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( — Let’s face it: we as a people like to look fly. We put a lot into our appearances. We go to the hairdresser or barber on a regular basis, we get manicures and pedicures (yes, men too), and we do our best to keep our skin golden and luminous. That’s why are there are so many products on shop shelves that target us.

Unfortunately, many of these items aren’t subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can be quite costly. Instead of dropping a small fortune on a product that may or may not work, here are a few easy habits to incorporate into your daily routine to maintain healthy skin:

Wash your skin with gentle cleansers. Some soaps and cleansers have alcohol, dyes and fragrances that can strip your skin of its natural oils, making it feel dry and scaly. Try mild soaps and body washes that moisturize, especially if you live in a low-humidity climate. Since hot water can also dry out the skin, use warm water for bathing. Set your timer: a 10-minute soak can help hydrate if you lock in moisture with lotion as soon as you get out, but lingering longer in the tub can have the opposite effect.

Moisturize daily. Moisturizers can help your skin stay supple; that lotion you slather on puts down a barrier that seals in skin’s natural moisture. Your best bet is to find a moisturizer with a minimum SPF of 15 for double-duty sun protection.

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Use razor-sharp care. To avoid irritation, shave after showering and use a rich shaving gel or cream, not your bath soap. Minimize your risk of developing dry skin and folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) by shaving carefully. Use new razor blades or an electric razor and shave in the direction in which the hair grows.

Protect skin from the sun. Most black people think that we don’t need to protect our skin from the sun, but that simply isn’t true. The sun emits ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, which can severely damage your skin, causing wrinkles, premature aging and skin cancer. Using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen is one of the best ways to maintain healthy skin. Wearing protective clothing, staying in the shade and avoiding direct sun exposure between late morning and early afternoon will keep your healthy skin even healthier.

Don’t smoke. The detrimental effects of smoking involve most of your body, including the skin. A recent study showed that smokers are more than three times more likely to develop skin cancer than nonsmokers, and cigarette smoking can also cause wrinkles.

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