While the dry Beijing winter may be behind us, that doesn’t mean looking after our skin takes the backseat until November. Springtime ushers in fresh new allergens and skin that has been covered up for months is now especially sensitive to the elements. So, what can be done to help our skin look and feel better? Beijing United Family Hospital dermatologists Dr. Na Ren Hua and Dr. Yuan Shan, BJU pediatrician Dr. Melissa Varma, and the team at the World Health Store offered their tips for keeping your skin silky, smooth, and most importantly, healthy.
For normal, healthy skin, you don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive lotions and creams. There are many products readily available at local pharmacies, such as Cetaphil lotion or cream, and moisturizers by La Roche-Posay, Avene, Neutrogena and Aveeno. Moisturizers form a layer of protection over the skin and work best when applied immediately after showering, while the skin is still damp. The World Health Store (WHS) stocks a pump bottle of Aloe Vera gel. When used as a lotion, it has a healing effect on the skin as well as moisturizing properties. Shea butter is another natural lubricant available in small jars from WHS.
Dr. Na Ren Hua believes that when it comes to moisturizers, thicker is better. The only exception is if your face is naturally oily. While larger areas of your skin – particularly legs and arms – do not have the oil-secreting sebaceous glands that the face does. Avoid blocking your pores and opt for facial moisturizers with low-oil content.
Dermatologists advise that you moisturize your hands every time after washing them – which in a doctor’s office is often! It should be noted that the bottle of lotion in Hua’s office was Watson’s brand collagen hand lotion, which is both inexpensive and easy to find.
Daily bathing or showering is not recommended – it’s bad for your skin. Showering a couple of times a week is sufficient; using soaps or gels only when particularly dirty. Regularly cleansing under the arms, around private areas and your feet are the only exceptions. Cleansers wash away the skin’s natural lubricants, which are needed to maintain healthy skin. Time in the shower should be limited to no more than ten minutes using lukewarm water. You can wash your hair more regularly as the scalp has lots of those oil-producing sebaceous glands – just be sure not to let that shampoo wash off over your body during the rinse. As Hua says, "Soap washes away your own natural lubricant,and then you use a synthetic product after wards instead. That’s quite silly."
Diet and Supplements
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is always good for overall skin health. Nuts have minerals and proteins that are beneficial for healthy hair and skin; and if you are vegetarian, nut proteins are particularly important. Soy, a well-known super-food, is also very good for the skin – whether it’s consumed in food, as an oral supplement, or applied as a topical cream.
It goes without saying that water is essential to keep the skin hydrated, but it’s also significant to understand that plain non-carbonated water is what the skin needs (carbonated drinks, carbonated water included, evaporate). As for coffee and tea? These actually cause you to lose water in your skin.
If your diet is balanced, vitamin supplements may not be needed specifically for skin health. However, for people who want to give their skin a boost, there are many natural supplements that can help. Skin Optimizer, found at WHS, contains antioxidants and collagen enhancers and can improve your skin’s overall appearance. Collagen and vitamin C supplements are also good for maintaining your skin.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an option for people who need to target a specific problem. Dr. Yuan Shan has TCM experience and she suggests simple remedies such as eating red dates, taking ginseng and using topical creams made with aloe vera or lavender.
The most important factor for healthy skin is sun protection. Children as young as 6 months can begin having sunscreen applied. Hats, long-sleeved tops, and staying out of the sun in the middle of the day are easy ways to avoid over-exposure. However, there’s no need to go overboard. Wrapping your children in lots of layers means the skin has trouble breathing and causes them to sweat, depleting moisture from the skin.
As with adults, the general rule of thumb is not to bathe your children too often. Because kids often like to play in the bathtub, pediatrician Dr. Melissa Varma recommends that they do so before being washed with soap or shampoo. Apply moisturizers immediately after bathing when the skin is well hydrated. The best emollients have very little water content with a high oil content. Read the list of ingredients to avoid any with perfumes.
Infants with possible atopic dermatitis or eczema may need to avoid food triggers such as egg, soy, nuts, peanut butter, chocolate, milk, and seafood.
Sunscreen: Sunscreen is needed year-round, but on exposed areas only. If your moisturizer does not contain sunscreen, you will need to use both products to protect yourself from harmful rays. If your face is oily by nature, use oil-free sunscreens and moisturizers. Be sure your sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.
Humidifiers: Using humidifiers is recommended during the winter when it is particularly dry. Be sure the machine is easy for you to clean at least once a week, as they tend to grow harmful molds inside.
Allergens and Sensitive Skin: People with sensitive skin should avoid perfumes in moisturizers. People with atopic dermatitis or more serious conditions such as eczema and psoriasis should consult their doctor before buying off-the-shelf moisturizers.
Clothing: Natural fibers are essential to avoid skin irritations. Stay away from synthetic fibers and wool if your skin is particularly sensitive.Clothing should be loose fitting.
Laundry: If laundry detergent causes sensitivity, one easy solution is to use the extra rinse cycle on your washing machine. Raw soap nuts or soap nut lotion are excellent natural alternatives to washing detergent and are available at WHS.
Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics
2 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (appointments 5927 7000; dermatology clinic 5927 7038/7039)
Dr. Na: 9am-5pm Tue, Wed, Fri
Dr. Yuan: 9am-5pm Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri
Dr. Wang Yuying: 9am-5pm Mon, Wed, Thu, Sat
Beijing United Family Clinic Shunyi北京和睦家诊所Pinnacle Plaza, Unit 818, Tianzhu Real Estate Zone, Shunyi Discrict (8046 5432)顺义天竺开发区日祥818
Dr. Na: Sat 9.30am-4pm
Dr. Varma: Mon, Thu 9.30am-7.30pm
World Health Store
1) Mon-Fri 10.30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7.30pm. Rm 2152, 1st Floor, Section A, North Tower, Soho Shangdu, 8 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; 2) Sun-Thu 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10.30am-8.30pm. R09A, LB1, Euro Plaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu Zhen, Shunyi District (8046 2524);