Clear skin, young skin, tanned skin, porcelain skin; what is it that makes for beautiful skin? The answer differs vastly depending on where in the world you ask, but one quality that is universally appreciated is healthy skin. We all tend to look (and feel) our best when our skin is healthy. It can be a pretty accurate reflection of how healthy your body is, as it is one of the first things to deteriorate when you feel unwell, stressed, or have just not been looking after yourself. The skin is a complex organ that is affected by everything from hormones to eating habits – so where do you even begin trying to improve it?
There are 5 basic principles to follow:
- What you put on your skin:
Most beauty product aficionados have a whole bathroom of lotions and potions designed to create beautiful skin; while even the most unaware of us know the cleanse, tone, and moisturise mantra. What many fail to realise however, is there are countless other substances that your skin may be exposed to on a daily basis. Smog in a larger city, cigarette smoke, and bacteria on the surface of your smartphone (!), to name a few; along with any make up products and less-than-perfectly-clean brushes that you use on your face. Spots breaking out on your cheek? Start cleaning your smartphone every evening and changing your pillowcase more often. Irritation around your hairline? Have a look at the ingredients of the shampoo you’re using – a lot of foaming agents can contribute to this. Blackheads? Buy yourself some make up brush cleaner and get into the habit of cleaning them once a week, at the very least.
2. What you put in your body:
Diets tend to highlight what you should not eat or drink, with little emphasis on what nutrients to improve your health. Focusing on increasing green veggies and good fats like avocado and flaxseed oil can be an easier challenge than a list of “bad” foods to avoid. And of course, water, water, water…yes it is that simple. Dehydrated skin appears more wrinkled, make up sits unevenly on it (think the morning after and the battle that is camouflaging the night before) and is more prone to blocked pores.
3. How you cleanse your skin:
If you don’t remove your make up properly, your pores can get blocked, dead skin cells begin to build up and your skin generally has a dull appearance. Thorough cleansing every evening allows your moisturiser to penetrate properly and your skin to breathe. Even if you don’t wear make up everyday, removing the residue from smog, spf etc allows the ingredients from your serums and moisturiser to absorb and do their job properly. The latest buzzwords are “double cleansing” – what this really means is removing your makeup with a an oil based cleanser (oil is better than water-based products at breaking down makeup) and then cleansing you skin afterwards. I use Dermalogica’s Precleanse, which is hard to beat, and then use my clarisonic with a gentle cleanser from Elemental Herbology (a fantastic English brand that contains no nasty chemicals and is not tested on animals – so you can feel great about yourself too and not just your skin!)
4. How you protect your skin:
Anyone that knows me well knows my utter obsession with suncream, especially on my face. A preoccupation inherited from my mother and grandmother, I can see the difference it has made to my mother’s skin compared with some of her contemporaries. Not only does she have less fine lines and wrinkles, but her skin tone is much more even. After reading a study about how hyperpigmentation can make you look up to a massive 20 years older, my commitment to daily spf 50 continues. Despite the lack of sun in Ireland for most of the year, suncream can also protect from windburn and cold – something any cyclist or runner definitely needs.
5. The way you sleep:
Getting enough sleep is one of the gold standards for healthy skin and a healthy body. The usual advice of going to bed at a similar time every night, reducing caffeine later in the day and avoiding screens before bed all apply here. If you’re still having trouble nodding off, this spray and a silk eye mask are my go-to sleeping aids. Sleeping on your back also helps prevent the “sleep lines” that form when skin is compressed night after night.