The best skin care routine for dry skin

As we approach the colder months of the year, dry skin sufferers may be noticing an increase in their symptoms. Cold, dry air can take an already-pesky problem and turn it into a constant source of annoyance.

But don't think this is a regional issue - even those who live in a warm climate year-round can suffer from dry skin. While innate biological factors can definitely play a role in how likely someone is to develop dry skin, your daily hygiene routine can either improve or worsen the situation.

If dry skin is plaguing you, we're here to help. Here are some time-tested, straightforward strategies to deal with the problem.

Use a Gentle Cleanser

If you have dry skin, it's crucial to use the right cleanser that won't strip all the natural oils from your face. Most foaming and acne-fighting cleansers can be too drying for your skin. If your face feels tight after cleansing, it's time to switch to something less harsh.

Find a cleanser with a cream or lotion-based texture, or one that's designed for dry skin. Look for words like gentle, soothing or hydrating and ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides. A cleansing oil can also be a good option for dry skin.

Make sure not to wash your face too often, ideally one or two times a day. You should use a cleanser at night to remove dirt, makeup and other impurities from your face. Some people with dry skin may prefer to rinse their face with water in the morning instead of using a cleanser.

If you work out during the day, it's a good idea to use a cleanser to remove sweat. Keep some wipes on hand if you're at the gym or in a hurry. Also be sure to moisturize afterwards.

Find a Serum

Those with dry skin should add a serum to their skincare regimen. A serum is like a hydration boost and should be layered under a moisturizer. Give the serum a few minutes to absorb before adding the moisturizer. Look for serums that have hyaluronic acid or glycerin.

Use the Right Moisturizer

Use a cream-based moisturizer, one with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, emollients or ceramides.

Some people think that a thicker moisturizer will lead to more acne, but that's not the case. Finding the right moisturizer can decrease dry skin and acne at the same time.

When you use harsh products or skip moisturizing, your skin will produce more oil to compensate. This can lead to more acne. If you moisturize regularly, your skin will stop overproducing oil and your acne will decrease.

Many people forget to moisturize their bodies, especially in the summer. Using a body moisturizer is a necessary step in the skincare process. Use a heavy moisturizing cream and if that's not enough, try layering with an occlusive like petroleum jelly to lock in the hydration.

Add a Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen is crucial to every routine, whether you have dry skin or not. If you do have dry skin, find a daily sunscreen that also includes moisturizer.

Using sunscreen regularly will prevent discoloration, age spots and even skin cancer. Put on a sunscreen after you've moisturized and let it sit for 15 minutes before going outside.

Have the Right Night Routine

The right nighttime routine is crucial for those with dry skin. First, start by removing any makeup from your face. You can do this with a hydrating cleanser or make-up remover followed by a cleanser.

Next, apply your moisturizing serum and moisturizer. Some people use a thicker moisturizer at night, especially if they're worried about their face or body looking too shiny during the day. Then, you can add a retinol for anti-aging purposes.

If you have dry skin on your body, apply petroleum jelly as a moisturizer. It will soak in while you sleep. If you don't want to apply it everywhere, stick to the driest parts of your body like your knees, elbows and lips.

Facial sleeping masks can also provide more hydration than a typical moisturizer. These masks will be the final step in your routine and lock in any other moisturizer or serum you've applied.

What to Avoid with Dry Skin

When treating dry skin, avoiding the wrong products is as important as buying the right ones. Alcohol-based toners can be overly drying and harm your skin's moisture barrier.

It may be tempting to scrub flaky skin away with a physical exfoliant, but they can be too harsh for dry skin. Stick to chemical exfoliants if you have uneven skin, acne scars or age spots.

You should also avoid washing your face and body with hot water. Hot water can remove the natural moisture from your skin and cause further problems, especially if you have eczema. If you can stomach it, take cold showers. If not, try to take the coldest shower possible and limit shower time to less than 10 minutes.

When you get out of the shower, pat your skin gently with a towel. Avoid rubbing too hard, as that will further exacerbate your issues. Apply a moisturizer immediately after.

Don't use products that have dyes or perfumes. It might be fun to have margarita-flavored body wash, but fragrant products can be irritating to dry skin. Check and see if your shampoo and conditioner have harsh ingredients or scents.

When you have dry skin, being consistent with your routine is important. It's not enough to moisturize once in a while - you have to make it a regular part of your daily life, like brushing your teeth.

Talk to a Dermatologist

If you adopt a gentle routine as illustrated above and still have painful, flaky skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

They can determine if you're dealing with something more serious than dry skin and prescribe more powerful products if needed. For example, a fungal infection could look like flaky skin and require antifungal drugs. If you've been using more moisturizer and are still having severe dry skin, talk to a professional before buying any new products.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A Certified Financial Health Counselor and Student Loan Counselor, she also works as a money coach helping people one-on-one at Conscious Coins. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.

What causes oily skin?

