As the mid-summer holiday arrives, we see people who have been hard at work getting their beach bodies ready. Cardio machines at the gym might have a little waiting time. On a half-dozen different exercise devices, many are still trying to crack the code on how to work the elusive abs. But what about your skin? The body’s largest organ often goes unnoticed just because it’s always there. On the one hand, our skin seems synonymous with our self. Yet on the other hand, our skin gets taken for granted all too often.
Let’s give our skin at least a portion of the attention it deserves. Getting our skin ready for summer involves changing our habits a bit, and maybe changing our minds a little, too.
Protecting from the Inside Out
First, remember to hydrate. Water makes everything in our bodies work better, and the skin is no exception. Outdoor exercise and recreation in summertime evaporate our bodies’ water content much faster than when we were indoors for wintertime’s long, social nights and short, covered-up days. When we hear “skin hydration,” many of us think of skin cream commercials, but really, there’s no moisturizer like the water we take inside.
In fact, a study of athletes suggests that the water we drink is available in muscles and skin within the hour, but that’s no reason to wait. The steady availability of water to the skin not only helps keep the surface supple, but also helps some metabolic functions that begin in deep skin layers. Didn’t know skin was at work on metabolism? That’s just one of its unsung heroisms.
Nutrition from then foods we eat is a slower story. In fact, your skin is the last organ in line for the nutrients you take in. Doesn’t it make sense to include the foods your skin is waiting for? Especially in the stresses of summer use, let’s remember to add some of skin’s favorites. Blueberries, with their famous antioxidants, belong with your breakfast cereal, and spinach has a special place in your summer salads, offering potassium, iron, and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. And speaking of omega 3, make salmon one of your summer seafood selections, and your skin will thank you for it.
Your skin is not only interested in what you eat and drink, but also in what you wear. Let’s take a lesson from those generations who spent their lives outdoors and make a hat part of our style statement. After hats comes sleeves. A shirt doesn’t have to be short to be summer. The comfort of chambray was invented for sailors who work in the hot sun, so it’s capable of keeping you cool and covered at the same time. Seersucker was invented in sweltering parts of India to serve the same purpose. With the right fabrics, you don’t have to sacrifice coverage.
And you knew I was going to bring up sunscreen. Have you made it a habit yet? It’s time. SPF 30 is good; 50 is better. Let’s get with it. It’s about staying alive to enjoy the outdoors longer in years, not in hours.
Last but not least, get a professional skin scan. Your board-certified dermatologist has an eye for signs of skin cancer that is much trustier than your own. It’s surprising how often the things you notice are of no interest to me, but how I sometime swoop right in on spots you thought were routine. Self-inspection is good, but it’s not the “always” answer. Get a full-body scan; you’ll be glad you did.