21 WAYS TO TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOUR FACE TODAY + EXTRAS
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Ladies: this is a long one, but I promise it's worth it.
I've made a lot of discoveries and changes to my skincare routine over the years. I suffered, and still do occasionally, from the worst acne. I mean the worst. As soon as I turned thirteen my face said nope, I don't like you anymore, and all hell broke loose.
Needless to say, I spent many years agonizing over my complexion. It wasn't until I became a skincare addict, and then a skincare ingredient addict, and then an addict in overall health, that I began seeing an improvement in my skin.
So, I've compiled a list of the little tips and tricks to start taking better care of your skin today.
If it works for me, it will (and by will I mean really, really, really should) work for you. The following are twenty-one easy habits you can implement into your life today to encourage lovely, gorgeous skin.
I break down each step, which is why this post is so long. All products mentioned are cruelty-free!
1. know your skin type
First off: you must, must, must know your skin type. This will help you when you're searching for products and skincare routines.
What you can do today: Go here to figure out which skin type you have.
2. No Towels, please
That terry towel you have right now? Don't put it anywhere near your face. In fact, don't rub any towel across your face, no matter how soft. It's best to actually let whatever water you've accumulated on your face to soak into your skin. Applying your products, such as serums, while your face is damp actually helps its absorption.
If you're face is drenched, or you just hate the feeling of water on your face, then blot carefully with a towel. Make sure you keep away from the delicate skin around your eyes.
What you can do today: After washing your face, don't dry; apply your next face product within the next 60 seconds instead.
3. Exfoliate, but do it correctly
Exfoliation is a key process for keeping your skin blemish-free and smooth. BUT! It's easy to get carried away and over-exfoliate your skin, which results in irritation and possible acne flare-ups.
There's two key factors to consider when exfoliating: the type of exfoliate, and the frequency of exfoliation. Most skin types can exfoliate two to three times a week. Sensitive skin should exfoliate one to two times a week.
Physical and chemical exfoliants are two ways to get it done. Physical exfoliants include such products as scrubs, and physical exfoliants usually come in gel or serum form, usually with salicylic, glycolic, or lactic acid.
I incorporate both into my routine. I exfoliate with Dermalogica Clear Start exfoliating scrub twice a week, and I incorporate Drunk Elephant's T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum five nights out of the week.
Important note: the consistency of your physical exfoliant is extremely important. Fine powders like rice powder are great because they don't tear the skin like scrubs with walnut or apricot bits can. A great fine powder exfoliant is Tatcha's Rice Enzyme Powder. The Dermalogica scrub mentioned above is also wonderful.
When using your physical exfoliant, make sure to gently apply in circular motions over the face. No matter how fine, roughly scrubbing all over your face will do more damage than good.
What you can do today: if you've got baking soda, olive oil, and maybe some lemon juice, you've got a DIY scrub on your hands. Brit + Co. have a great post on natural DIY face scrubs. You can also find the above mentioned products at your local Sephora and Ulta.
4. wash your face correctly
Double-cleansing, people. First to take off the the dirt, grime, and makeup, and then to wash away whatever impurities are left. Oil cleansing, or using a cleansing butter, are a couple of the best ways for the first face wash.
Wipe away this first step with water or a gentle washcloth like the Aurelia Probiotic Bamboo Muslims (these cloths are baby-skin smooth and won't tear at the surface of your face).
Follow up with a water-based cleanser. My favorite is Dermalogica's Special Cleansing Gel. It doesn't leave your face with that stripped and squeaky-clean feeling (by the way, if you've got that feeling after you've washed your face, you're using the wrong cleanser).
What you can do today: you probably already have a favorite face wash. Pre-empt this step by experimenting with oil cleansing. It may take some time to figure out which oil works best for your skin, but it's so worth it. Here's a great article on starting oil cleansing from Crunchy Betty.
