I had horrible skin in high school. I believe I was "blessed" with what you would call combination skin: both oily and dry. As if pimples aren't frustrating enough for a sixteen-year-old simultaneously learning how to drive, talk to boys, and do calculus. And while I always tended to break out more around my period, it would pretty much be rare for me to go a day without having at least a few zits somewhere on my face.
Since then, my skin has cleared up considerably, and I attribute it largely to the following strategies I've adopted over the years. Check them out and see which ones you can adopt into your self-care routine.
I'm willing to bet the vast majority of us are walking around at least slightly dehydrated, and never more so than first thing in the morning. But staying adequately hydrated is SKIN CARE TIP NUMERO UNO for a reason: water dramatically improves the health and appearance of your skin.
The tip I follow? I drink a tall glass of water with a pinch of sea salt first thing every morning (yes, even before my coffee). This rehydrates my body and my skin, and primes me to drink more throughout the day. How much water do you need after your initial a.m. water break? A general guideline is at least half your body weight in fluid ounces per day. This may be more if you workout or live somewhere hot and humid.
Research suggests that poor sleep can worsen signs of aging in your skin (not to mention damage your immune system, of which your skin is a major part). Set your life up so that you can consistently get at least 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night. Also, consider sleeping on your back to avoid compression lines caused by side- or front-sleeping.
No part of your body likes chronic inflammation, especially your skin. And for most people, foods containing refined sugar, gluten, and dairy tend to promote inflammation, which can show up as blemishes and accelerated aging on your face. Make sure the majority of your calories are coming from skin-healthy anti-inflammatory foods. A diet like this will center around things like quality animal protein, veggies and fruit, and healthy fats—and will exclude (or at least minimize) things like candy, cookies, pasta, bread, and milk.
Properly cleaning your skin at the start and end of every day doesn't have to take a long time, just a few minutes at most. And most skincare pros recommend following a specific order to get the most out of your routine:
Notice that this sequence has you going from "lightest" to "heaviest" in terms of product. It's a good guide to follow as it helps make sure all of your products can work their magic appropriately.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can dramatically accelerate the aging process in your skin, leading to wrinkles, sun spots, and cancer in some cases. The thing is, because UV rays are so high energy, they can penetrate even cloud cover. Because of this, just about any dermatologist worth their salt advises people to wear sunscreen every day, especially on the face where skin is more delicate. Fortunately, many high-quality moisturizers and cosmetic products come with SPF built right into it, making adequate sun protection a seamless thing to add to your skincare routine.
It's not just makeup that you're washing away at the end of the day. Just think of all the oil, dirt, dust, bacteria, and pollutants from the air that you carried home with you! Without properly cleaning your face at night, you run the risk of these things clogging up your pores and leading to blemishes. Besides, your skin (like the rest of your body) goes into serious repair and recovery mode as you're sleeping. By washing your face and applying high-quality moisturizing products, you can enhance your skin's natural replenishing process.
So, commit right now to being the type of person who washes her face before hitting the hay—even when you're exhausted.
Exfoliating your skin too hard or too frequently can actually increase irritation and breakouts. But occasional and gentle scrubs helps clear away dead skin cells and gives you that glowing and refreshed look. So, look for products that have gentler exfoliants (think sugar over salt, coffee grounds over crushed walnut shells, etc.) and use a light hand when applying them. No need to do it every day—just a couple of minutes per week can make a difference.
Dry brushing is something I'm still relatively new to. But the practice has taken the self-care world by storm in the past few years. It is believed to help detoxify and oxygenate your skin. From my research, it seems that dry brushing for a few minutes every morning is a great energizer. Use a soft brush that won't scratch, use upward or circular strokes, and move in the direction of your heart to optimize lymph and blood flow.
When it comes to skincare products, you sort of do get what you pay for. No, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for cosmetics. But spending a little more for higher-quality products free of harsh irritants and preservatives can do wonders for the long-term health (and look) of your skin. The good news is that a lot of high-quality products are actually super affordable! Think witch hazel (for a natural toner), raw honey and oatmeal (for an at-home mask), and phalate- and sulfate-free moisturizer (tons of options available in even major grocery stores). If you need help figuring out how to optimize your product purchasing decisions, you may even consider consulting with a dermatologist who can give you individualized guidance.
Listen, I get it. It can be really hard not to stress about your skin, especially if you have blemishes, lines, and imperfections that just bug the heck out of you. But I can't "stress" enough how important it is NOT to allow yourself to be overly worried about a pimple or wrinkle. Research shows that psychological stress—whether you're wigging out about your skin or something else all together—increases inflammation and can trigger skin problems, including accelerated aging. (And let's not forget about all the other problems high amounts of chronic stress can trigger or worsen, including heart disease, migraines, and neurodegenerative disorders).
So, in addition to experimenting with the other nine tips, learn how to reduce and cope with your stress more effectively. Do whatever you need to stay cool and calm in the face of life's normal ups and downs: workout, journal, create art, play an instrument, chat with a mental health professional, play with your dog, and so on. And don't forget: a nurturing skincare routine can be considered an essential part of any stress-reducing lifestyle!