Men’s Health and Skin Health for All

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June 12, 2018
Men’s Health and Skin Health for All
 
by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher
           
The month of June is notable for, among other things, a national observance of men’s health and the official start of summer (June 21st.), and therefore, this month marks the perfect time to examine some cautions concerning the health of the beloved men in our lives, as well as delve into some sound advice on how to care for everyone’s (men’s, women’s, and children’s) skin health.
           
There’s nothing like the broiling sun and high humidity of a Houston summer to make us stop and think about the condition of our skin, and shortly, we’ll wade into a pool of information about dermatological issues, but first, let’s direct our attention to men’s health and how to improve it.
           
All too often, some of the men in our lives have neglected their own health in one or more ways.  Statistically speaking, men are noticeably more likely to avoid going to a doctor than women.
           
We, as women, should do our best to encourage the men in our lives to get a yearly check-up, at least, and/or get that nagging health concern, whatever it might be, examined and discussed with an appropriate doctor.
           
Everyone, male or female, tends to put off dental care, eye or ear exams, dermatological appointments, and foot care.  Generally, people lean toward thinking that these areas are “less important” aspects of health.  Actually, all of those areas can have dramatic and negative effects on health, depending on the nature of the problem.  Men and women should be sure to get regular screenings for those areas of the body, as well as the usual blood pressure, blood sugar, weight check, blood draw type of yearly exam.
           
For men in particular, discussing their “private parts” with a doctor may seem embarrassing or uncomfortable, but nevertheless, it is a necessary aspect of good health practices.
 
Screenings just for men:
 
•  Testicular exams should begin by age 18 and continue annually throughout life.  Testicular exams are generally done at a yearly check-up appointment.  The purpose of these screenings is to check for testicular cancer or other abnormalities of the testes.
 
•  Prostate exams and PSA blood test: These two screenings, which seek to find evidence of prostate cancer, are recommended for high-risk men (African-American or anyone with a family history of prostate cancer) beginning at age 40.  Generally, annual screenings are the norm for these high-risk groups.
           
Prostate cancer screenings for all other men usually begin around age 50 and are performed on a regular basis (whose time frame varies from man to man, depending on health).  All men are urged to consult with their personal physician about an appropriate screening schedule for their health needs.  Generally, as a man ages, he needs these screenings more often.  For example, a 50 year old may be screened only every two to three years after an initial normal test, whereas a 75 year old may be screened every year or even more often if problems are developing.
           
Most importantly, for both men and women, always seek assistance soon if you feel that something is not quite right about your health (or your type or schedule of screenings).  Catching any disease or disorder in its early stages always makes it easier to treat effectively.
          
Now, let’s get back to our “punch list” of healthy skin care practices, which are applicable for year-round use, but are especially important in summer.
 
 
General Skin Health:
 
            • Wear sunscreen at any time you are outdoors.
            • Look for moisturizers and make-up with short, preferably naturally occurring, ingredient lists. 

The more chemicals you put on your body, the more likely you are to encounter one that doesn’t agree with you or that interacts with other chemicals in an unexpected, and possibly undesirable, way.
           
• Keep skincare routines simple; wash face and body once or twice daily with a mild soap.  Don’t over wash or scrub harshly.  Apply sunscreen and moisturizer as needed and make-up as desired.
           
• If any product seems to bother you, discontinue it.  Don’t “tough out” the application of a whole container’s worth of a product just to save a little money on the purchase of a different brand.  Chemical sensitivities and allergies can get worse, even severe, with repeated exposure to a troublesome cosmetic.  Don’t risk your health to pinch pennies.
 
           
Sunburn:
 
           
• Prevention is the primary key to success.  Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat (and even protective clothing if sun exposure will be long in duration or intense).  Reapply sunscreen every three to four hours or more often if swimming or perspiring heavily.
           
• If you get a sunburn, avoid all further sun exposure until the burn is healed.
           
• Use aloe vera gel for enhanced healing, for pain relief, and to help prevent infection in the damaged skin.
           