5. take your makeup off every night
This is one of the best things you can do for your skin. When you don't take your makeup off, you don't let your skin breathe. Suffocating skin equals angry skin. You won't be happy when you wake up with a pebbly face, and washing your face in the morning doesn't fix it. Not taking your makeup off for one night can actually affect your complexion for weeks.
As mentioned above, great makeup removing products are oil and cleansing butter. I'm lazy, so I go for a store-bought cleansing butter. My favorite is The Body Shop's Chamomile Cleansing Butter.
If you're having one of those night where you just aren't feeling it, you could also try makeup removing and cleansing wipes. These aren't the same as washing your face, but it's much better than sleeping with the day's grime. I like Bare Essentials Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleansing Cloths.
What you can do today: as mentioned in no. 5, if you've got some organic oil laying around and a washcloth, you can experiment with oil cleansing (it really is an excellent way to remove your makeup), or pop down to your local Body Shop for their amazing cleansing butter.
6. actually, a makeup break is great for your skin
Taking a makeup break allows your skin to breathe, and we've already been over how your skin feels when it doesn't get air. Makeup, whether we like to admit it or not, does tend to clog the pores after a while.
Taking a makeup break encourages balanced and healthy skin. Try opting for a few days of the week when you don't wear makeup, or take your makeup off as soon as you get home.
Staying in? Leave the makeup off. Going out? Opt for a tinted moisturizer (with SPF), or swipe on a regular moisturizer, also with SPF (make sure it's at least SPF 30).
What you can do today: Plan at least two or three days during the week where you give your face a break.
7. AVOID HOT WATER
Sorry. I love hot showers just as much as the next woman, but it's actually not the best for your skin. Hot water can break down the delicate protective layers of your skin, especially on your face. This can potentially contribute to conditions such a psoriasis and eczema.
Warm showers are great. Just make sure the temperature of your shower isn't turning your shoulder red. If it is, it's probably too hot.
What you can do today: Take you preferred shower temperature down about two notches. Adjust to a warmer shower slowly. Your skin will thank you.
8. Alcohol and fragrance = no
Take a look at the products you currently use on your face. What's on the ingredients list? Are any of them along the lines of parfum, fragrance, alcohol, alcohol denat., or alcohol SB?
These are no-no ingredients. Fragrance, especially artificial fragrance, are often irritable to the skin and can even instigate an allergic reaction.
Alcohols such as the ones listed above are used to force active ingredients underneath the top layer of your skin. This sounds like it should be a great thing, but the alcohol does this by destroying your skin's natural barrier and preventing it from bouncing back as it should.
This is all right in the short run, but long-term effects aren't so good. After a while your skin will show signs of this damage.
It can be hard to avoid these ingredients in all your skincare and especially in makeup, but cutting out as much of these ingredients as you can is taking a step in the right direction.
Now there are good, fatty alcohols out there that are actually beneficial for the skin. When reading an ingredients list, don't worry: it there's any alcohol you're not familiar with, a quick search online will tell you if it's friends with your skin or not.
What you can do today: Familiarize yourself with the ingredients of your skincare products. Set aside any that have the above mentioned ingredients. Research for alcohol and fragrance-free alternatives.
9. Thou shall not touch thy face.
Stop it. Right now. I know there's a pimple that you're itching to pop, but don't. Not only will you cause more damage by forcing your skin's natural processes and ripping through layers of skin, but you'll also introduce the wound to all the bacteria that are on your fingers.
Opt instead for a spot treatment that will help dry out and get rid of the face offender. Tea tree, witch hazel, and salicylic acid are good ingredients for pop up pimples. I like Burt Bee's Herbal Blemish Stick.
What you can do today: Don't touch your face. Resist. Resist. Apply a coat of spot treatment instead.
10. Okay, fine: if you have to pop a pimple...
Popping isn't a good idea, but if you absolutely, must do it, then pop a pimple with your fingers wrapped around a piece of tissue. You'll still have angry red skin, but it'll prevent other nastiness from getting underneath your skin. Make sure to follow up immediately with Neosporin or another anti-bacterial, healing ointment.
