Learn to Fall in Love with Your Skin
It's 5.30am I am running on 4 hours sleep, my body contains 85% coffee and I haven't had a pyjama day since I was 5! (Or at least it feels that way). I crawl out of bed, take a look in the mirror and struggle to recognise the person staring back at me. We somehow expect our skin to stay loyal and keep us looking fresh whilst we spiral into our mad world of deadlines, late nights and messy diets. All while forgetting that skin needs to be loved and nurtured for a healthy glow in return.
If you want your skin to be good to you, you must be good to it. Like all relationships, it's a two way street that relies on compromise. That morning I was not loving my skin, in fact my skin and I were taking a break whilst I figured out a solution.So like all good problem solvers I decided to make a list. Let's take a look at all the things that contribute to poor skincare
Lack of sleep
The average amount of sleep needed for most people is between 6-8 hours. As a full time working mum to an 8 year old, 8 hours is a distant fairytale. However, if I can manage to squeeze in 6 hours, I'm normally able to function. Everybody requires a different amount of sleep and studies have shown that men require a little less shuteye than females. A statistic I like to remind my married female friends of “ just to give them a perfect excuse for a couple of hours in bed alone!Whilst a couple of late nights burning the candle at both ends won't leave you looking like Morticia Addams (or Uncle Fester!) but long term lack of sleep can have some serious side effects on your skin. Healthy sleeping habits are something I talk to my patients about regularly. Here are my top 5 tips for a restful night.
- Keep it dark. Light, including blue light from TV screens, tablets and mobile phones stimulate the brain to stay awake and remain overactive. Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed. You've read this advice before but now it's time to try it. I'm living proof this technique works.
- Stay cool. I sleep with my window open, but I realise this isn't for everyone. However it's important to regulate your body temperature at night. Cranking the heating up will leave you hot, sticky and with a very large gas bill. Wear light cotton clothing and sleep with a face mist by your bed.
- Eat light. Digesting a big meal before bedtime is never a good idea. It can leave you with indigestion, discomfort and not to mention meat sweats. Try eating no later than 6pm; if this isn't possible keep it small and healthy.
- Take magnesium. Magnesium helps to regulate natural serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is the hormone that keeps us asleepsee where I'm going with this one? I recommend Night Formula Advanced Nutritional Complex by nutritional guru Miguel Mateus for all my troubled sleepers.
- Write it down. This is one for fellow over thinkers. Half of my sleep problems revolve around my restless mind. Sleeping with a notepad and pen by your bedside is the cheapest therapy you will ever use! Scribble down your midnight thoughts or anxieties and deal with them tomorrow (you'll be surprised at your midnight scribbles the following morning, some of them probably won't make much sense)!
This seems like an obvious one yet you'd be surprised by how many people struggle to maintain decent hydration levels. Despite our free access to water, it isn't a drink favoured by many. All I can say to this is tough. Whether you love it or loathe it, water is essential for skin health, energy levels, digestion and metabolic rate. You can try adding an infuser like lemon or mint to soften the taste. On average 2-3L a day is the ideal, dependent on body size.
My number one faux pas is a naughty weekend. Generally I'm very good on the food front and stick to a clean, organic diet. But when I do slip up, my skin tells me about it. My skin is cane-prone and the effects that sugar has on my breakouts are never worth it. To make matters worse, the sweet stuff is also to blame for accelerating ageing skin. A well-known aesthetic doctor and skin genius, once told me he believes the effects of sugar to be worse on skin ageing than a 20-a-day cigarette habit. Unfortunately sugar can be hard to avoid as it's hidden in lots of packaged foods, jars and takeaway meals. The best way to stay on track is to cook your food fresh so you know exactly what's going in.
Completely unavoidable in certain situations, I know. In fact, worrying about being too stressed causes most of my stress. Relax! Your body is made to deal with day-to-day stress levels and it's actually healthy to experience these fluctuations. However, long-term stress will have a huge negative impact on your health, effecting sleep and playing with your emotions. More importantly, stress triggers changes within the body that create hormone imbalances. It's this shift in hormones that causes acne and breakouts. Try figuring out a way to relax. Some people take to this a little easier than others. I have friends who switch off while having a hot soak in the bath, I prefer doing some yoga or going for a run. Find what works for you and make it a priority.
Over exposure to UV
If there's one thing all my patients leave clinic with, it's a suncream. Now more than ever we are aware of the harmful effects that over exposure to UV has on the skin. I love a holiday as much as the next person, but protecting yourself must come first. Excessive exposure increases the risk of skin cancer but is also the number one contributor to skin ageing. There is no leeway on this one, wear your SPF daily or you may as well give up now.
This is the only box I don't tick. As a self-confessed health freak I've managed to swerve the tobacco. But since smoking contributed to 474,000 hospital admissions last year, it's still a big issue I see in clinic day-to-day. Smoking not only impacts your health, but is also significant consequences on the skin and in particular the rate at which we age!Smoking reduces blood flow to the epithelial structure and decreases the amount of oxygen within the blood. Oxygen feeds our skin and encourages a healthy colour to our complexion. A smoker's skin is easily identifiable through examination because of discolouration and a dull skin tone.Smoking also affects the structure and volume of the skin. Studies show significantly lower collagen levels in a smoker vs. a non-smoker.
Collagen is the key player in keeping your skin plump and youthful. Our body is already breaking down these golden building blocks at a rapid rate; it certainly doesn't need any help in speeding up the process.Healing rates are also much slower in patients who smoke. This means any invasive aesthetic procedure should be carried out with caution. A good practitioner will always question their patients smoking habits and encourage them to avoid cigarettes pre and post procedure.Smoke is toxic and is a free radical. It comes under the same box as UV radiation, wind, rain and pollution. Whilst some free radicals are unavoidable, this one is a self-inflicted bad boy that you only have yourself to blame for.You and your skin won't always see eye to eye, and that's OK - life gets in the way sometimes. But your skin is here to give you a healthy reminder to look after yourself. Not all skin problems are self inflicted but some are certainly not helped. Learn to be patient, fall in love with yourself and allow for some imperfections. They make you, you.
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