For many of us, the start of a new year comes with resolutions to improve our health and wellbeing. While exercising more, saving money and eating more healthy top the list of resolutions made for 2020, goals of improving skin health deserve a seat at the table. After all, it's been documented that a correlation exists between the quality of our skin and our self esteem.
Whether you're struggling with a skin condition or simply want your complexion to look better, consider the seven steps below that, when implemented together, are guaranteed to not only improve the health and function of your skin but make a difference in its aesthetics, as well. After all, healthy skin is beautiful skin.
1. Implement a Solid Skin Care Regimen Twice-Daily
Regardless of skin type, all of us benefit from a skin care regimen that includes steps to clean, exfoliate, moisturize and protect the skin.
"While our skin care routines can certainly become tedious if we are trying to address specific skin characteristics or conditions, most individuals require the use of just three or four products in the morning and evening to meet the skin's basic needs," says Dr. Ahmed Abdullah, Lexli founder and lead formulator and a board-certified plastic surgeon. "As long as we're using well-formulated products that incorporate beneficial, high-quality ingredients and are appropriate for our skin type, a skin care routine that includes just cleanser, an exfoliator and moisturizer (one formulated with sunscreen for use in the morning) will encourage cellular turnover, increase collagen production, prevent dryness, minimize blemishes and protect skin from environmental damage."
Read more: Why a Simple Skin Care Routine Is Often Best
2. Nurture Skin From the Inside
"You are what you eat" is hardly a myth. The foods we consistently eat can have a dramatic impact on the quality of our skin. For example, studies have shown that foods high on the glycemic index, like sugary drinks, white bread, and potatoes, can encourage the factors that cause acne. Alternatively, foods high in antioxidants, like nuts, certain berries and even wine, can help the skin fight free radicals, thereby slowing the signs of aging.
The best diet for your skin is one that is good for the rest of your body, too. Focus on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids while limiting sugar, alcohol, dairy and simple carbohydrates.
Read more: The Diet and Acne Link
3. Be Sun Smart
The dangers of UV exposure - both to our overall health and that of our skin - are well known and, yet, only 18.1% of men and 42.6% of women wear sunscreen on the face regularly, much less on other exposed areas of skin. Sun damage is cumulative, meaning its telltale signs, such as hyperpigmentation (age spots), wrinkles, and poor skin tone, worsen over time. And while you can improve signs of sun damage, it can't be erased entirely.
It's important to understand that sun damage doesn't happen only after a day on the beach. Rather, UV rays can harm our skin while driving and even while sitting indoors near a window. Therefore, commit to applying sunscreen daily to all exposed skin and employing additional skin protection habits when outdoors, like wearing protective clothing and seeking shade whenever possible.
Read more: How to Stop Premature Aging
4. Encourage Optimal Skin Hydration
Skin is protected by an invisible barrier on the outermost layer called the stratum corneum, which helps to keep pollutants, bacteria and other invaders out of the skin while preserving skin's water content. It can become compromised, however, as we age and through the use of harsh products and ingredients, such as soap and hand sanitizers. When the stratum corneum thins, skin is at increased risk of dryness.
To minimize the risk of skin dryness, use only gentle cleansers and apply moisturizer at the end of your skin care routine. (Yes, even those of you with oily skin. In fact, oily skin that becomes dehyrated will respond by becoming more oily as it tries to overcompensate for the loss of moisture.) Additionally, because dry environments can pull moisture from our skin, run a humidifier in your home regularly during the winter and in desert environments.
5. Get Zen
If your skin has ever broken out during times of stress, you understand first-hand the mind-body connection and the impact it can have on your skin. Stress increases the production of certain hormones, some of which can have a negative impact on our skin. Beyond acne, stress can cause those prone to psoriasis, rosacea or eczema to experience flare-ups, while even those with normal skin may find it becoming temporarily more sensitive.
To prevent stress from having an impact on your skin, incorporate regular exercise into your routine and consider stress-relieving practices like yoga and meditation.
Read more: How to Calm an Eczema Flare
6. Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep contains the key hours when your body performs the vital work of regenerating skin tissue and repairing damage. If you don't get the recommended amount, not only does the time for these important processes get short changed, you also run the risk of skin damage. According to a study on the effects of sleep deprivation on facial skin, after just one night of sleep deprivation, skin is less hydrated and skin barrier function is disturbed. This decreased hydration leads to a lack of skin elasticity and a more prominent appearance of facial pores, among other characteristics.
While sleep requirements vary from person to person, the National Sleep Foundation recommends most healthy adults get between 7 and 9 hours a night.
Read more: Optimize Your Night Skin Care Routine
7. Spend Some Time With Your Esthy
While facials and professional skin treatments are considered by some to be a luxury, the reality is that regular visits to an esthetican can have a dramatic positive effect on your skin health. For those seeking healthier skin, an esthetician is a priceless ally who can help you better understand your skin, outline an at-home routine that is customized to your skin care goals, and implement treatments and therapies that will address skin concerns while generating an overall improvement in the quality of your skin.
While a monthly facial is recommended by most estheticians to ensure optimal skin health and aesthetics, a minimum recommended frequency is once every three months if your goal is to achieve noticeable skin improvement.
While healthier skin doesn't happen overnight, by consistently implementing the seven steps above you will begin to see continual improvements in your skin function and appearance. Stick with it and within a few months the difference in your skin will be undeniable. An added bonus: implementing these seven steps will leave you feeling better overall, too!