When it comes to healthy skin, there's no single thing you can do to beautify the body's largest organ. Rather, dermatologists recommend a combination of things -- and most of them can't be bought at the beauty counter. So, to give your skin the TLC it needs, follow these tried-and-true tips:
Cultivate healthy habits. A good night's sleep (make that several nights of good sleep) can make a world of difference in your skin's appearance. Sleep is when your skin relaxes and rejuvenates. Exercise, too, is a habit that improves skin health. It does so by flushing out pores, aiding in toxin removal, boosting collagen production and sending increased levels of oxygen and nutrients through the bloodstream.
Quit bad habits. Not all habits are helpful to skin. The indiscretions that plague modern culture are also known to tax your largest organ. So, whether your vice is smoking, caffeine consumption, alcohol consumption or unchecked stress, you're not doing your skin -- especially that on your face -- any favors. Smoking slows blood flow to the skin. (Think of it as having the opposite effect of exercise; it reduces, rather than increases, the flow of oxygen and nutrients.) Caffeine consumption, while not quite as devastating to skin's aging process, dehydrates skin. Alcohol also has a drying effect -- and it can damage blood vessels under the skin, creating unsightly red spots. Finally, poor stress management puts the skin under undue duress, making it thinner and increasing the odds of inflammation and breakouts.
Watch what you take in. Now you know that ingesting caffeine and alcohol is bad for your skin, but can other foods hurt your complexion? Well, it should be no surprise to you that a healthy diet is an important key. Consider incorporating more foods high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Biotin, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E are particularly good for skin. To consume more of these helpers, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Don't forget lean proteins, legumes and healthy fats, like olive oil. When it comes to beverages, your best choice, hands down, is water. It benefits skin by keeping the cells plump (a process that reduces wrinkling), increasing blood flow and clearing out toxins.
Make protection a priority. One of the most critical steps in maintaining healthy skin is protecting it from the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet light creates a number of dermatological problems, from premature aging to cancer. Protecting the skin isn't complicated, but -- unfortunately -- many people don't take the necessary precautions. To shield your skin effectively, apply a plentiful amount of full-spectrum protection sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) several times a day, every day -- not just days you're going to be outside for long amounts of time and not just on sunny days.
Find the right products for your skin care regimen. Finally, you should select a cleanser, exfoliant and moisturizer that work for you. A cleanser is good for washing off dirt and grime from your skin, an exfoliant scrubs off dead skin cells and a moisturizer helps the organ retain moisture. When selecting all three of these products, have your skin type in mind. If your skin is sensitive, look for mild, fragrance-free formulations. People with dry skin should avoid products with alcohol and other drying agents. And, those with oily skin will want to stay away from heavy creams and ointments.
There's lots more skin care information on the next page!