A friend called me in distress. To celebrate his birthday his kids washed his new car—only they used Brillo scouring pads. What would you say to the kids? We periodically replace worn out cars. Most Americans do the equivalent of a car wash with scouring pads to their skin every day. We have to live with our skin the rest of our lives. How you look affects how you feel and how others treat you. Don't do the stupidest things to your skin.

Stupidest Mistake #1 Using Soap
You're probably thinking I'm nuts. Don't we need soap to be clean and get rid of germs? Your sebaceous glands keep your skin at a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 (slightly acidic) for optimal health. Most soap is very alkaline and strips your skin of its protectiveoils. What may feel "squeaky clean" is really dehydrated and vulnerable to free radical damage. All soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, moisturizers, and cosmetics should be pH balanced to protect your skin. It may sound like I am overreacting, but it makes a difference.

Stupidest Mistake #2 Mineral Oil
Baby oil is 100% mineral oil. Why? Cloth diapers needed a barrier between the baby's skin and wet diaper. With absorbent paper diapers, an oil barrier isn't needed. So now we can use baby products that nurture your baby's or grandbaby's skin so it can breathe and not get diaper rash. In the U.S., most cosmetic companies use mineral oil because it is cheaper than water-based alternatives and it seems to moisturize because it coats your skin. Your body is water based and like oil and vinegar salad dressing, mineral oil doesn't interact much with your water based skin.

Most European countries ban mineral oil from cosmetics and skin care products. Some pricey cosmetics even use water-based moisturizers in Europe and mineral oil-based moisturizers in the U.S.. Mineral oil coats your skin, clogs your pores, and prevents your skin from breathing. It keeps your skin from exfoliating dead skin cells and toxins. It keeps your skin from absorbing vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants in a moisturizer.

Stupidest Mistake #3 Fragrances and Dyes
The most common causes of skin reactions and allergic reactions are the fragrances and dyes that are added to soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, moisturizers, and cosmetics. Having your hair smell like coconuts or mangos or bananas or be a pretty color often comes with a cost. For the healthiest skin—no fragrances, no dyes.

Stupidest Mistake #4 Sun Damage
Most people don't get enough sun. Sun is vital to feeling good and avoiding depression. Like bears, many people respond to less sunlight in the winter by becoming depressed, grouchy, and less active. Our bodies use sunshine to produce Vitamin D. Many Americans have insufficient Vitamin D, a vitamin that helps with calcium absorption and preventing osteoporosis. By all means, try to get some sunshine every day.

But sun also is by far the biggest cause of skin damage—wrinkling, drying, and skin cancer. Skin cancer is three times more common than breast cancer and lung cancer combined and accounts for half of new cancer diagnoses in the U.S.. Suntans are a sign of sun damage to the skin and sunburn greatly increases the risk of skin cancer. Suntans may look good in the short run but in the long run they contribute to leathery, wrinkled skin and a much higher risk of skin cancer.

If you insist on a suntan, ask me about a safe way to tan your skin without the sun or with less sun. With the ozone depletion, sunscreen becomes even more important to healthy skin. For prolonged sun exposure, use a sunscreen and if your skin gets red, a post sun skin treatment. For modest sun exposure, use a moisturizer that includes a sunscreen.

Seeing Your Future
Imagine it is tomorrow morning and you are looking in the bathroom mirror. Make a mental snapshot of how that looks now. Now imagine that 20 years have passed and during those 20 years you didn't give your skin much thought—and now it shows in dry, wrinkly, perhaps even leathery skin with age spots. It has some suspicious areas that you need to have your doctor check to make sure it isn't skin cancer. You say to yourself as Satchel Paige said, "If I had known I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself."

Make a snapshot of the picture. Now imagine that tomorrow you start being kind to your skin—using skin care products that are pH balanced, free of mineral oil, free of fragrances, and free of dyes. You use a botanically based moisturizer that includes a sunscreen and you are careful about sun exposure. Within days your skin starts feeling softer and smoother and has a healthier glow. Within weeks wrinkles get a little smaller and scarcer. And 20 years later your skin still looks good. Which future do you want? Which image do you want to have to look at for several decades?

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Michael Brickey, The Anti-Aging Psychologist, teaches people to think, feel, look and be more youthful. He is an inspiring keynote speaker and Oprah-featured author. His works include: Defy Aging, 52 Baby Steps to grow young, and Reverse Aging (anti-aging hypnosis CDs). Visit www.NotAging.com for a free report on anti-aging secrets and a free newsletter with practical anti-aging tips.

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Michael Brickey, the Official Guide To Anti-Aging


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