Has anyone ever told you to mash up an avocado and put it on your face? A raw egg? Honey? Surely, you’ve heard some unusual things about how to get better-looking skin.
I’m here to tell you this though… if you think that acne or wrinkles (or both) will suddenly give way to pure flawlessness by smearing food on your face, it’s not going to happen.
You’re better off putting that avocado on your toast. Cook that egg. Put that raw organic honey into your green tea and drink it. It will serve your skin from the inside out.
The unconventional skin hacks you usually hear about are well-intentioned but they’re not a miracle cure to fix your skin. What matters then? It’s partly out of your control with genetics, and the other part has to do with environmental factors.
And it’s not about spending all your money buying the most expensive stuff either. However, those labels are critical in making the best decisions for caring for your skin. So, if you haven’t shown it the proper love before and you’re breaking out all over the place, or you have more wrinkles than you should at your 10th high school reunion, it’s time to ask yourself… what can you do now?
Not sure? Hey, that’s why I’m here! I’ve got the unconventional advice that will work for you. Don’t cry about your skin now. You’ll only get puffy! Instead, read onward to find out what you can do to fall in love with your face all over again!
Stay away from the sun
Ok, I have to admit, it feels good when the warmth of the sun washes over you. And some sun exposure is good for your body with that vitamin D. But there’s a difference between getting a proper dose of sun and baking yourself out there.
If you want a tan, use a self-tanning lotion. Stay out of the sun and far, far away from tanning beds. There’s danger afoot there.
Too much sun exposure leads to wrinkles and photoaging. Yuck! Also, it’s the heat too that can get you with hyperpigmentation. Sorry ladies in hot climates, but it’s true. Protect yourself by wearing sunscreen EVERY day, even when it’s not sunny per se, even when you’re not going out jogging around the lake, sitting by the pool with cocktails, or any of that. Just always use it, ok?
Sunscreen will save you in more than one way. It’s essential protection from skin cancer. But it’s also what stops the wrinkling, the loss of elasticity, and those sunspots you desperately try to cover up with makeup. Even the best skin care products can’t save you if you keep doing damage to your skin. So, slather it on every day before you leave your house.
Limit exposure to blue light
We have much to thank technology for. After all, the one thing keeping most of us sane during the pandemic has been the ability to link up virtually with friends. But whether scrolling through your newsfeeds or the news, or sitting in front of your laptop for hours on end trying to concentrate on work, you’re exposing yourself to blue light.
This type of light that comes from your electronic devices can cause oxidative stress. And oxidative stress makes skin age faster. There’s something else your smartphone is doing to you too every time you take a selfie.
LEDs in digital camera flashes are part of that blue region of light too. And those can damage your skin and your eyes. So go without flash or change the spectral output of those LED flashes to help mitigate the damages.
Improve your lifestyle
Remember what I said about eating avocados before rather than wearing them? Lifestyle changes you make can help save your skin dramatically. Along with a proper skin care regimen with real products rather than foods, you’ll start seeing better results.
It should be noted though that skincare is multifaceted in that you have to approach it from the inside and outside. These improvements to your lifestyle can help with all that and more so keep reading!
– Balanced diet
Everything you eat dictates how your skin looks. Sure, the occasional splurge of sugary treats is essential (especially at that time of month), but overall, look at what you’re putting in your mouth. Is it healthy?
What you eat should be primarily composed of foods that contain plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You’ll see these things in topical applications for your skin, and while some of them in the right molecular sizes can certainly benefit skin from the exterior, your body needs them nourishing from within.
Flavonoids, tocopherols, and carotenoids all serve as important nutrients your body needs. When you get them in the foods you eat or even add in supplements with the direction of your doctor, you will notice your skin exudes a healthy glow naturally. Nutrition and skin aging are intensely intertwined, so start by making healthier choices on your plate to slow down the hands of time.
– Drink plenty of water
I know, I KNOW that you know you should be drinking water. But before you give me a great big “DUH” please know how it impacts you in the dermatological sense.
One study went to great lengths to show us what water does when you drink it daily for your skin. There were 49 women in the group, averaged at about the age of 24. Chosen for their dietary habits and water consumption. They were split into groups. One group drank less than 3,200mL per day while the other group drank more.
After one month, the second group was given 2 more liters of water per day. When measurements were taken for skin physiology to measure the skin and hydration from within. The study found that the higher the water input, the better the positive impact on skin physiology.
So, I know water can be boring sometimes, but if you want your skin to look good, get a water bottle and fill it up often. Add a lemon in there to give it flavor. You’ll also get more vitamin C, which is always a bonus, especially now!
