While breakouts are common for teens, thanks to hormones going into hyper-drive, it’s less expected once you hit your twenties (amiright?!). So of course, once I hit my twenties and began experiencing more intense breakouts than I ever had through high school, I reached a new state of frustration with my skin. Oh the drama…and the impossible joke of attempting to cover up all the blemishes was quite simply a tragic mess. Getting ready for work or to go out with friends usually resulted in tears and occasionally a full blown melt-down. There was a period where I had my hair cut specifically so I could easily cover my face.
I spent a fortune on name brand skin clearing products proclaiming to have the solution for those with “extreme acne” or cystic acne (which I was later diagnosed with). I had gone from little to no makeup in high school to wearing full coverage makeup specifically formulated for covering up tattoos. I went on birth control to manage my hormonal breakouts, and even then it only helped somewhat. My Dermatologist put me on several rounds of antibiotics for over 6 months and all I got was an unbalanced gut. It was upon evaluating a more intense medication, which had equally intense side effects, that I decided to investigate natural and homeopathic remedies before taking such a risk with my health.
Around the same time I began seeing a Dermatologist I had heard about Alkaline diets. My curiosity around Alkalinity led me to discover publications and articles about nutrition, inflammation and gut health. This journey was a series of “Aha” moments, one after the other. Armed with a keen understanding of the science and a reaffirmed belief that our bodies are far more capable than we give them credit, I felt bold enough to pursue an alternative approach than the one involving pharmaceuticals and western medicine.
I formulated an approach that would help my body reset and heal, and then provide a better foundation for nutrition that would support my bodies particular needs and my personal goals.
I began with a 3-day juice cleanse (homemade) aimed at detoxifying the liver, kidneys, gallbladder and gut. This cleanse allowed me to reset my body while delivering healthful enzymes and nutrients that would repair and replenish my adrenal function and my immune system. This was a logical first step as I knew rebuilding my gut in particular would not only benefit my overall health, it could help level hormones and reduce my hormonal breakouts.
Post cleanse I reintroduced food through a strictly raw food diet to maintain homeostasis and eliminate foods causing inflammation. I ended up remaining on a raw diet for about six months because I felt next level amazing while on this diet. Months on a raw diet is intense and not for everyone, but going raw for even just one week post-cleanse, and then slowly introducing whole foods (unprocessed, but cooked, and preferably organic produce at least) will help your body to adjust and ease back into a more sustainable everyday diet. While reintroducing food I also made sure to get back into taking my supplements – especially my probiotics. (Gotta build up that gut, baby!)
I also chose to remove gluten entirely from my diet during this process. There were so many references to inflammation in all that I had read, and gluten was listed as a primary culprit to many inflammatory reactions including acne. So I chose to not risk it and simply remove it from the equation.
Shortly after my cleanse I began incorporating acupuncture treatments to help further realign my hormones. My period symptoms, including my hormonal breakouts, became way more intense once off birth control. In fact, they were more severe than before I had been on birth control. Many of the books I had read during my health journey mentioned incorporating acupuncture for health and wellbeing and I felt it was a logical next step in my journey to better skin, and overall health. With several treatments under my belt, my periods were barely noticeable and most importantly, I did not break out just before my period! I continued with a few more treatments until I felt my “best self” again.
Within three weeks of my cleanse my skin appeared to clear up. I had fewer breakouts and brighter skin tone to where some of the acne scarring I’d had was less pigmented (subtly so, but I noticed). Two months into this journey I wasn’t breaking out any more – other than the occasional 24 hour zit, my skin was clear! Beyond that, I had more energy, I was thinking with a new level of clarity and positivity. Basically I was SHE-MAZING!
It is years later and do not EVER breakout like I used to. As I age I have routines I’ve incorporated to maintain a healthy glow and a toned and supple texture to my face. Get this – I frequently get compliments on my skin – WHAT?! All this is to say that for those of you who have difficult breakouts, I feel your pain, and will confidently tell you that the answer is likely not as simple as a pill, or a cream. It’s usually a mix of lifestyle habits and genetics which have the most impact on your skin and overall health – and so exploring those is your best bet in discovering your glow.
I have outlined the elements that I have discovered in my glow journey and I believe to be the most impactful to achieving excellent skin (clarity, texture, and elasticity):
1. Drink Water!
There is much debate on whether drinking enough water will contribute to your skin’s appearance. From where I sit, it’s a major factor to our health and our skin’s appearance. That said, water and proper hydration alone is not a skin “cure-all”, but it certainly can’t hurt!
