Skin is not only our largest organ — it’s the most visible part of our body. For that reason, a healthy complexion is key if you want to make a good first impression. While durable and undoubtedly impressive, skin doesn’t always cooperate with us. Take a surprise pimple on your wedding day, or perhaps scaly, dried-out skin that itches and peels. Genetics may be to blame for some skin issues, but you can also foster healthy skin by taking care of your body and following all that advice mom gave you years ago.
Popping Pimples: Anyone who’s advised you to leave that pimple alone was correct. Popping pimples inflames the skin, can leave permanent pock marks and, in the end, makes that unsightly zit last days longer. Instead of popping, apply a zit-zapping cream that contains benzoyl peroxide. If it’s an emergency (e.g. wedding day), visit a dermatologist. “We do a tiny cortisone injection into the offending spot and it usually quickly ‘deflates,'” notes Dr. Alicia Zalka, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale and Founder of Surface Deep. “Nothing works quicker.”
Tanning: “Tanning beds are the worst for your skin because they have artificial quantities of UVA and UVB, which increases the risk of skin cancers and skin aging,” says Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, who holds three Harvard degrees, including a Ph.D in genetics, and currently runs clinical/laboratory studies on anti-aging, acne and skin cancer. She says to skip tanning and use a faux tanner if you prefer a golden sheen.
Skipping Your Face Wash: No matter how long of a night you’ve had and despite how badly you want to crawl into bed, always wash your face first. “Just like the rest of your body, your skin needs its rest at night,” says Dr. Zalka. “If too much gunk is blocking pores and sweat ducts, your skin will be fighting an uphill battle.”
Feeling Stressed: You know stress is bad for your heart, but it also pays a toll on your skin. “Stress steroids are produced by the adrenal glands, causing acne and other skin problems,” explains Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas. De-stressing is easier said than done, but you can begin by budgeting your time more effectively and allowing yourself daily “me time.”
Eating a Diet in High Processed Food: Processed foods contain ingredients that can lead to water retention, bloating and allergies, explains Dr. Zalka. They’re also difficult for your body to digest, resulting in inflammatory reactions that affect the skin and other organs. “If your diet is packed with these undesirable foods, you are probably not eating the right foods that would help to fortify your health,” notes Dr. Zalka. Stick to produce and lean meats, which provide the essential vitamins and nutrients your body — and skin — needs to thrive.
Consuming Too Much Sugar: “Great intake of sugars triggers insulin secretion in the body,” says Dr. Zalka, who explained that spikes of sugar and insulin in the blood stream are detrimental to your body and skin. When sugar spikes are chronic or extreme, it leads to hormonal responses that can cause acne or skin flare ups. She recommends reducing your sugar intake, especially if you battle acne.
Not Getting Enough Sleep: When your mother told you to get your beauty sleep, she wasn’t messing around. “Sleep allows skin to have time off from environmental insults such as pollution, ultraviolet, infectious agents and allergens,” explains Dr. Zalka. “Without the proper time for refreshing and renewing of the skin’s cells, they will not perform optimally.” Adequate sleep also helps reduce stress, a trigger for myriad skin ailments.
Showering in Scalding Water: “Hot showers cause the skin to flush as it tries to cool itself, resulting in broken capillaries,” explains Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas. “I always tell my patients to wash with lukewarm water — never hot.” In addition to reducing the temperature of your shower, keep your showering time to under 6 minutes. Too much time spent in the shower can result in temporary depletion of your skin’s natural oils, leading to dryness and rashes. Also use gentle soap and moisturize within 15 minutes of bathing.
Not Drinking Enough Water: If healthy skin is your aim, drink up. Dr. Zalka says that dehydrated skin presents itself in the form of sunken eyes, lax/loose skin and wrinkles. In addition to getting your daily eight glasses of water, apply a moisturizer at least once daily and always after bathing. “Hydration inside and out is the best approach,” she noted.