"New year, new you" is a refrain oft heard around this time of year. And while washboard abs might not happen anytime soon, 2015 could be the year you help your complexion look its best by nipping a few bad skincare habits in the bud. (No judgement! We all have them, myself included.) In honour of this ethos, I'll be running skincare-themed posts this week including basic principles, a product review for a new drugstore line, and sharing what my current routine is like.
Full disclosure: I get a lot of compliments on my skin, which I chalk up to a combination of things like good genes, a routine that works for me, and relatively clean living. But my complexion is by no means perfect and it takes a certain level of self-care to keep it clear, smooth, and calm. Regardless of what your current regimen is and what products you use, here are 10 very simple things you can start doing for a noticeable improvement 4-6 weeks down the road.
1. Consult a professional. If you've been struggling with a chronic condition that over-the-counter products can't seem to fix, it's probably time to see a doctor, dermatologist, or experienced aesthetician who can diagnose the problem and prescribe a solution. When I was 14 and getting serious breakouts on my forehead, my mother insisted I see the doctor who determined the cause was a slight hormonal imbalance. Since then I've been using a prescription compound lotion and forehead-breakout-free.
2. Wash your face at night. Always. Whenever I feel too tired to wash my face before going to bed, I'm guaranteed to wake up with a new blemish the next morning. Removing the day's dirt, oil, and makeup lets skin breathe and cleanses away acne-causing bacteria. Without this nightly ritual, that stuff will sit on your face all night or transfer to bed linens. Feeling lazy? Invest in a micellar water (which removes makeup and cleanses in one step) and disposable cleansing cloths and keep them by your bed. No excuses.
3. Wash anything that touches your face (makeup brushes, towels, pillowcases, etc.) weekly. Again, it's all about getting rid of acne-causing bacteria. Once a week, I go through our condo and throw towels and pillowcases into the washer and dryer. While the laundry is going, I take my makeup brushes and wash them at the kitchen sink. It doesn't take a lot of time, just a bit of diligence.
4. Exfoliate (but not too much). Exfoliation is wonderful for so many reasons. It rids skin of dull, flaky, dead cells; it allows products to absorb better because they're not trying to get through those dead skin cells; it gives you glowing, soft skin. But too much of a good thing can also be bad. Over-exfoliation can leave you with raw, red, easily irritated skin. What's more, as you age and cell production slows down, the cells you're sloughing off aren't as easily replaced; over years, this can give your complexion a thin, papery appearance.
Check your products for chemical, natural, or manual exfoliants like microbeads and granules. Consider that some of your techniques and tools—like using a washcloth or a Clarisonic to cleanse—might have exfoliating benefits too. Take your whole skin regimen into account before adding a serious microdermabrasion treatment to the mix.
5. Start your day with warm water and lemon. Before eating anything in the morning, I drink a big mug of warm water with juice from one lemon quarter (or a lemon half if the lemon is on the small side). The benefits of lemon water have been touted on numerous blogs. Speaking from personal experience, I've found that in the last 6+ months my digestion has improved and I get fewer blemishes. Plus, starting the day with a big mug of water re-hydrates the body. Speaking of which...
6. Hydrated skin is happy skin. Drink lots of water and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
7. Wear SPF during the day. I admit I tend to get a little lazy with this one in winter, just because I'm indoors almost all day and night starts as early as 4pm. And by "lazy," I mean relying on a BB cream with SPF as my sole source of sun protection. If I know I'm going to be out in the sun all day—and especially during the warmer months—I'll wear a real sunscreen under SPF makeup.
8. Treat yourself to a facial occasionally. Aside from the obvious benefits of having a professional work on you and handle extractions, they're just so darn relaxing.
9. Do a mask at least once a week. Hydrating, brightening, de-toxifying...so many formulas to try depending on the benefits you're seeking. If you're pressed for time, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to recline on the couch like a lady of leisure for half an hour waiting for it to work its magic. You can slap one on while doing chores. Or hey! Maybe you can apply one before you wash your towels, linens, and makeup brushes. A pretty good #SundaySkincare ritual if you ask me.
10. Exercise and eat well. This last one is perhaps the most challenging of all the habits listed because it takes daily intention and effort, but it pays off in dividends. Exercise promotes circulation, helps de-toxify the body through a good sweat, and helps you sleep better at nights which is when skin does its serious repair and recovery work. As for eating well, there are reams of advice on this, but I'm going to keep it simple: Eat your vegetables, and if there are trigger foods that you know will inflame your skin and cause breakouts, have them sparingly. (Mine are fried foods, sugar, and red meat.)
I could go on and on, but these are the really basic tenets I can think of that have made a huge difference to my skin. Do you have any skincare commandments you swear by? Please do share!