Whether you're trying to ward off the sun's damaging rays, hydrating dry skin or battling acne, skin care is truly a year-round job that never takes a day off. But every skin type is different and seasonal changes can bring their own unique challenges, so while there are some tried and true practices that work for everyone, you may have to work a bit harder if you have oily skin.

Why is my skin so oily?

The fact is, everyone's skin produces oil at levels that are determined by genetics, but also outside factors like diet, exercise and more. According to VeryWellHealth, the oily residue that's found on your skin is a substance called sebum, which is produced by the sebaceous glands found underneath each of your pores. And while it may seem like a nuisance, it is actually an important part of your body's physiology. Healthy production of sebum by the skin helps to seal in moisture and prevent skin from overdrying, cracking and chapping.

These sebaceous glands are each attached to a hair follicle, and produce sebum through a process called holocrine secretion. The glands produce sebum within the glands and they are broken once they reach a certain size, allowing the sebum to flow freely into the hair follicle. The hair then naturally spreads the oil onto the skin to lubricate and protect it. Additionally, sebum also has antibacterial properties, and chances are, sebum has prevented you from contracting common colds and viruses thousands of times over during the course of your lifetime.

Oil on your skin is actually a good thing in most cases, but when the production of sebum starts going haywire, whether skin is becoming too oily or not oily enough, that could be the sign of an underlying health condition. Let's dive into what causes oily skin and how you can best take care of your epidermis year-round.

Oily Skin: Conditions, causes and treatments explained

If you have a daily sheen across the surface of your epidermis, you may be wondering how to get rid of oily skin and what causes it in the first place. Remember that aforementioned sebum production that we all have coming out of our pores? Well, for those with excessively oily skin, this means that sebum production is on overdrive. While this can be the sign of an underlying health condition, it can also be caused by numerous factors per Healthline.

1. Weather, Temperature, Humidity

Have you ever noticed that bouts of dry skin tend to lessen during the spring and summer months? That's no accident. Hot, humid climates lead to more oily skin, and sebum production increases in high temperatures.

2. Enlarged Pores

Oil is secreted from pores in your skin, so if your pores are enlarged due to weight gain, acne complications or aging, this could be contributing to bouts of oily skin.

3. Skin Care Products

Finally, your skin care regimen could be having some adverse effects. Heavy creams and other moisturizers, if used improperly, could do more harm than good and may result in excessive oil on the surface of the skin.

Those are just a few of the causes that could cause oily skin, but if you've gone through them all and the issue still persists, the issue could come down to genetics. If your parents or grandparents had oily skin, there's a good chance you will inherit that condition as well!

How to get rid of oily skin

Oily skin may just be a fact of life for some people, but there are some easy ways to keep it at bay and keep your oily shine to a minimum. Here are a few tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:

1. Wash your face!

Washing your face is pivotal to removing surface oil, but be sure to avoid excessive scrubbing that could irritate the skin layers, as well as using gentle soap and water to skip the possibly harmful ingredients in some face washes.

2. Go oil-free skin care

This is an important distinction you need to make now if you have oily skin: oil-free skin care products. Adding skin care products with oil on top of already oily skin is a recipe for clogged pores, acne and other skin imperfections.

3. Upgrade your moisturizer

While it may seem counterintuitive, daily moisturizing is vital to keeping excessive oil on your skin at bay. An oil-free moisturizer will keep your skin hydrated and healthy, and finding one with an SPF of 30 or above with broad-spectrum protection will ensure that your skin is protected from the sun's harmful rays as well. According to Medical News Today, when shopping for a moisturizer, opt for one that has aloe vera as an active ingredient. A 2014 study found that aloe vera can soothe oily skin and moisturize the underlying skin layers without making the skin feel greasy.

4. Avoid pore-clogging skin care products

Oily skin is produced by an overabundance of oil emitted from the pores - so blocking them up should fix the problem right? Not exactly. For those whose skin produces excess oil, using skin care products that have the ability to clog the pore, hair follicle or oil glands, will probably lead to acne and other skin imperfections. Finding the right skin care product that sits well with your pores may take some trial and error, but Self Magazine recommends starting with non-comedogenic products, which are specially formulated to prevent clogged pores. This is a good feature to keep in mind when you're shopping for sunscreen as well!

5. Tone down the salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is one of the most common ingredients found in over-the-counter acne treatments, and it's notable for its ability to remove dirt, oil and other substances on the surface of skin to help prevent clogged pores and breakouts. While salicylic acid is a godsend to those with oily skin, using it excessively can actually exacerbate the issue. Salicylic acid is used to remove the dead skin layer on the uppermost layer of our epidermis that contributes to breakouts, but if it is used too often, it will dry out the skin and cause more oil production. When it comes to this ingredient, err on the side of caution and always use as directed, or speak with a dermatologist to find the right skin care regimen for your needs.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Living Well

Tips on How to Get Rid of Oily Skin

Notice an undeniable shine on your face when taking selfies for the Gram? Is it bad lighting? A glare from your phone camera's flash? Perhaps. Or it could be chalked up to oily skin. Sure, having oily skin can make you self-conscious.