Some Facts to Sip On1:
- Our bodies are composed of approximately 60% water (babies are around 75%, elderly are around 55%)
- Our cells, tissue and organs need water to work properly, see breakdown of water composition for the following body parts and organs:
- Brain and heart = 73% water
- Lungs = 83% water
- Skin = 64% water
- Muscles and kidneys = 79% water
- Bones = 31% water
- The skin covering every beautiful inch of your body is your largest organ
- Optimal water intake will flush waste, lubricate and cushion joints, and aid proper circulation, digestion and absorption of nutrients
So, what does proper hydration look like?
Many health organizations agree that everyone should drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water a day – which equates to exactly half a gallon of water. Other’s indicate that men should drink more than women due to their “larger mass.”
When establishing your optimal volume of water intake I personally use a simple equation: Take your weight in lbs and multiply by 60%, the total is the volume of water in ounces you should consume daily. Those who exercise regularly, work outdoors in hot climates, or are exposed to chemical products should consume more than average in order to properly flush toxins and waste and replenish fluids.
Now that you have all the facts and a few good ideas as to why SO many people rave about water making their skin glow, it’s just a matter of creating routines that help up your water game!
Here are a few things to consider which have helped me manage my water intake over the years:
- If you struggle with drinking enough water, take your diet into account. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in water content. Incorporating these foods into each meal will help you to consume enough water each day.
- If you just can’t stand the taste of water, you could try drinking other fluids which have a high water content such as skim milk. Or, a healthier option with fewer calories, would be to try infusing your water with flavorful fruits and herbs. There are loads of infusion water bottles on the market right now, any will do – but if it’s not glass, make certain it’s BPA free! This infuser has a nice size capacity at 32oz, it’s BPA free, and it offers a time tracker feature to help monitor your water intake throughout the day!
- If, like me, you struggle to remember to consume enough water through your workday, I found success by drinking from the largest water bottle I could find. That way, I only need to refill my water bottle twice a day, and I realize if I haven’t by mid-day I need to chug that water! This 84oz stainless steel insulated water bottle keeps water cold for hours, which for me is important, and it’s dishwasher safe!
2. The Holy Trinity of Health
Being a health nut I am a firm believer that a majority of our health issues can be managed and improved by examining our genetics, our exposure to environmental toxins, and our diet.
Genetics (that sneaky mistress):
Figuring out your genetic predispositions can be a confusing process, but can begin simply by talking with your family. Take advantage of those family gatherings (wherein everyone is either too drunk or too sober for your liking) and interview your closest relatives on whether they have experienced any consistent or odd reactions to things they’ve consumed. This process may reveal common health issues on one or both sides of your family, and help you form certain assumptions from similar issues you’ve experienced.
Another option is to invest in a DNA test oriented around food sensitivity. These tests can provide some insight into whether you are genetically intolerant or sensitive to certain foods. Even if you are not intolerant and just sensitive, those foods will likely cause an inflammatory response leading to things such as indigestion, migraines, or hormone imbalance (possibly causing those nasty breakouts – just sayin’).
Regardless of the process you elect, you should consult your physician with your health concerns.
Environmental toxins (she a scary beech):
Environmental toxins – this is a very broad topic, and it impacts the products you use every day such as toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, hand soap, detergent (and on and on). One of the most alarming facts is that the EU has banned over 1000 chemicals from being used in cosmetic products, whereas the US has banned around 30 as of 2018.2 Once you begin a non-toxic journey it can quickly feel as though you are Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. First, Don’t Panic. Start small. Focus on the products that you use most frequently, like hand soap, and work your way into replacing your household cleaning and beauty products with their non-toxic counterparts. Nowadays, non-toxic products are more accessible than ever before, and can often be found at nearly any general retailer including your local grocery.
You are what you eat (I’m obviously a giant glass of Rose):
Much of a traditional American diet can cause inflammation in the body, and this in turn can contribute to numerous health issues from skin conditions such as eczema and acne, to autoimmune diseases like lupus or fibromyalgia. The good news is that by simply eating healthfully we can not only reduce inflammation, we can also heal damaged cells in the body and improve nutrient absorption – which can result in glowing unblemished skin.
Changing diet alone may not solve all your skin challenges, however, there is enough evidence to suggest that eliminating processed foods and foods high in sugar and reducing refined carbohydrates can improve complexion.
You may be experiencing inflammation, or you could have developed a sensitivity or an allergy to foods you’ve been consuming since childhood. Perhaps you’ve just been over indulging in sweets due to stress. Either way, you have the power to find what truly works for you and your body. I recommend trying an elimination diet such as Whole30 to better understand how your body reacts to certain foods. This process can help you to very easily identify which food types are causing you the most trouble, and introduce healthy alternatives to your favourite (yes, I spell it like a Brit) meals.
3. Level Those Hormones
Hormones are a major contributor to skin issues. They can cause acne or irregular breakouts, it can affect pigmentation and skin texture, it also impacts natural collagen production which is what keeps skin looking smooth and youthful.