– Get active
I’ll admit that sometimes it takes a lot to motivate me to workout. But I force myself to do it and then I feel proud. I also feel better, like everything is circulating properly. And my skin looks great.
Whether you like to exercise indoors or outdoors, you should keep up with it. It’s great for feeling better overall, becoming more flexible and supple, and having more energy. And in a way, that’s the ultimate anti-ager!
But there are some things to be cautious about. Researchers in one study found that sweating in the sun could increase skin photosensitivity. When that happens, you’re more likely to get sunburn or incur UV-related damages to your skin. So, if you prefer to get your exercise outside, you just need to take a few more precautions than the gym rats among us.
As always, guard your skin with sunscreen, but if possible, try to do your exercise during the hours of the day where the exposure to the sun is lower. If you can’t really avoid it, then choose protective clothing, making sure to wear a hat to protect your scalp and shade your face.
– Stress management
Do you have frequent breakouts? It might be due to the stress in your life. In a controlled study from about a decade ago, it was confirmed that stress could cause acne to flare up.
Skin from acne patients revealed an increase of a specific nerve fiber around the sebaceous glands. The SP-positive nerve fiber, as it’s scientifically known, can change the sebaceous glands, stimulating inflammatory cytokines to come into play. There’s the stratum corneum that serves as a barrier function to maintain homeostasis. It seals in essential hydration and guards against microbial infection.
If you know me, you know I also love science, but if you’re wondering what all that just meant, it’s very simple… when this protective layer is disrupted as is common with stress, skin becomes dry or flaky.
In studies with mice, when they were overcrowded, they had higher rates of trans-epidermal water loss and a disrupted skin barrier function, which led them to flake and have some slightly wrinkled tendencies. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what the mechanism is, but they found that there was a decrease in ceramides as well as other important contents that keep skin looking young.
In other studies, stress proved just as damaging to the skin, showing that it can severely hinder the epidermal proliferation, decrease lipid synthesis, and reduce the size and density of corneodesmosomes. While that’s a mouthful, you should take this away from our little science lesson: applying lipids like ceramides and fatty acids can help balance and restore that barrier’s integrity.
This is why skincare products that are properly formulated with science-backed ingredients are what you should choose for your exterior. But on the inside, please find ways to reduce your stress. From exercise to listening to music to gabbing with a friend, carve out at least 10 minutes per each day where you simply tune everything else out and practice stress management self-care. Do it for your skin!
– Beauty sleep
Do you ever stay up too late and regret it? Whether it’s binge-watching your favorite shows or staying out for “just one more” cocktail with friends and then getting up way too early for work, that sleep deprivation is going to destroy your skin.
Swedish scientists did a study that revealed acute sleep deprivation actually makes you “more ugly” and others will perceive you as lacking in health. These researchers also found that others would avoid contact with those that looked tired. Geez, that’s harsh, right?
Not so much. Especially right now in the world of pandemic panic. When someone’s face looks unhealthy, your natural tendency instinctively is to avoid that person. Think of your bestie answering the door looking like an extra from a zombie movie…would you go hug her? Nope, but as a good friend, you’d probably get her some soup and leave it on her doorstep.
Maybe all those late nights aren’t such a good idea, huh? Even if you have a pressing project for work or school, there is a good reason they have always called it “beauty sleep” so make sure you’re getting it.
Also, use a good skincare formula for nighttime that’s right for your skin type. Take the time to cleanse your face properly, removing ALL makeup, and then nourishing your skin before climbing into bed. As you sleep, the cells in your body regenerate, which will only serve to make you look even better when you wake.
– Change your pillowcase at least once a week
Ok, I’m going to ask something a bit personal…when was the last time you changed your sheets? If you say anything over a week ago, or you can’t even remember, go strip your bed down and throw the sheets in the wash.
Skincare experts all agree that you should change your pillowcase once weekly. For those with sensitive skin or frequent breakouts, you should use a gentle detergent to prevent irritations. Fragrance-free is best for every skin type, and fabric softeners should be avoided.
If doing laundry isn’t your thing, then use this as an excuse to buy more sheets with a few extra pillowcases thrown in. Just keep things clean and your skin will thank you from head to toe. Also, it just makes sleeping even better when you slip into freshly-washed sheets.
Pillowcases and sheets aren’t the only things to get a weekly cleanse either. Any of your makeup brushes, blenders, and whatever comes into contact with your face needs to be cleaned. Even the pillows themselves should be washed every few months.
And there’s one thing you might completely forget about that you should be cleaning every day, especially right now…your phone! If you only knew the germs that lingered on it, whether the coronavirus is around or not, you would never put it up to your face again.