Here's the thing: You're suffering in good company. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just teens who are impacted by oily skin and acne. (Those images of pimply-faced teens aren't reflective of the entire population that gets acne.) It turns out that acne affects a whopping 50 million Americans each year.

We'll go over what causes oily skin, the reasons behind why someone might have this skin type and offer a handful of pointers on how to stop oily skin, including some homemade remedies:

What Causes Oily Skin?
Oily skin occurs when our sebaceous glands overproduce sebum, which is a natural skin lubricant (NIH). Sebum is a waxy substance that keeps the skin hydrated and provides protection. While sebum is essential for healthy skin, too much can result in oily skin, clogged pores, and — you guessed it, acne.

Why Might Someone Get Oily Skin?

There are a handful of reasons why oily skin might flare up. These can be chalked up to genetics, environment, experiencing stress, or your age. For one, oily skin flares up during the warmer months and in humid climes. And as you age, you tend to have drier skin and less likelihood of having oily skin (Medical News Today).

Who Is Prone to Oily Skin?

Interestingly enough, males are at higher risk for oily skin. That's because they have a greater likelihood of having enlarged pores.

Females who are premenopausal and are ovulating, or have conditions with elevated androgens — think secreting tumors of the ovaries or adrenal glands, or congenital adrenal hyperplasia — are also more prone to oily skin. (NIH)

According to clinical studies, between 40 and 55 percent of adults aged 20 to 40 are diagnosed with persistent, low-grade acne and greasy skin. Per the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, over half of women older than 25 have facial acne.

The Cost of Treatment

The good news is that getting rid of oily skin doesn't necessarily have to be expensive nor require trips to the dermatologist. You can do a handful of simple remedies you can implement without having to take prescription medication or seeing a doctor. Many of these proven methods are rooted in having a skincare routine and use over-the-counter ingredients — mostly simple and low-cost.

Let's take a closer look at how to get rid of oily skin from the American Academy of Dermatology:

Basic Skin Care Maintenance

If you're curious about how to reduce oily skin, it starts with a basic personal skin care routine. Sticking to a thorough regimen will prevent common skin ailments of oily skin from flaring up in the first place.

Wash your face regularly. First things first. Make a point to wash your face at least twice a day — in the morning and evening. You'll also want to wash your face after exercise. A sweat fest session could undoubtedly lead to clogged pores.

Avoid touching your face. While you might not be touching your face anyway because of COVID, it's good to know that touching your face can spread dirt, oil, and bacteria.

Choosing Skin Care Products

Look for skin products that are oil free. These are easy to spot. Look for skin care products with the phrases "noncomedogenic" or "oil free" on them. Oil free means they won't clog your pores.

Use a gentle, foaming face wash. Gentle is the key word here. What you want to steer clear of are facial cleansers that are oil-based or alcohol-based. While these products might seem more powerful or effective, they could also irritate your skin.

Use a moisturizer. You might be scratching your head, as it seems counterintuitive to apply a facial moisturizing treatment to your oily skin. It's key to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.

To kill two birds with one stone, consider a broad spectrum moisturizer that also has a SPF of 30 plus. UV rays are present even during overcast days, so wear your sunscreen, rain or shine.

Keep blotting papers on hand. Using face blotting papers throughout the day can keep excess shine to a minimum. You can purchase blotting papers online or at your local drug store for a few dollars. Look for one that works well for oily skin, is super absorbent and won't leave a powdery residue. Pro tip: Be careful not to rub the paper on your face. It will induce the spread of oil to other parts.

Makeup Tips for Oily Skin

Use oil-free makeup. Opt for water-based makeup instead. Why's that? Water-based makeup will be easier on your skin, especially if you're prone to breakouts. Plus, it won't contribute any additional grease to your face.

Remove makeup before going to bed. Going to sleep with your makeup still on could clog your pores and lead to acne flaring up. If you tend to neglect doing this every day, weave it into your bedtime routine. Do it right after you brush your teeth.

Try Over-the-Counter Remedies

You'll be pleased to discover that there is no shortage of home-based remedies you can try to prevent greasy skin and avoid clogged pores:

Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is considered a very safe and effective topical treatment of certain skin conditions. For one, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can help with both reducing oily skin and acne. Besides being a natural antiseptic, tea tree also can serve as a natural astringent, which can fight acne and reduce pore size.

A 2016 study reveals that sunscreen with tea tree oil can help reduce greasy skin and decrease the size of pores. Tea tree oil can also decrease skin lesions. It's been proven that using tea tree oil can result in far less incidences with dryness, irritation, itching, and burning.

Salicylic acid. Using a store-bought cleanser that contains salicylic acid can aid in clearing up pores. You can also purchase salicylic acid in its pure form and try your hand at concocting your own cleanser.

