There is a bewildering array of skin and hair care products confronting men and women in magazine and television advertising, at cosmetic counters, and in pharmacies. The manufacturing and sales of these products is a huge industry.

Many of the manufacturers make claims that their products can make a significant difference in skin tone and appearance, and that they can restore youth, eliminate cellulite, or reduce or eliminate bags under the eyes. However, most of the claims made about these products are simply not true.

The single most important thing you can do for your skin is to wear a sun block every day. All ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the skin. Tanning is a treatment for animal skins that makes leather tough, coloured, and suitable for clothing, saddles, and gloves. Suntanning will eventually make your skin thickened and tough, with irregular brown areas, wrinkles, and dilated blood vessels. Tanning beds work the same way, and should not be used. Tanning can also cause skin cancers (basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma) that will need to be removed surgically, leaving small or extensive scars. The melanoma form of skin cancer can kill you.

A good sun block will prevent damage from the full range of UVA and UVB rays. You should apply it to all normally exposed areas of the face, neck, and hands every morning. When you are involved in activities that expose you to especially high doses of solar radiation, such as skiing or water sports, a complete sun block in the most vulnerable areas is essential, and should be re-applied throughout the day. Also, cover up with appropriate clothing and accessories (e.g., wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses) if possible. It is incredibly easy to suffer a second-degree radiation burn while skiing, resulting in blistering and a dramatically increased risk of skin cancer.

Benjamin Gelfant, MD, 
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team