With the pandemic forcing us to spend more time at home, 2020 has become the breakthrough year for skincare and self-care. If like most women, you’ve used the extra free time to understand your skin, research ingredients, and build a skincare routine for the first time, then you’re already on the right track. But what if you curated your 10-step Korean routine to perfection, never skip steps, and your skin is still giving you trouble? Well, believe it or not, some things can’t be fixed by adding yet another glycolic acid mask into your routine. We often tend to forget this, but the skin is the largest organ in the human body, so it’s a reflection of our overall health. No matter how much you spend on moisturizers, essences, retinol, or high-end exfoliants, your skin will never look its best if you’re not healthy on the inside.
1. Drink plenty of fluids
If you are one of the people who get a headache in the evening and realize they haven’t drunk any water all day, install one of those apps that remind you to drink water every hour. Your skin will thank you for it. No matter how much some celebrities swear by it, water alone is not enough to give you plump, glowy skin. HOWEVER, if you are severely dehydrated, it will show up on your skin as fine lines and a dull, lackluster complexion. In time, skin can lose its elasticity and appear older than it is. You don’t have to increase your water intake to 2.7 liters suddenly, but try to drink at least three glasses. If it helps, you can add fruits such as lemon, oranges, or raspberry to make water more appealing.
2. Sleep well
Modern skincare formulas are great at energizing your skin after a sleepless night and making you look more awake. But vitamin C serums and caffeine eye creams will only work so far. In order for your skin to look its best, you need to give it time to rest and sleep for at least 7 or 8 hours every night. Skip this for long enough, and you know the effects: under eye bags, dark lines, and generally tired, old-looking skin. It’s called beauty sleep for a reason. When you sleep, your entire body enters repair mode – even if you didn’t hurt yourself during the day, at a cellular level, your body sustained damage and inflammation, and at night it heals itself. When you don’t rest, your skin is unable to repair itself, which, in time, leads to dryness and premature aging. And here’s another reason why you might want to sleep more: at night, your skin absorbs products the best, so if you want that high-end youth serum to work its magic, you need to rest.
3. Monitor your gut health
Did you know that up to 80% of our immune system is in the gut and that inflammation in the gut can influence immune cells in the body and trigger skin inflammation? Your diet has a huge impact on the way your skin looks. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats will not make your skin look glowy overnight, but it will make a difference in the long run, so try to stick to a diet plan that’s less about guilty pleasures and more about sustainable results. Of course, everyone’s body is different and reacts differently to certain foods. For example, some women have acne after eating dairy, fast food, or sugar. If you’re not sure what triggers skin inflammation in your case, keeping a food journal is a great way to get to the bottom of the issue. If the food that sets off acne is one of your favorites, then consider healthier alternatives. For example, you can replace regular milk chocolate with CBD chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants, choose lactose-free dairy, and replace regular burgers with vegan burgers, which are getting more and more delicious.
4. Go easy on the alcohol
A glass of wine every once in a while never hurt anyone, but if you exceed your daily recommended units of alcohol, all your organs will be affected, and the skin will be among the first to show it. In time, excessive alcohol consumption leads to dehydration, which causes more wrinkles and can make your skin appear up to ten years older. Inflammation can also be a problem, and people who drink a lot often experience persistent redness. The more you age, the more harmful alcohol becomes: when you’re in your twenties, alcohol exits your system in about three hours, but by the time you reach your 40s, you need 33 hours to recover. So, know your limits, and when you drink alcohol, drink a glass of water on the side to counter dehydration.
5. Quit smoking
As if you needed another reason to quit smoking, research has consistently shown that some of the toxins in cigarette smoke damage collagen and elastin, the components that keep your skin supple and plump. If you compare side-by-side images of smokers and non-smokers in their 50s, you’ll see that smokers tend to have more wrinkles and saggy skin. So, even if cigarettes don’t appear to be bad for you now, that doesn’t mean things won’t change in the future. The good news is that skin starts to recover its elasticity when you stop smoking, so it’s never too late.
6. Test for hormonal imbalances
When you have a hormonal imbalance, you might still struggle with oily, acne-prone skin, even if you have a healthy diet and a clean skincare routine. When you’re doing everything by the book, and yet nothing seems to work, talk to your doctor about a round of blood tests. Stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol), blood sugar regulating hormones (insulin), and sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone), can all cause skin problems.
7. Don’t neglect your wellbeing
A bit of stress can be a good motivator, but if you perceive stress as a threat, not as a challenge for long periods, that will trigger negative reactions throughout your entire system: stress inhibits collagen production, which reduces skin plumpness and causes fine lines and wrinkles, and weakens the gut, making your body more susceptible to inflammation. Stress can also lead to insomnia, cravings, and appetite changes, causing a hard to escape vicious circle, so if you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to step back and invest in your mental wellbeing.