Witch hazel. Another common home remedy for skin ailments is witch hazel. As a natural astringent, it can dry out acne lesions. Plus, it can help with the healing of blackheads, whiteheads, and non-inflammatory acne. Witch hazel is safe and can be found over-the-counter either online or at your local drugstore. Try mixing about 1 to 2 teaspoons of witch hazel with water.

Benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide can be found in cleansers and gels. It combats acne by assisting the pores shed dead skin cells and remove excess sebum. What's more, it can also fight inflammatory acne — bumps that get red and swell up — by getting rid of bacteria living on your skin. (Healthline)

Exfoliate Your Skin
The benefits of exfoliating your skin are many: it can dig deep into your pores and remove dead skin cells. However, not safely exfoliating your skin can damage your skin, induce peeling or dryness.

Those with greasy skin should consider using a washcloth and mild chemical exfoliator. You might want to skip using a mechanical exfoliation method — such as using a brush or sponge — it could result in dark patches on your skin. You'll want to be gentle, so no excessive scrubbing, picking at existing acne or digging into problem areas. Last, use a moisturizer. (AAD)

Create a face mask using baking soda. Baking soda has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. A face mask with baking soda can keep your skin dry and pores unclogged. To create a simple yet effective face mask, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda with a gentle cleanser and warm water until it forms a paste.

To exfoliate your skin with baking soda, you can use the same formula as a face mask. The only difference is to wash it off right away. Because baking soda can dry your skin, follow up with a facial cleanser. (Medical News Today)

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting rid of greasy skin. How to reduce oily skin or and prevent your skin's oil from overproducing depends on the individual. There are a bunch of variables that come into play.

That being said, there are plenty of simple remedies using skin care products and ingredients that you can find over the counter. Your best bet is to explore your options. It might take a bit of trial and error, but the time you put into your skin care routine will help you reduce oily skin.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author:

Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer and is based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Salon, Mental Floss, and GOOD. She is a candidate for the ACFPE® financial coaching certification.

Jackie is passionate about helping artists, freelancers, and gig economy workers with their finances. She has in-depth experience writing about budgeting, investing, frugality, money, and relationships, and loves finding interesting stories that revolve around money.

Living Well

Is blue light bad for your skin?

With the emergence of the COVID-19 public health crisis in 2020, millions of working professionals transitioned to a work from home arrangement, and pushed by this huge societal change, health experts began to take a closer look at what the effects of all that screen time has on our overall wellness. With way more hours in front of laptops, televisions, tablets and more, most working professionals were getting far more blue light exposure from their devices. But what is blue light and does it have negative effects on our overall well-being? Let's dive in and find out.

What is blue light?

Instead of the visible spectrum of light (think ROYGBIV!) that is ever-present when we go outside during the daytime, we're getting a dose of a single wavelength of visible light called blue light when our faces are plastered in front of computer screens. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, blue light is a common wavelength of light emitted by fluorescent lights, LED bulbs and smartphone and computer screens. We mostly absorb blue light into our skin through the sun, but the second highest source of this wavelength in our daily lives comes from artificial sources.

When it comes to skin damage, ultraviolet light is what you should really concern yourself with, specifically UVA and UVB rays that cause sunburn, skin cancers and other forms of damage. According to Self Magazine, UVA and UVB occupy wavelengths of light that we can't see, with UVB existing between 280 and 315 nanometers (nm) while UVA exists between 315 and 400 nm. Blue light is on this same spectrum as a form of visible light, and as humans, we can see between 380 nm and 700 nm on the visible spectrum, and blue light clocks in at about 400-490 nm. While blue light is certainly visible, we often see it as white in color, especially from artificial light sources.

There are two things we know for sure about blue light: it can cause eye strain and could alter a person's circadian rhythms. The AAO reports that blue light is one of the leading causes of eye strain, which is why your eyes may hurt if you are in front of a screen for an extended period of time. Ever wonder why doctors say that you should avoid electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime? You guessed it: blue light! Blue light affects the body's circadian rhythm, our body's internal clock that helps us wake up and wind down each day. In the daytime, blue light is what wakes us up and stimulates us, but if blue light exposure is excessive, especially during the late afternoon and nighttime hours, this could contribute to a poor sleep cycle and trouble falling asleep.

As millions of working professionals have transitioned to working from home, blue light exposure has become much more prevalent, and we're spending more time in front of these screens than ever before.

Is blue light bad for your skin?

Taking everything we just learned about visible light and where blue light comes from, the question is, "What does all this exposure mean for our skin." Unfortunately, it's still an open question. According to the New York Times, there have been numerous studies on how blue light differs from UV rays. The news source reports that while UV light causes damage to skin by damaging skin cells directly, extended exposure to blue light actually has the ability to damage collagen in the skin. When blue light is exposed to skin, a chemical in the skin layer called flavin absorbs blue light. This produces unstable oxygen molecules, also known as free radicals, which have the potential to cause skin damage. But with a dearth of long-term studies on this topic, we still don't know the long-term effects of blue light on the skin.

