November is National Healthy Skin Month and as we approach the new year, there is no better time than now to be reminded of how important it is to take care of our largest and most important organ of our body: our skin! While our skin and its healthy function play such a vital role in our health, it is also the most vulnerable portion of our bodies and it takes intentional actions to protect it. Skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers worldwide. Genetics, time and sun exposure all play a role in our risk of developing an issue in our lifetime; however, there are certain steps that we can take to minimize some of those risks on our own.
Dr. James Allred at Wellskin Dermatology & Aesthetics in Gallatin knows all too well the dangers of unhealthy skin and has dedicated his lifetime of professional work to helping people understand how to better take care of their skin as a way to take control of their entire wellness in the process. Dr. Allred says it’s that balance, with the skin being a window into the rest of an individual’s health, is also where the name Wellskin came from. Dr. Allred is also very intentional in making the distinction between someone’s health and his/her overall well-being. “Traditionally, health in the west has been viewed simply as the absence of disease--for example, a person is healthy if they don't have something like a broken bone or depression. While this is true, wellness takes things a step further and says not only do we want you to be disease-free, but we want your body, mind, and spirit to be at its peak and optimal state,” says Dr. Allred. Taking care of our skin is one of the most important things we can do for our overall health and wellness.
While there are different risks in the summer months and the winter months, Dr. Allred says there are some things we can do year-round to minimize our risk factors, both in the summer and winter months. There are also some common (and dangerous) misconceptions about the sun’s effect on our skin that we all need to know, as well. First, a base tan, and having that mindset, is actually quite dangerous and damaging. “We have found that the number of bad sunburns a person gets is the most important risk factor in developing skin cancers. Those intense burns are really dangerous, so I plead with my patients to avoid the myth of a healthy base tan because that is really just putting gasoline on the fire,” he says. That being said, Dr. Allred says that another misconception he sees is that many people delay being seen by a dermatologist when they have potential skin cancer because they believe that all skin cancers are a death sentence; but, that’s quite the contrary, he says. “The good news is that the vast majority of skin cancers are really treatable in fairly simple ways, sometimes in just a few minutes. We should pay attention to our skin because skin cancer is dangerous and time is the most important variable. In the majority of cases, if we catch something early then the treatment is usually less invasive and more successful,” says Dr. Allred.
While it’s true that sunburns mostly occur in the summer, the winter months also pose a problem for vulnerable skin in a myriad of other ways, too. A number of conditions tend to flare in the winter, such as eczema, dry skin, and psoriasis, which all can lead to even more serious issues if not treated. While medications are sometimes indicated for a few of these chronic ailments, Dr. Allred says many times using a simple moisturizer like Eucerin or CeraVe (or virgin coconut oil for those who want to be more natural) can ward off or reduce the majority of these conditions.
What about other tips that we can do to help ourselves? Sunscreen can be used daily both for protection and as a normal moisturizer. Next, a retinol or retinoid cream can be used to promote the healthy synthesis of new collagen which tightens skin, reduces blemishes and fades dark marks. And third, maintain a healthy and intentional skincare routine with high-quality products and procedures like regularly-scheduled hydrafacials and microneedling that help promote long-term skin health.
These are some of the many plans and treatments that Wellskin helps with patients, as well. As Dr. Allred points out, “Wellskin is unique in that we are backed by a board-certified dermatologist, so skin is our only thing. I spent years training in dermatology, studying the skin even on a microscopic level, so have a deep understanding of the skin and what treatments work. The main difference for us is what we call "cosmedical" where we have the understanding of skin disease and medicines, but can also layer on the cosmetic procedures (like hydrafacials and chemical peels and injectables) that can help restore a patient to skin wellness.”
Wellskin continues to shine as a leader in our area to help keep all of us safe, healthy and well. While being a local and privately-owned business in Gallatin, Dr. Allred and his staff continue to find ways to give back to our community and support a number of local organizations. Wellskin is a proud sponsor of the Gallatin Miracle League, as well as HolidayFest, which supports a number of charities including the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In addition, they also support and sponsor multiple children to help send them to Camp Discovery–a camp where kids with uncommon and/or severe skin diseases can meet and interact with kids with similar challenges. Dr. Allred was a camp counselor during his residency training and is still passionate to this day about helping kids meet their full potential.
While National Healthy Skin Month is a time to reevaluate our own actions, revise plans and modify behaviors, it is also a reminder for us to be thankful for the amazing, local resources we have here in Gallatin available to guide us along as we continue our journey to full health and total wellness!