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The Young and the Wrinkleless

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Proper skin care should start at an early age.

Proper skin care should start at an early age. If protection is the best medicine, then it is important to start preventing skin-related problems, from acne to melanoma, when children are very young.

Infants and Toddlers

Babies' skin is almost always perfect smooth, soft and smells so good! It's also very delicate and deserves extra-special, gentle treatment.

Sun Care

Infant skin burns much more easily than adult skin. The best way to avoid sunburn is to dress your child in light, loose clothing that covers the whole body. Use a sun hat or bonnet, and keep the sunshade on the stroller up. This is good advice for young babies. Toddlers, however, often resent the restrictions of clothing, and feel it's best to run around naked. For these free little spirits, use a gentle, natural sunscreen with organic ingredients, available at your health food store. Never put sunscreen too close to children's eyes or on their hands, as they might rub their eyes and cause irritation.

Diapers

Diapers bring with them a whole rash of potential skin problems literally! Cloth diapers, especially those made with unbleached organic materials, are best for sensitive baby skin. They are breathable and contain no harmful chemicals. Disposable diapers, on the other hand, are usually made of synthetics that may contain toxins, and don't allow the skin to breathe. Cloth diapers today come in a wide array of styles, shapes and sizes, so you're sure to find the right fit for your baby. Many are made with built-in snaps or Velcro closures no need for cumbersome safety pins.

If your child does develop diaper rash, it may be due to a food allergy or an irritation caused by soap or detergent. Discuss these possibilities with a naturopathic doctor, then carefully monitor what he or she eats, and try to use natural detergent for washing clothes, diapers and bedding.

Cloth diapers are breathable and contain no harmful chemicals. Disposable diapers, on the other hand, are usually made of synthetics that may contain toxins, and don't allow the skin to breathe.

Bathing

One of the nicest times to bond with your baby is bath time. Infants love the warm water, and toddlers like to play with suds and bath toys. Unfortunately, many bath products we think are helpful may actually contain harmful chemicals. Shampoo is the worst culprit, as most contain a chemical called sodium lauryl (laureth) sulphate (SLS). SLS is, at the very least, a known skin irritant. It's also a suspected carcinogen. Always use an organic shampoo, whether you're nine months or 90 years old. Organic soaps are also important for babies, as regular soap can irritate and dry the skin. After the bath, parents like to moisturize their baby's skin with baby oil. However, most baby oils use mineral oil usually derived from petroleum. Instead, use a fruit- or vegetable-based oil such as almond, macadamia, apricot, or grapeseed.

Infant skin burns much more easily than adult skin. The best way to avoid sunburn is to dress your child in light, loose clothing that covers the whole body.

Children

From about age four to age 11, children's skin remains relatively worry-free. The main concerns are sun exposure and cleanliness. For sun, follow the same rules as for babies and toddlers, and remember: because of the vitamin D it provides, moderate sun is healthy, but sunburns are not.

Daily washing is also important. Kids get into all sorts of dirty situations, so they should bathe or shower daily to keep the skin clean and pores unclogged.

Skin receives most of its nourishment not from products we apply externally,but from the food we ingest internally. Children should learn this early in life right from the time they begin eating solid foods. Good nutrition at an early age will set the stage for a healthy body and healthy skin later on. If children are eating well and staying hydrated, their skin will be fine; it should not need a moisturizer.

Teenagers

The teen years are fraught with more skin problems than any other age group. At about age 12, puberty sets in and hormones begin fluctuating wildly. This can cause mild blemishes or worse, bad acne breakouts. Fortunately, many of these problems are preventable. Ideally, teens will have a whole childhood of healthy eating behind them, accustomed to nourishing themselves with organic, whole foods. When we eat properly, every bodily function hormone regulation, circulation, digestion, respiration, elimination and growth operates at an optimum level. This is especially important for teens, and when the whole body is healthy, it shows in the skin.

Stress

Teens endure large amounts of stress, both physical and mental. While their bodies undergo hormonal changes, they deal with the pressures of school, friends, first loves, and planning their futures. Stress can have a huge impact on skin, causing rashes and acne. Make sure teens have positive ways to deal with stress. Exercise is one good outlet that also helps the skin eliminate toxins. Another outlet is having someone to talk to, whether it's a parent, friend, counsellor or older sibling. Certain nutritional supplements, such as vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, can also help alleviate stress. For more on stress in young people, see page 48.

Make-up

Around age 13 or 14, most teens start experimenting with different "looks." This can mean anything from wearing makeup to dyeing hair and piercing body parts. While makeup is a healthy form of self-expression, it's important to use safe, natural products. Most health food stores carry a good selection of natural makeup, hair dyes and nail polishes. Remember also to use natural deodorants instead of antiperspirants commercial deodorants and antiperspirants may contain harmful ingredients such as aluminum. Also try essential oils instead of mass-manufactured perfumes.

The three most important words to remember on the quest for healthy skin are "whole," "organic" and "gentle." Eat whole, organic foods, use organic skin-care products and make sure those products are gentle to your and your child's skin. And remember, healthy skin begins on the inside. Once your insides are clear and healthy, your outside will be too.

Natural Skin Helpers

  • Cold-pressed natural oils with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids replenish natural oils and reduce the amount of sebum (oil) produced by the skin. Less sebum means fewer clogged pores. These healthy oils also help with elimination, so the body can expel toxins efficiently. Sources: seeds and nuts and their oils; cold-water fish
  • Vitamin A is important for skin growth and repair. Sources: leafy greens, tomatoes
  • Vitamin E enhances the action of vitamin A, helps prevent scarring, and also balances the body's hormones. Sources: Wheat germ, raw nuts and seeds, cold pressed oils, eggs, broccoli, carrots, dark leafy greens, olive oil, soy beans
  • Vitamin B5 is needed for proper synthesis of fats and oils. Sources: wheat germ, raw-milk cheese, yogurt
  • Vitamin B6 can reduce stress and may also reduce flare-ups associated with hormonal changes, including PMS. Sources: poultry, cabbage, egg yolk, cold water fish, leeks, kale, whole grains, legumes, green leafy veggies
  • Vitamin C helps make skin smooth. Sources: citrus fruits, apricots, cantaloupe
  • Zinc regulates sebum secretion and is important to a healthy immune system. It also helps heal wounds and burns. Sources: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, onions
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