In my skin care practice, I am frequently asked about the best way to take care of skin. There is a ton of advice out there and it can be hard to sort through it all. What I am sharing below is what has worked for me, personally, and for many of my clients. Some of it may sound simple or obvious, but I truly believe that getting back to the basics is the best approach for getting skin on the road to health and maintaining already healthy skin. These tips can assist in treating a current skin care condition, but more importantly can help in preventing skin issues in the first place.
It is important to note, however, that everyone's bodies and skin are different and what works for one person, might not work the same for another, but there are things that we can all do to help support our skin, its health and its functions.
1. Get your beauty sleep.
This is obvious, but so important. While we sleep, our skin is regenerating and repairing itself from the stresses of the day (environmental irritants, physical stress, etc.). It is when we sleep that our skin fights off the free radicals that cause the aging process. Lack of sleep also causes a rise in the bodies level of cortisol, a stress hormone, that contributes to accelerating the aging process and acne. Not getting enough rest also makes skin more susceptible to conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
2. Chug-a-Lug the H2O - but only as much as you need.
Drinking enough pure water and keeping the body hydrated assists the skin in eliminating toxins. If the body is not eliminating these toxins properly, they can begin to be purged through the skin, which can cause or contribute to conditions such as acne or eczema. Water also carries nutrients to support healthy skin cells. When the body is properly hydrated, it can help your skin to stay hydrated (along with a proper skin care regime). Drinking adequate amounts of water can also help to alleviate dark circles under the eyes, which are frequently caused by the body being dehydrated. Some professionals recommend drinking 8 glasses a day, however, my thoughts are that you should drink to thirst. Listen to your body as to how much water to take in. In addition to pure water, the fluid intake can also be in the form of natural juices or herbal teas. Also remember that you may need to drink extra water if you have been exercising or drinking beverages containing caffeine or alcohol.
3. Work that body.
Regular exercise improves the circulation in your body, which, in turn, carries needed nutrients to your skin. The increased circulation also assists in carrying oxygen to the skin cells, which creates an optimal environment for healthier looking skin. Exercise also increases sweating, which assists in effectively purging toxins from your skin (be sure to gently cleanse your skin after working out to remove the toxins that have worked their way out in the sweat). Try to fit in at least a half hour a day of exercise that works up a sweat (please check with your doctor first to make sure this is appropriate for you).
Finding a regular way to de-stress from the craziness of life can do wonders for your skin. So many skin conditions are caused or worsened by daily stress. Regular times of relaxation help to relax facial muscles, lessening the appearance of wrinkles. Relaxing also helps to lower stress hormone levels (cortisol) that can create a myriad of skin troubles (see #1). Try different types of relaxation techniques - such as yoga, tai chi, breathing techniques or simply sitting in nature - until you find one (or more) that resonates with you. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference in the appearance of your skin as well as your entire outlook on life. These daily breaks can also allow time for reflection on what emotional issues may be causing skin conditions. I swear by Kundalini yoga and playing outdoors with my kids.
5. Nourish your body.
With hectic schedules, it is hard to eat healthy. Believe me, I know. But we all gotta splurge sometimes - I feel it is part of living a balanced, flexible and fulfilling life. But it is also important to make sure your skin gets the nutrients it needs each day to function properly. This is done by nourishing your body with healthy foods every day - most notably, raw fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable juices, raw nuts and leafy greens. These foods are loaded with antioxidants that help to fight off the free radicals in the body that cause the aging process. They also help the body to naturally cleanse and detoxify itself. Personally, I also include dairy (mostly cheese and yogurt), as well as lean meat and fish in my diet, as my body seems to work better with that program of nourishment. But please take your own needs into consideration. Some may be allergic to certain foods that can actually make skin conditions worse. Whatever your dietary preferences or requirements, choosing the healthiest foods can really assist in your skin's health.
6. Consider supplements.
While I am not an avid proponent of taking many supplements a day, there are three that I think make sense for a well-rounded skin care regime. First, if you feel you may not be getting your required daily intake of vitamins or minerals, it can be helpful to add a multivitamin to your day. Second, adding a good quality fish oil supplement can assist your skin's health by supplying yummy Omega 3 essential fatty acids. These fatty acids help to regulate skin's cellular function, keeping it smooth and supple. They also help to decrease inflammation in the body that can lead to conditions such as psoriasis or acne (which I am SUPER prone to). Third, adding a daily probiotic to your diet can help to prevent or resolve many skin care issues. Probiotics help to maintain the proper levels of "friendly bacteria" in the body. These friendly guys/gals help the body to more effectively absorb nutrients, as well as creating a supportive barrier against pollutants and allergens that enter the body. You can also get good probiotics from simply eating yogurt or other naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir.
7. Stick to a good skin care regime.
Much of the health of your skin is based on genetics and lifestyle factors, but there is also an external component. It is important to find a skin care regime that suits both your skin and your lifestyle. My approach is always "less is more." There are so many companies trying to market infinite products to slap on your face each day. In my opinion, more products equals more ingredients, which equals more stuff that your skin and body has to process each day. A twice a day skin care plan including gentle cleansing, exfoliation (1-2 times a week), toner and a protective moisturizer (with SPF during the day) is a perfect plan. Additional products, such as facial oils, masks and targeted treatments, can be added on to treat specific concerns, such as acne or anti-aging, but keep extra products to a minimum. It is also a great idea (and a nice indulgence!) to get either a professional facial or perform an at-home facial once a month (or weekly/biweekly for stubborn skin care issues).
8. Use safe, quality products.
It is important to use good, quality products on your skin. What we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies. Many products these days are touting themselves as "natural" or "organic," but this can be deceiving as the FDA regulations for using these terms are still evolving. I frequently reference Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews to get safety information on cosmetics from moisturizer to toothpaste. The database includes hundreds of products on the shelves and gives them a safety rating from 1 to 10. Try it out to find out how the products you are currently using rate. The database also gives recommendations for alternative products that might be of a higher safety rating. Making your own products or shopping with a natural cosmetic handcrafter can help to ensure that your products are safe and pure.
9. See a qualified doctor or dermatologist for chronic, severe or serious conditions.
I truly believe in a holistic approach to skin. Many skin care concerns can be handled at home using natural approaches. However, if you have a skin condition that is chronic or getting worse, please see a doctor or dermatologist. This is also important for those who may be genetically prone to skin cancer. Yearly skin checkups can detect problems early on and if you see any suspicious moles, please, please, please make an appointment asap.
10. Embrace your skin.
We are all our worst critics. We see things when looking in the mirror that other people will never notice (ditch those magnifying mirrors, by the way!). It is so important to the health of our skin that we accept it, love it and care for it the best we can. Embrace every inch of it, including what you may view as imperfection, as part of the whole of you - as evidence of a life that is being lived!
Two other obvious items that I did not include on this list are to stop smoking (it really, really is bad for your skin) and to practice safe sunning (stay out of the sun during the peak times of 10am to 3pm, use a daily natural SPF and protect your skin with clothing, hats, parasols, etc).
I hope that you find this information helpful. If you are already doing most of these things - FABULOUS! If not, try to incorporate one thing at a time into your healthy skin care lifestyle until it becomes a regular part.
Many blessings to you and your skin!