And let's not forget that blue light is a common wavelength used to treat acne through light therapy devices, and many people have found success in clearing up skin imperfections through the use of this drug-free technology. So as evidence continues to pile up on either side of the divide, most dermatologists say that blue light is a complicated issue and one that is still not fully understood.

Given blue light's effects on skin, should I wear sunscreen indoors?

Given how much time we're all spending in front of screens these days, you may be asking yourself, "Should I use sunscreen everyday?" as well as, "What SPF do I use?" Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, but there are a few things you should know if you'll be creating a new "indoor" sun care regimen.

According to the New York Times, one of the best ways to protect yourself from blue light is through the use of mineral sunscreen, specifically ones that contain iron oxide. Mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide are also safe choices that can help protect your skin against prolonged blue light exposure. Products that contain vitamin C are also helpful, as these antioxidants can enter the cells directly and are small enough to penetrate the skin layer to fight the presence of free radicals. If you can find a vitamin C/vitamin E combination, that's an even better choice to double up the fight against free radicals.

When it comes to SPF, use your FSA as a guide! The only sun care products available for FSA spending include those with broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays, and an SPF level of 15 or above. Combining these traits with a mineral sunscreen that is adept at blocking out blue light, and you'll have a solution that works for our continuing pandemic and when it's time to resume our pre-pandemic lives outdoors.

The bottom line is that protecting yourself from blue light comes down to personal preference and how much you are worried about the signs of aging appearing on your skin. Protection against ultraviolet rays when outdoors should always take precedence, but if you find yourself spending long hours in front of screens with no end in sight, now may be the perfect time to take a closer look at your sun care regimen to find a product that gives you peace of mind while we all ride out quarantine together.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Sun Care Center

What you should know about sun care for your lips

No matter what time of year it may be, there are certain parts of your body that will get sunburned before others if you're outdoors for an extended period of time. Your nose and the tops of your shoulders are the usual culprits, but one area we may overlook are our lips! If you've ever had a lip sunburn, you know how painful it can be, but leaving your lips unprotected from the sun's rays can pop up again in bothersome, unexpected ways.

Pay attention to chapped lips

Did you know that one of the biggest contributors to chapped, dry lips is excessive sun exposure? Chapped lips are caused by a lack of moisture in the upper skin layers of the lips, which can result in painful cracks in the skin that can be difficult to heal. According to Healthline, sun exposure can worsen chapped lips, even more if you're sunburned and dehydrated.

To stave off chapped lips and protect your lips from the sun, look for a lip balm that has moisturizing ingredients, as well as an SPF of 15 or above (AAD). Lips are also susceptible to skin cancer, more than any other area of the body. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that the lower lip is approximately 12 times more likely to be affected by skin cancer than other parts of the body, owing to its greater exposure to sunlight. So proper lip sun care isn't just about warding off a sunburn, it is a smart choice for your long-term health.

Handling a lip sunburn

If your lip care lapses on a sunny day and you end up with a lip sunburn, it's going to be a pain in a sensitive place for about 3-5 days! But luckily, most traditional sunburn remedies can help you bounce back quickly. From Healthline:

  • Cold compresses: Cold packs are surefire treatments for all forms of body inflammation and your lips are no different. If your lips are especially sensitive, wrap the compress in a towel to avoid numbing the skin.
  • Moisturizers: As tempting as it may be to use lidocaine products and other cooling sunburn treatments, the risk of ingesting them after treating your lips is too high to risk. Moisturizers are the best choice, namely those with natural ingredients like vitamin E, coconut oil, or almond oil that can jumpstart the healing process.
  • Anti-inflammatories: In addition to good old-fashioned cold therapy, a smart way to fight inflammation is to take a pain relief like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) that is a pain reliever AND an anti-inflammatory to bring down swelling.
  • Aloe vera: If you have an aloe vera plant in your home, break a branch open! The cooling gel in these plants is a natural cure for skin burns and rashes, and can provide a measure of relief for bad sunburns.

Last but not least, what to avoid:

As we mentioned above, skip the lidocaine products that you could ingest with a lip sunburn, as well as any oily products that can trap heat instead of allowing the area to heal.

But the best defense against a lip sunburn is to use lip balm with an SPF of 15 or above, and there are plenty of options to be had with your FSA funds.

Sun Care Center

Your summer of sun, sand and skin cancer prevention starts now

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off to summer, and there's a good chance you'll be spending time in the sun and we want to give you a gentle reminder to keep yourself - and your family - protected.

We don't have to remind you of how serious cancer is. But skin cancer is highly treatable if detected early. This is why dermatologists across the U.S. use this month's initiative to encourage people to perform self-checks all summer long.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people perform a thorough, step-by-step self-examination every month, so you can find any suspicious marks or growths. Of course, if you spot anything suspicious, see a doctor.

Early detection of a new mole or skin growth can mean the difference between a quick procedure and something potentially more serious. Remember, self-examination is only the first step. So, check early and often, and contact a doctor if something doesn't seem right.

