From magazines to the dermatologist’s office, the celebrated skin saviors are all too often products—and products alone. No stranger to a little product love (and an involved product regimen), I believe that natural skincare products have an important role to play in maintaining beautiful skin. From my experience, however, products are only worth the time it takes to apply them when you’re already supporting your skin with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Swap Processed Foods for a Whole-Foods Vegan Diet
One of the best places to start is your diet. A major “aha” moment for me was learning that dairy could make acne worse. After cutting dairy from my diet, and eventually becoming fully vegan some 3+ years ago, I experienced a huge improvement in my skin: fewer breakouts, faster healing, and less inflammation. The journey didn’t stop there. The more I read (and experimented on myself), the more I discovered that fresh, whole plant foods were essential for a glowing and clear complexion–and processed foods make me feel (and look) less than wonderful.
If you are interested in learning more about the effects of food on your health and beauty or incorporating whole foods into your diet, check out Jolene Hart’s Eat Pretty, a seasonal guide to eating for specific beauty concerns, and Heather Crosby’s Yum Universe, a book and blog about making a gluten-free, whole foods lifestyle feasible and delicious.
Keep a Food Diary
Even the healthiest foods may lead to some difficulties, unfortunately. As natural skincare guru Adina Grigore explains in Skin Cleanse, food allergies, food sensitivities, and overconsumption of certain foods can lead to low-level immune responses, i.e., inflammation, which is the last thing we want for our skin. Keep a food journal to efficiently monitor how your body responds to the foods you eat on a daily basis. (Does your digestion feel off? Are you breaking out more than usual this month? Are you having trouble sleeping?)
The food diary isn’t about counting calories (phew!)—or to make you feel bad about anything. Rather, it can help you see how your eating patterns play a role in how you feel and look.
Supplement as Necessary
My skin, which is prone to some pretty bad hormonal acne, would be a lost cause if I wasn’t a veggie-loving vegan, but it wouldn’t be as clear as it is now if I didn’t supplement. Aside from popping a raw, whole-food multivitamin (yay, B12!), I’ve also discovered, through much trial and error, that my acne can be kept at bay with a few extra supplements (evening primrose oil and diindolylmethane, a.k.a. DIM, both of which help balance hormones). The supplements that work for me may not be the ones most suited for you, of course, but it may be worth researching natural supplements if you find that a healthy vegan diet is only getting you so far with your beauty goals.
Sweat it Out
Aside from boosting circulation (hello, glow!), exercise, specifically the kind that makes you sweat, is an easy way to improve your skin’s health. Sweat detoxifies your body of excess sodium, cholesterol, and alcohol (none of which are good for beauty). Additionally, as pores open up to release sweat, it’s like your skin is getting cleansed from the inside out. Finally, exercise can help relieve stress, which leads us to…
Find Activities that Nourish You
It’s all too easy to say, “Reduce stress for more beautiful skin!” But many of us don’t have much control over the hours we work in a week or other external stressors that come our way. Some days (weeks, months, or even years) are just tough, and feeling anxious or overburdened is a natural response, but many of us stress over being stressed!
Instead of focusing on things that promise to alleviate stress, pursue activities that, for you, are an end in themselves. Use your spare time to do something that nourishes you—whether it’s getting coffee with friends, going for a hike, or curling up with a novel on the couch. When you’re not looking, the stress will take care of itself—and you skin will show it!