I should have titled this “9 Things I Wish I would Have Started Doing To Care For My Face A Really Long Time Ago”.
These are some of my lessons learned. After years (26 to be exact) of not paying any attention to my skin, I finally took a look at my face in the mirror about 2 years ago and really began to appreciate all of the damage I had done. Between UV damage from the sun and tanning bed, refusal to apply a sunscreen or any type of moisturizer, scars from years of acne (and poking and prodding at my acne), to misuse of all sorts of “skincare” products I could not believe how much damage I’d done.
This is a photo of me, literally fresh-faced, just out of a shower, with not a single product on. At first glance, it’s a seemingly “ok” photo. We’ll come back to this in a minute.
Back to what I was saying. Fortunately, not all of the damage is permanent. You won’t find any crazy unfounded skin regimens here. Just simple, common sense advice that we’ve somehow forgotten. Let’s start with the the basics and work our way up, shall we?
I’ve recently read about a number of women doing “hydration challenges”. These ladies are drinking an enormous amount of water each day for some length of time, usually a few weeks, and then evaluating their skin – before and after. They’re always sad to discover no miraculous changes. Somehow, they expect their acne, dark circles, and pronounced wrinkles to disappear after a few weeks of overloading with water. The only significant difference they noticed? They pee more, a lot more.
My point? Staying hydrated, alone, isn’t going to give you wonderfully glowing skin. Especially not if you continue to smoke and do a handful of other things that are generally bad for your skin (see various examples below 😉 ). So why does staying hydrated even matter? Because your skin needs to be hydrated to be healthy; to function, recover from damaging events, and regenerate. These are all things that are going on on a cellular level that you don’t get to see. What you see on the outside when your skin is starved of water is the “shriveled” appearance the cells take on. This makes wrinkles, fine lines, sun damage, acne, and dark spots look more pronounced and leaves the surface feeling rough. Your skin cells need water.
Moral of the story? Drink water. You’ll be helping you help yourself.
2. Clean Up Your Diet
This is not a medical advice blog, nor am I going to bore you to death with scientific proof that eating a diet based primarily of greasy, fatty, and processed foods is bad for your skin. It is bad for every single other body system you have, because these foods are not “natural”, so why then, would it not also be unhealthy for the integumentary system (which by the way, is the LARGEST organ).
I am not the first to break it to you – your foods that are fried in grease and processed with chemicals are way different than what we were intended to consume. If you want to strip your skin down to what it originally was, before the sun, acne, and free radical damage, back to when it was baby soft, plump, and without imperfections then you may consider stripping down your foods.
Fruits, veggies, grains, dairy, and lean meats. Those are the foods that we need to keep us nourished and healthy, the same goes for our skin.
3. Don’t Go to Bed Without Paying Some Attention to Your Face
This one you already know. I only wear eye makeup, and occasionally some blush but this rule applies to me as well. How many layers are you putting on your face during the day (toners, primers, moisturizers, makeup)??? Add to that dirt and oil, the things that collect on our skin during the day. Then imagine all that gunk getting trapped in our pores as we smother them with our pillow. This is the rule that’s neglected most often. We all work so hard that by the end of the day, it’s easier to jut plop down and sink into unconsciousness.
Just wash your face before bed, please.
4. Moisturize, Twice Daily
This is an extension of #3. If you are washing your face twice daily, then you should be moisturizing just as much. Washing, though necessary, can also be dehydrating and irritating, depending on how harsh your cleanser is. With dirt and makeup, you wash away your natural oils and your face will benefit from this being replaced in the form of a moisturizer.
During the day, I’d consider a moisturizer that will go well with whatever skin-type you have and whatever makeup you wear but that also has an spf. I use a light oil-free moisturizer with SPF and a touch of salicylic acid (because my skin is generally acne-prone and oily) and at night, I use an intense cream. You need SPF, so this is the best way to get it. Also, there’s no better time to repair your face than when you are going be essentially immobile for 6-8 hours straight. Use this as an opportunity to take care of your skin!
5. Wear Sunscreen
Need I say more? If you haven’t yet jumped on this bandwagon, you should be ashamed. Google images of “skin cancer treatment”.
I am 100% guilty. All my life I’ve spent every free second I could possibly find outside in the sun, tanning. In the winter, I used a tanning bed. I don’t know how to explain the naive invincible perception that teenage/20-something girls (and boys) have about tanning. You will probably get skin cancer if you don’t protect yourself. That’s a pretty radical statement, but it’s true and we should pay more attention to it.
I’ve never had skin cancer, I may get it in the future, this is know is a strong possibility. Not just because of the years I’ve put myself at risk, but because in the last 3 decades more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers, combined. I will never ever use a tanning bed again, how stupid was I? I continue to be guilty of sitting outside in the sun without sunscreen on but I do try to limit this, despite my inclination to literally bake. I do make sure to slap face and lip protection on each time I’m sitting out.
Does remaining pale sound like an even worse fate than skin cancer? I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me “yes, actually, it does.” Fortunately, there’s an extensive line of sunless skin and face tanners available to you. I use Jergens Natural Glow and Tanwise Dark Tanning Mousse (I’ll get around to doing a review for you, eventually). Please consider limiting your sun exposure, always wear SPF protection, and use sunless tanners instead of tanning beds. Yes, I am now begging you.