What you can do today: Have Neosporin and other anti-bacterial healing ointments on hand when you've just got to pop. Make sure to wash the area afterwards and apply the ointments immediately to prevent infection.
11. A weekly steaming for a glowing complexion
I started steaming about two months ago, and holy crap. Steaming is no joke for your skin: it opens your pores and sweats out the bad stuff. It also promotes circulation and leaves me glowing every. Single. Time.
I've heard good things about Dr. Dennis Gross' steamer, but you can find something that I think is comparable for cheaper, like this Kingdom Cares steamer. You can also DIY your own steam session (below), but you might want to invest in a professional steamer for the long-haul.
What you can do today: Bring enough water to fill a large bowl (a little bigger than your face) to a boil. Pour into bowl. Set on a table where you can sit comfortably and lean your face over the bowl. Cover your head with a towel and hold your face at least a foot away from the steam. Steam for 10 - 15 minutes. You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for extra benefits.
12. Daily Face Massage
Two words: Lymphatic. Drainage. Taking a little bit of time every morning or night (or both) can aid in moving fluid into the lymph nodes, where baddies such as bacteria are destroyed. This helps to rid your skin of toxins, which can also help keep your skin supple and smooth.
Plus...it feels good. And it's relaxing. You can do a quick two-minute face massage here. Or do the ultimate face massage below:
13. Slow down on the face products
I'm a bit of a skincare junkie, but I know that there can be too much of a good thing. Overloading your skin with face products, no matter what they promise, does not work. In fact, you can end up clogging your pores and overwhelming your skin, which can often worsen whatever skincare concerns you have.
I have a post about minimalist skincare. It's about choosing less but ultra-effective products for a skincare routine that loves your skin right.
What you can do today: Read the minimalist skincare post. Follow instructions for a skincare spring cleaning.
14. put the holy satin pillowcase over your pillow
Satin is a smooth, luxurious feeling fabric, although it's actually cheap, cheap, cheap. Unlike fabrics like cotton and linen, satin has such a smooth texture that it treats your skin like the goddess that it is.
It also, unlike cotton, does not soak up stuff on your face, such as those beauty products you cherish and slather on before bed.
I got my satin pillowcases from Bed Bath and Beyond. Slap one on your favorite pillow and reap the benefits. Just make sure to wash your pillowcase once a week. Bacteria and germs are equal-opportunity pillowcase infesters.
Silk is another comparable fabric if you're looking for something fancier and more expensive.
What you can do today: Bed Bath and Beyond. Go there. Get satin pillowcase. Come back and put on pillow. You're welcome.
15. SLEEP WITH YOUR HAIR UP
Pulling your hair up into a loose bun or ponytail before bed can prevent the products and oils from your hair from seeping into your skin and clogging your pores. Not to mention you'll protect your hair from breakage and unnecessary ruffling.
Unless you're into that sort of thing.
Rule of thumb: don't put your hair into any style that pulls tightly on the roots of your hair. This can cause hair breakage and hair loss, which nobody likes. Opt for a very, very loose style, and avoid traditional elastics in favor for fabric ties. There's even satin hair scarves.
What you can do today: If you've got an old t-shirt you don't mind tearing up, cut strips of fabric about half an inch wide and about six inches long. Knot the ends together. Flip hair over and pull through fabric band once (maybe twice, if you thin hair). You can also find these ties at Target.
There's a reason it's called beauty sleep. When I don't get enough sleep, my eyes tend to puff up like a bowl of lucky charms left in the milk too long. I have deep set eyes, so the shadows are the worst. I make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, and here's why:
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 - 9 hours for young adult and adults. Sleep allows our bodies to repair themselves, including muscle relaxation and tissue repair.
WebMD states that sleep also increases blood flow and allows your body to produce collagen, meaning fewer wrinkles and a glowing, brighter complexion.
An increase in blood flow also promotes higher efficiency of skincare products, which means that eye cream you shelled out all your dough for might actually do some good.