• Cool water compresses can help stifle the initial pain of sunburn, but don’t let water compresses wash off applied aloe gel.  If aloe gel is washed off, reapply immediately.
           
• Eat high-protein foods for tissue repair.  Also consume plenty of fruits and vegetables for added vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidant substances not found in other foods.
           
• Supplement your diet with vitamins A, C, and E to improve skin healing.
 
Oily Skin:
 
           
• Humidity and hot weather stimulate the skin to produce more oil.  While this process is generally harmless (unless it leads to significant acne in some susceptible individuals), oily skin may pose a cosmetic challenge.
           
• To help the skin’s sebaceous (oil secreting) glands from becoming too stimulated, use aloe vera gel topically.  Also, mist the skin several times daily with lavender water, known to be very helpful to oily skin.
           
• Avoid sugary treats, alcoholic drinks, junk food, and excessive dietary fat.  All of these items stimulate oil production.
           
• Use hot water when washing your face; hot water is better than cold or tepid water at dissolving facial oils.
           
• Choose cosmetics and facial care products that were designed for oily skin.
           
• Apply witch hazel to the skin to reduce oily build-up.  Clay or mud masks are also good for this purpose.
           
• Look for talcum powder based facial powders.  They’re excellent for blotting a shiny face.
          
Dry Skin:
           
• Causes of dry skin can be one or more of the following: poor diet, exposure to sun, wind, cold, chemicals, cosmetics, excessive bathing with harsh soaps, hormonal fluctuations, certain drugs, or simple aging and/or heredity.
           
• If limiting exposure to known causes of dry skin (such as sun or wind) doesn’t solve your problem, dietary and topical solutions may need to be used.  Dry skin often improves with the addition of supplemental vitamin A, B-complex, and primrose oil taken orally.  Topical aids include aloe vera, calendula, vitamin E, and cocoa butter.  All of these aids are moisturizing and have healing properties.
           
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and smoke; all of these substances dry out the skin of anyone and are particularly detrimental to a person who already suffers from dry skin issues, making the sufferer even more dry than his/her usual “normal” level.
           
• In general, avoid cold creams and cleansing creams on your skin.  These products, while seeming emollient, are often made from hydrogenated oils that can cause free radical damage to the skin, resulting in dryness and wrinkles.  Use pure olive, avocado, or almond oil instead to wash your face. Apply oil; then wash off with warm water and a soft cloth.
           
Skin Rashes:
 
           
• Skin rashes can be initiated by a host of widely varying causes, including, but not limited to, the following:  allergies to molds, foods, chemicals, cosmetics, drugs, or other substances; insect bites, poison ivy, nervous tension, fungi, friction, jewelry, and fragrances can likewise touch off a rash.
           
• Never take a skin rash lightly.  Rashes can be early warning signs of serious diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, shingles, measles, meningococcal disease, or toxic shock to name a few.  Rashes can be early warning signs of severe, even life-threatening, allergic reactions to drugs, foods, chemicals, or other substances.  Any substance that causes a skin rash has at least some potential to elicit a progressively worsening allergic reaction in an individual, which can lead to life-threatening symptoms in certain people in some situations.
           
• Seek medical help promptly if a skin rash doesn’t clear up within a few days of over-the-counter treatments.  Seek medical help right away if experiencing fever, headache, intense pain, difficulty breathing, edema, increased heart rate, or other serious symptoms accompanying a rash.
           
• If you are fortunate and have a simple rash that will respond easily to over-the-counter medication, try the following “skin helpers”: aloe vera gel, benadryl cream or lotion, hydrocortisone, creams or lotions containing chamomile, calendula, or oat extracts.  Tea tree oil preparations and vitamin E can also be of assistance.
           
• Whenever possible, use hypoallergenic skin care and household products and wear cool, loose, cotton clothing that is soothing and gentle on the skin.
           
Encourage the men in your life; enjoy the summer, and be kind to the largest organ of the body - the skin!

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