5 Habits To Start In 2023 For Brighter, Smoother Skin
Everyone has a different vision of a "good skin day" in their mind. This could mean fewer breakouts, a plumper complexion, less redness, or even just looking like you got loads of sleep. For many, smooth texture and brightness are major factors as well.
To help you achieve the latter, here are five expert-backed habits to start in 2023. While some of these may take a few weeks (or months) to take full effect, patience is a small price to pay for brighter, softer skin in the long run:
Practice skin cycling.
Let's talk topical products first—the order in which you use your products is essential to maintaining healthy skin. See, if you mix potent actives that aren't formulated to interact or you use one ingredient too often or too little, you won't see maximum benefits from these products.
One easy solution: Practice skin cycling. This term was coined by board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., FAAD, a few years back. Think of it like a weekly schedule for your skin care products. The basic cycling method calls for this order of operations:
- Night 1: Exfoliation night. This means using a chemical exfoliant such as an AHA, BHA, or PHA or opting for a gentle physical cleanser or exfoliating mask. The reason exfoliation is before the retinoid night is that these ingredients slough off dead skin cells, meaning your retinol product can penetrate the skin even deeper (thus working better).
- Night 2: Retinoid night. On this evening, use any form of retinol you feel comfortable with. This could be a gentle over-the-counter product or a prescription-grade cream (if your derm gives it to you).
- Nights 3 & 4: Recovery night. On the third and fourth night of your routine, don't use either of the actives listed above. These rest days are designed to let your skin recover. By scheduling these restorative treatment nights, you'll prevent over-exfoliation, retinoid reactions, and the like (all of which can lead to irritation, bumpy texture, dryness, and redness).
For a deeper dive into why skin cycling works and how to get started, check out this full guide.
Try slugging, sans petrolatum jelly.
Many people think exfoliating the skin every single day is the key to brighter, smoother skin—but that's not true for everyone. In fact, many people who exfoliate every day (especially using potent formulas) may experience more negative reactions than positive ones.
As mentioned above, recovery nights are essential for keeping your skin smooth. One way to go about recovery night is to "slug" your skin—aka apply an occlusive moisturizer over your go-to face cream.
Some reach for a basic petrolatum jelly, but that's not your only option. While these gels are safe for your skin, even cosmetic-grade options are not so environmentally friendly, which is enough of a reason to avoid its use: "Mineral oil is petrochemical derived, meaning it's environmentally irresponsible to use mineral oil when there are vegetable and fruit oils, like coconut oil, that are more sustainable," says clean cosmetic chemist Krupa Koestline about the ingredient.
On top of that, balms that swap the petrolatum for other occlusives can make your slugging routine even more effective. Ready to start slugging? Reach for a plant-based balm or one of these mbg-approved face oils for an eco-friendly slug.
Ceramides are a must in topical moisturizers, but you shouldn't stop there. Like anything that is produced within the body (take collagen, for example), you'll want to work from the inside, too. This means ingesting ceramides and applying them via skin care.
Keep an eye out for skin-identical ceramides that will directly contribute to the ceramide levels in your skin, whether it be from topical products or supplements and food.
To support your natural levels of ceramide production, be sure to commit to a healthy skin care routine, eat a balanced diet packed with skin-loving foods (a few A+ additions here), and protect your skin barrier with moisturizer, SPF, and try your best to avoid over-exfoliation, retinoid reactions, and sunburns.
You can also take beauty supplements that have phytoceramides in them to make it even easier—here's a curated list of our top picks to get you started.
Prioritize omega-3 rich foods.
While we're talking about skin care from the inside out, there's one more ingredient to prioritize: omega-3s. The link between omega-3s and skin health is well documented. In fact, experts routinely recommend increasing fatty-acid intake to help improve and protect the skin.
You also have natural lipids (like ceramides) and fatty acids on the surface of your skin, which help seal in moisture and keep environmental aggressors out. As board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., once told mbg: "Natural fats maintain the integrity of the outer skin layer," and when you have a healthy lipid layer, your skin appears supple and dewy.
If fish isn't your protein of choice, don't worry—there are plenty of plant-based foods rich in omega-3s; here are a few to get you started.
Start a daily facial massage ritual.
Finally, you'll want to incorporate some kind of facial massage into your routine. This doesn't need to take you 20 minutes (unless you want it to, of course). This ritual doesn't even require tools (a DIY approach here)—though a gua sha or face roller might be a nice addition.
The reason face massage is so essential: Studies show that massage improves circulation in the face1. "Lymphatic drainage can have a significant impact on the appearance of your skin, especially if you are showing signs of lymphatic buildup," master esthetician Sarah Akram, owner of Sarah Akram Skincare said about lymphatic massage.
As you clear that buildup and encourage circulation, those vital nutrients have a much easier time reaching the skin cells—and nourished, happy skin cells appear way more radiant.
So, if you're looking to brighten your complexion and smooth texture in 2023, you'll want to approach it from the inside and outside. Do what you can to ingest more omega-3 fatty acids as well as phytoceramides As for the topical approach, consider adding skin cycling, eco-friendly slugging, and facial massage to your daily routine. But don't worry, there are plenty more steps to pick up should you want to go above and beyond—here are a few more ideas.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.