Drinking more water, caffeine-free herbal teas (dandelion is excellent for liver detox and clear skin), and eating water rich fruits will help rid the body/skin of toxins, and keep your skin cells hydrated and moisturized.
But also keep in mind that drinking too much water is not good either, as it can cause an imbalance of electrolytes in your blood. You can also not make up for a whole day of neglecting water by drinking 8 glasses at once - your body will just flush out the excess. Listen to your body, and consistently drink small amounts of water throughout the day, before you get too thirsty. Also snack on plenty of water rich fruits such as cucumber, watermelon, apples, oranges etc.
Limit sodas, coffee, and alcohol as much as possible as these are very dehydrating.
It is no secret that exercise is essential for healthy aging. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygenation to your cells, nourishing them and carrying away waste products.
A 2018 study done in the European Heart Journal compared different types of exercise on the effects of cellular aging. The study compared weight training, HIIT (high intensity interval training), and aerobic endurance training. The study concluded that HIIT and aerobic endurance training both have anti-aging effects by increasing telomeres length and telomerase activity (the enzyme responsible for the rate at which telomeres shorten). Telomeres are caps of DNA at the end of our chromosomes that protect our cells from aging. They naturally shorten with each cell division, until they can no longer protect the cell, and the cell can no longer divide. So, longer telomeres = healthier cellular aging. This not only effects the look of our skin, but also has an effect on life expectancy, and decreases risk of Alzheimer's and cancer, among other things.
You know the saying, you are what you eat? Turns out it's true. Every 27 days our skin completely regenerates itself, and the foods we eat are the building blocks for our new cells. Limit empty calories, and go for whole foods instead. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy protein sources, and omega-3's will ensure your body has what it needs for healthy new cells.
Avoid added sugars/corn syrup, processed/fast foods, and limit foods high on the glycemic index (above 70). Foods high on the glycemic index cause a surge in cortisol levels (our stress hormone which breaks down collagen and elastin) and can lead to insulin resistance. Some foods on that list would be processed bread/bagels/pancakes, most boxed foods, doughnuts, instant oatmeal, soda, fruit juices without the pulp (fiber from the pulp helps slow digestion and reduces GI index), puffed rice etc.
Also beware of unsaturated vegetable oils (such as canola, soybean, corn, sunflower etc) as they are unstable, easily go rancid, and cause inflammation. I often see recipes calling for olive oil, but olive oil easily breaks down with high heat. It is better saved for salads, and other foods prepared cold or with minimal heat. Saturated fats (such as coconut oil and ghee) are heat stable, and a healthier option.
Stress raises cortisol levels and accelerates the rate at which our telomeres shorten. I know this is easier said than done, but fitting in time for yourself - even just 5 minutes of meditation per day, can make a big difference.
Get Your Beauty Sleep
As we mentioned above, high cortisol levels can do some major damage to your skin. The most effective way to reduce cortisol levels is sleep. Consistent, high quality sleep of at least 7 hours. It can start to feel like a no-win situation when you learn that lack of sleep puts stress on your body which raises cortisol levels, and high cortisol levels interfere with a good night's sleep.
But here are a few things that can can help lower cortisol levels in the evenings to prepare you for good sleep:
- Put away your phone and turn off the tv an hour before you plan to go to sleep. The blue light from these screens interfere with our bodes natural sleep/wake cycle.
- No coffee or energy drinks after noon.
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
- Implement a relaxing bedtime routine such as a bath or shower, skincare routine, herbal tea, read a book etc.
- Sleep in a completely dark room, or use a sleep mask. Even the smallest bit of light, such as power lights on electronics, can interfere with our sleep/wake cycles.
- Sleep in a cool room and with minimal clothing. Our body heat raises while we sleep and falling asleep in a warm room or sleeping in heavy clothing may cause you to overheat and wake during the night, even if you don't realize it the next morning.
- Exercise! Just not too close to bedtime.
A good night's sleep also regulates hunger hormones and improves insulin resistance, which also has an effect on your skin.
Sun damage is the number one cause of premature skin aging. Our best defense is to always wear an SPF - even on cloudy days, and while driving. And don't forget about your hands, they show some of the first signs of aging, just like your face. Also be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses on sunny days to prevent squinting.
