It’s a new year, which means it is time to take a good long look at our unhealthy habits and aim to do things better this time round. There were a lot of things I wanted to jot down here, but eventually I settled on these ten rules, which are the ones I swear and live by.
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1. Remove your makeup properly
I hammer on this a lot because it is one of the most important steps in a healthy beauty routine. Your skin is more active during the night and it is essential that you properly remove any makeup and grime from the day that might clog pores and cause irritation. Take special care to remove mascara properly, gently massaging your makeup remover against the lash line to loosen any build-up. Then follow with a cleanser.
2. Cleanse twice a day
You would think this is an obvious one but in truth I know a lot of people who skip either their morning or evening cleanse. Don’t. Cleansing at night is important to remove all the grime from your day including makeup, sweat, sebum and pollutants that will otherwise sit on your skin all night. The morning cleanse is equally important to remove sweat, sebum and dead skin cells, and to prep it for your skincare products.
Personally I like to wash my face in the evenings with a gentle foaming cleanser like the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Cleanser (R99,95 for 200ml). This cleanser is lightweight and refreshing and at the same time cares for your skin barrier and hydrates your skin. I think it is a stunning product for summer. Then in the mornings I’ll often use a micellar water or face wipes for a quick cleanse. I shower in the evenings but after a sweltering summer night I often wake up feeling sticky. I like the fact that I can soak the cotton pads and wipe it over my face, chest and upper back to freshen up.
3. Use an SPF
Last year we sat in a session with a group of top South African dermatologists and if there was one beauty rule they all kept hammering on, it was the importance of SPF. You should be applying between SPF 30 and 50 every day, and ideally you should reapply every two hours.
I like to layer my sunscreens. I’ll choose a moisturiser with an SPF, then use an SPF50 over that, and also opt for foundation with sun protection. And I use a daytime serum with Vitamin C, E and Ferulic Acid for added free-radical protection.
Unfortunately it is not enough to only use a foundation with an SPF. Most people only apply about a pea-size amount of foundation, which is not enough. You should use about a teaspoon amount of SPF on your face, neck, chest and back.
Exfoliating your skin regularly gets rid of dead skin cells and helps prep your skin to better absorb active ingredients in your serum and moisturiser. I prefer using enzymatic or chemical exfoliants which break down the bonds between dead cells so that they shed quicker. It is best to consult with a skin therapist or dermatologist before purchasing an exfoliant to make sure it’s right for your skin, and that it will complement the other products you are using.
5. Dry brush
There are many of expensive ways to take a whack at cellulite, but dry brushing remains a super cheap and effective way of improving circulation and helping your body to get rid of toxins. Buy a soft but firm body brush at any supermarket and use it on dry skin before you shower. Start at your feet and move up in short sweeps, directing the strokes towards your lymph notes behind your knees, inner thighs, spine and underarms.
Dry brushing remains a super cheap and effective way of improving circulation and helping your body to get rid of toxins.
6. Sleep enough
When I’ve been sleeping poorly I can instantly see the effects on my skin. My face feels dry, looks dull and lifeless, and has a puffy appearance. Upon that it seems to repel makeup. Your skin works hard while you sleep to create new cells and support structures, and your skin gets a boost of blood flow that sends nutrients and oxygen. Make sure you get enough shut-eye every night so that your skin has enough time for R&R.
7. Throw old products away
I get it, cosmetics are expensive and it feels like torture to throw away a cream that’s still half-full. However, if a product is past it’s expiration date it needs to go in the bin. You wouldn’t eat chicken pasts its sell-by date, so follow the same rule here. Preservatives become ineffective which means bacteria start to flourish, and active ingredients that have begun to oxidate can actually damage your skin.
Check the back of your bottle for a 6M, 12M or 24M sign, meaning 6, 12 or 24 months. This indicates how long the product can last after it has been opened, assuming you’ve stored it properly of course (in a cool dark place). Also look for an expiration date on the cap or bottom of the bottle or box. In general products with water in them tend to have a shorter lifespan than products containing only waxes, and as a rule of thumb if it’s started to split, discolour or developed a strange smell, chuck it.
8. Follow a healthy diet
Sugar causes inflammation in your body, damages your collagen structures and can exacerbate conditions like rosacea and acne. Hands up if you’ve ever sported a breakout after a particularly unhealthy week. Avoid foods that are high in simple, empty carbs like sweets, white bread, and processed foods, and opt for complex carbs found in high-fiber foods, nuts and whole grains.
At the same time it is important to fill your diet with healthy fats that provide your body with Omega-3 which helps to reduce inflammation in your body. Fatty fish and nuts are excellent sources of Omega 3.
And finally, stay hydrated. Drinking water is not going to hydrate your skin per se, but if you ares dehydrated you are going to see the effects on your entire body. Drinking plenty of water also helps your body to flush out toxins that might cause inflammation and breakouts.
Exercise is great for your overall health, but it will also help your skin. It increases blood flow, which means oxygen and nutrients get pumped through your body and cellular waste gets carried away. It also relieves stress. The stress hormone cortisol increases oil production, for instance, making you more prone to pimples, and stressful periods often lead to eczema flair-ups. People also tend to touch their skin more when they’re stressed. I tend to rub my face and scratch my neck. Excising regularly, whether through cardio or stretching, will help to alleviate tension.
Make sure you take care of your skin when you exercise. Take off your makeup beforehand and shower as soon afterwards as possible to wash off sweat, which can cause irritation. Also make sure to wear a water-resistant sunscreen if you’re exercising outdoors.
10. Learn to listen
Your skin is your body’s largest organ and reflects your general health. Learn to listen to your skin. If it is looking dull and dehydrated, maybe you need to get more sleep and rehydrate. If you are experiencing breakouts, think about what you’ve been eating. If you’re getting an eczema flair-up, ask yourself whether you’ve been stressed out. Adapting your lifestyle will make a difference.
The same goes for your skincare routine. If your skin is feeling dry it might be necessary to add a skin oil to help your skin barrier. If you’re seeing blackheads and congestion you might need to exfoliate more regularly, or you might be touching that spot of skin too often. If you’re seeing irritation and flaking you might need to cut down on your new serum and give your skin time to adapt to the active ingredients.
During your evening cleanse, take a good long look at your face and learn to speak its language.
One lucky 9Lives reader will win a hamper worth R1 270 with the Neutrogena Hydro Boost line AND a Country Road Tote Bag (this one). To enter, share your top healthy beauty habit in the comments below or pop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries close 24 January.
*This post has been sponsored by Neutrogena