What you can do today: Get to bed early. 7 - 9 hours is a guide, but not a law. It depends on how you feel on different amounts of sleep, but you should aim for at least 7 hours per night.
Exercise is a no brainer: it helps control your weight, reduces risk of several diseases, and, of course, makes you look and feel good. Breaking a sweat also helps to release dirt rudely overstaying their welcome in your pores, promoting a clearer complexion.
Experience Life says exercise also expands arteries and increases blood flow to the surface of your skin, which results in more nutrients and other goodies getting where they need to be.
It's kind of like the ultimate purge. Exercising usually leaves me with a nice flush.
I am not prone to give any sort of exercise advice. It seems the recommendations change every five seconds, but generally speaking, you want to move well and move often (at least enough to break a sweat), with a few rest days thrown in.
I prefer a mix between cardio and strength training, and my favorite type of classes involve kickboxing and HIIT. Do what you love: swim, bike, cross-fit. Walk. Whatever's your fancy, get your blood moving for a lovely glow.
What you can do today: Take a walk. Get some fresh air. Take the time to schedule at least three to four days a week of moderate exercise this week.
18. GET THAT H2O
Your skin, just like the rest of you, is made of cells. While water does hydrate your cells and can prevent dryness, flakiness, and wrinkles, it's not a miracle worker by itself. It's what water does for your body overall that creates magic.
Drinking enough water encourages your body to function at its best. Greatist says drinking enough water could cause an increase in energy, an increase in brain function, and promote fluid balance, which lets your body regulate its temperature and digest foods.
On the flip side, Healthline says when your body loses even 1 - 2% of water content you can start to experience increased fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration and motivation, and even a decrease in your body's temperature regulation.
When you neglect your water intake and throw your body off balance, the stress you undergo to keep functioning at your best may cause a whole plethora of bad news: tiredness, dull complexion, acne, wrinkles, and more.
From my experience, I find anytime I put this added stress on my body, it shows up on my face in some sort of catastrophic facial punishment. Breakouts, redness, bags under the eyes. You get the picture.
The most common advice is 9 cups of cold water, but there's been some debate about this. Other dietitians suggest listening to your body when it comes to drinking water: if you're thirsty, then you need to drink.
I'd suggest setting a goal for water intake everyday that you're comfortable with, and then monitoring your thirst levels with each goal. Mine is about 90 ounces of cold water, but hitting that goal varies depending on how active I am throughout the day.
What you can do today: Take a water bottle with you everywhere. Don't feel pressured to add an enormous amount of water to your diet all at once: add a few extra cups initially, and then an additional cup every week. Extra, extra: drink coconut or lemon water for a nutrient boost.
19. EAT MORE PRETTY FOODS
Eating healthy is something we've all been preached since we were kids (eat your broccoli, remember?). Well, it's true, and that fact isn't going anywhere.
Your skin's health is connected in large part to your gut. Adding more fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed foods to your diet can work wonders. Healthy foods are packed with nutrients and vitamins that your body and brain need to function at its best.
Your outside is the reflection of your inside: when you deplete your yourself of these nutrients, the results will show up in all kinds of places, especially your face. Some people are lucky with this, but whenever I get off track, my skin shows its displeasure immediately.
Now there are a million diets out there, and I'm not going to tell you which one you have to choose. However, overall, aim for 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day (organic and pesticide-free is best!). Your body will also thank you for consuming minimally processed meats and grains.
Another area that we could all probably improve? Our sugar intake. According to the Huffington Post, sugar-caused insulin spikes result in inflammation throughout the body. The bad news? This inflammation leads to a breakdown in collagen and elastin. Say it with me: wrinkles, sagging, and more wrinkles.
It's never too late to start fresh. My favorite book on healthy eating is Eat Pretty, which details steps towards healthier living and includes delicious recipes to feed your body quality fuel.
You don't have to eat like a rabbit everyday (I certainly don't; I love cake too much), but you can start fitting healthier eating into your schedule to promote beautiful skin.
What you can do today: Plan your week in food. Schedule meal preps, or map out the best places for quick and healthy meals so you don't feel the urge to grab the burger and fries more often than not.
