3 steps to clearer skin & getting fit.
Having studied beauty therapy and practiced it for over 8 years, I feel I have some knowledge to pass on that can help you achieve healthy skin. Having good skin doesn’t come from using the right products alone. Diet, exercise and getting enough sleep have a huge part to play. In fact, skincare is only a finishing touch and not a cure, so follow these steps and you will definitely feel and see results - not only in your skin but in your overall mental and physical health.
Exercise is one of the most beneficial things for the health of not only your heart, but also for your mind...and the body’s largest organ - the skin. This is because when we workout we are increasing our blood flow, which helps to carry oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in your body. The nutrients and oxygen brought to these cells help to repair damage from the sun and environmental pollutants as well as increasing the production of collagen (the body’s natural filler). If, like me, you find the gym a little boring or expensive at the moment, then don’t worry, because there are other ways of getting fit for next to nothing. I’ve personally always enjoyed running, so quite often I’d jog at least 3 to 4 times a week for around 20 mins, but I know running is not for everyone. So why not try power walking for 20 minutes, 5 times a week, starting with 3 times a week gradually building up to 5? It’s practically free, besides getting yourself a decent pair of running shoes, and you’ll be surprised at the results. Here’s a great article all about it (http://www.active.com/walking/articles/forget-the-gym-why-a-brisk-walk-is-a-really-great-workout).
But the thing I really want to talk about is Yoga. I used to think yoga was just a bunch of older ladies in a room moving really slow and once in a while letting one rip through the exertion.
I have since realized just how wrong that image was! Yes, older people do yoga and that’s the beauty of it. It's one of the few exercises that you can keep up until you’re 90. It’s amazing for flexibility, strength and great for helping you to relax your mind and quieten your thoughts - which in turn saves your skin and mental health (as stress is a big factor in bad or tired looking skin). It's one of the only exercises I have done in my life that I don’t find boring, and I look forward to it every day. Perhaps it’s because it’s a guilt-free practice that teaches you to let go and accept where you are, today, now. So, if you’re having a tough day and you’re not really in the mood to work out, even a gentle yoga flow will give you the benefits you need. It’s also a practice that helps your body transform and improve slowly over time, eliminating injury and keeping the mind wanting more - just so you can see what you're capable of next time.
I know what you’re thinking - it’s all well and good, but yoga classes can be really expensive. Let alone having to buy a swanky mat and dazzling pants. Well, it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have the cash to hand right now, then I highly recommend following one of the amazing online yoga teachers I'm going to recommend...meaning you can do it from home or from any where in the world, literally. The above image is of a practice I did while in San Francisco, near the Coit tower, over looking the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the perfect place to breath in the scenery and totally zen out. And the images below are from various practices I've done in the rainforest during our 3 month housesit in Costa Rica. If like us, you plan to travel (as newlyweds or otherwise), then it's the easiest exercise to take on the road, because all you need is you, your body and no fancy pants, shoes or dumbbells. You can even do it in your PJ's if you don't have space in your bag for dazzling pants, plus a yoga mat doubles up as a camping mat. Or get yourself an eKo Superlite mat from Manduka (seen folded up in the bottom image). It doesn't offer much in the way of cushioning mind you, but improvise! You can always use a rolled up hotel towel. It is, however, perfect for grip and can be folded, so it fits inside almost any bag, (except a handbag)...what could be more perfect than that?
- Yoga with Adriene: Adriene is amazing, and she's the one who really got me into the practice. She talks you through everything so gently - which really teaches you the foundations of yoga and how to quieten the mind. She has hundreds of free videos on her channel, ranging from beginner to intermediate, so check her out - it’s a great way to start and to build strength.
- Yoga with Kassandra: Her videos are a bit more advanced, so you could mix it up with a little of Adriene. Or once you’ve built strength, try a couple of her hour-long workouts.
- Boho beautiful: If you’re after something a little more intense, perhaps something with a Pilates feel to it, then she’s your girl. She has some great exercises to target certain areas of the body which can be incorporated into any routine. Do bear in mind, if you’re new to this type of fitness, then please be careful and take it at your own pace. She doesn’t wait for you and she is already very strong from years of yoga, so don’t feel you have to keep up. Not until you’ve built your strength.
The biggest recommendation I can give anyone is firstly: drink plenty of water! It’s a great way to flush toxins from the skin as well as keeping it hydrated and plump.
Here's the bad news. Please don't hate me. The second biggest recommendation I can give you is try to cut out as much sugar from your diet as possible. Instead, keep sugary stuff aside for the odd treat. Sugar is terrible for your skin. It actually flares up inflammation and causes a breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, which leads to premature ageing. Yes people, M&Ms make you old. Sorry. And for many people, including myself, it tends to cause those dreaded spot break-outs, not to mention the muffin-top love handles that none of us want on our wedding day.
