The skinny on skincare
The skin is our body’s largest organ – an outer shield designed to ward off a range of potential health problems – so it makes sense to take good care of it.
Words: Ian Neubauer
Keeping skin clean, nourished and protected on a daily basis means it will not only look better but can help to prevent future health issues. To help you take better care of your skin, we’ve consulted dermatologists and prominent research groups about some of the most common skin problems affecting adults in Australia.
What is it? Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, results in red, dry, itchy, scaly and sometimes weeping and bleeding skin. According to the Eczema Association of Australasia, it will affect one in three Australians over the course of their life1 and is most common in people with a family history of an atopic disorder or allergy.
Expert advice While there is no cure for eczema, it can be managed. Professor Stephen Shumack, a dermatologist and Medical Director of the Skin & Cancer Foundation Australia, says your GP is the first port of call. “The key thing they’ll advise is to cut back on hot showers and prescribe topical steroid creams that have anti-inflammatory properties.” It’s also important to keep the skin well moisturised.
What is it? This skin disease is characterised by a red, scaly rash that tends to occur on the elbows, knees and scalp.
Expert advice While the cause of psoriasis is unknown, dermatologist Dr Catherine Reid says we do know that “it gets better with exposure to the sun, so when skin is covered in winter, it may fire up”.
Treatment involves over-the-counter, topical-type corticosteroids that have anti-inflammatory agents; phototherapy, also known as light therapy, where the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light under medical supervision; and ‘systematic’ medications – prescription drugs often used for patients who are not responsive or unable to take topical medications or undergo light therapy2.
What is it? Appearing as itchy bumps, hives are an inflammatory response to an irritant or foreign substance.
Expert advice “Hives are quite common, and if you know what causes your hives, you can remove the offending agent,” says Dr Reid, citing foods, chemicals, drugs, insect bites and tight or synthetic clothing as common causes. “In 50 percent of cases, patients won’t find the cause, so you treat the problem symptomatically. The first line of treatment is over-the-counter antihistamines; the next is seeing a GP.”
What is it? Consisting of mild to severe outbreaks of pimples and cysts, acne mainly targets the skin on the face, back, arms and chest
Expert advice Although acne is usually associated with teenagers, dermatologist Dr Natasha Cook says that one in three people will continue to suffer from acne well into their adult years.
Dr Cook describes acne in adults as a serious “disease of the skin” that can be linked to hormonal disorders. She says sufferers need to seek professional advice from day one to get optimal results.
“Otherwise, you can go down a path where a potential hormonal imbalance gets overlooked, and that can impact upon other things like fertility and lead to long-term scarring.”
References: 1 Eczema Association of Australasia, ‘Facts About Eczema’,eczema.org.au/eczema-facts/ 2 National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis.orgInformation provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.