Back to School—Skin Care College Crash Course
Just when you’re getting used to summer, Staples starts running TV ads for school supplies! Not ready yet? We don’t blame you. It’s so important to take a break so you can rest and repair before diving into the next thing. However, we do want to share some back to school tips now because some things take a little time. Acne treatment is one of those things.
If you really want to start the new school with clear skin, check out our blog post that touches on everything you need to know from how zits happen to a variety of ways to manage them.
Prevention tips for acne:
•Wash your bed linens at least twice a month. Changing your pillowcase more frequently may be helpful since all kinds of nasty stuff—oils, makeup, dirt, bacteria, drool—collects there.
•How long have you had that make-up brush? Have you ever washed it? If not, you’re pushing around a lot of accumulated gunk.
•Reduce your exposure to dirt and bacteria by wiping down your cell phone from time to time. When you go through your day, you touch a lot of germy public stuff and then you touch your phone. Think about it!
•Wash your face every day! Don’t crash for the night without getting the day’s dirt and makeup off your face. You don’t want to give bacteria time to multiply overnight.
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If you’re headed off to college this year, chances are good that you won’t have exclusive use of a shower. And you won’t know if the person who used it before you has athlete’s foot. That’s how people pick up this common fungal infection: by walking barefoot in moist public spaces. You’ll know you have it if you have red, peeling, itchy skin between your toes. An antifungal/athlete’s foot cream from the drugstore ought to take care of it. If not, see a dermatologist. You want to be sure that what you have is indeed athlete’s foot or you may simply need a more powerful treatment.
Prevention tips for athlete's foot:
•Wear shower shoes or flip-flops in the shower and in other moisture-prone areas.
•Dry your feet thoroughly and keep them dry, especially if they get sweaty or if you’re a swimmer.
•Avoid synthetic materials such as shoes made of plastic and polyester socks
•Alternate which shoes you wear—don’t wear the same pair every single day.
•If you get caught in the rain or snow, make sure your shoes are completely dry before wearing them again.
•Don’t share stuff, especially with those who have athlete’s foot.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is spread from person to person through close contact. Herpes sores sometimes announce their arrival with tingling, itching, or burning before their pimple-like lesions or blisters erupt. After a few days, they crust and scab. The tricky part is, you don’t have to have a sore to spread the virus. You also need to know that herpes doesn’t just affect the mouth and genital areas. It can show up lots of places like your fingers. When herpes infects the eye, scarring can occur and that’s scary because it can damage your vision.
Prevention tips for cold sores:
•Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, lip balm, makeup, razors, silverware, and beverages with fellow classmates.
• Stress lowers immune function and it is the immune system that keeps herpes dormant in the nervous system. Make meditation, yoga, or other stress management technique part of your routine.
•Know your romantic partners. Just because someone doesn’t have herpes simplex 2—genital herpes—doesn’t mean that their oral herpes simplex 1 can’t spread to the genital area. That’s right, herpes simplex 1 can infect the genitals!
•Be responsible: protect people! It’s your duty to do everything you possibly can to keep from spreading herpes to others.
•See a dermatologist for treatments that help manage this condition.
Prescription anti-viral pills can shorten the course of an outbreak. If taken when you get the initial tingling sensation, anti-virals may prevent an outbreak altogether.
More and more people get tatted up than ever before and they’re starting younger and younger. If you’re one of those kids who are plotting to get a tattoo as soon as you’re away from your parents, make sure you have a good experience. Find a seasoned pro at a registered tattoo studio. You absolutely must find someone who wears gloves, uses new needles in sterile packages (that they open in front of you), sterilizes their tattoo machine in an autoclave, and does their work in a pristine, sterile environment. Going to a second-rate, “backyard” tattooist opens you up to some serious hazards such as blood poisoning, infections, hepatitis A and C, and HIV. If the phrase “hospital grade” doesn’t come to mind, run for the hills.
While we don’t want to encourage you to get a tattoo, we do want you to play it safe if that’s what you’ve decided. Keep in mind tattoo removal requires many many treatments and is extremely painful (more painful than getting the tattoo). Removal is also expensive and will often only fade the tattoo rather than completely eliminate it. So ask yourself: will I always want this image on my body? Remember that the critical word in that question is ALWAYS.
Quick tips for tattoo care:
•Don’t tattoo a part of your body that has a mole, birthmark, or spot. This can make it impossible to see the early signs of skin cancer.
• Right after you get it, follow the instructions your tattoo artist gives you on how to care for and clean your tattoo. For the first few hours, you need to make sure you don’t scab. Scabbing can lead to infection.
•Petroleum products such as petroleum jelly can fade your tattoo so use water-based lotions to moisturize your skin.
