Do not over strip your skin! When I first discovered exfoliation in my early 20’s, I thought it was the best thing ever. Which unfortunately led me to do it a LOT. Meaning, daily. For years. While I saw initial improvement in my skin, over time that faded away. We get stuck in a mindset that it is our job to do all these things to our skin- cleanse, exfoliate, mask, peel, do, do, DO! When in actuality, our skin is pretty good at maintaining itself with minimal upkeep. Yes, there is a place for products, ideally a few very high quality ones.
Cleansing– Personally, I only cleanse my face once a day. I don’t need to wash my face in the morning, and prefer to just rinse with water, apply a toner, and follow with my daytime moisturizer. When I do cleanse at night, I always use a creamy cleanser. If you have dry skin, you do NOT need to be using a foaming gel cleanser. Your skin should not feel tight after you cleanse your face. I used to scrub the heck out my skin when I washed my face, and after patting dry, my skin was so tight I felt like I couldn’t even move it. That is exactly what you don’t want. Your skin should feel clean, refreshed, but still hydrated.
Exfoliating– You do not need to exfoliate every day. Currently, I exfoliate about once a week, longer if I can stand it. Since I am a recovering over-exfoliator, I still crave the super soft, fresh skin that exfoliating brings. But I’ve cut back a lot, and my skin has only looked better because of it. When it comes to cleansing and exfoliating, it’s important to understand that your skin has a natural protective layer called the acid mantle. This is where the skin maintains it’s proper pH, which is naturally on the acidic side. When our acid mantle is intact and properly balanced, our skin functions optimally. Unfortunately, we humans like to go messing up everything that nature designed, right down to our own faces. We wash with harsh cleansers, apply astringents, exfoliate, scrub, and oftentimes finish all that with a nice slathering of petroleum products. All of these aggressive and unnatural habits just keep throwing our skin out of whack. I was taught in school that it takes the skin 24 hours to return to it’s natural pH. Guess what you’ve done in that 24 hours? Probably washed your face twice already. Your skin doesn’t even have a chance to regulate itself!
Use quality products. Unless you’re naturally blessed with perfect skin, you’ll know it does take a bit of work to have lovely skin- in many regards- but primarily diet and topical products. I’m going to break it to you- you’re not getting a quality product if it’s from the supermarket, department store, or drugstore (unless it’s in the natural section, which even still is not great for skincare products). I can’t tell you how many women come to me, in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, that have been using Clinique or Olay their whole life, and now would like to try something different and see some change in their skin. Change is always possible, but man, it’s a heck of a lot harder when so much damage has already been done. I know it can be hard to decipher what’s quality and what’s not. Price is often a good indicator, but then there are fancy products out there that are very pricey and not quality at all. Fortunately, all products will come with a list of ingredients, and once you know some of the big offenders you’ll be better able to see if something really is just a bunch of crap.
I always, ALWAYS spend the extra money for high quality, organic skincare products. All I’ve got is this one face, for the rest of my life. I don’t want to cut corners and regret it in the future. I’ll cut corners elsewhere, but not on my face- the one part of me everyone sees, every day. The absolute, number one, best way to fight aging and damaged skin is prevention! Don’t wait til it’s already happened. Strive to maintain healthy, nourished skin especially in your 20’s and 30’s so that your skin is better prepared to handle the changes it will inevitably encounter later on. It’s a lot easier to water a plant regularly than it is to try to bring it back to life when it’s wilting and brown. We all have priorities for where our money goes. I look at all the areas of my life where I don’t spend money. I don’t have a TV and cable, I hardly drink, I don’t smoke, and I hardly spend money on gas. What I do spend money on is healthy, organic food, high quality supplements, and amazing skincare products. That’s just how it is. I deserve those things, for my health, and it’s not ever going to change.
Eat Clean. If you want to see improvement in your skin, you’ve got to look at what you’re putting in your body. This is another topic that I really want to lay out clearly. I have clients that say they eat well, but to them that means drinking diet soda and having a takeout salad with ranch for lunch. Just for the record, that is bad. VERY bad.
My diet doesn’t fit into any one category. If I had to choose one, it would be considered Paleo. I do eat meat (not often), I eat a ton of veggies and fruit, and minimal processed foods. I eat some dairy, again minimal.
Diet is another place you really want to strive for quality. Here are some guidelines:
meat– organic, grass fed, free range.
dairy– toxins accumulate in animal fat and milk, so you really want to get organic here. Unpasteurized or at least non-homogenized is even better. Some will disagree, but I believe in food the way nature intended it. I also will always choose whole milk dairy products over reduced fat for the same reason.
fats- our bodies need healthy fats, and it’s really important for our skin as well. I try to eat fish at least once a week, usually salmon or sardines. The only oils I use are organic unrefined coconut oil, olive oil, and irish grass-fed butter. Vegetable oils are cheap and highly processed. You don’t need them.
vegetables– Eat as many vegetables as you can possibly stand. Preferably organic. Check out any “dirty dozen” list to see which are ok to buy conventional.
grains– I don’t eat many grains anymore, but if I do it’s usually brown rice, millet, quinoa, and oats.
supplements– read more here.
Foods to Avoid
sugar– it’s pretty much the devil when it comes to your skin. Stay away. Don’t use sugar substitutes like splenda to replace sugar. Avoid aspartame like the plague. Healthier alternatives to sugar are honey, maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar, and rapadura sugar- these are at least made in nature and not a lab.
refined wheat flour– again, the devil. Whole wheat is slightly better, but I’d suggest cutting out wheat altogether. There are plenty of alternatives these days with the popularity of gluten-free foods.
caffeine– caffeine spikes cortisol levels in our bodies, which can cause hormonal imbalance, which can cause acne. If you can handle it, fine, but remind yourself to drink extra water if you’re choosing coffee.
Some more hints for healthy eating:
-Shop the outside edges of the supermarket. Everything in the middle is likely processed, packed with preservatives and sugar, and therefore unnecessary in your diet.
-Beware of “food products”. If it doesn’t resemble one real food item, it’s probably got non-food items in it. Look at the ingredients. If it contains coloring, flavoring, and things you can’t pronounce, it is not real food.
Reduce Stress. Stress can absolutely contribute to skin problems. It’s a sneaky one to tackle because unlike products and diet, there’s not always an exact adjustment we can make in order to see results. Sometimes life is just stressful and there’s not a lot we can do to change it, but there are still things we can do to help. Try some of these to calm your nerves.
-a hot bath with candles and relaxing music
-a massage or facial
Don’t forget to practice gratitude and maintain a healthy attitude. We attract what we believe, so make it a good belief.
And that’s it! That’s my three-tiered approach to healthy skin.
1. A proper skincare routine
2. A healthy diet
3. A healthy lifestyle