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Take care of your health and your skin will glow.

“As above, so below. As within, so without.”

The skin doesn’t lie. In fact, it serves as sort of an external barometer for our internal health. Whether we’re stressed, tired, dehydrated, ill, or simply eating too much sugar, our skin will show it.

If you want healthy, glowing skin, you need a healthy, glowing body. Ditch the lotions and potions and instead work on building health from the inside out. Your body will thank you and your skin will shine.

The Skin

The skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects against germs, covers internal organs, and helps regulate the body’s temperature. The skin is comprised of two main layers: the epidermis, which forms the top, outer layer of the skin and the dermis, which is a thicker layer beneath the epidermis.

The skin is an incredibly important, but often overlooked organ. It performs many essential functions such as controlling evaporation, storing lipids and water, and providing a barrier against pathogens. Yet, we often overlook the skin in our quest for health.

Unhealthy Skin

Our skin communicates with us at all times. If you’ve ever had the flu, you probably recall people saying, “You’re as pale as a ghost.” That’s because our skin always reflects what is going on inside. An acne outbreak might indicate a high level of stress; dark circles under the eyes can signal sleep deprivation; dry, flaky skin might be a sign of dehydration; or puffy skin could indicate over-consumption of alcohol or sugar.

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There are several habits and behaviors that are sure to show up on our skin. The worst culprits are:

  • Smoking: It’s bad enough that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, but it also prematurely ages the skin and triples the risk of squamous cell skin cancer. Nicotine narrows blood vessels in the outer layer of skin and the resulting lack of blood flow deprives the skin of oxygen and essential nutrients. Studies have shown that smokers have more wrinkles and dark spots on the skin. It’s an ugly habit, from the inside out.
  • Excessive alcohol intake: Alcohol is a diuretic that can dehydrate the skin. Furthermore, it can cause blood vessels to expand, resulting in red, spidery veins. Research indicates that alcohol can exacerbate skin conditions such as rosacea or psoriasis.
  • Poor sleep habits: The body repairs and regenerates itself during sleep. Deprive it of sleep and your skin will suffer.
  • Junk food: You are what you eat. Excessive intake of junk foods and sugar results in increased insulin levels and other hormones that lead to the secretion of oils.

Healthy Skin Habits

If you want healthy, glowing skin, follow the rules for total health. Develop healthy habits—you’ll look great and feel even better.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Make sleep a priority to keep stress at bay and allow the body to regenerate.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and/or eat foods that contain water in order to prevent dehydration and dry, flaky skin.
  • Exercise. Exercise promotes healthy circulation, which allows nutrients and oxygen to flow to the skin.
  • Maintain a nutritious diet. Studies have shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, and fish result in fewer wrinkles. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C provide antioxidants and other nutrients that protect against skin damage. Choose a healthy, balanced diet for healthy, glowing skin.
  • Avoid excessive toxins. Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and other toxins.

Of course, it’s important to protect your skin from the elements and avoid excessive sun exposure—but for truly healthy skin, work from the inside out. As within, so without. Here’s to looking good, feeling good, and putting your best face forward.

Different skin types require different regimens. However, there are a few simple general rules of skin care that we would all be wise to follow. If you want healthy, glowing skin, start with these simple steps to skin success and then build from there.

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise infuses skin with oxygen and nutrients necessary for collagen production. Women who exercise regularly have firmer skin than their non-exercising counterparts. There are countless reasons to make exercise a habit, but this one will actually show. If you want to look and feel young and vibrant, put exercise at the top of your list.
  • Reduce stress: It’s no secret that stress can age you fast. In fact, some research shows that people who experience chronic stress can look five years older than their actual age. Here’s why: chronic anxiety leads to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes inflammation that breaks down collagen. The result is skin that loses its elasticity and glow. If you want healthy looking skin, start with stress management. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and exercise are all excellent tools for keeping stress at bay.
  • Wash at night: It’s a simple rule—but one many of us break. Dirt and bacteria build up throughout the day. It’s important to wash away the grime—and the makeup—before bedtime to allow skin to breathe while you sleep. Makeup and dirt left on overnight can lead to congestion and breakouts. Furthermore, hormonal changes that take place in the body in the 40s can lead to decreased oil production—so cleansing twice daily can actually leave the skin dry and make wrinkles more pronounced. When in doubt, just wash at night.
  • Wear sunscreen: This is the most basic—and most important—rule of skin care. Even just 15 minutes of daily exposure to UV rays can lead to wrinkles and sunspots, not to mention the risk of skin cancer. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day. Period.
  • Eat omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are “good” fats found in salmon, flaxseed, chia seeds, and more. There are countless reasons to eat omega-3s and here’s one more: they boost hydration, which helps keep skin supple and firm.
  • Use a retinoid: Retinoids are vitamin-A derivatives that can help smooth fine lines and wrinkles and fade brown spots by boosting collagen growth. Retinoids are available in prescription-strength or over-the-counter. Over-the-counter versions are milder, but may take longer to produce results.