– Don’t over-cleanse your face
With acne, the cause isn’t because your face is dirty. Most people that experience frequent breakouts keep their skin quite clean in hopes of alleviating this problem. But that’s not what you should be worried about if acne plagues you.
When you have acne, it’s those pesky dead skin cells that cling on and aren’t shedding as they should. Your skin cells are sensitive and easy to irritate thanks to the bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacteria. Your hormones are also getting into the mix too.
Most people that have frequent breakouts have oily skin and mistakenly think that washing their face more frequently will solve the problem. Unfortunately, it depletes your skin of the essential oils it needs to keep a supple texture. And when you over-wash skin, you destroy the acid mantle. It’s a special protective layer on top of the skin, a microbiome of sorts that is essential for healthy skin.
What happens when you over-cleanse? You leave your skin feeling dry and tight and looking red, irritated and flaky. Look for products that are gentler to your skin. Avoid antibacterial hand soap, bar soap, and rubbing alcohol. Formulas made for your skin type will nourish it while cleansing away anything that doesn’t belong to leave you looking fresher and clearer day by day.
– Use a water purifier
Maybe you ARE using all the right stuff. And you’re eating right and sleeping right and even working out like a champ. But if your skin is dry and irritated, you might want to take a look at your water source. If you have hard water, those high levels of calcium and magnesium, you should get a water filter to remove or replace any mineral that will affect your skin.
It’s simple, really. You can add it to your faucet, and you’ll get some pretty stellar benefits:
- Boosted hydration – A water filter takes these ions out of your way, preventing them from binding to your skin and drying it out.
- Stops irritation – Ever look on your shower wall and see soap scum? That’s what’s happening to your skin too! Those minerals cling to your skin along with your soap. Once you start using a water filter, those pesky skin irritations will stop.
- Helps fight aging – In addition to changing the chemistry of natural oils on your skin, they also create an imbalance that allows free radicals to form. And those things must be stopped at all causes to prevent the visible signs of aging. If your skin is maturing, you should absolutely get a water filter to keep hard water from hammering your skin into an aged texture.
- Reduces breakouts – Hard water, or water full of minerals, dries and damages skin, which increases oil production. That increase in oil leads to clogged pores and continues the vicious breakout cycle over and over again. Even if you add a water filter tonight though, you’ll have to allow your skin to adjust to the changes. Once it does, you’ll find it looks clearer, smoother, and far less antagonized than it ever did.
You should also know that water’s natural hardness depends on what’s going on in your area environmentally. There might be carbon compounds from pollution in the air, for example. And when those mix with rainwater, you can wind up with hard water. Much of the water in the US is hard in nature. You can always check it out to see if you’re one of the lucky ones, but if not, get a water softener installed and you’ll do good for your skin, and for your pipes too!
– Choose a moisturizer that goes well with your skin type
Moisturizer is one of the most important products you can buy for your skin. You should never skip using it. But the one you choose must be beneficial to your skin’s own needs. Dry or itchy skin requires something that locks moisture in, like a thick ointment. Normal skin will benefit from creams to help it hydrate. Lotions are incredibly light thanks to containing water as the main ingredient, making them an ideal choice for oily skin.
Moisturizer thickness should depend on which part of your body you’re slathering it, your skin type, and the season. For example, in winter, you’ll need something a bit heavier to combat the dryness from the cold and from indoor heating. You also need something different by day and night. Dermatologists recommend using something lighter in the day and heavier at night.
Here’s a little rundown of what to look for, at a glance:
- Ingredients with antioxidants are best. Check out the ingredient list for things like chamomile, green tea, licorice root extract or pomegranate. Antioxidants are your friends inside and out. They tackle those free radicals that break down your skin cells and fight them off to keep you looking young.
- Oily and breakout-prone skin needs alpha-hydroxy acids, which clear things up and fight the signs of aging. Your facial moisturizer should say “non-comedogenic” on it to keep your pores clear.
- Dry skin needs something heavier, preferably with ultra-plumping hyaluronic acid and dimethicone. Both are excellent hydrators. Additionally, you’ll want things like glycerin, proteins, propylene glycol, and urea, which all help attract water into your skin. And to lock it in place, look for something like lanolin to help keep that attracted water in your skin cells.
- With sensitive skin, you need some without fragrance that has been tested and approved as hypoallergenic. It’s best to find things that have 10 or fewer ingredients since there is less potential for irritation.