There are a number of things which can indicate a potential hormonal imbalance, such as:
- Poor Sleep or Restlessness
- Feeling Fuzzy Headed – Difficulty Thinking Clearly
- Unexplained Fatigue or Exhaustion
- Sensitivity to Stress
- Irregular Periods
- Difficulty Conceiving
- Fluctuations in Mood
- Frequent Breakouts Around the Chin, Mouth and Nose
If you suspect you’re experiencing a hormone imbalance you should consult an Endocrinologist to aid in diagnosing they type of hormone imbalance you are facing. Treatment may involve prescribed medications as well as an altered diet and exercise routine to progressively achieve a healthy hormonal balance.
Depending on the type of hormonal imbalance you suffer from, you can incorporate natural supplementation, an anti-inflammatory diet and acupuncture to help support your prescribed treatment from a physician.
I’ve found this book, Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled? to be very illuminating and helpful in my pursuit to naturally balance hormones. I encourage you to check your local library before purchasing.
4. Commit to a Skin Routine
Just as we have a workout routine to maintain and build a strong and durable body, we should all commit to a skin routine. As with workouts where you target key areas such as the abs, glutes, arms, or back – there are specific skin routines which deliver ideal results for your face and neck, hands, feet, or even that booty.
Your face is your most unique feature, and needs the most attention (like the sensitive baby that it is). Washing your face once a day with a mild cleanser, and applying moisturizer with SPF in the morning is a nice minimal routine… if you’re 17 and still have fabulously dewy Twilight Vampire skin (yes, you sparkle, damn you). For those of us who’ve been around a bit and had experiences that would make Dorian Grey blush, that’s not enough to hide the effects of our debauched past.
Mature skin needs periodic exfoliation, proper hydration, and a bit of pampering to achieve a fresh dewy look. Regular use of a facial scrub or facial brush helps maintain a smooth texture and aid elasticity and natural collagen production. In other words, regular exfoliation can reduce fine lines and improve firmness.
To moisturize or not to moisturize. Depending on your genetics and lifestyle, your skin may run more dry or oily than average, and so finding the right moisturizer can be tricky and typically involves trial and error. Natural facial oils and serums are all-the-rage in the beauty industry for the simple fact that they are offering results people love. Facial oils are excellent moisturizers for dry skin, and serums are lighter and usually ideal for targeting particular skin goals such as brightening. Additionally, many of the facial oils are free from toxic chemicals found in so many of the skincare products on the market – toxins which could be contributing to your skin issues.
Lastly, incorporating regular facial massage with fingers or roller/sculpting tools can stimulate blood flow increasing elasticity and encouraging lymphatic drainage – all of which aid in preventing and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and puffiness.
My 30+ old, mom-of-a-toddler, facial routine looks like this:
Mornings: Rinse with cool/tepid water, apply tinted moisturizer with sunscreen
Our skin has varying needs – our feet need some tough love, our elbows and knees need extra moisture. There are a few routines, however, which can nourish and support your overall skin needs.
As with the face, to achieve firmer smoother skin, regular exfoliation and massage will stimulate blood flow and increase lymphatic drainage. One of the best techniques to exfoliate and massage the body is Dry Brushing. Dry brushing the body before a shower helps remove dead skin, opening the pores allowing the skin to better absorb and hold moisture. Dry brushing also temporarily plumps the skin, causing it to appear firmer and reduces the appearance of cellulite.
I have found that the handheld dry brushes are easier to handle when scrubbing vigorously at problem areas. This brush with firm, but gentle, nodes offers a deeper massage relieving muscle aches and stimulating the fascia covering our muscles, which can help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Soak it in. Getting in a good soak with a warm Epsom Salt bath is not only a fantastic way to relieve muscular and mental stress, it is also an easy way to soften skin. Just 20 minutes soaking in Epsom Salts can reduce inflammation, improve skin texture and moisture retention. Dr Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt are my go-to option, these or generic epsom salts can be found at your local pharmacy.
Lastly – surprise, surprise – apply a moisturizer rich in natural ingredients that will feed your skin. There are now non-toxic butters, oils and lotions a plenty, selecting the right one depends on your particular skin needs. For cracked and dry skin a dense cream lotion such as Aveeno’s Skin Relief 24hr Moisturizing Lotion will help in healing broken skin and replenishing moisture. If you are hoping to achieve smoother texture and reduce the appearance of scarring, stretch marks, or cellulite then applying a moisturizer rich in oils which aid in cell regeneration, natural collagen production and reduce inflammation. Weleda offers several highly rated body oils formulated to target particular skin issues. My personal favourite is Weleda’s Cellulite Birch Oil for the fact that it is quickly absorbed and therefore not greasy.
Now that I’ve shared what I’ve discovered on my journey to glowing skin, do you have routines you swear by?
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