Most college students understand the importance of living a healthy life. A balanced diet, exercise and proper stress management tools are vital to surviving the college years. One thing often overlooked can be the health and care of one’s skin.

The skin is a vital part of the body’s health and a good identifier of when something's wrong. However, with so many products to choose from, blog posts to read and different doctors recommending different things, how do you start taking care of your skin?

Medically Speaking...

Clayton Green M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Rochester in the dermatology department, offered a professional perspective on skin care for college students.

“The fundamental things we talk about with people for skin care would be daily moisturizing of some kind and sun protection,” Green said.

“I think [skin care] gives people confidence when they feel proud of how their skin looks.”

In the winter months, going from a cold outside to a warm inside can be hard on the skin. The skin can show signs of wear and take a lot of damage by those sudden changes in temperature.

Ensuring that your skin is getting the nutrients it needs to combat the winter chill is where moisturizer comes in. There are countless options when it comes to a general moisturizer. This is where trial and error begins. Finding what works best for your skin is a key to having a healthy skin care routine.

Sun protection is also another area of skin care that can easily be overlooked.

“We [dermatologists] do tend to see melanomas in younger people,” Green said.

These melanomas are forms of skin cancer that can lead to damage down the line, yet there are actions that can be taken to reduce the risk. Wearing proper sunscreen and skin-covering clothes when in the sun are easy ways to support your skin in its fight against the harmful rays.

Let’s Get Personal

It can be intimidating to start researching how to take care of your skin with all the information that is out there. One thing to always keep in mind is that you know your skin the best. As Green mentioned, it is important to try different products and see how your skin reacts. If one lotion makes you break out and another makes your skin extra oily, branch out and try different products until you find what you are looking for.

Natalie Sebastian, a fourth year Cyber Security Engineering major at George Mason University, has had a personal skin care journey. She first visited a dermatologist as a teenager when she started to develop acne in middle school and high school.

“That is when I started to learn more about making sure my skin isn’t dry and not putting on too much medicated face wash or creams,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian began her skin care by trying different things like adjusting her diet, trying different products and seeing how her skin reacted. She was also taking the advice from her dermatologist. In finding what works for her, she has been able to create a skin care routine using products that she trusts and would recommend to others.

I myself had my own acne journey where I dealt with cystic acne. I struggled to find what would work best for my skin, but once I took the step to speak to a professional and got on the right medicines, I have seen progress in my skin.

Breakouts happen and some days my skin will be dry. However, through educating myself and reading some stuff online, I have come to understand my skin’s wants and needs.

Some Advice

Green’s biggest piece of advice is to wash your hands, moisturize daily and make sure to protect yourself from the sun. Using a gentle soap to clean your face is also smart as they are not aggravating to the skin.

“Bar soaps are generally a lot gentler than liquid soaps,” Green said. “Pick a bar soap that you like and a big brand moisturizer from over the counter. After the shower, pat yourself dry and moisturize.”

This is how Green recommends that students work in simple yet effective skin care into their daily lives.

Sebastian, however, uses her skin care as some well-deserved personal time. She has a morning and nighttime routine that helps her start the day and feel confident.

“I think [skin care] gives people confidence when they feel proud of how their skin looks,” Sebastian said.

“The fundamental things we talk about with people for skin care would be daily moisturizing of some kind and sun protection.”

Not having to hide behind makeup or feeling embarrassed by how your skin may look is a benefit of practicing effective skin care.

We all have different factors at play when it comes to the appearance of our skin. Sebastian found that cutting out sweets and sugary foods helped reduce the acne she experienced. I found that drinking more water and washing my face in the morning works well for me. Green mentioned the people who stop smoking also see improvements in their skin.

Needless to say, there a lot of factors involved and a lot of information to sift through when it comes to skin health. Green recommends visiting the American Academy of Dermatology website for information, since they cover a variety of skin types, issues and ways to help.

Similar to many other health related changes, working on your skin takes time. With me, everything got worse before it got better. With a combination of the medications I was taking, the products I was using and the changes I made to my well-being, my skin eventually cleared up.

Your skin is vital to your immune system and your overall health. Making sure it is properly taken care of can be done in simple steps. Start with gentle soaps, a good quality moisturizer and sun protection.

Most of all, listen to your skin and listen to your body — in the end it knows what’s best.