When it comes to skincare, everyone has their own philosophy for what works and what doesn’t. Every season, there is a new miracle ingredient (snail slime, things that are blue colored, a special seaweed harvested by monks in a monastery, so forth), and every soundbite is contradicting the next – why you shouldn’t be cleansing/why you’re not cleansing enough!
But the one thing we can all agree on is the end goal of figuring out how to have the best skin skin possible for as long as possible. That’s the fundamental objective, right? All the products we buy, love, replace in an endless cycle is all in pursuit of finding those holy grails that improve upon current holy grail products in an effort to keep our skin as good as it can. It all becomes about investing in cyclical trends for perceived incremental benefit.
I know this can feel tedious, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Establishing good habits early on can work wonders. Here are the 5 essential habits I want you to practice as the core of your skincare ritual:
1. Pay attention to your skin’s response.
The person who understands your skin best isn’t the sales rep behind a counter or on the floor at Sephora. And it certainly isn’t going to come from a beauty editor telling you what’s in this season. Your skin is not a trend, nor is it going to care about fancy packaging or fanciful stories. Your body is constantly telling you what it likes and does it like by responding to the things you’re doing and using. Is the moisturizer too heavy? Your skin will probably look dull, feel congested, or break out. People who pay attention to these cues will grasp what works and does not work for their skin, which will lead to them being able to make more informed and educated purchases. Of course this comes from open mindedness and experimentation but that can be done in the form of samples. It isn’t just about knowing which products to purchase: I once had a patient who came to me with red, blistered skin who told me that he had read in an interview that an A-list actor swore by exfoliating. The patient took this advice to heart and purchased a chemical exfoliator with 3 types of acids which he proceeded to leave on as an overnight treatment which absolutely made a mess of his skin. Figure out how your skin is responding and adjust because each person is different.
So start practicing by taking the time to figure out how your skin behaves and how it reacts to each product you use. Consider both immediate reactions and long term results. Being active in this process will help you make wiser decisions based on your skin type and needs.
2. What you put in is as important as what you put on.
When I was a teenager, I went through bouts of acne that are the standard course of puberty and I remember being told that food does not have any impact on acne. This is still the hardline stance being taught in western medicine. Yet we all understand that a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential to our well being so it’s perplexing that many Western dermatologists refute any correlation between our diet and skin. In fact we can scientifically verify that certain vegetables give skin a healthy glow while other ingestible substances such as alcohol and tobacco dramatically dull and age skin.
Spending money on $300 dollar creams is not going to get you very far if you’re also smoking and eating junk food. Skin friendly foods such as avocados, salmon, fruit, vegetables and nuts, contain beneficial nutrients that are proven to build collagen, rejuvenate, and strengthen skin. Beauty from within is a very real concept that should be the foundation of any skincare plan.
3. The hand of the diligent shall rule.
This proverb is true when it comes to taking care of skin. If you want to see pay off, figure out your routine and stick with it. Consistency is key toward providing the cycle of repair and prevention that are necessary for good skin health. You wouldn’t exercise once a week and expect great results, similarly you shouldn’t expect to see results from sporadic and inconsistent habits, be disciplined and follow through daily.
Things to be diligent about: cleansing, applying sunscreen, drinking plenty of water.
4. Don’t skimp on the essentials.
A good routine doesn’t have to be expensive nor complicated but knowing where to invest can really amplify your routine. This includes a good cleanser used morning and night (without fail, see rule 3), to remove all the impurities that can be detrimental for skin. A high quality serum will do more for actively repairing and protecting skin than a moisturizer, so save up to splurge on a good serum. Finally, a high quality sunscreen that works with your skin is always a good buy.
5. Be kind to yourself.
It’s no coincidence that the worlds oldest people alive all tend to have one thing in common: a good sense of humor. A positive outlook, happiness and contentment are fundamental for a long, healthy life. On the other hand, harboring stress and negativity has been shown to accelerate aging, create hormone imbalances and disrupt rest and sleep which greatly impair the body’s ability to heal and repair itself.