If there is a food, a product, ritual, trend or even an interpretive dance that’s rumoured to be good for your skin, believe me, I have tried it.
Having battled with my skin for most of my life I know how much it can affect your mood, self-confidence, emotions and every single thing you do every single day. It’s our face after all, the first thing people see, the way people recognise us and we want our awesome smiling personality to shine through it. We don’t want to be known as the one with the spots, redness or the dry skin. But, if you have skin issues it can really put you in a down mood and it can be so difficult to find products and a skin care regime that work for you.
I really thought that by the time I was an adult (maybe I’m just still waiting for that to happen), I wouldn’t have issues with my skin. It’s considered a teenage problem right? Boy, were we wrong! I’ve beaten myself up for years about having “teenage skin issues” in my 20s and 30s and with modern technology it is even more difficult when we are presented with people with seemingly perfect skin all day long on our social media. (And I know it feels even worse when the teenagers on our social media have perfect skin), but there are real people out there who will share their journey’s with you and you will realise – you are not the only person in the world who doesn’t have perfect skin, in fact, the opposite is more likely.
Don’t get down on yourself by seeing the models and influencers with perfect skin – find some real people on your social media who come clean about their ‘make up free’ faces and their battles with skin over their lifetime so far and you’ll realise that you are not alone. You are not the only adult who suffers with acne, or regular spots or dry skin or discolouration, peri-oral dermatitis, pigmentation – whatever your skin issues are, you are not alone.
When you live in fear of a breakout, like I always used to, every face tingle, every potential “that feels like a spot coming” is a near heart attack. Religiously washing your face, not letting anybody touch it and not wearing any make up; it is a stressful place to live. I recently had my first breakout in well over a year and it suddenly hit me that I’ve lived in a constant state of terrified paranoia about this moment for so long. But, you know what…my boyfriend didn’t leave me, I didn’t get fired from my job, my friends all still wanted to hang out with me, people didn’t recoil in horror in the street and shout things or try to drive a pure silver steak knife through my heart – I just carried on with my normal fun loving life all the same. I wasn’t quite the best selling horror movie character I had been dreading.
Keep in mind that the best thing to do in the event of a (sometimes inevitable) bad skin week, is just chill out. It happens to all of us, and it is temporary. Here are my tried and tested top tips and life hacks to help banish the breakouts and keep you comfortable in your own glowing skin.
The Science-y Bit:
Our body naturally produces oils such as sebum, which prevent our skin from drying out. In some situations the production of these can work overtime and produce too much, which causes clogs or blockages in our skin. Blocked by these oils and bacteria our skin cells become inflamed and can react with pimples and other diagnosable issues.
There are ways we can help our skin to regulate the production of these oils and prevent breakouts and upsets without having to dance naked, throwing pictures of your worst skin days into a fire and chanting. Or was that just me who tried that?
Eating for skin health:
Yes, another issue that can be helped with food, glorious food!
People always assume that greasy foods cause ‘greasy skin’ but that is not necessarily the case. If you suffer with acne or breakouts then aiming to avoid foods that cause a spike in blood sugar levels e.g. refined sugar, white bread, white pasta – can help prevent bad skin days. With an increase in blood sugar your insulin levels are going to increase which can cause your skin to produce the excess oils. Also, avoid foods that cause inflammation e.g. dairy products – milk, cheese, yogurt. Have you discovered coconut yogurt? I was a little late to the party here but I am in love and it’s a great dairy free alternative for breakfast.
Now the more fun bit, adding the right foods.
Fatty fish – the omega 3 fatty acids present in fish such as salmon and mackerel reduce inflammation in the body and skin. A source of protein, fatty fish can help keep your skin strong, be a source of vitamin E, which protects your skin from damage caused by free radicals and inflammation. And, the presence of zinc helps rejuvenate your skin by aiding the production of new skin cells.
Another great source of vitamin E is avocados – hooray, is there anything they can’t do? These delicious green things, as well as being perfect for any meal of the day, are high in healthy fats, which keep skin moisturised and supple. Well-moisturised skin doesn’t need to produce excess oils so a healthy balance is well maintained.
Adding good sources of vitamin C into your diet is vital for healthy skin; preventing skin from being dry and rough, aiding the production of collagen, which keeps skin strong and healthy and again helping to protect skin from damage that can result in signs of aging and an exacerbation of pigmentation issues. Awesome sources of vitamin C are Oranges, avocados, broccoli, spinach, grapefruit and kiwi. You can make a vitamin C packed smoothie to start your day with most of these ingredients in and be set for a healthy skin day!
Seeds and nuts – a great healthy snack for throughout the day and packed full with skin boosting nutrients, sunflower seeds and walnuts are my favourite go to nuts and seeds for skin snacking.
