The old saying "beauty is only skin deep" isn't exactly true. Recent studies estimate that U.S. sales of anti-aging products are approaching $30 billion a year. While these products may play an important role in the fight against aging, lifestyle choices grounded in maintaining overall health are the best ways to achieve glowing skin.
Bottom line: Looking healthy is about being healthy -- there's just no getting around it. Following are 10 suggestions for a healthy body and, consequently, glowing skin.
1. Get Adequate Sleep: Everyone has seen those puffy eyes and dark circles staring back in the mirror after a short night. More than any other factor, lack of sleep shows in the face. The nightly sleep cycle is the time when our skin cells regenerate and our nervous system resets. With busy schedules and constant demands on time, getting the right amount of sleep takes discipline. Most people need about eight hours of sleep, so plan your evening activities such that you're in bed at a reasonable hour. To get the best sleep possible, avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. and alcohol three hours before bed. Also, keep a regular schedule. Work to go to bed and wake up around the same time every night. Your body appreciates routine.
2. Avoid Cigarette Smoke: Smoking causes premature aging by robbing the cells of life-giving oxygen. Smoking triples the risk of squamous cell skin cancer, and being around smokers can produce the same effects. Also, the habitual act of drawing on a cigarette puckers the lips, producing wrinkles around the mouth. There's no getting around it: Smoking hastens aging for the face and body.
3. Drink Tea: We've heard about the battle between bad free radicals, which damage cells, and good antioxidants, which neutralize them. Green tea has long been known as a potent source of antioxidants. While black tea also contains antioxidants, an even better choice is red tea or rooibos. A caffeine-free herb from South Africa, rooibos contains an even heftier dose of antioxidants than green tea. Possessing a rich, brewed flavor, red tea also has been shown to balance blood-sugar levels and nourish the liver -- both essential for healthy skin.
4. Drink Eight Glasses of Water Daily: The best way to moisturize skin is from the inside out. Our bodies are 70 percent water, and cells require water to function properly. Water is also essential for cells to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste, which could otherwise manifest as skin conditions, like acne and eczema. By drinking eight glasses of water a day, we give our skin what it needs to stay healthy.
5. Eat a Complexion-Conscious Diet: Foods rich in beta-carotene -- such as spinach, apricots, peaches, sweet potatoes, and carrots -- provide the raw materials for the body to produce vitamin A, essential for cell growth. Citrus, tomatoes, and berries contain vitamin C needed for collagen production, and protein-rich foods such as lean red meat, chicken, and fish are also necessary for healthy collagen. Avocados, nuts, and whole grains contain high concentrations of vitamin E, which has been shown to protect the skin against pollutants.
A balanced diet of whole grains, protein, and fresh vegetables and fruits provides the body with what it needs to grow strong, clear skin.
6. Maintain a Regular Exercise Routine: Exercise promotes circulation as well as healthy perspiration. Skin cells need adequate circulation to reproduce, and perspiring helps the skin eliminate waste and flushes the skin and body of toxins. Of course, regular exercise is an important part of a general health routine, and our skin reaps the benefits. The American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling several times a week.
7. Use Sunscreen Daily: You've heard it before, but it's worth repeating: Sunscreen is vital to avoiding premature aging. Harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun cause premature aging and wrinkles and increase the risk of skin cancer. Many skin care products contain sunscreen, so be sure to apply it daily before going out.
8. Consider Skin-Savvy Supplements: While it's best to get nutrition from diet, supplements can be an important part of a healthy skin lifestyle. Vitamin E protects skin from air pollution, and vitamin C fights free radicals.
Most American diets are deficient in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are the building blocks for cell walls. Supplementing your diet with 300-400 mg of GLAs (gamma linoleic acids) from borage oil and taking two tablespoons of flaxseed oil daily can give your skin what it needs to regenerate. Hemp seed oil and hemp protein powders also are also packed with EFAs.
9. Get a Monthly Facial: Getting a monthly facial performed by a skin care professional helps slow signs of aging, improves skin quality, and can help ease skin conditions, including acne. Facial deep cleansing aids the skin in its ability to eliminate toxins; exfoliation rids the face of dead skin cells, making room for new cells to grow; and facial massage stimulates circulation, easing puffiness. Finally, a moisturizing mask replenishes the skin for a healthy glow.
10. Adopt a Daily Skin Care Regimen: Just from being out in the world, our skin picks up dirt, dust, and pollutants from the environment. Cleansing twice a day, moisturizing daily, and exfoliating three times a week keeps skin toxin-free and healthy. Your skin care specialist can help you find the best products for your specific needs and teach you how to use them. Improper face washing is common and can lead to or exacerbate a number of skin conditions.