I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and experimenting with my skin lately. In the last few months, I made the switch from a synthetic moisturizer, to which I was strongly addicted, to an all natural skincare regimen. As I related in this post, when I went off the synthetic stuff, my skin had a strong adverse reaction, the symptoms of which took several weeks to dissipate.
Adopting organic and natural skincare products has definitely helped my skin to heal, but after reading Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore, I realized that in order for my skin to reach its full potential, I had to do more than switch up my products.
There are a lot of factors that can affect the health of our skin, including diet, exercise, sleep, & stress. Here are a few golden rules I’ve adopted for myself that have given my skin new life.
By the way, guys, I am in no way a doctor of any sort. These are things that I’ve learned just by researching and paying attention to my body, and they’ve worked for me. Everyone is different and it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before making any drastic lifestyle changes.
Eat all the colors of the rainbow.
I’m no nutrition scientist, and I certainly won’t get bogged down in the vitamins and minerals that make fruits and vegetables awesome. All you need to know is that they are super good for you, and are made up of things that help your body take care of itself, including repairing damaged skin cells, making fresh new ones, and protecting you from a whole host of stuff. Aim to get as much color variety into your daily diet as you can. Beets, bell peppers, citrus, berries - get creative with it! The produce aisle is a cornucopia of flavor and healthy nutrients!
Eat greens most of all.
It’s important to eat all the colors of vegetables, but for some reason greens seem to be the most potent health warriors of all. Raw or cooked, make sure you’re getting plenty of green every single day.
Eat fermented foods.
There are a lot of reasons to keep the bacteria in your gut healthy, but there is a strong connection between healthy microflora in your digestive system and healthy looking skin. Fermented foods contain all kinds of good bacteria that, when ingested, live in your belly and help fight off all the bad bacteria that may come your way. This can help prevent bacterial infections and inflammation in your skin. Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, tofu, tempeh, miso, unsweetened yogurt, and kefir are all good options.
Eat healthy fats.
Fats are crucial to your skin’s health because they help your body produce sebum, which keeps your skin hydrated. They also help your body produce new skin cells. Go for coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, flax, oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Drink plenty of water.
Drink more than you think you need to. Water keeps you hydrated (duh) and helps flush bad stuff from your system. Drink enough that your pee is almost clear. If you’re drinking caffeine or alcohol, drink even more water.
Cut down on caffeine.
This one is tough for me, as I love my morning coffee. But I have noticed that when I keep it to one cup (okay one and a half) instead of two or three, I feel less dehydrated and my skin looks less irritated. Swap out one cup of coffee for an herbal tea or fresh juice, and I guarantee you’ll feel better and your skin will too.
Limit alcohol intake.
Again, this one is easier said than done. My skin reacts almost immediately to alcohol, turning hot and red, especially if I’m at all dehydrated. I’m not going to tell you not to enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, but just know that your skin reacts to alcohol the same way it acts to sugar, making it more prone to inflammation and irritation. Try to have one glass instead of five, and drink plenty of water during and after.
Keep processed foods and sugar to a minimum.
Health wise, there’s really nothing good to say about processed food. It does your body basically zero favors, and your skin is no exception. Cut out the crap and you’ll see fewer breakouts, less inflammation, and you’ll feel less like a sack of potatoes.
Eat less meat and dairy.
I have loads of reasons (mostly environmental) for this one too, but meat and dairy can be highly inflammatory, which is no bueno for your skin. If you’re a meat eater, try to opt for awesome pasture raised varieties, keep your portions small, and reduce their frequency.
Get plenty of sleep.
Like the rest of your body, your skin needs downtime to repair itself and make new cells. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, though closer to 9 would be ideal.
Make sure you exercise.
I could give you a million good reasons to exercise, but there’s no question that a killer workout gives your skin an extra healthy glow. That’s because a good sweat session detoxifies your body and gets your blood moving. Walking, running, dancing, swimming, cycling, yoga, corporate softball - all beneficial. Pick an activity and move your body!
Opt for natural makeup and skincare products.
Look at the ingredients list. Figure out what’s in the products you’re putting on your skin. Because it’s all going to end up in your bloodstream. I love the Think Dirty app for deciphering all the unpronounceable crap in cosmetics, though generally I opt for products with short ingredient lists comprised only of naturally occurring stuff that I can identify. For a roundup of my current favorites, check out this post.
Psst! Don't forget about your hair products! Nasties in your shampoo can soak in to your skin too. Think about the direction it all goes when you rinse it out...
Be smart about supplements.
Three things that I take daily to help augment my skin-focused diet:
- Probiotics. Since it's hard to eat fermented foods every single day, I give the microflora in my gut a boost with probiotics so they can protect me from bad bacteria.
- Vitamin D. Because I live in England where the sun seldom shines, I am almost certainly not getting enough of this healing and protective vitamin without a supplement.
- Greens powder. Ideally we would all be eating a lot of greens at every meal, but most of us aren’t getting anywhere close. A scoop of this stuff in my morning smoothie gives me a head start on my vegetable intake.
What are the essential parts of your skincare regimen? Leave me a comment, I'd love to know!