As you start to dream about the vacations you’ll book in 2017 with friends and loved ones, cross your fingers (and toes and arms and legs!) that this will finally be the year you find love and consider where your career is going—add one more New Year’s to-do to your list: take great care of your skin. While most people remember to book their annual physical, their check-in at the gyno and their teeth cleaning, getting a skin screening and taking care of your face and body are often overlooked. Especially for those who have never struggled with acne or other types of ailments like psoriasis or rosacea, seeing a dermatologist might not even occur to you. But if you’re in your 20s and 30s, it’s time to book an appointment stat—if nothing else, make it a resolution.
“In general the end of the year/beginning of the new year is a time to reflect on yourself, your life and the past year and resolve to make positive changes,” explains dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah, M.D. “Just as many people make resolutions to improve their general health (e.g. eat healthier, lose weight, exercise more) the new year is a good time to assess your skin health, set goals for the upcoming year, and plan on how you will accomplish those goals.”
Here are some commandments to make for your skin for the next 365 days:
1. Wear sunscreen every day.
Yes, even in the winter. Even when it’s snowing. No matter what, no exceptions. No matter how young or old you are, sunscreen protects against harmful rays that are always present in the atmosphere, regardless of temperature or season. “If there is a single commandment you pick up in the new year, it should be applying sunscreen daily. Sunscreen is the foundation of any good skin care regimen. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is extremely damaging to the skin and contributes not only to skin aging (wrinkles, skin sagging, brown spots) but also the development of skin cancer,” Shah says. “Sunscreen, which protects the skin against harmful UVR is crucial to protecting the skin.”
2. Wash off your makeup.
You can blame it on too many glasses of vino during girl’s night, a last-minute request from your boss that required you to stay up late or that Netflix binge, but your skin is the one who suffers. Makeup left on the skin overnight can not only clog pores and breed bacteria, but it doesn’t ever give your skin a moment to recharge. “It’s really tempting after a long day at work or a long night out to go straight to bed without cleansing your face, but washing your face before you the hit the sack is a must. Sleep is time for the skin to repair and renew itself,” Shah says. “Makeup or other impurities left on the skin do not allow this self-repair process to occur effectively; therefore accelerating the aging process. Furthermore, it can clog pores leading to acne or cause flaky red irritated skin.”
3. Incorporate a vitamin C antioxidant serum to your skincare routine
When you’re starting to feel under the weather, what’s the first thing you think to do? Down some vitamin C, right? As a proactive measure to keep your skin’s elasticity and health, make this the year where you really, truly start to look at the ingredients in your products. “After sunscreen, a vitamin C antioxidant serum is one the most important anti-aging products available. Free radicals from the environment (for example from UVR and pollution) contribute to skin damage and skin aging,” Shah says. “An antioxidant serum neutralizes these damaging free radicals and protects the skin. Unlike some harsher anti-aging ingredients, such as retinoids, antioxidant serums are generally tolerated by all skin types.”
4. Wash your makeup brushes regularly
Fess up, babe: when was the last time you actually cleaned off those makeup brushes you use every single day (sometimes more than once a day)? We won’t judge you for how long it’s been, but make it a priority to ensure you’re cleaning those babies. “People often overlook washing their makeup brushes/applicators regularly but this is a big no-no,” Shah says. “Besides makeup, brushes collect oil, dust, dead skin cells, residue of other products that may be on your face or hair, and other debris. Just imagine transferring all this your face! Dirty brushes can contribute to acne, skin infections and skin irritation. Additionally, your makeup may not go on as smoothly and the color may not look perfect.”
5. Go easy on the tweezers.
Just like finding a moisturizer and a great foundation that magically matches your skin tone, that perfect pair of tweezers that always works at grabbing even the smallest stray hairs is hard to find. But as dermatologist Jessie Cheung, M.D. says, plucking your eyebrow hairs too much much or too often can permanently damage hair follicles and leave your pores open to bacterial infection. “Put away the magnifiying mirror and the pointy tweezers. ” she explains. “Don’t over-pluck your eyebrows; you’ll miss them in a few years!”
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6. Consider your diet and your skin.
You are what you eat, and your skin is, too. Though you’ve likely already heard about dairy’s damaging effects for acne, there are several foods that can truly cause you to break out. That’s why Cheung says to experiment this year and focus on nutritional meals that will benefit not only your waistline but your skin, too. “Cut down on processed carbs. They make you bloated, give you acne, and even worse, the sugars really do age your skin with their inflammatory by-products. Reach for antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables,” she says.
7. Take a probiotic.
If you’re already taking a multivitamin, adding in a probiotic isn’t a bad idea, according to Cheung. “These are the good bacteria that colonize your gut and help with digestion, your immune system, and serotonin—the happy hormone, which is mostly made in your gut! Your skin reflects the health of your gut,” she explains.