Routines and Products:
I know it seems like the best idea is to load yourself up with every healthy skin, anti acne, spot fighting, signs of ageing reducing product on the planet and go for the more is more option. However, in this case – less is more. Your skin can naturally fight all of these things if you give it the right tools in your diet. Overloading your skin with different products can confuse it and cause your body to produce excess oils again, worsening breakouts, inflammation and acne. The best suggestion I have is to find a natural product that works for you and stick with it.
Avoid products that contain lots of processed ingredients that mess up your skins natural production rates. This can be a difficult one but the main ingredient I avoid when shopping for body products is Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS) or any variety of it – companies can be clever and they make it with coconut oil and other nut oils but it’s the same damaging product. It’s a foaming agent so is present in lots of body washes, face washes, hand washes, shampoos or even dish washing liquids. Check if you have anything that that contains this, the next time they run out try to replace them with a more natural one. My absolute go to is the Sukin range – all natural, all organic, junk free, and doesn’t break the bank. The SLS varieties strip your skin of their natural oils and therefore it will go into overdrive to produce more, which we have already learnt causes blockages and breakouts.
Ok serious question, how often do you wash your make up brushes? If your answer was more of a dodgy facial expression than actual words, again, you are not alone. Very few people regularly wash their make up brushes and applicators. However, bacteria can build up and live here for a long time and then you go and put it on your face again! Regularly washing your brushes and things thoroughly can help prevent you adding extra bacteria to your skin. I now religiously wash mine every month with water and a natural soap and then leave them to dry fully. As expensive as it may be, it’s also important to replace them every year or so too.
Whilst we are on the subject of make up, I am again going to suggest that less is more. I know all too well that when you are having a bad skin day what you want to do is cover it up as much as possible but, you guessed it, you’re blocking your skin cells. If they can’t breathe then they can’t remove the bacteria and breakouts are likely to get worse. I know it’s unrealistic to suggest that you never wear make up ever again, but any days or times that you can go all natural faced – do it. If there are days or times when you can let your skin be naked and natural for as long as possible then you’re really going to see the benefit of letting it breathe and regulate it’s own oil production.
If you are wearing make up then ensure that you remove it fully. If I have to wear make up then I remove it the second I set foot back in my house, get the skin clean and free as quickly as you can. This goes for sweating too – after the gym get your skin straight in the shower. If you can’t, then try to ensure you wash your face quickly after sweating to reduce pore clogging with sweat and bacteria from your workout.
All things that you regularly put your face on need to be kept clean – think about how often you wash or clean; your pillow cases, phone, hands, towels, your work phone. If it touches your sensitive skin – keep it clean.
When it comes to products remember that less is more – let your skin breathe and don’t clog it full of unnatural ingredients. When it comes to your routines, keep your face and all things that go near it clean and fresh regularly.
We have most likely all experienced how different our skin can be at different times of the month – I know for me, it is virtually impossible to control my skin in the week before my period. Just another joy us women face but, there are however other emotions and mood states that can affect our skin.
Stress. Stress can aggravate almost all skin issues. When the stress hormone Cortisol is high the chemical response is that your body produces more oils (we know what happens then) and increases your inflammatory response, which will have a big effect on conditions like psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis as your skin, is more reactive and sensitive.
It can be really hard to avoid and limit stress in our lives these days and once our skin has reacted we then get more stressed about having skin problems! However, finding ways to keep yourself calm in difficult situations can help keep your Cortisol levels healthy. Exercise regularly (washing your face after) this helps regulate hormone production and keep those happy hormones pumping through your body, keeping stress levels down. Find time for yourself – what helps you to relax?
For me, a walk through the woods or along the beach, sitting with a good book for a while, or running through a breathing meditation really helps me stay in control of my stress levels. Carving out just 5 minutes in your busy work day or whilst running around after your children can do wonders for your stress levels and therefore help prevent upsetting skin outbreak days.
I try to find activities every day that focus solely on me and then have a 5minute breath work practice on hand ready to help me in times of difficulty. Try shutting yourself away in a private space and taking in a long, slow breath through the nose, filling your whole body with air, making sure your stomach expands as you inhale. Then for the same amount of time that you let that inhale go for, exhale through your mouth. Try increasing the time of both the inhale and the exhale by 2 seconds every few rounds. Whilst you breathe, imagine yourself in a calm and happy place – the beach with the sound of the waves, or a meadow with fresh cut grass, the warm sun hitting your (clear and healthy) skin and allow the air coming in to slowly soothe all the tension you’re feeling. Then as you exhale slowly, imagine pushing all of those stressful situations out of your body and your mind. 5 minutes here and you will feel much more relaxed, ready to face any situation with a much calmer, self focussed mind, without negatively affecting your skin.
Remember, your skin is an organ; it needs to be kept healthy and happy. Your daily diet plays a huge role in how this organ feels and reacts. Give it the chance to do what it naturally does best by not pumping it full of products, by eating the best nutrients and monitoring your hormone levels, and your skin will naturally glow and shine, clear and healthy.