- If your skin is itchy, look for something with 1% hydrocortisone. Only use it for one week, and only with your dermatologist’s blessing. You should definitely have anything problematically itchy inspected by a doctor at once.
- With eczema, you’ll want a thick ointment that moisturizes. It will soothe cracks and leave skin supple again. Petroleum jelly works great in a pinch.
– Know more about acids that work best for you
When it comes to skincare, acid should be in your regimen. But it’s not the kind of acid that burns. These types of acids are skin-friendly that work to fight wrinkles, acne, age spots, scars, and problematic skin tone. Choosing the right one means you’ll have amazing skin, but you shouldn’t just pick randomly.
Here’s a little guide to choosing your ultimate acid for skin, so keep reading!
– Salicylic acid
Great for gentle exfoliation and clearing pores, salicylic acid is ideal for breakout-prone skin. Generally, it’s included in concentrations of 0.5 to 2% from serums and cleansers and even spot treatments. You’ll find it in higher concentrations for peeling agents at dermatology clinics. Fun fact: it’s related to aspirin, so it’s a great natural anti-inflammatory.
– Glycolic acid
Of all the AHAs out there, glycolic acid is the most popular. It’s derived from sugar cane and is extremely effective at penetrating skin since it’s so small. It also exfoliates and is wonderful for reducing lines and wrinkles, stopping acne, evening out skin texture and tone, and boosting skin thickness for a plump and youthful appearance. You’ll see it included at below 10% in most concentrations. At the dermatologist, you’ll see it in higher concentrations for peels.
One important word of caution though: glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, even if you aren’t wearing it out in the sun. Always go with my rule about wearing sunscreen for this very reason!
– Mandelic acid
Like glycolic acid, mandelic acid is an AHA. It comes from bitter almonds and is a great exfoliator ideal for halting acne, correcting sun damage, and repairing pigmentation. It has a larger molecular structure though, so it doesn’t go as deep into the skin like glycolic acid can do. But that just means it’s less irritating. That’s why it’s great for peels and for darker skin, preventing rebound pigmentation, which happens when you build up resistance to something from using it too often.
– Azelaic acid
If you have moderate acne, azelaic acid is something you’ve likely come to know from prescription creams. It’s fantastic for keeping pores clear, reducing inflammation, and killing the bacteria that causes acne. At 15 to 20% concentration, these creams are applied all over your face twice daily. There are few side effects but usually only for those with sensitive skin. If you think it might be beneficial to you, talk to your dermatologist.
Aside from acne, you should know that azelaic acid is great for lightening skin, so if you have post-acne marks or any hyperpigmentation, you might do well with combining it with retinoids, with your dermatologist’s blessing of course!
– Kojic acid
This acid comes from the bacteria created during rice fermentation used in making sake. It’s something you’ll see in Asian skincare formulations, ideal for whitening and anti-aging. Cleansers and serums generally have 1 to 4% concentrations, though beware! It’s a bit irritating to skin, but if you have hyperpigmentation or aging issues, you’ll love it.
– Ascorbic acid
This popular form of water-soluble vitamin C is ideal for anti-aging and has subbed in for hydroquinone for melasma treatments. It’s unstable with water and oxygen, so it gets combined in other ways to stabilize it for your safe usage and impeccable skin results.
– Linoleic acid and oleic acid
These 2 are often lumped together because they’re fatty acids that reacted and lost their acid groups, creating triglycerides. Oils with more linoleic acid are drier in texture, ideal for oily skins, while oleic acid has a richer feel and is better suited to dry skin. Essentially, linoleic acid can lighten pigmentation, but you will want to avoid using linoleic acid as an added ingredient since it will already achieve the same results and counteract. Oleic acid is a barrier disruptor all on its own though, and can help molecules penetrate the skin.
Still a little lost in the acid discussion? Here’s a quick look at popular skin types and what to use:
- Acne-prone – salicylic acid, azelaic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid
- Mature – lactic acid, glycolic acid, ferulic acid, ascorbic acid
- Lightening – azelaic acid, kojic acid, glycolic acid, linoleic acid, lactic acid, ferulic acid, ascorbic acid
No matter which acid you use, the higher the concentration the product has, the more likely you may be to experience irritation. I recommend doing a little patch test first to avoid a big red blotchy face. Also, if it’s your first time using a certain skin acid, use the lowest concentration and then work your way up.
Another important tip: when the acid is listed at the beginning of the ingredients, it’s the active ingredient. Make sure you read your labels!
And one huge thing you absolutely must not skip reading is this… DON’T MIX FACE ACIDS!
