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Protecting the skin you're in

By Kimoy Leon Sing

The next time you decide to leave the house without applying sunblock think again because apart from getting your daily dose of vitamin D, you might also be causing irreversible damage to your skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and the outer covering which protects the body's delicate internal organs. Exposed to the harmful elements almost every day, the skin is one of the body's most important defence mechanisms. As a result, we need to care for our skin properly, says Crysande Hocsht.

Hocsht is a locally trained aesthetician. She did Master's training in skin care with the Repechage Institute in New Jersey, USA, and has been an active beautician for the past seven years. She is the founder and owner of Crysande's Spa and MakeUp Studio located at the corner of Arima Old Road and Arouca Main Road, North Arouca. Seeing a wide variety of skin types and skin conditions, Hoschst does not just look at the surface of the skin but beneath to find the underlying problems to her patients' skin conditions.

She said, "The main layers of the skin are the epidermis (the top layer) and the dermis (the lower layer). The skin's most important role is protection. It protects the underlying muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs. It also protects the body from pathogens and excessive water loss. It also insulates the body and regulates temperature.

"After the Carnival season many people experience severe burning of their entire body. Metal parts of costumes overheat and literally burn the skin. Improper use or lack of sunscreen can cause people to get severe sunburn which will lead to peeling and flaking in the days after Carnival. Severely damaged skin may heal by forming scar tissue. Severe sunburn may lead to hyper pigmentation or "age spots" years later which clients are often baffled by since they seem to appear overnight in their 40s but started when they were playing Kiddie's Carnival," she said.

According to Hocsht sunburn is caused by prolonged sun exposure with no sunscreen or a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) that is not high enough or not reapplied every two hours.

She said, "When it comes to sunburns, prevention is better than cure. Sun damage is the number one thing that causes your skin to look old before its time."

According to Hocsht, while most Trinidadians do not believe in sunscreen, it is vital when it comes to protecting your skin from the harmful sun rays.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all need sunscreen especially if you plan to spend prolonged periods out in the sun. I advise a sunscreen with an SPF of 100. If you don't fancy having to apply a cream, there are spray ones which are sweat proof and waterproof which you can re-apply every two hours, she said.

While sunburn is a common ailment many experience after the Carnival season, blisters are just as common, says Hocsht, and can have you feeling considerable pain longer than the two days it took for the problem to occur.

She said, "Masqueraders can prevent blisters from their costumes by trying to stay in the shade part of the time or wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Use a lubricant such as petroleum jelly or talcum powder on the areas that generally blister. It is important to get proper socks, podiatrist recommended and not ordinary cotton socks as they retain moisture, which then softens the skin, weakening it and making it easier to tear and form blisters. Instead, try CoolMax fabric which takes away moisture so it does not stay on the skin to weaken it. Look for socks with modern synthetic fabrics formulated for walking and running. Many recommend two layers of socks—a thin inner pair of fabric such as polypropylene or CoolMax and a padded outer pair. Tube socks should be avoided since they do not fit well over the heel and ankle."

According to Hocsht if you develop a blister, sterilise a needle with alcohol. Puncture the blister and carefully press the fluid from it. Leave the skin intact, do not peel it off. Gently wash the area with soap and water. Gently smooth the flap of skin over the blister. Apply an antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage. Do not use alcohol or iodine. They will delay healing. Change the bandage once a day to reduce the chance of infection. Remove the bandage at night to let the area dry.

Call a healthcare provider if signs of infection develop such as pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, pus or fever. Diabetics and people with peripheral vascular disease should also contact their healthcare provider if they develop blisters.

She noted that not all blisters must be skewered but blisters on the feet that are larger than one inch across must be drained.

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