I’ve always said, if your eyes are the window to your soul, your skin is the window to your health.
It’s not just the first defense you have against the world. It’s also a barometer that will show you when you’re not operating in tip-top form.
A rash can tell you about an infection or allergy. A yellow tint might say you have liver problems. Are you dry and flaky? You’re in desperate need of hydration - possibly internally as well as topically. A breakout or excessive oiliness can signal too much stress in your life, or a hormone imbalance. Or both.
And while many people believe that everything is dependent on your skin type, there’s a problem we see with that. Most people don’t know their skin type! Or they guess it wrong. And then they’re buying products that can actually make their problems worse.
We know that whatever your skin type is, everyone’s skin should function the same way. And to keep it functioning properly, there are certain things it needs to have.
It needs cleansing on a twice daily basis. It can’t stay healthy if it’s not clean. We walk through chemicals, irritants, grime and allergens every day. We wear makeup. Our skin may make too much oil. Our skin regenerates overnight and sheds dead skin cells. All of these things need to be washed off, twice a day.
It needs gentle, daily exfoliation of dead epidermal cells. Especially as we age, our own natural exfoliation process slows down. You’ll need to help out your skin so your pores don’t get clogged and your skin doesn’t look dull and lifeless.
Especially from your 30’s on, you need to help restore your collagen layer. Collagen forms the framework of your skin. When it starts to break down, you’ll notice a lack of firmness and some fine lines and wrinkles starting to form.
It needs protection. This takes the form of moisturizers to help protect your skin barrier. They help to keep moisture in and pollutants out. And sunscreens help protect from UV rays, which are the leading cause of signs of aging.
And it needs balance. Balance in your diet, your thoughts, your relationships, your stress levels, your life.
Here are 7 habits we live by at Indie Beauty Market to have healthy skin.
1. Water, water, water
We must say this every day. Probably several times a day. Proper hydration is the key to health. Not just skin health. ALL health.
Imagine your body is a small lake or a beautiful pond. It’s fed by a clear mountain stream. Fish are swimming. Gorgeous flowers, plants and trees are all around. Animals come out of the forest to drink in the pond.
Now imagine that stream dries up. Soon the pond can’t sustain itself anymore. It goes stagnant. Insects start to breed on the surface. The fish and plants die. The water is murky and full of sludge. No animals want to drink this water. They move on to another, cleaner pond.
The stream of fresh, clear water is what sustains the pond. And it’s what sustains your body. If you want your body to be like the beautiful pond, it needs a constant supply of clean water.
We recommend half your weight in ounces every day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll need 75 ounces of water every day. You can do it! If you’re not there yet, add a cup of water daily per week. In just a few weeks you’ll be where you need to be. And you’ll notice the difference.
2. Safe Sun
The next most important thing - or maybe the MOST important thing - is to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Limiting your sun exposure protects your skin from signs of aging and from skin cancer.
What you may know, but a lot of people don't know, is this. The UVA rays that cause aging and skin cancer are NOT location or weather dependent. And they come through glass too. That means that you'll get as much UVA on a rainy day in your backyard as you will on the beach in Jamaica.
So it’s important to practice safe sun! Even if you’re only getting a little, it’s really important to wear a daily sunscreen with SPF30 or higher. Rain or shine. Use protective clothing. Wear a hat and sunglasses.
And limit your exposure if you can during the strongest part of the day. For most of us this is between late morning and early afternoon. But in some parts of the world it can be later in the afternoon. So check your weather app and find out what are the worst hours for sun exposure where you live.
We’ve all heard that “stress is a killer”. Psych Central notes that stress is directly associated with the six leading causes of death. Heart disease. Cancer. Lung disease and respiratory disorders. Accidental injuries. Cirrhosis of the liver. And suicide.
It’s also an underlying cause of things that we live with, but just make our lives miserable. High blood pressure. Obesity. Alzheimer's. Diabetes. Gastrointestinal problems. Headaches. Ulcers.
And it shows in your skin. Stress makes your skin more sensitive and reactive. It increases oil production which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. It aggravates psoriasis, eczema and rosacea. It can cause hives or a rash, and trigger a fever blister.
It can also stress you out to have problems with your skin. It might make you feel bad, which adds to your stress. And now you’ve got a vicious circle.
So it’s really important to get a handle on the stress in your life. Here are a few really simple things we do to lower our stress levels. And you can too.