Ditch The Cigarettes
Smoking floods your body with free radicals. You know, those little guys that go around damaging every cell they come into contact with. And remember our discussion about exercise and telomeres? Smoking has been shown to increase the rate at which our telomeres shorten. So if you want a sure fire way to speed up the aging process, smoking is definitely the way to do it.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
As mentioned above, alcohol is very dehydrating. Heavy drinking also puts stress on your liver, kidneys, and can add years to your face. And yes, this is true even if you are still young. The drinking you do in your 20's will show up on your face in your 30's. Research seems to be inconclusive on whether any amount of alcohol is healthy. For many people, the possible benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol do not outweigh the risks. But, there are many sources that state that typically, 1 drink a day for (non-pregnant) women, and 2 drinks a day for men is safe, if you are in good health.
Wash Your Face
Both over washing and under washing can be detrimental to the health of your skin. It is most important to cleanse your face in the evening (with a gentle cleanser like this one), before bed, to wash off all the makeup, pollution, dirt, and dust that collects on your skin throughout the day. Your skin rebuilds and repairs itself at night, and anything sitting on your skin gets absorbed easier while you sleep.
Whether you wash your face more than once a day will depend on your individual skin needs. But it is probably safe to say that nobody needs to wash their face more than twice a day. Doing so can dry out your skin, damage your skin barrier, and lead to acne and aging skin. For most, just using a toner (gentle and alcohol free!) or splash with water in the morning is all you need (just be sure you are sleeping on a clean pillowcase).
Every time you wash your face, whether you are using a gentle cleanser or not, you are disrupting the skin barrier and removing some of it's natural lipids. It takes time for your skin to repair and rebalance itself. The more you wash your face before it has time to repair itself, the more damage you are doing, and the harder it becomes for your skin to repair itself over time. You should also avoid washing your face in hot water, as this can be very drying.
Exfoliate - With Acids, Not Scrubs
Exfoliating speeds up skin cell turnover, keeping the surface of your skin looking smooth and healthy. Chemical exfoliants have been shown to stimulate collagen production, while abrasive scrubs are known to cause micro tears in the skin that can lead to inflammation and damage to the skin barrier (not good!).
There are three kinds of chemical exfoliants: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA's), beta hydroxy acids (BHA's), and polyhydroxy acids (PHA's). They all work in a similar way to loosen the bond between dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. This allows the skin cells to easily shed. And while you won't noticeably see the skin shedding, the difference can be felt with smoother, softer skin.
And remember, less is more when it comes to exfoliation. Over exfoliating removes too much dead skin cells. These layers of dead skin cells (along with fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol) are what makes up our stratum corneum, and are essential for a healthy functioning skin barrier.
The kind of chemical exfoliant that is best for you, and how often you should use it, depends on the current health of your skin, and skin type. I recommend speaking with an experienced esthetician to determine what is best for you.
Simplify Your Skincare Routine
Lengthy 10-step skincare routines have been gaining popularity lately. As well as pretty pictures on social media of medicine cabinets packed full of skincare products.
It takes time for your skin adjust to a new skincare routine or product, and if you are constantly switching things up you won't know what is truly working for you. Picking a few high quality products suited to your skin needs, and sticking with it, will be much more beneficial than using a dozen different products every month.
Also beware of DIY skincare recipes. Haphazardly mixing ingredients from your kitchen can be a recipe for disaster. Things that are usually safe, no matter the percentage used, are ground oatmeal (or colloidal oatmeal), honey, and plain yogurt. But when you start using ingredients like lemon, undiluted apple cider vinegar, essential oils, or baking soda, you can cause some serious damage - even if it's not noticeable right away.
A good rule to follow before you try anything new is to research both sides of the argument. For example, if you search the phrase "benefits of essential oils for skin," you should also search "are essential oils bad for skin." Also always consider the source of the information.
Get Regular Facials
My favorites are dermaplaning and microcurrent facials.
- Dermaplaning uses a small sharp blade to remove the peachfuzz and top layer of dead skin cells from your face. The result is baby soft skin! Your skincare products will work more effectively as they will be able to penetrate deeper, and your makeup will go on smoother.
- Microcurrent facials (pictured) use small electrical currents to tone the muscles and stimulate collagen and elastin production. Toned facial muscles appear plump and smooth. This treatment has been shown to both prevent and treat facial wrinkles. I highly recommend starting microcurrent facials early as a preventive measure. It is much easier to prevent than to treat.
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