Often what we see on the outside is a window into what’s going on internally, and it’s good to remember that skin is the largest organ and our protector against moisture, bacteria, UV rays, and other unwanted things from entering our body, so taking care of our exterior is not just for cosmetic reasons. Our skin also helps with regulating body temperature, has nerve endings that allow us to feel sensations and blood vessels that serve various functions throughout the body. I often feel that skincare tips are focused entirely on topical products, and while topical skincare is certainly helpful in a lot of ways (as mentioned in some of the tips below), sometimes the best thing we can do for our overall skin health is take care of our bodies from the inside out (back to the window thing). I think we’ve all heard the tip to “drink more water” but there are other things you can do that help skin. Not only will it help in the short term, but the benefits will follow you through as you get older.
Habit To Break: Ignoring digestive symptoms. Often when we have stomach problems we ignore the symptoms and get on with our lives, however, subpar gut health can cause a lot of issues and has been linked to skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Some symptoms of poor digestive health include pain or discomfort after eating, constant bloating, constipation, diarrhea, feeling sluggish, impaired nutrient absorption, and more. If you feel like something is off with your gut, it is always best to talk to your doctor or a trusted functional health professional to get to the root of the issue and get a plan of action.
Habit To Start: It may seem repetitive to mention, but eating less processed food and incorporating healthy prebiotics and probiotics into your diet like fermented food, onions, apples, garlic, and a probiotic supplement can be a good step to improve gut health. It is unfortunate that the majority of “health food” breaks most people’s budgets, but even a minor swap or addition can begin to make a difference over time.
Habit To Break: Too much sun exposure. It’s easy to get caught up in summer fun, hanging out with friends or basking in the sun, then next thing you know you’re as bright red as a cooked lobster, which isn’t great for a few reasons. Being outside can be good for both mental and physical health, but too much sun can lead to sunburns and long-term skin damage. Sunburns are an inflammatory response to severely damaged skin cells, which can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer and other, more cosmetic issues like hyperpigmentation and premature aging.
Habit To Start: I mentioned this in my skincare routine post, but I understand not everyone is into skincare, and not everyone wants to wear sunscreen. While I caution against going without sun protection completely, some protection is better than none (unless you’re at a greater risk for skin cancer, then standards should be higher, of course). Some steps you can take are wearing a wide-brimmed hat, wear sunglasses, stay in the shade, and wear sunscreen (read my all about sunscreen post to learn more about this subject).
Habit To Break: Clean face doesn’t equal a clean pillow. I used to think going to bed with a clean face was enough and I didn’t need to wash my pillowcase more often than I washed my blankets, but I didn’t take into account the oil, build-up of hair products, and those lovely dead skin cells that we shed while sleeping that cover the pillowcase.
Habit To Start: A really simple solution is to wash your pillowcase at least once or twice a week if it’s convenient, if not more often (you can also just interchange a couple of pillowcases and wash them all on laundry day). Also, if you notice your pillowcase is scratchy and irritating your skin, get a new one (if you can) or use an old/unworn soft t-shirt over your pillow-case to soften the blow on your skin.
Habit To Break: Extreme temperatures on a regular basis.
Habit To Start: There aren’t many things more enjoyable than a nice hot bath or shower after a long day, or after being out in cool fall weather. Unfortunately, extreme water temperatures (both hot and ice-cold) can cause skin dehydration and irritation, so it’s important to use tepid water when possible. Also using a moisturizer right after a shower, when the skin is still a bit damp, can help prevent TEWL (the rate that water evaporates from the skin; can lead to dehydration and dryness). I still love a hot bath or shower, I just try to keep it short (if I can help it).
Habit To Break: Nose strips.
Habit To Start: Using nose strips can be a fun, satisfying experience, but if you really want to improve blackheads and skin congestion, using a BHA is a much more effective way to go. A couple of popular choices are Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid * or The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser. This video is also helpful if you struggle with blackheads.
Habit To Break: Makeup wipes on a regular basis.
Habit To Start: Makeup wipes are a convenient, no-mess quick fix after a night out, and can also seem like a great option for someone who doesn’t love skincare or who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on it, however, some ingredients in wipes, when left on the skin, can cause irritation and might not even completely remove makeup. While there is nothing inherently wrong with makeup wipes (if they truly work for you), they can be unnecessarily rough on the skin. If you do use makeup wipes, be sure to at least rinse your skin after, then follow with a gentle second cleanser. If you want to try something new, double cleaning or even using micellar water can be great alternatives to wipes. Read my “build your skincare routine” post to pick which method and products might work best for you.
Habit To Break: Over-exfoliating. It might seem like exfoliating is the answer to every skin problem; if you have an issue, just scrub it away. While using chemical exfoliants or getting into retinol can yield fantastic results, it is definitely not the answer to all problems and can cause more harm than good if over-used or used improperly. (some downsides to over-exfoliating include broken capillaries, redness, dehydration, skin roughness, burning, stinging, etc)
Habit To Start: If you tend to over-exfoliate, or try to solve skin sensitivity with more exfoliation, it is probably time to work on healing the skin barrier. I’ve touched on this several times throughout my posts but having a very basic routine consisting of a cleanser and moisturizer at night and sunscreen in the morning can help your skin get back to a strong, healthy place. Once you allow your skin to heal (usually after several weeks or months), you can slowly add in exfoliating products again and actually get to enjoy the benefits from them.
Habit To Break: Face only.
Habit To Start: One of the most common misses when using skincare is forgetting to go below the chin. Bring your skincare down your neck, onto your chest, and the backs of your hands. Your body skin is exposed to UV rays and other environmental stressors just as often as your face, and ages the same as well (although there aren’t as many “anti-aging” treatments for the body), so it’s just as important to take care of it. Body care doesn’t have to be complicated either; just a gentle body wash and a moisturizer are enough, but you can definitely amp it up by adding in AHA/BHA body lotions like Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Lotion or acne treatment wash if needed.
Habit To Break: Ignoring health problems, masking symptoms rather than getting to the root of the problem.
Habit To Start: Go for a check-up. Deficiencies in vitamins, metabolic problems, dehydration, autoimmune disorders, and uncontrolled stress can all negatively impact not only the general state of wellbeing but the skin as well. Talk to your doctor or reach out to a counselor if needed. If you see something’s a miss externally, it could be a sign of what’s going on inside that needs help. It’s easy to forget how important these simple things are and even easier to become indifferent to our health issues, but learning to be more in tune with how you’re feeling can help you know how to better your overall health.
Habit To Break: Taking online advice as being concretely true, no matter who says it.
Habit To Start: Even though I’ve mentioned some tips on how to improve skin health, I think it’s quite important to say that any information you read on skincare, skin tips, health tips, supplement recommendations, etc, should be taken with a grain of salt. Internal and external health is highly individual and there is no one proven way or method to achieve perfect health. While new fad diets and miracle supplements might help in the short term (or with one particular piece of the health puzzle), it often misses the point of longterm/sustainable choices. It is hard to avoid, but feeling obligated to follow marketing claims or thinking what someone else does is the only way that will work can have the opposite intended effect. If you feel something’s a miss, follow your gut and talk to your doctor about it, or your dermatologist, or a counselor, or some other medical professional you trust. Otherwise, do you, do what works for you, and take care of yourself.
What are some tips that have changed your skin for the better?
1. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does skin work? 2009 Sep 28 [Updated 2019 Apr 11].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279255/
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DISCLAIMER: This post is for informational and entertainment purposes only. This content is not a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment.