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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Healthy Skin Care for Zen Cowgirls and Other Outdoor Types

Wind, sun, dirt, horse poop, cold, heat, and dirty sweaty clothes. These are all things that cowgirls (and cowboys) deal with on a regular basis. And aside from the horse poop, it's what most people who love the outdoors are exposed to as well. Ask any of them whether wind, sun, or other outdoor conditions bother them, and they'll probably say "no."

Unfortunately, the result of all of this outdoor exposure is usually less than pretty. You know what I'm talking about: leather face. People who stay outside tend to show that exposure on their skin, and especially on their faces. Signs of exposure include:

- inflammation and spots
- wrinkles
- dark or light spots
- toughened skin
- irregular pigmentation

So what's a cowgirl or cowboy to do?

What Really Happens When Skin is Exposed to Weather
My mother always told me to wear a hat and sunscreen during the summer, so I knew that sun exposure was bad for my skin. But I didn't know why, and I started hearing some news snippets that implied sunscreen was actually bad for my skin. This was not good news, so I decided to do some research to find out what actually happens to skin when it's exposed to outdoor weather conditions.

Here's what I discovered. A lot of skin damage is caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun. Add to that the burning effect of wind and the pore-clogging effect of dirt, and you get the leather-face look. Specifically, sun exposure by itself can do quite a bit of damage. Check these out.

Irregular Pigmentation, Inflammation, and Spots
Freckles, spots, and inflammation are usually the result of your skin protecting itself by darkening the pigmentation. It does this by produces melanin, a dark brown pigment. Unfortunately, exposure to the sun can cause an uneven increase in melanin, which can cause freckles and irregular pigmentation. In extreme cases, these spots become liver spots, which darken in the summer and often become lighter in the winter. Sun exposure can also result in the permanent dilation of the small blood vessels in your skin, giving you a patchy "red" look that's not pretty!

Wrinkles and Tough-Looking Skin
Sun exposure can also cause wrinkles and toughen the skin. UV radiation breaks down the skin's collagen and elastin-fibers, which make up the deep-layer of skin that gives it strength and flexibility. When your skin loses its collagen and elastin, you end up with loose skin, wrinkles, and skin creases. That's enough to prematurely age any cowgirl or cowboy.

How You Can Fix the Effects of Sun Exposure
So what's a cowgirl to do? After all, we can't avoid the weather most of the time since horses, cows, and pigs demand to be fed. There's actually quite a bit you can do as a part of a healthy skin care regimen, even if you can't avoid being exposed to the weather. Here are three simple strategies you can use.

1. Cover Up: Wear hats and long sleeved shirts whenever possible. Boots and jeans are taken for granted!

2. Avoid Most Sunscreens: It turns out that most sunscreens are worse for your skin than weather exposure. Read my article about that here or go to Skin Deep, a cosmetic database that tells consumers which products are least and most healthy for their skin, to find out more.

3. Use Healthy Skin Care Antioxidants: According to Skin Deep, using certain antioxidant skin care products is the best way to alleviate the effects of weather exposure.

My most recent discovery is a line of skincare products that truly reverses the effects of weather exposure on my skin and has a great rating from Skin Deep. Read about it here.

A final word of advice from one cowgirl to another: be smart. Summer means sun, lots of it, and being outdoors early in the morning and later in the evening works well. One cutting trainer I know of in Texas rides his horses from midnight to 5 a.m. It reduces weather exposure for both him and his horses. While not everyone can do this because not everyone has a lit riding arena, just about every cowgirl can be smarter about healthy skin care.

Don't you think?

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Photo credit: Bruceys Neck

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