Here are my pro tips on that:
- You can’t use salicylic acid with other acids at the same time. So if you’re washing your face with a salicylic acid cleanser, don’t mix it with any other acid-based cleanser, or you’ll wind up with very irritated skin.
- Never use niacinamide in conjunction with any product that has salicylic acid.
- Glycolic acid and lactic acid should never be used with vitamin C. Doing so will make that ascorbic acid lose its benefits before it can do anything to help your skin.
- When using retinol, don’t use AHAs.
Got it? Good! Let’s move on!
– Avoid heavy makeup
There’s a time and place for makeup and often, what we think of as heavy or light depends on our own personal definitions. Whatever you think of as too much in terms of makeup, just know this…the more of it you wear, the more likely you are to clog your pores and irritate the skin.
Even when you’re using natural ingredients in your makeup like coconut oil or if you’re using synthetics, they clog pores. They trap bacteria and dirt in there too and then you get blackheads and other not-so-lovely breakouts.
That doesn’t mean you need to go without it though. Just take the time to wash your face properly every night to remove it. Your pores need time to recover and breathe. Your nighttime routine might just be even more important than the one in the morning.
Also, be careful when applying makeup. The more you touch those tender areas, especially around the eyes, the more likely you will be to have wrinkles. Eyelids that get tugged at all the time with liners and shadows lose their elasticity and become heavily wrinkled. The skin in this area is so much more tender, so it has more potential to lose collagen and have broken capillaries.
– Use a humidifier especially in the winter
If you live somewhere cold, invest in a humidifier. Interior heating dries out the air and those frigid temperatures outdoors are drying in a different way. Plus, the constant switch from hot to cold air as you go in and out can deplete the skin of those precious natural oils.
Humidifiers are also wonderful for those that have chronically dry skin issues or skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Low levels of humidity can ruin that natural skin barrier and you get stuck with cracked, peeling, or flaking skin. Don’t forget those hot showers that I must admit feel amazing when you come in from the snow. Hot water dries out skin too much though and you should train yourself to take lukewarm showers instead.
It’s worth the suffering, for that outermost barrier layer of your skin is what helps defend it. If it’s dehydrated, it can spell disaster for your skin. Be sure to hydrate inside and out, plump up the air with humidity, and pamper your skin to keep it from losing its barrier protection.
– Visit your dermatologist
If you have skin concerns, it’s wise to check in with your dermatologist. This is especially true if acne or aging is on your mind. There’s a chemical they can prescribe called isotretinoin, known more commonly by the brand Accutane. But do beware as there are some nasty side effects that can come up as referenced by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
It’s safer in low dosages over the long-term though, something you and your dermatologist can discuss to see if it’s right for you. Moderate to severe acne can be cleared using it and studies are relatively promising. In short, two studies, this one and this one found that 135 out of 140 patients had over 96% clearance over times ranging at a minimum of 10 months to a maximum of 22 months.
Some of the side effects that can come about from using it too long or at too high a dosage are depression, diarrhea, headaches, mood swings, night blindness, sticky palms, and tendonitis, to name a few. Again, it’s a conversation for you and your dermatologist based on your unique skin situation.
– Go with injections
Specifically, Botox. There’s so much misinformation out there on the internet today that it’s no wonder you might be fearful. If you go to a properly licensed medical professional for Botox, you will find your wrinkles smooth away. It’s a neurotoxin, which only sounds scary. It basically targets the muscles below your skin and keeps them from embedding deep-set wrinkles.
Botox is ideal for lines on the forehead and prevents new wrinkles from forming on places where your face always moves. Fillers are another option as is fat grafting, but again, you should be sure to discuss these needs with an experienced and licensed medical professional.
Just because your bestie had fillers doesn’t mean you need them. Going to someone esteemed in the industry will be honest about what you might need so that you’ll have a naturally-restored look rather than looking like a Muppet.
You’re looking for “board-certified” on the credentials both for dermatologists and those administering injectables. Take your time looking for someone that you feel comfortable with, whose results you’ve seen, and is utterly transparent with what they do. You’ll be glad you did your research or else you’ll wind up with a face you can’t fix.
You can’t change your genes like you do your jeans. It’s impossible. But if people in your family tend to age early on or are prone to extreme acne, you can go into it prepared by taking care of your skin.
Lifestyle matters too. You can’t smoke cigarettes (ew!) and sit out in the sun all day every weekend and expect to look 20 at 40. It’s not going to happen. And even if you do protect your skin and care for it, those quality products you use will be useless if you’re always eating and drinking sugar or staying up way too late.
Take care of your internal health, watch your lifestyle, and know which products are best suited for your skin type to have the most beautiful skin.