Living a healthy lifestyle such as eating right and exercising, avoiding using wrong things on the skin and imbibing personal hygiene like hand washing have been identified as some helpful ways of keeping the skin healthy. Another way is to visit the hospital when one has skin problems, experts have said.
Dr. Grace Chita Okudo, a dermatologist says that using approaches such as skin bleaching and relying on what relatives or other people say or do creates more problems than solutions for the skin. She said people should not use things that remove the natural protection of their skin because trying to remove the outer layer to look lighter is detrimental to skin health.
“People should imbibe general personal hygiene and environmental hygiene. Hand washing is very key and rather than saying my sister did this or my brother did that, go to a general medical practitioner, who will look at the skin and refer you to a dermatologist.”
Dr. Okudo who is also the National President of the Nigerian Association of Dermatologists (NAD) said there was need for relevant government agencies such as NAFDAC to ban the sale of skin bleaching products the same way codeine was banned, adding that it is not just about banning but also implementing the ban.
In addition, Dr Perpetual Ibekwe, a consultant dermatologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital raised alarm about the increasing number of untrained persons making and selling creams online. She advised the public to be wary of them. She also called on relevant agencies to clamp down on shops selling steroids as cosmetics in the markets in the country.
On the consequences of such use of steroids, she said it makes the skin weak and feel like cigarette paper, and that one could get injured and also get infections very easily. She added that fungi infections look funny on skin that has been bleached with steroids and that steroids also cause hypertension, psychosis, depress the adrenals, and affect every part of the body.
On the problem of many people not being able to distinguish a dermatologist from those selling cosmetics and beauty products, Dr Ibekwe said for a person to be a dermatologist, he or she has to be a medical doctor. According to Dr Ibekwe, the first way to differentiate, is to find out if the person is a medical doctor, “if the person is not a medical doctor you can be sure he or she is not a dermatologist.”
She said bleaching itself is a serious problem and that dermatologists are trying to increase sensitization, by giving alternatives to persons. However, she added that dermatologists may help bleach the skins of some people who for health reasons may require to bleach their skins, such as those who suffer from skin pigmentation, adding that what dermatologists are against the complete change of skin colour from head to toe.
She advised people to be watchful of the kind of creams and treatment they use on their skin through buying known brands of creams with ingredients clearly written, and to avoid the practice of mixing creams in the market with no known source or trace. She said Nigeria has less than 90 dermatologists and called on government to equip hospitals so that more dermatologists can be trained.
Other ways of keeping a healthy skin
1. Don’t smoke
Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow and makes skin paler. This also depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health.
Smoking also damages collagen and elastin — the fibers that give your skin strength and elasticity. In addition, the repetitive facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — can contribute to wrinkles.
In addition, smoking increases your risk of squamous cell skin cancer. If you smoke, the best way to protect your skin is to quit. Ask your doctor for tips or treatments to help you stop smoking.
2. Treat your skin gently
Daily cleansing and shaving can take a toll on your skin. To keep it gentle:
- Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
- Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
- Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. For the closest shave, use a clean, sharp razor. Shave in the direction the hair grows, not against it.
- Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
- Moisturize dry skin. If your skin is dry, use a moisturizer that fits your skin type. For daily use, consider a moisturizer that contains SPF.
3. Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The association between diet and acne isn’t clear — but some research suggests that a diet rich in fish oil or fish oil supplements and low in unhealthy fats, and processed or refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin hydrated.
4. Manage stress
Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — take steps to manage your stress. Get enough sleep, set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.