The tricky thing about what I do - research, review, recommend - is that I can't possibly appeal to every single person's skin care issues with every single product. It just doesn't work that way. What works for some, even the majority, won't work for everyone. Even the world's most effective medications don't work 100% of the time. There are always exceptions to the rule, and in skin care perhaps more so.
However, there are always general skin care "rules" that apply to everyone, everywhere, all the time. If you want clear, healthy, beautiful skin, there's a few things that we should all do as the basis of our skin care routine.
1. Keep Your Barrier Up
I've talked a lot about healing a damaged moisture barrier here and here. Dryness, itchiness, irritation - they're all signs of a damaged moisture barrier, and nobody can have healthy skin without a healthy moisture barrier. Ensuring that your skin is getting the proper tools it needs to function well won't mean much if your skin is broken and damaged. This should be everyone's top priority whenever dealing with any skin issues.
This should go without saying, but I'm going to say it until I'm blue (not red, because I've worn my sunscreen - hehe) in the face. Sun protection is so, so important, not just for the obvious reasons like skin cancer prevention, but also for skin damage caused by the sun's harmful UV rays. Free radical damage on the skin can lead to worsened skin conditions like acne, rosacea, dermatitis, etc. Not to mention it can also leave your skin dry, wrinkled, uneven, and just plain unhealthy.
And don't think that just because you live in a cold climate where the sun doesn't "shine" all the time that you can get away with not wearing sunscreen. You should still be wearing it through the winter, or practicing safe sun exposure.
Regular sunscreen use will help keep your skin looking even, youthful, and healthy, no matter who you are.
3. Eat Skin-Healthy Foods
Skin-healthy foods include fatty acids like nuts and seeds, high antioxidant foods like fruits and teas, protein-rich foods like chickpeas and lentils, greens, root vegetables, etc. The bulk of your diet should come from whole-foods, although it's of course okay to eat processed foods from time to time. Ensuring we are eating well and consistently will not only help us to feel better overall, but it will give our body the tools it needs to fight inflammation, to maintain proper endocrine function, to keep insulin levels in check, to repair damaged skin, to prevent further damage, to aid in cell regeneration, etc.
This also means cutting back on high glycemic foods like pastries, white breads and pastas, and eating more whole grains.
4. Dryness is the Enemy
Dry skin is a disaster waiting to happen. Whether it's dry from over-use of products, climate, etc., dry skin is damaged skin, and it needs to be repaired. This often means eliminating the exacerbating issue. For some, this could mean using a humidifier by your bed at night. For others, it might mean using a heavier moisturizer in the winter. For others, it might mean complete barrier repair. And for everyone, this definitely means not washing our skin with hot water - tepid water is your skin's friend.
5. Keep Stress At Bay
Easier said than done. Isn't it always? Stress is something we all deal with, some of us more than others. But one thing is for sure, stress is no good for anyone's skin. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, "I'm under so much stress at work, my skin has never looked better!". It's usually the other way around; when we stress, our bodies suffer in ways we can't always see, but that will sometimes manifest on our skin. This can mean more breakouts, more dryness, more inflammation, or blotchiness. Finding stress-busting techniques that work for you will help to ensure that stress doesn't interfere with your skin.
Antioxidants are perfect for everyone's skin. Unlike many other products, there's an antioxidant product out there for everyone. This is because antioxidants function so well with our skin, they're gentle, they're effective, and they do so much. No skin care routine is complete without antioxidants. Look for things like green tea, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E.
7. Build a Good Routine
There's no point in having great products if you have a lousy routine. While there's no "right" routine for everyone, it's important to find the right routine for you. Generally speaking, it's best to use things like sunscreen and antioxidants in the morning when they're most needed, and things like retinoids and peptides at night. This is simply because of the way the skin functions - during the day we are exposed to environmental irritants and so we need products that will protect our skin, and at night we need tools to help the skin regenerate.
8. Use a Gentle Cleanser
Cleansing is a very delicate science. The act of cleansing in and of itself can be very damaging when done improperly or with poorly formulated products. You're essentially cleaning your skin of impurities, and if done with too-harsh of a product, or too vigorously, you can strip away the essential lipids from your skin, leaving your skin parched and damaged. You may be tempted to opt for a drying cleanser if you have oily skin, but I promise you that a gentle, nourishing, non-drying cleanser will do leaps and bounds more for your skin than any stripping cleanser will ever do. Instead, opt for a medicated leave-on product, one that contains ceramides, proper emollients and humectants as well as active ingredients.
9. Drink Lots of Water
I'm not going to tell you that drinking loads of water will magically clear your skin of acne. It won't. But not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, which can definitely affect your skin. Proper hydration will ensure your skin looks brighter and more youthful. And don't swap out water with sodas (or diet sodas), sugary drinks, etc. You can, however, enjoy some skin-healthy teas (green tea, white tea, spearmint tea, rooibos, yerba mate) and the occasional black coffee.
10. Get Active
When the pores dilate, sweat expels trapped dirt and oil. This helps to keep the skin clear. Exercise also reduces body-wide inflammation, helps regulate skin-significant hormones and prevents free-radical damage. When you exercise, the tiny arteries in your skin open up, allowing more blood to reach the skin’s surface and deliver nutrients that repair damage from the sun and environmental pollutants. These nutrients also rev up the skin’s collagen production, thwarting wrinkles. As we age, fibroblasts get lazier and fewer in number, but the nutrients delivered to the skin during exercise help fibroblasts work more efficiently, so your skin looks younger.
However, it's best to avoid jarring cardio exercises like running, simply because gravity is working against you and this can result in sagging skin. Instead, focus on bodyweight workouts, strength training, etc.
The bonus? Confident people radiate a certain physical appeal and charisma. A recent British study found that people who began a regular exercise program felt better about their self-worth, their physical condition and their overall health compared with their peers who stayed home. The best part was that their self-worth crept up right away — even before they saw a significant change in their bodies.
11. Research Your DIY
There's nothing wrong with using homemade skin care products if you've found something that works for you. But don't believe that just because something is "natural" or is found in nature, that it means it's a good idea to put it on your face (or in your body, for that matter). If you've come across a new beauty hack, for anything really, do a quick Google search for any scientific studies, anything that might tell you whether or not it's safe to use. This is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you for your skin. It will not only give you a greater understanding of how our skin functions, but it will prevent you from causing unnecessary damage.
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I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!