6. Exfoliate, But Not Too Much
Exfoliating is a great conjunct to your skin care routine. How much you do it though is key. Stripping your face of built-up pore-clogging dirt, oil, and dead skin can leave your face feeling smooth, even, flushed, and fresh. Exfoliating too often, too vigorously, and with harsh products can actually irritate, scratch and damage your skin. It also strips your face of necessary oils.
My personal opinion? Gently exfoliate once a week and immediately replenish some of the good stuff you strip away with a great moisturizer.
7. Retinol is One of the Few Chemicals Worth Putting On Your Face
Retinol, a vitamin A derivative (or tretinoin, the prescription form that works the best and is used to treat acne) is one of the only products that has proven anti-aging effects. It increases collagen production which decreases fine lines and wrinkles. Many (many, many, many) products claim to have this ability, retinol is one of the few that has PROVEN (on the molecular level) results. Additionally, it speeds up skin cell turnover, which is why it’s marketed in prescription form to treat acne. Increased skin cell turnover essentially empties pores which ultimately, over time, shrinks them. It’ll also help fade dark spots, freckles, and sun damage.
The OTC form works well too, but has to be converted from the marketed form to the functioning form of retinoic acid that’s available by prescription and therefore takes longer to work. Most people give up on both the OTC and prescription forms before ever getting to witness the benefits (3-6 months!) because of the side effects. Initially it can cause redness/irritation, peeling, burning, sensitivity to the sun, breakouts (thought to be due to the initial expulsion of gunk from the pores), and increase in oil production. Yep. Sounds rough doesn’t it? All that is temporary (the internet told me so, also, I know from experience 😉 ).
Your face deserves this stuff. I used to use this in the highest prescribed form (yes, my acne is VERY bad, bad enough that I wanted to cry when my dermatologist couldn’t hide her initial horror when I went to her begging for help just a few months before my wedding). I now use a lower concentrated form, every 2nd or 3rd night, for maintenance.
This is what I looked like on my wedding day. I had my eye make-up professionally done but I did not cover my face with anything other than a moisturizer and some blush. No cover-up, concealer, BB cream, NOTHING. Thank you retinol 🙂 :
8. Stop Injecting Your Face With Crap
Like the SPF lecture I just gave, this goes without saying. It is personal opinion I guess, but here we are, actually poking needles into our faces, injecting paralyzing (and other suspicious) chemicals, for the purpose of looking like Stepford Wives.
Expression is beautiful. So are your forehead wrinkles and laugh lines. I can assure you, you look much more natural, human, and approachable if your face moves when you talk. I understand insecurity, I have more than my share. I don’t want to look older than I am, (hello, I’m writing a post about how to take care of your face). I don’t want to accelerate or worsen the damage I’ve done to my own face, and I’d like to reverse some of it. But I’m 27 and already have laugh lines that I’m thankful for. You should appreciate yours too.
9. Be Careful What You Read on the Internet
Yes, even this post. I am medically trained, yes, but this is not a medical advice blog and I’m certainly not a dermatologist. Everything I say is based off of personal experience and my own research and I encourage you to do your own. Go to the dermatologist, seek out real evidence (rather than listening to what some imbecile had to say on her beauty blog 😉 ). Part of the reason I wanted to write this post is because of all the appalling and false information I came across on my daily blog scouring. I often read posts on skincare and products, and I cringe at some of the things I read that are just plain false and even harmful. You owe it to yourself to question everything you read. The best advice I have is to keep it simple, less is typically more when it comes to skincare. Protect your skin from harm, keep it clean and replace what you lose in the process.
Now, back to the photo from the beginning. Like I mentioned, the photo was taken with nothing on my face, freshly washed, in broad daylight. It looks, ok, I would say. At a closer glance though, that on a good day maybe only I really notice, there’s tons of evidence of the damage I’ve done.
Take a look:
See all the darker, hyperpigmented areas the arrows are pointing to? That’s melasma (it’s often referred to the “mask of pregnancy, which, if I were pregnant (I am not) might go away). Melasma is caused by sun damage. And though there are ways to prevent it from getting worse and expensive risky ways to try and treat it, it probably won’t go away. I’m stuck with it, and the more time I spend in the sun, I predict it’ll continue getting worse.
The ovals are freckles and “sun spots” – also more sun damage. The ones on my chest don’t go away, I’m stuck with them, waiting for them to turn into ugly “liver spots” or cancer. If I’m careful, the freckles will fade. Freckles have a reputation of being cute. They aren’t. They are clear evidence of sun damage (also why they are common in those with pale skin, the paler the skin, the more sensitive to the sun one is) and shouldn’t be admired.
We can undo the damage we’ve done, to an extent, and I continue to try to be more diligent with skincare and limit my sun exposure (the struggle is REAL). I’m not always compliant and I understand that most people who love the sun are like me. Do what you can to protect yourself while still enjoying the things you love. You’ll thank yourself for it 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed this read. What are your thoughts? Opinions?
DISCLAIMER: the thoughts and ideas expressed
in this blog are my own and meant for inspiration
and should not be taken as medical advice.