The way our skin looks is always determined by a combination of factors – our lifestyle, our genes, our sleep habits, our diet and our stress levels, to name a few of the biggies. We all know this, yet we still take a largely external approach to our complexion, relying on an array of skincare products and the contents of our makeup bag to do the hard work of boosting radiance, hiding tiredness and generally making us look more like we feel we should look. Despite being savvy, well-informed, grown women, with a bathroom cabinet already heaving with potions and lotions, we find it hard to resist the seductive marketing claims of the beauty industry, the exciting magazine coverage of the latest must-have products or influencer recommendations.
I get you, in fact, I’m just the same – I may have worked in most areas of the beauty industry – reporting as a beauty editor, promoting as a PR, selecting as a beauty buyer and dream-of-dreams, even developing my own products – yet still I am seduced over and over again. I love skincare products, in fact, I am obsessed with them, their feel, their science, their ingredients their packaging and their benefits. And there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, we all benefit from using products that fight free radical damage, repair and nourish, it’s just great skin doesn’t necessarily come from great skincare.
Just like there is no one simple explanation for the way your skin looks and behaves the way it does, there is no one simple fix to make it glow. So, what if I told you that you don’t need to buy any new products to get your skin glowing again – in fact, you probably need to use less products? And what if I told you that the secret to getting your skin looking it’s best actually starts within – in your gut, your heart and your mind? Would you be willing to give it a go? Let’s see.
It’s no secret that I’m in my forties, but I believe the holistic skincare tips I’m sharing below account for my glowing skin and apply as much to my fourteen-year-old daughter as they do to me, or to you, whatever age you are. These tips are not anti-ageing tips. In fact, anti-ageing is not a term I like or use. Remember, there is no shame in ageing – signs of age are simply signs of life, love, pain and experience, not signs of failure to look after yourself.
Similarly, they are not tips to give you blemish-free skin. Yes, they will improve the quality of your skin but I can’t guarantee you won’t ever break out again. Breakouts happen for all kind of reasons - hormones, stress, out-of-routine eating patterns, sweaty gym sessions, pore-clogging self-tan, burning-the-candle at both ends - basically modern life, so every now and again you’re going to get a spot or two. Annoyingly, we don’t necessarily grow out of them. And just so you’re prepared, don’t be surprised if you do break out during the first week or two of following these tips, as you transition to a more holistic skincare regime. The extra stimulation from within and without may unsettle things a little at the beginning.
So here are my tips for glowing, healthy skin from the inside out whatever your age, whatever your budget – I hope you enjoy them and find them useful and combine them with all the normal healthy living habits I know you follow – like drinking plenty of water, eating nutrient-dense food and going easy on the caffeine or alcohol! Anyway, you’ll soon be able to tell whether your new holistic routine is working simply by looking in the mirror. Well-cared for well-rested skin looks exactly that. It will look plumper and more hydrated, with a brighter, more even tone. If you are really interested in improving the vitality of your skin, you may also enjoy reading my blog How I Quit Coffee and My Holistic Guide to Glowing Skin.
Wishing you love, light & wellness
Stop playing the comparison game
I’m going to start with this step, because it is by far the hardest. This step is like climbing a rocky mountain where the others are a pleasant stroll in the park. I know it’s not going to be easy but I’m going to suggest you try and stop measuring your beauty against others. As my dear friend, Cristina @cristinachandikama, a wise and highly experienced yoga teacher, wrote in her Instagram post just the other day. “The moment we accept ourselves, we become beautiful.” This is so true. Once we acknowledge we are beautiful, our beauty shines through for everyone to see. We all know women like this who glow from the inside out – and you can be one of them too, as soon as you let go of judging yourself against others. I know, this is a big step to take in our world of curated feeds and flattering filters but it’s necessary.
It’s so easy to feel inadequate, less beautiful, less worthy when we look at ourselves in the harsh reality of daylight away from the dazzling heights of our social media show reel. Couple this with all the scrolling we do through everybody else’s amazing feeds, it’s impossible not to compare ourselves to others on every level – gorgeous make-up free selfies, frothy turmeric lattes, morning workouts, incredible handstands, endless exotics holidays, year-round sun tans, impressive indoor plants – everyone, not just celebrities, seem to be achieving healthy, wellness perfection with little effort while looking incredible in co-ordinated active wear. But I know this isn’t true and you do too in this age of filters, curated feeds and prime posting times.
Social media is amazing for sharing and connecting but it can also undermine your journey to greater self-acceptance and self-love. If I'm honest, I struggle over comparing myself to others, I know my friends do, I know women I follow on Instagram do as they post about it, my teenage daughter and her friends do, yet it is not something we talk to each other about very much. It is something we do alone on our phones and end up feeling down and sad about, even envious over. My advice? Unfollow anybody that doesn’t make you feel good about where you are in your life right now or how you look. The same thing with magazines, if you find it irritating that the models in the magazine you are reading don’t reflect you, your age or your body – stop buying it. Limit your screen time. Think carefully about what you do and don’t post of yourself, always staying true to who you really are.
Practice more yoga
Saving up for that cult-cream or a consultation with a celeb-endorsed dermatologist? Don’t bother, just do more yoga. When it comes to the positive effects yoga has on our bodies, there are simply too many to count, but there is also another amazing benefit – the magical “yoga glow”. It may be hard to define – but it’s a special combination of sparkly eyes, clear skin and a vibrancy that you don’t only find in newly-trained, 20-something yoga instructors fresh back from Bali, but also the likes of Julie Montagu, Christy Turlington, Colleen Saidman, Elena Brower and Shiva Rea. It’s nothing to do with age and all about looking radiant, happy in your skin and full of life – and who doesn’t want those qualities whatever their age?
So how does yoga improve our skin? Firstly, the obvious, it reduces stress which in turn reduces our inflammation response. Inflammation is our normal biological response to stress however, besides the sun, it is one of the most damaging things that can happen to our skin. Inflammation is linked to allergic reactions, increased sensitivity, redness, rashes, acne and, even, wrinkles. Practising yoga regularly reduces inflammation, and stress allows the skin to perform its regular functions without interruption. That means faster skin healing, a more intact outer barrier, and healthy moisture levels, which all translate to younger-looking skin.
Secondly, yoga actively boosts our digestive systems and encourages natural detoxification and elimination, further encouraging glowing skin. Read How I Used Yoga To Improve My Gut Health blog for more on this and how beauty really does begin in belly. Also, seriously consider thinking about holding your poses for longer, to get their full therapeutic benefits.
Then there is the simple fact that while we practice yoga, we are actually breathing, properly. The simple act of inhaling and exhaling calms our bodies, clears our lungs and melts away frowns and tension. Just think when else do you actually get to breathe deeply for an hour or so while awake? Answer, never.
And finally, there are those lovely, circulation-boosting inversions (basically, any poses which involve going upside down) which yogis have long claimed hold the secret to longevity. I swear by my daily headstand dose for not only flushing nutrients and oxygen to my head and in turn encouraging that yoga glow but also because headstands stimulate the pituitary gland, which releases endorphins (the happy hormones) we all need plenty of to feel good.
A richer moisturiser or new concealer can help disguise signs of tiredness or worry but the smartest way to boost your complexion is tackle the stress that is causing you to feel that the way in the first place. Meditation is one of the simplest, cheapest, most accessible ways to reduce our stress levels. And as stress is one of the biggest beauty thieves of all, it makes sense to meditate regularly. Literally, it erases the tension from your face. With every breath, you are helping your whole body to relax, you are softening the scowls, freeing the frustrations, forgetting the worries, unclenching that tight jaw and clenched teeth. Trust me it works. All you need to do is sit somewhere quiet and breathe. In fact, meditation is actually so good for our skin, that dermatologists are prescribing it alongside topical treatments.
Don’t think you have time? If I do, you do. Sit and breathe while you are waiting for the bus, on a park bench when you pop out at lunchtime, while the kids are tucked up in bed and you’re waiting for them to drop off to sleep, in the bath or at the close of the day just before you hop into bed.
Go to bed earlier
Beauty sleep is no myth and going to bed even half an hour earlier will make everything else you’re doing to get your skin glowing again more effective. Our consciousness may clock out when our head hits the pillow, but it's during sleep that many internal body functions, including those that keep our skin looking healthy, shift into overdrive. DNA repair, cellular detox and cellular production all increase while we sleep. We process nutrients, detoxify, renew and recharge, so giving your body ample time to accomplish all this is critical for keeping your skin — not to mention your overall health — in peak condition. If you’re not getting enough sleep, an average of seven to eight hours a night is ideal, you are depriving your body of its necessary down-time when skin switches from protection-mode to repair-mode. It’s no joke that some of us do a better job of recharging our phones that we do ourselves! Lack of sleep accelerates the skin ageing process and if your body is chronically deprived of sleep, the effects become physically and visibly noticeable. The good news is that reaping the benefits of beauty sleep is easy – all you have to do is sleep more. I recommend avoiding caffeine after 2pm, practising yoga in the evening, eating a healthy dinner no later than 7.30pm and sleeping in a cool, dark room – preferably without your phone.
When we’re over-tired, we also tend to workout less, drink less water, drink more caffeine, eat more sugar and skip steps in our skin care routine – every little bit takes a toll, so make sleep your new non-negotiable.
Get touchy-feely with your face
Ever walked out of a facial and thought you looked fresher, younger, more alive – even though you haven’t got a scrap of make-up on and your hair is pulled back in a bun and looking bit oily? Professional products play their part but your post-treatment glow is largely due to the fact that your skin has been touched and massaged.
Whatever skincare you are using at the moment, simple or hi-tech, I don’t mind, just remember that all products are massively more effective if you take a little more time over their application – warming them first in your palm, applying them with a loving touch, massaging them over your skin and pressing them in to aid absorption.
You don’t need lots of products and complicated routines, double-cleansing and performing a simple facial massage with a nourishing aromatherapy facial oil (select a blend or product to target your main concern – be that to promote firmness, stimulate collagen or clear congestion) is enough to make a big difference as you’ll be increasing circulation and lymph flow, thereby increasing elimination, reducing puffiness and soothing the skin. Try for a week and I’m sure you’ll see a difference.