20. consider supplements
This a recent one for me, but I admit that I have loved the results so far. Right now I use The Beauty Chef's Glow Powder and Collagen Boost, Ritual's women's multivitamin, HUM's Here Comes the Sun and Hair Sweet Hair, and a probiotic.
My supplements are a mix of general health and specific health concerns, one of which was my hair falling out (you can read about that scare here). Do you research based off your skincare concerns to see which products might fit you best.
I love The Beauty Chef because they promote gut health, but in a way that actually tastes great. Both the Glow Powder and Collagen Boost contain fermented, antioxidant-rich ingredients to encourage inner balance and health.
In case you don't know, your gut has everything to do with your skin. Imbalances in the processes of digestion and gut health are major contributors to dull complexions, acne, and more. The Beauty Chef's Glow Powder and Collagen Boost taste amazing and are an excellent way to up your beauty game.
Ritual's multivitamin gives women the essential nutrients they need without overloading your body with junk, Here Comes the Sun is a hefty Vitamin D supplement, and Hair Sweet hair contains Biotin and Ferulic Acid to promote gorgeous hair (it's also not bad for your nails).
Taking a supplement does not mean you get to skip a healthy diet, but we all have different diets and preferences. Supplements can help counteract vitamin deficiencies or provide that extra oomph in your skin's health.
21. SUNSCREEN IS NOT A JOKE
No: sunscreen isn't optional. If you're on the younger side, you may laugh this off and stare longingly into the mirror at your perfectly bronzed face. You won't see it now, but the sun damage you build in your youth catches up to you later.
I don't tan, but I already have some amount of sun damage from the years I never wore sunscreen. Unless I started wearing sunscreen and protecting my face from further burns, this damage would show up at some point in the form of permanent dark spots and wrinkles.
It's easy to protect yourself. Get a moisturizer with at least SPF 30. My favorites are Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Tinted Face Lotion, Goop's line of sunscreen care (they have a cool kit). They're both full of antioxidants and vitamins, and I find that they even work nicely as a primer. They both also use mineral sunscreen, meaning it doesn't have any of those harsh chemicals that can harm your skin.
You can also opt for a foundation with sunscreen. I'm currently obsessed with Laura Mercier's Tinted Moisturizer Broad Specturm SPF 20 (I'll apply an additional SPF underneath for added protection). I've also liked IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50+.
Tip: don't wash off the sunscreen products you use. Slather the remaining amounts on your hands, and keep your hands protected and sun-spot free.
What you can do today: Make sunscreen part of your daily skincare routine. Apply after moisturizer or before primer. You even may want to incorporate SPF in two or more products to layer on the sun protection.
Things you might not do immediately, but you should consider
1. humidifiers are the bomb
Humidifiers release moisture into the air to soothe your skin and keep it, well, moisturized. From my experience, it also puts me to sleep every night. I never sleep better than when I have my humidifier on an hour before bed.
There are a ton of humidifiers out there. You can find one that fits your needs at local stores such as Target. Tip: opt for a humidifier that has its own filtration system.
2. Go for simple skincare products
Less is more. Those skincare products with fifty million ingredients on the back may have too many competing active ingredients. It may also overload your face. I tend to stick to skincare products whose ingredients I recognize, and whose list doesn't give me a headache.
As you run out of products, you might want to consider opting for simpler alternatives.
3. implement a weekly spa-level facial
Giving yourself a facial once a week is a great way to maintain your skin. It's also an excellent way to relax and unwind. I've got a post about creating the perfect facial here.
4. Upgrade to an advanced skincare routine (if you haven't already)
You may stick to the basic face wash and moisturizer routine. That's perfectly fine. But: if you're looking for a way to be more involved with your skincare, then there a few products you could probably add to your routine to up your skin's defenses. You can read about that here.
FUTHER READING: HOW MINIMALIST SKINCARE WILL SAVE YOUR FACE
What do you think? How do you take care of your skin?