The Skin You’re In

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By Colleen Kilday

Smile lines suggest a lifetime of laughter. Freckles memorialize time spent in the sun. But our skin is more
than just a reflection of our life experiences. It regulates body temperature, protects the body from harmful bacteria and elements, and so much more. Consistent and proper skin care is consequently essential to holistic health — and benefits the body and mind, too. Incorporating the below practices will help protect
the vitality of your skin and all that lies underneath.

Routine Dermatology Visits

Just as with routine eye and dental exams, the medical community recommends annual visits to the dermatologist to detect disorders and diseases in their early stages. Over 3,000 known diseases are covered in dermatology and include conditions that present themselves in the hair, nails, and mucous membranes. Importantly, diseases that manifest in skin-related symptoms may not always be visible. For example, some internal conditions such as liver disease can cause itchy skin without apparent cause. Therefore, it is important to keep up with routine checkups even in the absence of any physical markings.

Prepare for a dermatology appointment by noting any recent changes in skin or nail condition. Be sure to discuss any hair-related concerns as well, such as loss or thinning. Because hair loss can be linked to a number of potential health issues, it is important to address it as soon as signs are noticeable.

Clinicians can also help address appearance-related concerns, such as uneven skin tone, fine lines, loss of volume, or unwanted scarring. However, insurance typically does not cover dermatology appointments that are of a strictly cosmetic nature, so it is best to check with your provider prior to making an appointment.

Skin Cancer Screenings


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they reach 70 years of age. Some types of skin cancer can even spread to other parts of the body if left untreated, including the brain. The five-year survival rate for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, drops by 32% if left untreated as the likelihood of it spreading to the lymph nodes increases.

Now for the good news: 99% of skin cancer cases are curable if detected early enough. While the risk of developing skin cancer varies between individuals depending on factors such as prior diagnoses, blonde or red hair, and level of sun exposure, it is advisable for all to seek routine skin cancer screenings.

Skin cancer screenings are quick and painless. During an appointment, the provider simply checks the skin and assesses any moles or areas of pigmentation irregular in size, shape, texture, or color. One screening per year can suffice for the average person; however, this may vary depending on the patient’s medical history and should be left to the provider’s discretion.

The Prince William Health Department offers cancer screenings free of charge to residents at the Prince William Health District Manassas Clinic located at 9301 Lee Avenue in Manassas. For more information, to request an appointment, or to check eligibility, call 703-792-6300.

Skincare Routines

man washing his face

Facial cleansers, moisturizers, and serums serve a greater purpose than vanity. Just like the teeth, the skin needs regular cleansing and maintenance to keep it free from damage and infection. Despite the dizzying amount of skincare products available, a sufficient routine comprises just three simple steps: wash, moisturize, and apply SPF.

The cleanser washes off dead skin cells, dirt, and other accumulated impurities. By removing these, the skin is prepared to fully absorb the moisturizer which helps keep the skin’s protective barrier intact. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a cleanser that does not contain abrasive ingredients or alcohol. After wetting your skin with lukewarm water, apply the cleanser with your fingertips, rinse, and pat dry with a soft towel. Gently apply moisturizer to the face and neck taking extra care around the eyes.

The most important step in a basic skin care routine is also the last: sunscreen. It is crucial to select one labeled as “broad-spectrum.” This means it protects against both types of ultraviolet rays. UVA rays cause skin aging while UVB rays cause sunburns. Each type of skin damage can lead to skin cancer.

Lips are susceptible to UV radiation too. In fact, UV radiation is the primary risk factor for lip cancer which can spread to other parts of the body; therefore, it is advisable to apply lip balm with SPF 30 or higher as well. Ultraviolet rays of both types can penetrate clouds, so avoid the temptation to skimp on the sunscreen just because the sun isn’t out. Similarly, more than half of UVA rays can penetrate glass. If working indoors near a window, sunscreen is still necessary to fully protect the skin. Most sunscreens lose their efficacy after about two hours, so be sure to reapply as needed.

As a bonus, broad-spectrum SPF also protects the skin against the effects of blue light from computer and phone screens, otherwise known as High Energy Visible or HEV light. Blue light is not linked to skin cancer, but prolonged exposure can damage collagen and elastin in the skin leading to premature aging.

Healthy Diet, Healthy Skin

fruits & veggies

A diet rich and varied in nutrients is one of the most important factors in maintaining overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, nutritional deficiencies and improper diet are directly linked to a variety of skin conditions, too. This is because certain vitamins, particularly A, C, D, and E, are responsible for the
regeneration and function of skin cells. As a general rule, try to incorporate as many colors of the rainbow as possible into your diet, paying close attention to red, green, and orange fruits and vegetables.

Maintaining a proper diet also reduces the likelihood of obesity, a condition that adversely affects the skin outside of the associated diet imbalances. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, obesity can cause changes in the circulatory and lymphatic systems that may lead to a variety of conditions including gout, discoloration, and more. Additionally, obesity is associated with higher incidences of inflammatory skin diseases and bacterial skin infections.

The challenges of modern life can make weight management and loss daunting for the average person despite its benefits. While the ideal path toward weight loss varies per person, the starting point is the same: the primary care physician. A general physical can help determine a patient’s ideal weight and type of interventions warranted. When standard approaches like diet, exercise, and medication fail to produce the desired results, surgical intervention may be recommended. In such a case, it is important to select a
bariatric surgeon and facility properly accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program.

The Sentara Weight Loss Surgery Center offers free, virtual, and in-person informational seminars for those interested in weight loss surgery. The seminars describe possible procedures and offer free consultations to help prospective patients determine whether weight loss surgery is right for them. To find a seminar, visit

The INOVA healthcare system also offers a variety of weight loss services including both surgical and nonsurgical options. The nonsurgical weight loss program includes a weekly support group in addition to one-on-one consultations and meal pickups. To see if the INOVA weight loss programs are right for you, visit or call 703-844-4572.

Stress Management

As the saying goes, stress is the silent killer. Countless studies have substantiated a link between chronic, psychological stress and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Now, recent research has revealed a direct, bidirectional pathway between the skin and brain, too.

Psychological stress sparks the release of cortisol in the body that can lead to inflammatory skin responses and weaken the skin barrier, making it more vulnerable to permeation by microbes. Similarly, when the skin is exposed to environmental stressors such as extreme temperatures or UV rays, it sparks a stress response that makes its way back to the brain. Put simply, healthy skin and a healthy brain depend on each other.

Stress management involves two key methods: removing stressors and increasing resiliency. The first step in removing stressors is identifying them. A regularly kept mood journal can help reveal a pattern between increased stress and its source, whether it is environmental, physical, interpersonal, work-related, or something else. This can help guide any necessary lifestyle changes should any be warranted.

Resiliency to stress helps reduce the impact of a stressful experience on the body and mind. Research suggests that individuals with strong, supportive social networks are better able to endure stressful experiences. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep also ensure the body can function properly to include a regulated stress response. Higher self-esteem is linked with less negative affect in response to stressful situations as well. Incidentally, self-esteem can be improved through caring for one’s health and appearance. So, through practicing routine skincare, you can love – and thrive in – the skin you’re in.

Colleen Kilday is a journalist and technical writer who has written for a variety of local publications as well as aviation and financial journals.


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