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10 ways to wreck your skin

10 things not to do if you want healthy, good-looking skin
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it takes a lot of abuse. Constantly exposed to the elements, your epidermis (and the layers beneath) can really take a beating, especially if you're guilty of the following skin sins.

Want to preserve your skin? Here's what not to do:

1. Overexpose yourself

There was a time when people thought it was perfectly fine to slather their bodies in oil and spend entire days baking in the sun. Over the years, dermatologists have put us right, telling us in no uncertain terms that sun worshipping will only put us on the path to premature skin ageing and skin cancer.

It can be quite easy to spot a sun worshipper. Their skin has a tendency to look wrinklier and may be covered in brown spots from years of sun damage.

"You can help put an end to premature ageing of the skin by not over-exposing yourself to the sun", says Bevis Man of the British Skin Foundation. "Certainly avoid getting sunburnt and damaging your skin, and make sure you make it a habit to wear long-sleeved clothing, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses on top of sunscreen use during summertime."

Cancer Research UK estimates that around 86% of malignant melanomas and 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. It recommends a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

2. Skimp on sunscreen

Your sunscreen probably isn't protecting you from sun damage as much as you may think because most of us don't apply enough and we don’t put it on frequently.

Don’t just put it on during your two-week summer holiday abroad. The sun in the UK is strong enough to cause damage, so apply it at home too.

When you are going out in the sun, Bevis Man says: "Make a conscious effort to apply sunscreen thicker, and remember to reapply after a couple of hours (or more often if you’re being active or swimming and towelling off) to make sure you get the most out of the protection your sunscreen was designed and tested to give."

3. Head to the tanning bed

Think a tanning bed is safer than being outside in the sun? Think again.

Tanning beds give you a concentrated burst of ultraviolet light, which causes skin ageing and could increase your risk of malignant melanoma skin cancer.

A review by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that sun beds are "carcinogenic to humans".

Fake it instead. Spray tans and self-tanning creams are a safe alternative to give you that golden glow without the harmful effects.

4. Smoke

If the risk of lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and stroke aren't enough to scare you off cigarettes, how about all those wrinkles you'll get?

Study after study shows just how extensively smoking ages the skin, not only in the pallor of the skin but through those tell-tale smokers' lines around your mouth.

The British Skin Foundation advice is - don’t look older than you are! It says giving up smoking can do wonders for the skin, as smoking breaks down the collagen in the skin that normally helps give the skin its firmness.

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