Your alarm goes off, and you throw off your blanket. Today’s the day: You’re giving a big presentation at work. You’ve finalized your slides and prepared your speech. You feel confident and ready — until you take a look in the mirror and see a red, glowing pimple growing on the end of your nose.
Skincare is a $17 billion industry in the U.S., and it’s no wonder. Your skin health is an important part of your mental and physical health. And, unlike some health concerns, problem skin can’t be easily hidden. It’s there, front and center, for everyone to see — and that can cause a big hit to your self-esteem.
If you’re having trouble with your skin, there are several things you can do to improve it.
Wash your face regularly.
Dermatologists recommend washing your face at least every evening to cleanse it of the day’s dirt and grime. This is especially important if you wear makeup during the day. Falling asleep in your makeup, even once, can clog your pores and cause skin problems that last weeks. Most people wash their face twice a day, in the morning and evening, and you shouldn’t need to do so more frequently than that. Use warm water, but avoid extremely hot water, which can irritate your skin and dry it out.
Find a face wash that’s gentle on your skin but also strong enough to combat acne and excess oil if needed. If you have dry skin, don’t forget to moisturize after washing your face. In fact, the best time to apply moisturizer is when your skin is still slightly damp from a wash to seal in the extra hydration. If you’re not happy with your skin, don’t be afraid to try new products. Just keep it to one change at a time — that way, if your skin reacts poorly, you can easily identify the culprit and stop using it.
There are some conflicting recommendations out there when it comes to exfoliating the skin on your face, but experts agree it’s important. Exfoliation improves your skin’s health by removing dead skin cells that linger after a simple wash. There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but the method you use to exfoliate your skin does matter. Mechanical exfoliation is physically removing dead skin with a tool like an exfoliation brush or a scrub. Chemical exfoliation is removing it with — you guessed it — chemicals. Popular ingredients of chemical exfoliants include salicylic acid and glycolic acid.
Both types of exfoliation are effective, but it’s important to know what’s best for your skin. If you have sensitive skin, stick to mild chemical exfoliants and stay away from harsh scrubs (some homemade recipes call for salt or coffee grounds). Another dermatologist tip: Skip exfoliation altogether if you have a bad breakout, a cold sore, or a sunburn. Either type of exfoliation can irritate these conditions and make them worse.
Get your hormones in check.
Do you have that one pimple that develops in the same spot every month like clockwork? That’s hormonal acne. Changes in your hormones can significantly contribute to acne flare-ups and other skin issues. If you’re thinking, “Great, just one more part of being a woman that I have to live with,” you’re not entirely correct.
Different birth control methods impact your hormones in different ways. In fact, there can be a wide variance even between formulations of the pill, depending on the amounts of estrogens and progestins they contain. If you’re using birth control and having trouble with your skin, you don’t have to ride it out. Consult your doctor about your birth control options to explore how making a change might affect your hormones, skin, and overall health.
Stress can also throw your hormones out of whack. Most of us have some stress in our lives, but if you’re spending a lot of time in high-stress environments, it could be affecting your skin — and your overall health. Even if you can’t change your stressful situation, finding ways to relax and gain perspective is crucial to your long-term health and happiness. Exercising, meditating, or settling down with a good book are all great tactics to manage your stress level.
Examine your diet.
You know that the food you eat impacts your health, and that includes your skin. Foods and drinks that are high in sugar are the worst for your skin. Fried foods and excessive alcohol can also contribute to skin problems. As a general rule, foods that are good for your overall health will also help your skin stay healthy and clear — think lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.
In addition, there are also some foods that contain vitamins and minerals that specifically contribute to skin health. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, can help reduce inflammation. Other foods containing skin-healthy fats are avocados and walnuts.
If you’re looking to add more vitamins to your diet, consider including sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli. And good news: Building your diet for optimal skin health isn’t all about restraint. Dark chocolate and red wine may also contribute to healthy skin. Just make sure — as with all good things in life — to moderate your portions.
Problem skin can be discouraging and have a big impact on your confidence, but you don’t have to live with it. By finding the right skincare routine, managing your stress and hormone levels, and eating well, you can improve your skin’s health in no time.