In the quest for radiantly healthy skin, it can be easy to focus too much on skin care products and not enough on skin care practices. But in reality, what we do is just as important as what we use. When it comes to specific products, YMMV, but good skin hygiene and good health habits apply to everyone. Whether you’re fighting acne or aging, follow these five tips to get the best results out of your routine.
1. Cleanse your skin every night
In my opinion, regularly sleeping in your makeup and/or sunscreen is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your skin care routine fails. If left on for too long–like, say, overnight–makeup and sunscreen can clog your pores and dry out your skin. Neglecting to cleanse away the bacteria, sweat, oil, dirt, and pollutants your skin collects throughout the day can also lead to even more acne woes and long-term skin damage. Finally, if you don’t cleanse and do a skin care routine at night, you’re robbing your skin every day of the opportunity to soak up actives that work to improve its health and appearance. That’s why I believe that thoroughly cleansing your skin every night is one of the most effective ways to maximize the results of your skin care efforts.
“Okay,” some readers are saying. “I’ll get some makeup wipes and use those. Easy peasy!”
Eh, not quite. Makeup wipes aren’t the most effective way to remove dirt and makeup. If you don’t believe me, get some makeup wipes and a cotton pad or tissue. Try to take your makeup off with the wipes. Then dampen your cotton pad or tissue with some toner or even plain water and swipe it over your face. I bet it doesn’t come away clean. On top of that, what are you going to do about the cleansing solutions in the makeup wipes? Most substances capable of removing makeup aren’t substances that you want to leave on your skin all night.
If you wear makeup and/or sunscreen, double cleansing is the way to go. Double cleansing is the Korean skin care (or Japanese, depending on whom you ask) practice of first using an oil-based product, usually a cleansing oil or balm, to break up and lift off makeup and sunscreen, and then using a foaming cleanser to remove the rest of the makeup and oil residue. The oil helps to buffer skin against any drying effects of the foaming cleanser, and using a gentle, low pH foaming cleanser will further ensure that skin gets clean without getting stripped.
Double cleansing is the foundation for a great skin care routine–don’t neglect it!
2. Insist on fresh linens
Speaking of cleanliness, don’t let dirty linens undermine your good cleansing habits. Acne starts with bacteria on your face, so your efforts to fight it won’t go very far if you dry your face on a grungy towel or sleep on a grimy pillowcase. Change out your towels twice a week. The combo of a damp towel and a warm, humid bathroom makes for great bacteria breeding conditions. Swap your pillowcases out for clean ones at least once a week, too. You may also want to cover your pillow with a fresh towel or old T-shirt every night to really protect against drool-borne germs of the night before.
I have a tendency to take things too far, so I bought a set of hand towels that I’ve designated as “for my clean face only.” Because they’re small and only touch my face, they dry quickly, and using them only on my cleansed face–not hands or mouths or butts–cuts down on the amount of residual dirt and bacteria they might contain. I switch these towels out every two days or so and my bedclothes every time I do the laundry.
3. Wash those hands, too
Towels and pillowcases aren’t the only vehicles bacteria can take to your face. Your hands are perfectly suited for contaminating your skin. All day long, we’re touching things, things that probably harbor bacteria from the other times they’ve been touched by other hands or dirty hands, and then we’re touching our faces. Some of us, like me, touch our faces a lot. And if you’re a picker or a popper, those hands are also picking up bacteria from areas of your face that are already compromised and potentially spreading it around to other areas, too.
I’m definitely not suggesting that you wash your hands 72 times a day. I’m not that much of a hand washer myself. But you should, at the very least, wash your hands before cleansing your face or beginning to apply products. And if you’re a picker or a popper, stop doing that!
4. Clean your tools
By now, I probably sound like an absolute clean freak. That’s not always the case, but it definitely is when we’re talking about things I use on my skin–and that includes makeup brushes. Think about it. A dirty makeup brush is applying more than just old makeup residue to your freshly cleansed skin. It’s also spreading old sebum around, and bacteria, too. If you want healthy skin with minimal breakouts, you’ll want to avoid contamination as much as you can, and that means keeping your makeup brushes reasonably clean. As an added bonus, a clean makeup brush gives a much better application than a dirty one. No more muddy colors!
You don’t need a special brush detergent or brush-cleaning glove to keep your brushes fresh. I clean my brushes once a week with lukewarm water and a bar of baby soap. I wet the baby soap and the tip (just the tip) of the brush under the tap. I swirl the brush on the soap a few times, put the soap down, cup my palm under the running water, and swirl the brush on my palm until the water runs clear. After that, I just shake the brush out, dry and reshape it on a clean towel, and lay it down on the counter with the bristles over the sink so that it can finish drying overnight.
5. Stay hydrated
To get and maintain healthy skin, you’ll need to pay attention to more than just what you do on the outside. How healthy you are on the inside matters, too, and when it comes to skin, the healthiest habit you can have is the habit of hydration. If you’re dehydrated, it will show in your skin as dullness, dryness, and a loss of elasticity. Your moisturizing products won’t work as well, especially if you rely on humectants like hyaluronic acid. And any fine lines or wrinkles you have will look deeper and more obvious.
It’s best to drink water. Drink to thirst. If you’re a toilet glancer, you can tell how hydrated you are by the color of your pee. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are. Try to drink enough to keep your pee light yellow at the least.
If all that pee talk is grossing you out, sorry about that. But just remember: “Water is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.”
By the way, while you’re busy hydrating, consider swallowing a fish oil capsule with that water. There’s evidence that omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish, can improve skin health by encouraging cells to hold more water, leading to softer skin and a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Fruits are also a great way to hydrate as well as provide antioxidants that can slow down the aging process by preventing free radical damage to cells.
Does all this sound like a lot to do? It isn’t as arduous as it might sound. Once you’ve established your healthy skin habits, you’ll not only find that sticking to them becomes second nature, but also that you can’t imagine how you ever got along without them!
What are your healthy skin habits?