•Remember to protect your tattoo (and all of you) from the sun and tanning beds. UV light can fade some inks so be generous with the sunblock.
• Sometimes the skin reacts badly to tattoo ink. This can happen right away or years later. Note any changes that occur and speak with a dermatologist if it feels like something has gone wrong. Allergic reactions to tattoo inks can occur and cause itchy, painful rashes that are difficult to manage because the ink cannot be removed.
• Don’t go it alone if you decide you don’t want your tattoo anymore. Online removal kits contain acid, which can cause serious injuries.
Freezing temperatures are probably furthest from your mind in summer’s blazing heat. If you’re headed off to a colder area for college or staying in a place that gets pretty wintery, you’ll want to protect yourself. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures causes the skin to freeze. Fingers, toes, and ears are especially susceptible. Seek immediate medical help if your skin is hard, pale, peels, or blackens. We want you to keep all your body parts!
Prevention tips for frostbite:
•Are you one of those people who wears shorts in a snowstorm? We’re not sure if this is wishful thinking or bravado. Be smart: wear weather-appropriate clothing—hat, gloves, scarf, 2 pairs of socks, a heavy enough coat, and thermal underwear if needed. It’s easier to stock up on these things before you’re cramming for an exam. If you already own it, you’re more likely to use it. Be extra careful to layer up when you're outside at those big college games for hours at a time!
•Stay dry. Wet skin is more susceptible to frostbite.
•Stay hydrated. Drink some water before you head out into the cold. Drinking alcohol also increases your risk for frostbite not only because it dehydrates you, but also because you may be numbed. This allows the pain of frostbite to go unnoticed. You may also lose track of time, pass out, or do other unwise things that put you at risk.
We wish you wouldn’t drink, especially if you’re underage. However, we realize drinking happens and we want you to know what you’re getting into. While it may feel like booze makes you feel more independent, carefree, or more grown-up, it damages your liver—it’s a toxin that’s toxic to the organ that detoxifies your body! That’s why you look and feel awful the next day. Not only do you add a bunch of toxins, you didn’t keep on schedule getting rid of your usual toxins because your liver was too busy dealing with the alcohol.
Alcohol also dehydrates your whole body including your skin. If your drinking includes a late night, and it almost always does, then you also deplete your skin by not getting enough rest. If you’re working hard on your schoolwork AND partying hard, this is a recipe for wearing yourself down fast. Keep in mind many a heavy partier ends up looking like a washed-up geezer by the time they’re in their late 20s. You may think that’s far off, but you’ll be surprised how the time flies!
There are many consequences of drinking that go so far beyond skin health. Due to the seriousness of drinking, we share the following:
•DO NOT DRIVE after drinking. Have a designated driver or walk.
•Drink water and eat food when you know you’ll be having a drink. Alcohol spikes blood sugar and also acts faster on an empty stomach.
•Limit the amount you drink and don’t guzzle or chug anything. Sometimes it can take a while for the effects of alcohol to hit you so pace yourself. There are tragic incidents in which people drink themselves to death in a single night.
•If you feel that your drinking has gotten out of control, please get help. Find a sympathetic counselor or attend an AA meeting.
Some of you will be headed off to schools in locales that are warm and sunny year-round. Lucky you! While it may be brisk and cloudy in your hometown, don’t forget that the sun packs a punch in your new college town. The sun's damaging UV light puts you at risk for skin cancers and melanoma and ages skin prematurely. Learn more about skin cancer here.
Sun protection tips:
• Wear a sun block that’s at least SPF 15, but preferably SPF 25 or higher. Look for a chemical-free sunscreen that has a physical block such as titanium dioxide or zinc in at least 7-10% concentration. Apply it often especially if you swim or sweat a lot. Try our EltaMD sunscreens, which give you great protection. If you're acne prone, try our EltaMD UV Clear.
•Wear sunglasses to protect your vision, your eyelids, and the delicate skin around your eyes. UV rays are particularly damaging to these areas.
•Get under an umbrella, stay in the shade, and take outdoor breaks or exercise in the early a.m. or late afternoon when the sun isn’t as powerful.
•Cover up! Wear a hat or visor to physically block out the sun. Lightweight cotton scarves and wraps can also help shade you.
•Do not go to the tanning salon. Tanning beds expose you to the same UV radiation as the sun and can cause burns and injuries. Read more about tanning beds here.
•If you do get blisters or burns from the sun, you may need medical attention. It will be especially critical to stay hydrated in this situation so that you don’t pass out. Get a friend to take you to the doctor’s office if you’re feeling weak or faint.
Part of going to college is learning how to take care of yourself, to become a responsible, healthy adult. So take care of the skin you’re in because you are the only you you’ve got.
Feel free to call us with questions or to make an appointment: 203-323-5660