First, and easiest, is to do some deep breathing at least once every day. More is better, but if you can only start with once, that’s great. Just take 10 deep breaths, inhaling slowing (like for a 4-6 count) and holding it for a few counts. Then exhale twice as slowly.
When you get up in the morning, before you turn on the news or any type of outside world intrusion, write or say at least 3 things you are grateful for. Soon you’ll see things you’re grateful for everywhere. You’ll be looking for the good. And the joy that that brings is a great stress reliever. It's a great way to start your day.
Be kind to yourself. And to others. Whenever you feel like you’re turning negative or criticizing, be conscious of changing your thoughts to positivity. Remember, it’s easier to stay positive than to lift yourself out of negativity. So don’t go there. And if you do, get out of it quickly.
4. Eat For Your Skin
Eating for your skin is really eating for your health. And I know there are a lot of diets out there - I’ve been on most of them. But after a lifetime of that, I’ve found that looking healthy comes from BEING healthy. And a big part of being healthy is eating a mostly plant-based diet.
But not just any plant-based diet. We like to stick with antioxidant rich foods like leafy greens. Other alkaline veggies like broccoli, avocado, peppers and asparagus. Whole grains and ancient grains. Like steel-cut oats or amaranth. Lots of low-sugar fruits like berries, bananas and melons. Good fats like avocado, coconut and olive oil. And nuts and seeds like chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower. A little lean protein, mostly poultry and fish.
Avoid acidic foods like (all the things you love???) sugar, caffeine, dairy, red meat, processed foods and alcohol. I have IBS, and this diet works really well to keep that under control. You can get your body to a more alkaline state by eating this way. Then it operates like a well-oiled machine. Everything just works better.
5. Avoid Harsh Ingredients in Your Skincare
I’ve said this before - we are waaaay past the “no pain, no gain” theory of skincare. We always look for ingredients that are skin-loving, don’t strip your natural microbiome, and don’t cause dryness, irritation, or redness. “Squeaky clean” is not what we’re after. We like a comfortable clean.
One of the ingredients that many people (and many dermatologists) swear by, but can be irritating, is Vitamin A. Retinol. That’s because it’s so great at helping to rebuild your collagen layer. But there are gentler and more effective forms of retinol on the market now, and that’s what we look for.
We also love bakuchiol, the vegan alternative to retinol. It’s found in our Carter + Jane Sleep Repair Mask.
Other harsh ingredients to avoid are scrubs that use coarse ingredients. The skin on your face is too delicate for that. We prefer exfoliants that dissolve, like Skinbuzz Scrub*Bee Sugar Face Polish. And chemical exfoliants like Mikel Kristi’s Rejuvenating or Refreshing Swipes, that use alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids are the best.
Sleep is so important for your skin to regenerate. While you’re awake, your skin has no time to take care of itself. It’s too busy protecting you from everything you encounter during the day.
But at night, while you’re asleep, your skin goes to work refreshing itself. It recuperates from the day. It detoxifies you from pollution, UV rays, allergens, car exhaust, pollen. It goes to work building and repairing your collagen framework. Blood flow increases to carry away all that trash.
Sleep is also part of stress reduction. SleepScore Labs says, “Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy and diminishes mental clarity.”
The golden hours for your skin regeneration are between 1 and 4 am. But you’ll need 7-9 hours of quality sleep for good stress reduction. Getting enough sleep lessens anxiety - and anxiety can lead to skin-picking, and the other skin issues I’ve already mentioned.
7. Exercise to Help Your Skin Work Properly
Last but certainly not least, you’ll need to get some exercise to help out your skin. The increase in blood flow helps to wash away those toxins and impurities. It increases oxygen levels to your skin too. Sweat helps to clear out your pores and decrease bacteria on the surface of your skin. And movement helps your lymphatic system in its detoxification process.
You don’t have to kill yourself, but you DO have to move. Even just walking for 15-30 minutes daily will help. Of course, check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
These are our 7 Habits for Healthy Skin. You can start one right now!
Pick the one that is easiest for you, and try to incorporate it into your daily routine.
Once you've got that down, pick another. Then another. Soon you’ll be well on your way to healthier, radiant skin.
IT'S ABOUTCLEAN. IT'S ABOUTHEALTHY. IT'S ABOUT SKIN.
Susie Kuse is Passionate About Great Skin and Co-Founder of Indie Beauty Market. She has been in the spa and beauty industry since 2002. She loves to help people understand that a little daily self-care goes a long way toward great skin, health, beauty and happiness. And it’s important to keep your products safe, effective, healthy, clean, sustainable and ethical.