Why Your Skin Needs Wellness Too
There's something that's been on my mind lately to blog about, but it requires us to think outside the box a little. In my time in skin care, I've noticed I talk about the skin in metaphors a lot, to help explain concepts that are otherwise boring or confusing. It's not always 100%, but it works. So think of this as more of an extended metaphor and bear with me, yeah?
I'm a firm believer that good skin care doesn't have to be complicated, but when I'm asked to describe what all "good skin care" encompasses, it can get complicated fast. Skin care is multi-faceted. For truly healthy skin, you would need to take into account what products you put on it, what treatments you maintain it with and even what you eat and drink. So rather than get nit-picky about all of these things, here is another way you can think about it.
Treat your skin, just as you would any other part of your body
Your skin is about 16% of your body and your largest organ. Yet we often neglect the skin more that the rest of our parts. Why is that?
In some ways it makes sense. We take the skin for granted because it doesn't immediately demand our attention. Unlike your stomach, it won't growl to signal it needs food. Unlike your hair, it rarely gets to a point of visible overgrowth.
But just because your skin is resilient, doesn't mean it deserves any less care.
In other ways, it makes no sense. I notice that most of my clients, like myself, are wellness-minded. We go to yoga. Drink green smoothies. Meditate. Buy hormone-free and non-GMO, organic everything. You get the point. But I notice that for some people, this level of care and attention to detail doesn't apply to our skin. This is unfortunate.
So what are some of the ways we can care for our skin that are similar to your more traditional wellness?
Feed Your Skin
Your body needs nutrition in order to perform at its peak. So does your skin - vitamins, healthy fats, water, etc.
You do this in the form of your home care. Would you feed your body only every couple of days? No? Then why wouldn't you feed your skin once, if not multiple times a day? Look for products with Vitamin C for brightening and protecting your skin. Vitamin A will help encourage youthful turnover. Oils help moisturize and balance out your skin, the same way healthy fats do when you eat them. There are tons of examples of nutrition in skin care, but you get my drift. Don't starve your skin!
Further, if you're feeding your skin as often as you feed your body, you're going to want to be mindful of quality ingredients and nutrition. If the stuff you got from your esthetician is a healthy salad, think of that stuff you bought at Walgreen's as fast food. This is not a hard-sell for professional products but think of it this way: you will get out of your skin, what you put into it. Just like the rest of your body, if you ate fast food every day, it probably wouldn't look or feel the same as if you ate healthy salads regularly. If you've got your favorite cult products that aren't the best for your skin, it's okay to indulge now and then. But I think if you start to incorporate more "nutrition" into your home care routine, you will quickly see the results on your skin and never want to look back.
Hydrate Your Skin
We all know that dry skin is not ideal. But do you know the difference between dry and dehydrated? Dry means skin lacks oil. (See above.) Dehydrated means your skin lacks water. You can have skin that is dry but not dehydrated and vice versa. Neither is ideal. In addition to feeding your skin those healthy oils, you still need to put some H20 into the mix as well. The way to do this is to use a moisturizer that is both oil and water. Your skin needs both.
So just as you wouldn't eat a diet of healthy fats but not drink any water, don't deprive your face of that sweet sweet hydration. I have seen some clients who suffered from very dry skin despite using a lot of facial oils. The problem? They were only using those oils but not putting enough moisture into their skin. In addition to a good moisturizer, you can supplement your skin's water intake with a hydrating toner or serum. Products containing hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate help bind moisture into the skin by holding 1000x its own weight in water.
Work Your Skin Out
Did you know your skin needs fitness? Working out looks a little different for the skin, but the concept is pretty similar. You need to put your skin through a little roughing up sometimes, so that it can become stronger, healthier and maintain its youthful stamina. How do we do this? One word: exfoliation. There are tons of ways to exfoliate, so just like with other fitness, you can do a variety of workouts, or find one track that works best for your skin and stick with it.
Exfoliating at home could be a facial scrub, a mask or a manual device like your Clarisonic, perhaps. You can also use Alpha-Hydroxy Acids like Glycolic Acid in your cleanser or toner pads for a light chemical exfoliation. Any time you exfoliate, you force your skin to replace the dead skin cells that have been scrubbed away. The skin makes new healthy cells and the cycle begins anew. Your skin will naturally slow down with age, (wait for it...) just like the rest of your body. Exfoliation keeps that slowdown from happening by triggering cellular turnover at a more youthful rate.
Give Your Skin Rest
Wait didn't I just say to work the skin out? Yep. But as with any other part of your body, you wouldn't work something out every single day. Your skin needs rest days too. This means you don't need to exfoliate as much as you might think. One or two times a week is usually sufficient. If you overdo it on exfoliation you can actually cause your skin to become more irritated and inflamed. Not unlike an injury you might sustain after overtraining at the gym. You can't keep injuring something that's already injured. Stressed skin is a real thing.
Every now and then it's just as healthy for your skin, to throw on a nice hydrating mask (the facial equivalent of some yoga pants) and give your face a break.
Additionally, remember that your skin has a healing process like any body part or organ. When your skin sustains an injury in the form of a blemish, or if you've just had a treatment. it takes time to completely repair itself. Just as you wouldn't rip stitches out of a wound prematurely or take the bandages off a broken bone too early, let your skin do what it needs to do. Wear your sunscreen and refrain from picking and popping those whiteheads.
Your Skin Needs Checkups
For overall wellness, most people believe that seeing a doctor now and again is a good idea. Even if something isn't broken, it's important to practice preventative care and stop problems before they start. How do we do this for our skin? Well, for an ounce of prevention, it's good to see a dermatologist regularly for cancer screenings. You should always practice your own preventative care in the form of wearing SPF, but anyone who gets regular UV exposure should get checked out just to be sure.
How do estheticians factor in? Well, I think of my job as being that of a therapist and also a trainer for the skin. That good workout we talked about? A facial provides exactly that. Professional cleansing and exfoliation that goes beyond your normal homecare. Some of the steps you can replicate at home, and you should! Just as you can't go to a personal trainer and be in your best shape in one session, going for a facial will really yield best results in combination with good "diet" and "exercise" for your skin. But sometimes the skin doesn't need a workout so much as some TLC. As a skin care therapist, I'm able to zero in on a client's issues and help soothe and treat them that day. I also provide advice to help clients maintain and care for their skin, outside my office.
With all this in mind, I will clarify that I would never advocate for de-prioritizing other aspects of your wellness in favor of skin care. I know we've all got a lot on our plate already, and the key is balance. The other good news is that all of your other wellness is linked to your skin. Ideally you want to be nourishing your skin internally as much as externally. Factors such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, keeping stress levels down, routinely sweating it out with a good workout and drinking lots of water will all positively impact your skin's appearance too.
The metaphor is mostly to help you think about your skin in a new way, which will hopefully also inspire you to practice some wellness for your skin too!
Still have questions? Please don't hesitate to reach out. As cheesy as this many sound, it's true: we are all on our wellness journey together.