Speaking of which, visiting the dermatologist to check for skin cancer qualifies as an FSA- and HSA-eligible service, since it would be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent a medical condition.

Take advantage of free skin cancer screenings

If you can't get a dermatologist appointment in your town (or wherever you're spending the summer) within a reasonable amount of time, some doctors volunteer their time to offer free screenings throughout the year.

Programs like SPOTme, run by the American Academy of Dermatology, are available in many different locations, and can give you a thorough body check in a private setting, usually in a location nearby.

Prevention starts with you

Regular checks for skin cancer are vital, but don't overlook proper year-round sun care. If you want to use your HSA to help offset the costs of necessary sun protection products, you can pick up a wide range of HSA-eligible sunscreens, lip balms and more from our store!

Living Well

Real Money: Why you might want to stop putting off medical specialist visits

A few weeks ago, I was running late for my dermatology appointment and for the third time that day, I questioned why I was at the doctor's office at all. It felt like a hassle — making the appointment, driving across town to the office and finding parking. But once I sat down with my doctor and the skin check began, I remembered why I prioritize these appointments.

Three years ago, my primary care physician suggested that I see a dermatologist because I'm prone to freckles. I made the first appointment with my dermatologist and had my first skin check.

Two years ago, I had two moles removed due to my doctor's concerns that they might be cancerous. It turned out that the moles were benign and my skin was healthy. Last year, I went for another annual check-up with my dermatologist and got a clean bill of health. This year wasn't quite as simple.

At my most recent appointment, my doctor told me that there was a small bump on my face that she needed to remove. She removed a tiny sliver from the bump that she could send to the lab for a biopsy.

I'm still waiting for the results, but I know that no matter what the doctors say, I did the right thing by acting early. Even if the skin is cancerous, it can easily be removed without scarring. But I might not have been so lucky if I had skipped my annual dermatologist appointment.

Here are some of the doctor's appointments I plan to make this year, along with some reasons why you might want to consider doing the same. Remember, you can use your FSA to pay for them!


I might be biased, but if you have a history of skin cancer in your family, use (or used to use) tanning beds or have an unusual amount of moles or freckles, then it's probably a good idea to see a dermatologist for a check-up. Even if you don't have any concerns about sun damage, dermatologists can also help with acne, rashes, breakouts and any other skin concerns.

2. Dentist

Whether you have pain in your mouth or just need a six-month cleaning, it's important to visit your dentist at least every six months. Not only does your dentist take x-rays, clean your teeth and check for cavities, he or she will also check on your gum health. The longer you wait to visit, the more pronounced potential problems might become.

By staying on track and visiting every six months, you'll increase your chances of a clean bill of dental health and decrease your chances of receiving a big financial bill.

3. Optometrist

Whether you wear glasses or not, it's important to get an eye exam every 1-2 years. Regular eye exams will make sure that your eyesight doesn't get worse without treatment. Plus, it's always fun to see how well you can read the chart! Don't wait until you start getting headaches or can't see your notes in a meeting to make it happen. After all, the best defense is a good offense.

4. Therapist

Overall health includes both physical and mental well-being. In other words, it's important to prioritize your mental health too. Whether you've been feeling down lately or are experiencing some low-level anxiety, it might be a good idea to check in with a therapist.

There's a misconception that therapy is something that lasts for years on end, but the truth is that you might just need a quick check-in or tune-up. Either way, be sure to take care of your mental well-being.

5. Primary care physician

Yeah, I know - we're cheating. But, even though your primary care physician isn't necessarily a specialist, it's just as important to make (and keep) your appointments with your primary doctor. Annual wellness exams are an important part of preventative care because your doctor might be able to see things that you haven't noticed yet.

No one wants unnecessary doctors' visits. But medical specialists exist for a reason and it's important to prioritize every part of your health. Plus, doctors' appointments and any associated copays are FSA-eligible. In other words, making a specialized medical appointment should be an easy "no-brainer" -- don't potentially put your health at risk by putting them off.


Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Tips for handling winter scrapes and bruises

The winter can be a dangerous season for a number of reasons—unpredictable driving conditions, icy roads to walk, frigid temps causing numbness and frostbite, and snow shoveling is known to cause back pain injuries.

But some things people should consider more closely are the everyday bumps and scrapes that can occur without even knowing it. Because of cold temperatures and numb skin, it's important to pay extra close attention to what you may brush up against when outdoors, in case you accidentally cut yourself.

In fact, you could unknowingly be putting your body at risk while taking part in fun winter activities—like engaging in snowball fights, ice-skating, sledding, and even taking down holiday decorations.

A few common (and not-so-common) causes of winter scrapes

Winter cuts and scrapes can come from anywhere. Even the most enjoyable moments of your season:

  • Holiday tree needles, branches, and prickly evergreen wreaths scrape your skin when putting them up (and more likely, when you take them down and throw them out.)
  • Splinters from chopping and handling firewood.
  • De-icing your windshield with a scraper.
  • Chapped hands rubbing against rough surfaces.

