Caring for Fair Skin
A smart skin-care regimen should largely depend on the type of skin you’ve got: oily, dry, combination, or normal. But skin tone plays a supporting role, so it’s important for those with a fair complexion to be familiar with conditions they potentially face. How’d you end up with such fair skin? Heredity, for starters. It seems that everyone, regardless of race, has the same amount of melanocyte skin cells, and within those cells are structures known as melanosomes. The reason that fair skin appears lighter is that melanocytes in people with lighter skin tones contain fewer — and smaller — melanosomes than those in darker skin, and those melanosomes produce less melanin, the pigment that colors the skin.
People with fair (or light) skin tend to sunburn easily and are therefore the most susceptible to skin cancer. So while it’s important for everyone, even people with dark skin, to practice smart sun protection, it’s absolutely crucial for people with lighter skin. Fair-skinned folks must be super diligent about applying (and reapplying) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 (though 30 or higher is preferable) year-round. Protective clothing (including a wide-brimmed hat) adds additional layers of defense. Also essential are annual skin exams and mole checks — and alert your dermatologist ASAP if you notice any changes in your skin.
These scaly, crusty bumps are a precancerous condition that’s more likely to affect people with lighter skin than those with dark complexions. It tends to show up on the parts of the body that receive the most sun exposure — the face, ears, neck, forearms, and backs of the hands — beginning around age 30 and increasing as you age. Peeling or cracking lips after sun exposure, especially the lower lip, might also be a sign of actinic keratosis, and the condition is also common on the scalps of bald men. Actinic keratosis patches can itch, burn, or sting and should be looked at by a dermatologist. One or more of the following treatments may be used: cryosurgery (freezing), light or laser therapy, chemical peels, topical treatments such as cancer-fighting chemotherapy creams, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Keep in mind that actinic keratosis can be delayed or prevented with proper sun protection.
Rosacea (a skin disease that causes redness and pimples on your nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead) is sometimes called adult acne, because it can cause outbreaks that look like acne. Rosacea can also cause burning and soreness in the eyes and eyelids. Though rosacea can affect any skin type, experts believe that people with fair skin have a genetic predisposition toward the condition, and those who are 30 to 50 years old with light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes are the most likely to develop it.
Rosacea often flares up when something triggers the blood vessels in the face to expand, which in turn causes redness. Common triggers include exercise, sun and wind exposure, hot weather, stress, spicy foods, alcohol, and hot baths. Swings in temperature from hot to cold or cold to hot can also cause a flare-up. Sometimes just the act of caring for your skin can irritate it, so gentle skin care is a must — no vigorous scrubbing and no vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids, fragrances, or alcohol in anything you put on your face (that includes cleansers, moisturizers, makeup, and sunblock). The American Academy of Dermatology reports that anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as caffeine, sulfur, some antibiotics, chamomile, green tea, and licorice extract, can reduce inflammation.
Caring for fair skin can be easy when you know what kinds of conditions to look out for. Be sure to get annual skin exams and mole checks, and always protect your skin from the sun.
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