Skin care tips, conditions and treatments
Did you know our skin is the body’s biggest organ? And yet, when we think of skin care, we often only focus on our face. A radiant face is important, of course. But, healthy skin on our whole body is more important. Why? Because there are skin conditions out there that can pop up just about anywhere on our bodies. And when they do, it’s important to catch them early (and make sure it’s nothing serious) — or know when to see a dermatologist.
Common skin conditions
Find a weird rash or itchy patch of dry skin? Things like inflammation, changes in color and texture, and new spots could be from an infection, chronic skin condition, or allergies. There are lots of skin conditions — some that need a doctor’s attention and others totally innocent. Common skin conditions are often harmless (but may be annoying). Here’s a list of some of the most common adult skin conditions:1
When pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells, they can get inflamed and turn into pimples. Acne can show up on your face, chest or back. Keeping your pores squeaky clean can help prevent or control breakouts. If you think your acne is caused by hormones, a chat with your doctor will help determine treatment.
Have you noticed brown or grey spots popping up on your skin? They’re actually from the sun (not age), and can show up on your face, hands and arms. It might be a good idea to have a dermatologist check them to rule out other possibilities, like melanoma.
This contagious fungal infection makes your feet peel, turn red, itch and burn. Topical antifungal creams or prescription medicine can treat this one. To be safe, don’t walk barefoot in public places (think locker rooms or pools — yuck).
Caused by the herpes virus, cold sores are small, painful blisters on the nose or mouth. These highly contagious pests last about 10 days, and can be treated with medicine or creams. Possible triggers include stress, fever, too much sun or hormones.
A blanket term for many non-contagious skin conditions, eczema is inflamed, red, dry or itchy skin. It often shows itself on elbows, hands and skin folds. Things like allergens, climate, stress and chemical irritants might trigger a flare-up, which can be treated with medicine.
These welt-like spots come in all shapes and sizes, can show up anywhere on your body, and last from minutes to days. Infections, food or medicine allergies, or even extreme temperatures can cause hives. Antihistamines and skin creams help soothe these bad boys.
Half of all pregnant women get melasma (men can also get it). This brown patchy “mask” shows up on the cheeks, nose, forehead, or chin. For pregnant women, it should go away after the baby is born. If it needs a little nudge, prescription creams, laser treatments, or other over-the-counter products are available.
These dark spots typically show up black or brown anywhere on the body. It’s important to get your moles checked at least once a year by a dermatologist, especially if skin cancer runs in your family. If any moles change, have irregular borders, are uneven in color, bleed, or itch, see your doctor right away.
When your body grows new skin cells too quickly, thick patches of red skin form (usually on your scalp, elbows, knees and lower back). The main sign of psoriasis? White or silvery scales within these patches. Things like creams and ointments, light therapy or medicines can help treat psoriasis — but it can be a reoccurring lifetime condition.
If you notice redness, swelling or blisters on your skin 12 to 72 hours after being out in nature, you might have rubbed up against the wrong plant. This itchy outbreak typically lasts up to 2 weeks and can be treated with medicine, creams or home remedies.
These tenacious little bumps happen after you shave when hair curls back and grows into your skin. Razor bumps can cause irritation, pimples and even scars. Taking a hot shower before you shave, using cream or foam, and moisturizing post-shave can help prevent or minimize them.
Blush easily? If you also get redness on your nose, chin, cheeks and forehead, it could be rosacea. Thickened skin, bumps, or visible blood vessels might also be a sign. Medicines can calm the skin, while lasers can be used to treat broken blood vessels or thickened skin.
These raised dots can show up anywhere on your skin (often your torso or bottom.) A shingles rash eventually turns into painful blisters that causes itching, burning or tingling. An outbreak lasts about two weeks and can be treated with creams, antiviral medicines, steroids or even antidepressants.
These little flaps of skin are generally found on the neck, chest, back, armpits, under the breasts, or in the groin area. They’re not painful and are usually only removed if they get irritated.
These unwanted, contagious calluses often appear on hands and feet. Sometimes stubborn, common warts may need a doctor’s attention to get frozen, burned or cut off. Otherwise, topical medicines can help get rid of them.
Skin care basics
Everyone’s skin is different, but there are things we can all do to give our skin the TLC it needs to be healthy and age well.2
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
A dark tan is like a kid’s meal. It’s all the rage when you’re young, but as you get older, you realize it may not be the best thing for you. Over the years, sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and may increase your risk for skin cancer. When you’re enjoying some vitamin D, be sure to follow best practices for sun protection: regularly apply sunscreen, take breaks in the shade and wear protective clothing.
Stay away from cigarettes
Smoking damages collagen and elastin (fibers that give skin its elasticity), making your skin look older.
We demand a lot from our skin and sometimes we’re pretty rough with it. Try shorter showers, mild soaps, a gentle pat to dry yourself and daily moisturizer.
Hydrate, a lot
Water helps our bodies flush toxins and keeps the skin hydrated.
Self-exams and when to see a dermatologist
It’s important to get in the habit of checking your skin every month for any unusual changes. After all, you know your body best. Catching a potentially serious skin condition early could make the treatment more effective. Keep an eye out for things like:3
- A growth: One that’s gotten bigger and looks pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black or multicolored.
- A mole, birthmark, or brown spot: One that’s gotten bigger, thicker, or has changed color or texture. Or, one that’s bigger than a pencil eraser.
- A spot or sore: One that continuously itches, hurts, scabs or bleeds. Or, one that doesn’t heal within 3 weeks.
If a skin condition covers more than 10% of your body, you notice one of the changes listed above, or have fever, muscle pain, or trouble swallowing, see a dermatologist right away.4 If skin cancer runs in your family, you may want to regularly see a dermatologist once a year or every six months to stay ahead of the game.
Who should I see if I’m concerned about my skin?
For most of the common conditions mentioned in this article, you can likely start with a visit to your primary care provider (the doctor or provider you might see for your yearly exam). He or she can examine your skin and decide whether or not you should see a dermatologist.4 Be sure to mention any symptoms related to your skin condition. And if you’ve got concerns or a family history that’s important to note, speak up. Your doctor is there to help ease your worries —and any burning, itching, swelling, or discomfort you might also have.