And this isn't just about doing work. Whether it's you or your kids, there are sharp, abrasive things everywhere you look:

  • The rails of a sled.
  • The blades of your recently sharpened ice skates.
  • Falling while playing ice hockey.
  • If you're lucky, crashing into others while sledding will probably cause a few bumps and bruises—big crashes could put you in the emergency room—yikes!

How to prepare for winter mishaps

1. Have a First Aid kit at home, in your car, and in your travel bag. Ideally, it would be packed with a saline solution, bandages, gauze, and even skin closure packs to help a cut stick together and heal.

2. Be extra careful when dealing with cuts and scrapes if you've had a cold or the flu lately. Being sick could slow down the body's healing process, and of course, you want to make sure nothing nasty comes in contact with the wound.

5. If your hands are cracked and bleeding due to dry skin, make sure you're applying lotion after you wash them, and limiting showers to 10 minutes with warm water so you don't cause dry them out even more.


First Aid Kit

Everything you need to respond in an emergency situation in one easy-to-access pack.


Cover up those scrapes and cuts to protect pesky bacteria from entering open wounds.

Living Well

How to slay your post-Movember beard game (and keep your skin in check)

Alright, Movember is coming to a close. And kudos to you for growing those things out in honor of men's health awareness! But let's -- ahem -- face facts. Your beard is probably getting a little rough-looking.

If you plan on losing the late fall fur, read on for some tips to groom that thing down, or whack it entirely.

1. Pick your moment, man

If you're a little hairier than most, then there's a good chance your skin hasn't seen the light of day since the beginning of the month. Yes, if you went full-lumberjack, that includes your neck, friends.

If you shave mid-week you might have some seriously sensitive skin, thanks to a month free of your Gillette. With sensitive skin comes razor burn and ingrown hairs, which doesn't make for a fresh look the next day.

To avoid this, be sure to prep that beard properly with grooming products, and give your skin some adequate moisture after shaving. Maybe you should plan to do it on a Friday, so your skin has a chance to recover before Monday morning.

2. Trim that thing

If your beard grew a little longer than you planned, don't try to clear it with a few passes of your razor. Otherwise, there will be blood! (Or at least a nasty rash.) The best way to take care of your lengthy beard is to trim it down with a good set of clippers.

Yes, you could go to a barber and have him handle the entire process. But where's the fun in that?

Once that beard is down to stubble, it's time to prep.

3. Get your skin ready for a long overdue shave

One Google search for "proper shave techniques" will bring you a load of results, so it's best for you to just choose the one that works for you. However, one thing almost everyone agrees upon is that it's always best to shave when facial hair is softened and your pores are wide open.

In other words, if you shave before your shower, you might be doing it backwards. Instead, take a hot shower, be sure to get your face nice and wet. Then, either shave in the shower, or at the sink right after.

(That's the bathroom sink, guys. Don't ruin dinner.)

Oh, a little tip from a guy who knows? Try to avoid aerosol-based shave gels and creams. The aerosol can dry out your skin over time, leading to rougher, more-irritating shaves down the line.

4. Anything one can do, three can do better

Now that companies are releasing razors with double-digit blade counts, we've gotten used to shaving our faces quickly, in one pass. But all those extra blades are doing is removing precious layers of skin. Then, when you start hacking away at those stubborn hairs in tough spots, you're actually rubbing multiple blades on one spot, way too many times!

What you want to do instead is give your face a fighting chance against razor burn, but using fewer strokes. Next time you shave, pull your skin tight with your "non-razor" hand, then do one pass going in the direction of the hair growth. Next, do a second going across the grain. Then, if needed, do a final pass with slow, easy strokes against the grain.

By the time three passes are done, your face will be as smooth as promised, with less irritation to get in the way of that baby-smooth skin.

5. Step up your post-shave routine

Alcohol is bad for your skin. Okay, let us rephrase. Alcohol-based aftershaves are bad for your skin. Much like aerosol does in the shave cream, alcohol will dry your face like leftover turkey.

The first thing you should do after this monumental Movember shave -- or any shave for that matter -- is use cold water. Like ice cold. After a shave using pore-cleansing hot water, the ice-cold follow-up will tighten the skin and soothe any burns.

Then, to ensure you didn't rob your skin of too much natural moisture, find an alcohol-free aftershave or gentle cleanser to heal your skin, and make you smell better in the process.

Oh, if you cut yourself, a little styptic pencil attention will help heal that nicked skin. It burns a little, but helps a lot. Just remember it's for nicks, not gushing wounds -- don't be a hero.

Your Movember (or No-Shave November) beard did a lot to raise awareness. And we commend you for taking part in such a worthy cause. But if your job (or partner… or mother … or concerned friend…) tells you it has to go, make sure you don't hurt your skin in the process. Use these tips and welcome in December with your best-possible skin game on display.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

For beautiful skin, cleanse it with non-irritating, soap-free Cetaphil.

Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy Lotion

Specially formulated to help heal extremely dry, rough and problem skin.

Living Well

How to fight dry skin this winter

One type of skin care regimen may work in the spring and summer months, but dry skin can be a nuisance in the winter. Fight dry skin with an FSA!

One type of skin care regimen may work in the spring and summer months, but dry skin can be a nuisance in the winter. Without proper winter skin care, dry skin can accentuate fine lines and wrinkles.Over time, it can begin to flake, crack and even bleed in some places. A new season calls for a new skin care regimen and is here to help!

Here are the most important steps to take to fight dry skin this winter:

Revamp your shower routine

Showering is a daily necessity, but you can take the proper steps to ensure that it does not harm your skin over time. Avoid extremely hot water that could harm your skin, use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that won't irritate your skin and carefully blot rather than rubbing your skin with a towel to dry off. Most importantly, after each shower when your pores are open, use a moisturizer. This can trap excess moisture and reduce the likelihood of skin drying out.

Shop for this Holiday bundle from MDSolarSciences for optimum skin protection!

Embrace lip balm

No one likes having chapped lips, and they can be a continual nuisance throughout the winter months if you don't use lip balm religiously. This can help shield the skin on your lips during cold, dry days, and support their underlying health. Look for lip balms that contain Vitamin E and aloe vera to soothe and even the appearance of skin tone. And just because it's winter, you shouldn't forget sun protection!

Look for a sun protective lip balm- as long as it's SPF 15 or above, it is eligible for FSA reimbursement.

Use unscented skin products

When shopping for moisturizers and other skin care products, it's important to remember that some ingredients are not applicable to everyone's skin types. For instance, some ingredients like alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) are too harsh for dry, sensitive skin. Read product labels carefully to avoid these additives, and instead opt for unscented moisturizers that utilize natural ingredients.

Check out the La Roche Posay Mineral Tinted Suncreen for year-round sun protection of your face.

Check out Vichy Ultra Light Sunscreen for year-round sun care.

Use a humidifier

In most modern homes, humidifiers are attached to home heating systems. A home humidifier is a great option to raise the relative humidity in the spaces you use. Humidifiers can help alleviate your dry skin issues!

For every health issue that winter throws at you this season, rely on to keep you and your loved ones healthy!

MDSolarSciences Bundle

Experience a trio of our best-selling products for everyday wear.

Living Well

5 outdoor sun safety tips for winter

Wondering about sun safety during the year? Read our post about 5 outdoor sun safety tips for winter on the blog. 

For the vast majority of Americans, winter is a time of year when we're trying to keep warm rather than worrying about sun care, but good sun care is important all year! Ultraviolet rays that contribute to sunburns and the formation of skin cancers are ever-present throughout winter, and they are just as dangerous now as during the spring and summer. Going to hit the slopes or do some work outdoors?

WearSun Protection lip balm

Lips can become chapped very easily during the winter months with dry air, wind and snow constantly pelting your face. This skin is very sensitive and can dry out and burn very easily after being exposed to sunlight, so make sure to wear a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher with moisturizing benefits to support the underlying skin.

Shop for SPF Lip Balm at

Use broad spectrum sunscreen - and re-apply!

During extended time outdoors, make sure to use broad spectrum sunscreen that can safeguard skin against UVA and UVB radiation, which is the source of sunburns and aids in the development of skin cancer. Use a sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, and apply 30 minutes before heading outdoors. Be aware that snow and strong winds can reduce the efficacy of sunscreen, so re-apply every 2 hours.

Shop for Broad Spectrum Sunscreen at

Shop our Dermatological Sunscreens

Shop for Mineral Sunscreen from MDSolarSciences

Use moisturizing sun protection

The winter weather can wreak havoc on your skin, which can lead to dry, peeling and painful skin that can linger throughout the season. When shopping for sunscreens, make sure you pick one with moisturizing ingredients, such as lanolin or glycerin. This is an easy way to support your skin health and stay protected from UV rays.

Shop for Aveeno at

Cover exposed skin

Because of cold temperatures, there's a good chance that most of your skin will be covered throughout winter. However, there are some trouble spots to keep in mind. First, make an effort to cover your head to protect your scalp from sun damage, as well as wearing sunglasses or goggles that can block out 99 percent or greater of UV rays. The skin around the eyes is a common site for skin cancers and sun-inducted aging, so make sure this area is protected all winter long.

Be mindful of reflected UV rays

Many skiers and snowboarders have learned the hard way about the reflective nature of snow and ice, as about 80 percent of UV rays will reflect back up to the nose and face and can cause sunburns. As such, it's vital to apply sunscreen to parts of the body we would normally overlook, such as underneath the nose and chin where those reflective rays will hit. Of course, always remember to re-apply every few hours to maintain your skin's sun protection.

Improve your sun care regimen and make the most of your healthcare benefits at! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to keep you and your family healthy year-round.