A thoughtful skin care routine can work wonders for your complexion, but it’s not the only factor to consider when you’re looking in the mirror (or at the front-facing camera). Your habits surrounding diet, exercise and sleep affect your whole-body health, including your skin. So, what tips should you follow for a clear and age-defying complexion? We chatted with a registered dietician and a dermatologist and came up with some easy-to-follow tips below.
1. Protect Your Skin from the Sun
It’s a given that you should be wearing broad-spectrum SPF every day, because UV rays from the sun cause premature aging. Beyond that, it helps to seek shade, wear sunglasses and avoid going outside during the sunniest hours of the day, which tends to be late morning to mid-afternoon. “Hats and UV protective clothing can be good in addition to sunscreen,” advises Mary Larijani, M.D., a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
2. Know Your Skin Type
Dermatologists use a skin-type scale of one to six, where people with skin type one sunburn easily and never tan while people with skin type six never sunburn and tan easily. If you have a relationship with a dermatologist, you should ask where you fall on the scale and make a sun-safety plan accordingly.
Sensitive, rosacea, acne-prone or eczema-prone are other commonly used terms to describe your skin type. These classifications can be based on your own observations, but they’re still valuable when you’re forming a skin care routine. “If you’re acne-prone, choose noncomedogenic or oil-free products. If you’re rosacea-prone, avoid chemical sunscreens and instead opt for mineral-based sunscreens,” Larijani says.
3. Don’t Go to Sleep with Makeup On
Going to bed with makeup on leads to clogged pores and clogged pores lead to breakouts. When you forget to do a nighttime wash, “you’re basically just keeping all the pollutants of the day on your skin,” explains Larijani. “Cleansing the skin at night clears the pores and lets you start fresh in the morning,” she adds.
4. Get Adequate Sleep
According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep every day. Getting a good night’s sleep helps your whole system—skin included. “When people are sleep-deprived, they get the black circles under their eyes and [their skin] doesn’t look as lush and plump and fresh,” notes Sarah Koszyk, a registered dietician in San Francisco. “When you get better sleep, [your skin looks healthier], because your body’s rejuvenating overnight,” she adds.
5. Exercise Regularly
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, plus strength training exercises at least twice a week. “Exercise is great for the skin,” says Larijani. She explains that it increases blood flow, which directs nutrients into the skin and pollutants out of the skin.
6. Stay Hydrated
Koszyk recommends that her clients drink about 80 ounces of water—that’s eight to ten glasses—per day and more if they work out. “The major benefit [to drinking enough water] is a more youthful and hydrated complexion,” she says. Also, water helps to control hunger levels. Sometimes people think they’re hungry but they’re really thirsty,” Koszyk adds.
7. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
All those great benefits of drinking water? Alcohol reverses them by dehydrating the body. It’s also a toxin, meaning that it could temporarily slow down your liver function. “When you take in toxins, the liver is not filtering our blood as effectively and that can add more free radicals into our body. Free radicals can cause premature aging of the skin. Alcohol can also dilate the blood vessels which causes redness and affects our complexion,” says Larijani.
8. Change Your Bedding Often
For most people who wash their face daily, Larijani recommends changing sheets weekly. Though, some people could benefit from changing their sheets more often. “If you notice that you have a lot of oil or makeup residue on your pillow, it probably wouldn’t hurt to change your sheets every couple of days. The friction and dirt can often be a trigger for acne-prone skin,” she says.
9. Reassess Your Eating Habits
Koszyk shies away from banning foods altogether. Instead, she advises her clients to exercise portion control when it comes to sugar and dairy. For people with sensitivities to certain food groups, she recommends proceeding with caution as those ingredients can lead to inflammation and breakouts.
To promote skin health through food, Koszyk recommends powerhouse nutrients like:
Vitamin E: found in avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds and red peppers—offers anti-aging benefits
Vitamin C: naturally found in in strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, oranges and papaya—supports cell growth
Beta-carotene: present in pumpkin, kale, carrots, spinach and cantaloupe—turns into vitamin A in the body, which helps maintain skin health and a youthful appearance
Omega-3 fatty acids: found in salmon, walnuts, chia seeds and ground flax seeds—help to maintain moisture and elasticity
10. Take a Probiotic
Probiotics improve gut health and they also affect the skin indirectly, because a healthy gut absorbs nutrients better than an inflamed one. “Probiotics are really good for gut health. As they say, ‘you are what you eat.’ When we feel good on the inside, we end up looking good on the outside,” Koszyk explains. “By having good gut health, we can better absorb the foods that have vitamin A, vitamin C and omega-3s” and enjoy a healthier-looking complexion.