With the passing of the Autumn Equinox, fall is now in full swing. The days are growing shorter, the mercury is falling, and the trees have exploded into a riot of colors.
And, as the weather cools, many of us find ourselves reaching for our favorite moisturizer or body lotion to keep our skin feeling soft and hydrated.
I know I used to!
Until a couple of months ago, I was an avid user of moisturizers and other skin care products to help manage my skin; which oscillated between dry and oily. But no matter what I tried, my complexion seemed to either stay the same or get worse; resulting in breakouts that took ages to clear up, and angry red marks on my face.
Maybe I was just using the wrong combination of products?
I had a regular daily moisturizer, a skin tone improving serum, a spot corrector, an exfoliator, and a cleanser, and was constantly on the lookout for that one “miracle” product that would solve all my woes.
But is this the right approach?
And is the deluxe, all-natural, organic, cruelty-free, eco-conscious bottle of cream you spent your hard-earned cash on all that it’s claiming to be? Or are there better (and less expensive) alternatives?
I was happy to find that yes, there are!
Here’s how to get naturally beautiful skin in three simple steps.
1. Hydrate from the inside out
Despite what many skincare companies may have you believe, the best way to keep your skin hydrated is from the inside out. If you have dry skin, the first thing you should do is up your water intake, rather than splurge on the next generation moisturizer.
Since 64% of your skin is actually water, keeping on top of your fluid intake is an effective and inexpensive way to keep your skin looking great.
However, this is not always as easy as it sounds.
For one, we seriously underestimate how quickly we become dehydrated. Researchers have calculated that on average, our skin loses between 300-400ml of water a day via passive evaporation. This does not take into account the moisture lost on hotter and drier days, or the liquid we excrete via our stools and urine.
In addition, while we know that we should drink 2l or 8.5 cups of water per day (1 cup is approx. 235ml), WaterLogic estimate that most of us only ever manage about half of this. This is partly due to the fact that we tend to substitute water with coffee, tea, alcohol and sugary fruit juices, which actually act as dehydrators; and party because many of us only drink when we are thirsty, by which point we are already dehydrated and putting unnecessary stress on our skin.
The best way to keep on top of your daily water intake is to start the day with a big glass of water as soon as you wake up. You should also aim to have a glass of water before each meal, and at regular intervals throughout the day.
While a recommended approach is to keep a big 2l bottle of water with you and drink from it throughout the day, this may not always be practical. Instead, you could print off a colorful water intake tracker (Pintrest and Etsy both provide various options to choose from). Alternatively, download a hydration app to your phone. This not only tracks your daily water intake, but can also send you reminders when it is time to have a drink.
2. Invest in your beauty sleep
While often overlooked, sleep is one of the most important elements of any beauty and wellness routine.
It is during our sleeping hours that our body has a chance to take stock of the day from a physiological point of view, and work on repairing any areas of damage, including dry skin.
Health experts generally advise adults should get between 7-9 hours of shuteye a night, while children and teens need between 10-12 hours. The goal should be to get roughly the same amount of sleep each night, rather than pulling late nights or all-nighters during the week, and then trying to make up for the lost sleep on the weekend.
While we may think that a few hours of missed sleep would not be a big deal, the truth is that by cutting your sleep short, your skin is missing out on important recovery and regeneration time.
Erratic or disrupted sleep upsets your circadian rhythms (the hormonal patterns that govern the sleep-wake cycle). This leads to tiredness and irritability, and dry, dull and puffy-looking skin.
Due to many people’s busy schedules, rejigging your day to allow for sufficient sleep may be easier said than done. But here are some steps that can be taken to improve sleep quality and duration:
You are the best judge of how much sleep you need in order to function during the day. Therefore, if you have a specific time that you need to get up at each morning (to go to work, to school, or to give yourself some me-time before the kids wake up), then set your bedtime in relation to your wake-up time.
For instance, if you know you need eight hours of sleep and you need to get up at 6A.M. the next day, then you need to be in bed ready to sleep by 10P.M.
Switch off the screens
Many of us have a habit of reaching for our phones or turning on the TV after a long day of staring at the computer during work hours. However, too much screen time interferes with our body’s ability produce the sleep-hormone melatonin, leading to tossing and turning late at night.
A solution is to turn off electronic devices 30-60mins earlier to give you time to prepare for bed. Do this by reading a book, meditating or a doing a couple of yoga asanas to prepare your body for sleep.
Put your kids to bed earlier
Part of the reason why many parents end up staying up later than they probably should is because they let their kids go to bed too late (often 8pm or later).
If you feel that your kids’ routine is impacting on your ability to get enough sleep, then you should try moving their bedtime back by 15-30 minute increments every few days, until your kids adjust to the new schedule.
This may mean cutting out or rescheduling some after-school activities. But a good nights’ sleep is more important for children’s long-term health and wellbeing than being an extracurricular star.
3. Stretch your facial muscles
We know that exercise is good for our mind, body, and soul, but when was the last time you exercised your face?
The answer for most of us is probably never.
Many people greet the concept of face exercises (or face yoga) with skepticism. But we tone and stretch the muscles in our arms, legs, and abs, and we can perform similar exercises with our facial muscles to keep our face looking healthy and toned.
Practitioners of face yoga claim that a regular facial exercise routine helped them improve the look of their skin and face without the need to resort to expensive products and surgery.
There are 43 muscles in the face, but we only actively use 30% of them through regular expressions like smiling and frowning. The idea is to wake up sleeping muscles and strengthen those muscles that have become lazy over the years to prevent or minimize sagging and wrinkles.
—Koko Hayashi, founder of Koko Face Yoga.
This was confirmed by a recent study from Northwestern University, which found that 30 minutes of daily facial exercises over a 20 week period helped women improve the appearance of their face and reduce visible signs of aging.
Take wrinkles, for instance.
Wrinkles on our face are caused by a combination of aging, exposure to UV light, and repeated facial expressions. Facial exercises can be used to improve the appearance of wrinkles by boosting circulation (promoting the repair and renewal of skin cells); and smoothing out tension in your facial muscles to counteract the grooves that form beneath the surface of your skin. Other facial exercises can help improve saggy jowls, plumping cheeks and smoothing the skin around the eyes, to name but a few.
There are plenty of how-to guides and courses available online (many of them free) for those interested.
Face yoga is easy to fit into your daily routine. Most exercises can be done while sitting at your desk or in your car, or even while reading or watching TV.
Naturally beautiful skin
While the steps listed above may seem basic, their effect should not be underestimated.
In his recent book, Clean–The New Science of Skin, James Hamblin points out our obsession with using expensive products and invasive procedures stems from the soap and cosmetics industry’s clever marketing campaigns over the past 200 years.
However, the best way to get naturally beautiful skin is to cut back on your skin care routine and allow your skin’s microbiome to restabilize to it natural equilibrium.
Having tried the methods mentioned in this article, I can personally tell you that by ditching make-up, exfoliants, cleansers and other face products, and upping my water intake, my skin has become smoother, more even in tone and less prone to acne.
Now, I just wash my face with warm water before or after bed, depending on how my face is feeling. A couple of minutes of face yoga before bed or while driving the car has helped improve my jawline and neck area without dieting or upping my exercise routine.
Not convinced? Why not give these simple (and free) methods a go for a month, and see how your skin looks and feels?
You may be surprised by the result!