, perfumes, or bleaches on your face, hair, and nails.
- Keep your skin hydrated, preferably with sensitive-skin oils and creams that are hypoallergenic and free of dyes and perfumes.
- Avoid smoking.
- Drink moderately, if at all.
- Reduce stress and develop healthy habits for stress management.
- Wear sunscreen regularly, and avoid tanning.
If your skin isn't as healthy and radiant as you'd like it to be, your body may be telling you that something is off in your diet, health, or hygiene routine. Follow these tips to get you started, but speak with your doctor about what your skin says about your health, especially if you have skin concerns that you haven't been able to resolve on your own.