Break outs, however, have many triggers. Like hormones, diet or external factors such as allergies. So it’s worth spending some time to try and figure out what triggers your break outs. It’s different for everyone - for me, dairy is a serious no go, so I don’t touch it very often (only when I’m gagging for that yummy bit of Cadbury's milk chocolate). Just remember to have the things you love in moderation - don’t become so strict on yourself that you hate yourself, rebel against yourself and end up scoffing down a massive chocolate bar followed by a cheese plate just to spite yourself. Extremes end up counter-productive...everything in moderation is the key.
Instead of the sugary devils, try to keep your diet fresh and plant based if possible...and don’t forget to eat fruit. But again, in moderation, because as good as fruit is for you, it’s very high in sugars and acids…which isn’t great for the waist line, the skin or teeth. Dammit!
Here’s a couple of very healthy cookbooks I recommend to you, but do your research and find what suits your taste buds…
- Raw by Kate Magic.
- Cranks Vegetarian Recipes.
Vegetarian or not, you’ll find some really delicious healthy recipes in these two books.
- Skinny Bitch - this one is a no-holds barred kick up the ass. It's kind of pro vegan, but generally a common sense thing. Quote: 'You are a total moron if you think the Atkins Diet will make you thin'.
3. Skin care.
I’m a firm believer that the more natural something is, the better it is for you. So I’ve been using Neal’s Yard Remedies and a few other organic brands for quite some time now. You’ve got to remember that the skin is the body’s largest organ, meaning it absorbs everything you put onto it. We're basically like frogs. So, eliminating chemicals can only be a good thing. When it comes to choosing a skincare product, make sure it doesn’t have too many preservatives like parabens or stripping agents like SLS’s. Also, watch out for brands that claim to be natural - unfortunately the word ‘natural’ on products doesn’t always mean natural. Some of it is about as natural as a Keanu Reeves acting performance. It’s a very loose term and could simply mean that there is one natural ingredient in it and the rest is well, nonsense. It could be ground up deckchairs or bits of old bubblegum for all we know. There are lies out there. Beware. It’s best to either read what’s in the product and make a judgement for yourself, or check whether it’s organically certified. Organic products can get pretty pricey, but they do last, so it’s worth every penny. And it’s certainly cheaper than most beauty treatments - remember, prevention rather than cure.
Here’s what I’ve been using
Day cream: Although I’m still young, I am over 25 (30 to be precise). I felt it was time to look after my skin in a different way to when I was a teen. I noticed my skin was getting a lot drier, so it’s important to keep it hydrated through diet and external products. I have been using a good friend’s homemade (organic) day cream for some years now and it’s fantastic! She is also a great person to talk to for advice if you have a different skin type to mine. I use her Fountain of Youth moisturizer, which is really hydrating but light - the perfect combination for a sensitive to dry skin.
Night cream: I use Neal's Yard Remedies ‘Wild rose beauty balm’ I swear by this product, it really is a facial in a bottle! The next morning my skin feels new, so soft and hydrated. There really are not many products I can say that about. So even if the rest of the range is out of budget, get yourself one of these. Now. Especially if you have dry skin, like me. It’s not necessary to use it every night, just go with how your skin feels. It’s important that you learn to listen to your skin just like you would with your body. If you wake up one day and it feels particularly dry, then perhaps use a serum underneath your moisturizer. Or if that evening your skin feels a little oily, don’t use anything - sleep natural and let your skin breathe. You wouldn't deep fry and egg, would you? Sometimes we can over do it and cause the skin to do the opposite to what you want it to do!
Face wash: I love Neal’s Yard’s ‘Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Wash', but again, get something that suits your skin. And I don't wash my face with this day and night like a good beauty therapist should. In the mornings, I just rinse my face with cold water and if I’ve worn make-up in the day, at night I will wash it off with this and eye make-up remover. It’s extremely important that you always, thoroughly, remove make-up from your skin.
Muslin Cloths: Muslin Cloths are a must in any beauty routine. They do need replacing every so often, but they’re amazing at removing dead skin cells gently without being abrasive. Even though I have very dry skin, I find if I use a Muslin cloth every day I hardly ever have to exfoliate. They’re that good. Make sure you get yourself one that’s made of organic cotton. I use the ones from Neal’s Yard. and they’re not at all pricey at £3 a pop. As I use a muslin cloth day and night, I actually don't use an exfoliator anymore. I find when I do, it just irritates my skin. So depending on your skin type and your preferences, an exfoliator could be added into your routine. But no matter how dry your skin is, never use it more than twice a week. Make sure it’s organic and made with natural abrasives (not plastic ones, as unfortunately a lot of cheaper brands use plastic beads in their exfoliators and they’re causing all sorts of trouble in the oceans).
Coconut oil: When I’m home alone or in an evening, I’ll coat my skin and hair in extra virgin (organic) coconut oil, it works just like a mask - hydrating and nourishing your skin. I swear by it, it leaves your skin and hair feeling soft and supple. Organic coconut oil has so many benefits for your skin and your hair, it’s naturally antibacterial, anti fungal and it can penetrate hair better than many other oils. And it’s inexpensive compared to some products, so you really can’t go wrong with this amazing gift from the earth.