Smooth skin goals: 7 treatments for soft, summer skin
FARGO — In the Midwest, many know the vulnerable feeling that comes with baring dry, pasty arms and legs in the spring. As the temperature increases, so does our affinity for fewer layers and therefore more skin exposure.
But why is it that our skin feels like rough crocodile scales after winter?
"Skin is a reflection of internal and external factors — internal factors being genetics, health, what's going on in the body," says Dr. Rachel Ness, a dermatologist at Fargo Center for Dermatology. "The unique (external) environmental factors that we have here in North Dakota are the cold, low-humidity winter. We put clothes on the entire winter and we often times neglect our skin. If we're not moisturizing, if we're not maintaining things with our skin, we see a reflection of that in dull, neglected skin."
As a nail technician at Polished Nail Spa in Fargo, Krystal Nelson notices not only the difference in skin texture, but also nail strength between seasons. Clients complain that their nails become more brittle during winter due to the lack of sun and moisture.
Here, Ness and Nelson provide recommendations for seven restoring treatments to ensure beautiful looking — and feeling — skin and nails for summer.
Although it may be obvious, daily moisturization is key. "Make sure when you put on lotion, that you're not looking and seeing water as the first ingredient," Nelson says. "You want something like aloe, sunflower oil or some sort of vitamin or oil."
Nelson says lotions or creams with water as the base may not soak into the skin quite as well.
Exfoliating with sugar scrubs can be a good way to get rid of dead skin cells and make room for regeneration. Nelson recommends using a scrub with sunflower oil in it. "That has the smallest molecule so because of that, it's easily absorbed into the skin," she says.
The sugar provides natural exfoliation while other ingredients like essential oils, vitamin A and E, aloe vera and sunflower oil nourish the skin.
"Society has interpreted calluses as having a negative connotation," Ness says. "Calluses are basically a response from your skin trying to protect itself from increased friction, weight or trauma. A callus isn't necessarily a bad thing unless it's symptomatic."
Removing calluses entirely can be painful for the skin that remains. "We remove a lot of them, but there is a reason that they're there," Nelson says. "If we remove all of the calluses, it will build up faster — it's just the way that we walk. We need a little bit of callus."
By first soaking feet, applying a callus-removing gel and then using a pumice stone or foot file (which looks like a cheese grater), salon professionals can remove the bulk of unwanted calluses.
Manicures and pedicures
For those who are leery about removing calluses at home, a pedicure may be a good option. "If you have those calluses you want to get rid of, keeping up with pedicures is a good way to do it," Nelson says. She recommends customers return every 6 to 8 weeks for a pedicure.
In scheduling a manicure, clients have the opportunity to have cuticles removed, hands exfoliated, and dirt and grime removed from on and under the nail.
Tip: It's best not to shave your legs directly before a scheduled pedicure. "It's actually good not to, because then we won't have any of those open pores," Nelson says. "If you wait, you actually get a smoother shave after your pedicure because of the exfoliation."
Believe it or not, fingernails take three to six months to grow, while toenails take even longer — six to 12 months.
"When we're looking at fingernails and toenails, they really are a window into what's going on internally — but they're a window in the last three to 12 months," Ness says. "You can see lines, you can see anico dystrophies, similar to rings in a tree when you cut it down."
For those suffering with a particular nail issue, Ness says oftentimes an over-the-counter biotin supplement is able to give the body the ingredients it needs to generate nice nails.
A paraffin wax — a service provided at most nail salons — is a good way to restore moisture to the skin.
"It's like a wax dip for your hands," Nelson says. "It has many different vitamins in it. Because of that, all the moisture gets soaked into your hands and when you take it off, it's all sitting in your skin."
Much of the buzz in foot treatment comes from products like Baby Foot — a chemical peel that causes feet to shed several layers of skin over the course of a week. But is it safe?
Nelson says one of her clients tried the product.
"It did get rid of a lot of her problem areas," Nelson says. "I talked to her later and she did like it. She said that she'd probably do it again. It just took a lot longer to slough off than she thought."
Ness says chemical peels are safe to use for someone with no underlying medical issues like poor circulation, diabetes, neuropathies and venous insufficiency, to name a few; it's best to consult your doctor before using.
"Cosmetically, most of my patients feel that they want to improve on their calluses," she says. "So we recommend a combination of different glycolic acid peels for the feet in different strengths, maintenance of those areas and proper shoewear."
4 steps to smooth skin
Ness recommends the following steps for soft skin.
1. Exfoliate. "A common exfoliating pad that we recommend is something that has a nice pH blend of lactic acid, salicylic acid and glycolic acid," Ness says. Harsher scrubs and brushes can be dangerous and should be limited. "Exfoliation is a process that should be a part of your regimen maybe once a week or once every other week," she says.
2. Hydrate. Adding something to the skin like hyaluronic acid can help secure moisture.
3. Moisturize. Moisturizers, or emollients, trap that moisture in, decreasing evaporation and keeping the skin hydrated.
4. Protect. It's important to use sunscreen because "UV damaged skin can be much more irritable," Ness says. "Most of the time, sunscreens need to be changed out every year. Sunscreens degrade. An SPF of 50 last year could now be a SPF of 10 if it has degraded over the winter and has sat out on the beach or your boat."
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