Taking care of your skin is about so much more than what you put on it; lifestyle plays a big role in keeping your skin healthy, radiant, and youthful long-term. If I have a totally stressful week or spend a few days breathing in exhaust from New York City taxis, I immediately see the effects on my skin.
Skin care is not a one-size-fits all kind of thing: You have to experiment and figure out what works for you individually when it comes to products, or how much water to drink for dewy skin, or what amount of sleep will leave you looking fresh-faced, or what ingredients (topical and ingested) will cause your skin to flare up.
But there are a few things everyone can benefit from immediately and in the long term. To delay the most common signs of aging and keep your beautiful complexion looking its best through the years, avoid these five risky behaviors:
1. Unprotected sun exposure.
By this point, sun protection should be a no-brainer. Seriously, SPF is a must for everyone at every age, no matter the season or location. Even when it's snowing outside or you're inside next to a window, harmful UVA and UVB rays are finding their way to your skin, and if you're not protecting it with an SPF, you leave yourself vulnerable to a whole host of no-so-good outcomes.
UVB rays will cause superficial damage to the uppermost layers of the skin (burns, etc.), and UVA rays cause photoaging in the deeper layers. Not only does unprotected sun-worshiping increase your risk for skin cancer, it also damages the elastin in your skin and leads to rampant inflammation, accelerating premature skin aging.
It's so much easier to prevent something like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation than it is to try to reverse the damage. Save yourself a lot of grief down the road and use a natural sunscreen with an SPF of 30 every day to keep your skin safe.
2. Cleansing with harsh detergents.
Many people think that cleansing your skin is a basic, almost irrelevant step in their skin care routine, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Cleansing is an essential step in caring for the health of your skin because not only does it get rid of the dirt, buildup, and makeup from the day, it also allows your skin to breathe, and for moisturizers and serums to penetrate better.
But "cleansing" doesn't mean you need to lather up your face every morning and night. In fact, soapy cleansers often contain harsh detergents that disrupt your complexion's natural lipid barrier, a layer of protective oil that guards your skin against environmental aggressors and keeps moisture in. When your lipid barrier is compromised, skin can become dehydrated and sensitive because its natural sebum production is confused.
So while foaming, harsh detergents can leave your skin feeling squeaky-clean, that's absolutely something you want to avoid. Instead, opt for soap-free enzyme- and clay-based cleansers that purify with natural ingredients without stripping the skin.
These cleansers will leave your skin feeling not tight and dry but soft, refreshed, and dewy.
3. Hanging out in polluted air.
I’m sorry, city-dwellers, but pollution is bad for your skin. Microscopic specks of soot, dirt, acid, and other pollutants are constantly being released into the atmosphere in metropolitan areas (cars, factories, construction sites, etc.), and when these particles come into contact with your skin, they penetrate deep into the layers of the epidermis, causing inflammation, dehydration, and reactions on the cellular level.
The primary culprit is a greenhouse gas called PM2.5, which accelerates aging as much as UV rays. It can cause uneven skin tone and loss of collagen as well as accelerated skin aging. To counteract its effects, wash your face every morning and evening, and use antioxidant-rich products that contain ingredients that neutralize free radicals as well as promote improved lymphatic drainage, to accelerate detoxification inside of the skin.
4. Overdoing acids and peels.
When used properly, acids can help dissolve dead skin to reveal newer, brighter, less-wrinkled skin, and stimulate collagen growth. But be careful! Over-exfoliating with harsh acids will lead to exactly the kind of results you're trying to avoid: thin, raw, red, and inflamed skin even more susceptible to damage and aging.
If you're going to use acids on your face, more is definitely not more, and ingredients are über-important. Look for peels and products that contain beta hydroxy acids, a mild but effective way to deliver an instant glow. Beta hydroxy acids work as an exfoliant, gently sloughing off the top layer of dead skin cells to make room for new ones.
5. Avoid highly caffeinated beverages.
Coffee and black tea are diuretics, so they lead to dehydration within the body. Skin that’s dehydrated looks dull and lacks the plump moisture-cushion of youth. Avoid drinking more than one caffeinated beverage a day, and be sure to consume lots of water to keep the skin plump and dewy from within.
The amount of information out there about how to keep your skin in tiptop shape can be overwhelming, so I recommend starting small, with just one or two changes that fit in to your lifestyle.
It’s never too late to start implementing healthy choices that will keep your skin youthful and glowing. In my experience, accompanying any of these changes with a consistent natural and nontoxic anti-aging skin care regimen can yield truly transformative results!
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