by guest blogger Lisa Bronner, writer of the blog Going Green with a Bronner Mom
Put that credit card away! Before you spend another dime on the latest and greatest beauty potions, strengthen the foundation of your skincare routine with these five free—or nearly free—practices for glowing skin.
The truth is, if you don’t have these basics in place, you’ll be fighting a losing battle—no matter how much money or magic you throw at your skin. Better yet, you may even find that these five steps make all those pricey products unnecessary.
1. Sleep. I used to think that sleep was for people who didn’t have anything better to do. However, no beauty treatment will make up for simple lack of sleep. I’m talking a full eight hours. And don’t give me the, “Well, I only need four.” If your skin is dragging, if it’s dull, if your eyes are puffy, or if acne, psoriasis, eczema plague you, then sleep is exactly where you need to start the healing process. It is, without question, the first line of defense.
Why: Sleep increases blood flow and production of the human growth hormone, which in turn contributes to collagen production, relaxes facial muscles that foster lines, aids regeneration of skin cells, rebalances body moisture to reduce puffy eyes, and reduces overall inflammation that triggers things like psoriasis, acne, and eczema. A study in The British Medical Journal says it best: “Our findings show that sleep deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive, and more tired compared with when they are well rested.”
“But I can’t go to sleep!! I have too much to do,” you say. Your skin is saying the exact same thing. Your wakeful, conscious self is getting in the way. Go to sleep so that it can get to work.
Tip: Schedule your sleep. Set yourself a “go to sleep” alarm for 8½ hours before your “need to get up” alarm.
2. Drink water. Although common sense and the wisdom of ages back this up, there’s a surprising lack of research to support drinking water for skin health. (There’s not as much money to be made in proving the healthfulness of un-patentable water.) Nonetheless, a symptom of dehydrated skin is loss of skin elasticity, which means dehydrated skin cells are dry, flaky, and prone to wrinkling.
Why: With adequate hydration, the skin can pull more water into cells to plump up and tighten them, making skin smoother and firmer, with fewer facial lines or visible cellulite.
Tip: Fill a pitcher or jug each morning with your daily amount of water. Each time you want to consume anything—from a cup of coffee to a full meal—drink a glass of water first.
3. Eat clean. Every bit of good food advice that benefits your body also benefits your skin. Increase your consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy oils. Reduce the amounts of refined foods, trans fats, and sugar in your diet.
Why: Antioxidants in fresh produce fight skin cancer and counter the causes of wrinkles and age spots. Good fats (such as those found in fish, seeds and nuts, avocados, and olives) nourish skin and keep it supple.
Tip: Plan your meals. Prep your snacks. “The last-minute” kills good intentions. Hunger compels you to reach for easy food. Planning ahead sets you up for success.
4. Reduce stress. Too often, we guilt ourselves into thinking that stress-reducing activities equal goofing off or wasting time and that we ought to spend our time better. Stop! You need this! You’ll be better able to do whatever it is you do if you make room for de-stressing. And you’ll be more beautiful while doing it. Exercise, listen to music, laugh, breathe, sleep, or get a massage—do whatever you need to do to unwind.
Why: Stress causes muscle tension, which deepens the lines of the face. Stress also causes the body to build up cortisol. Cortisol brings on inflammation, which breaks down collagen, the substance that causes our skin to look smooth and firm. Stress also weakens the immune system, contributing to acne and psoriasis.
Tip: Schedule stress busters. Start with the free ones, like breathing. Set an hourly, inconspicuous “ding” on your phone to prompt you to take 10 deep, slow breaths.
5. Smile. I’ve saved the most important for last. A smile can make up for so many things, even if all of the above four are lacking. Mind you, I’m not talking about being mildly amused, or giving a little grin. I’m talking a full-blown smile! Take a moment to figure out what makes you smile. Personally, those dog-shaming photos get me every time.
Why: A smile makes you more beautiful, regardless of what shape your skin is in. A smile draws the eye and distracts from blemishes. However, there are actual anatomical benefits as well. Smiling relaxes our skin and reduces unattractive tension lines—giving us an instant face-lift. Smiling makes us look younger. When I see the before-and-after pictures of the latest miracle product, what goes through my mind is, “Oh look. The person learned how to smile.”
Tip: Return every smile you see. If you live in a realm of perpetually unsmiling people, be a trendsetter and return every frown you see with a smile. Sure, some people will think you’re a crazy, smiling weirdo, but that idea sort of thing makes me smile all the more.
All five of these tips snowball on each other and contribute to overall healthfulness. Smiling reduces stress. Lowering stress contributes to better eating. Eating better aids sleep. And on and on it goes.
It takes six weeks for new skin to reach the surface, so give these tips some time to take effect. You’ll just have to get over the fact that they’re free. This is one area where you get far beyond what you pay for. It’ll be the most profitable investment you ever make…and that should help get you to smile!
Lisa Bronner is the writer of the blog Going Green with a Bronner Mom, in connection with her family’s company Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Through her writing and public speaking, Lisa guides consumers through the quagmire of the organic marketplace and simplifies the process of green living at home. Embracing the concept of stewardship, she recognizes individuals’ ability to make a world of difference by how they live their every day. A stay-at-home mom to three, she believes that regularly gathering with them around the family dinner table is the single most important parenting act in her day.