Why do skincare and sleep make such beautiful bed partners? Could regular cold showers in the morning impart a more youthful glow to your skin? Why would I want to feed the bacteria on my skin?
If you’ve wondered what’s behind some of the trending practices in positive aging, it’s time to wake up to the era of integrative self-care and all the good feels that lead to the beauty of wellbeing.
Radiant Skin – Your Biological Advertisement of Health and Vitality
Thankfully the days of “no pain, no gain” skincare with irritating retinoids, bleaches and acid peels are giving way to practices that embrace the beauty of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. These practices respect the skin-body-mind connection, support the diversity of skin and gut microbiome, and seek to manage the impact of environmental and emotional stress. Although trends in beauty vary generationally, ethnically, and culturally, one aspect of beauty that remains constant and universally desirable is glowing, even-toned, blemish-free skin. Social anthropologists posit that this is evolutionary since healthy skin is a reflection of youthful vitality. Research has demonstrated that even babies as young as a few months old are instinctively drawn to attractive faces with clear, even-toned skin, displaying a preference for features that are generally associated with good health.
Small, Simple Changes to Skincare Stack Up
BHAGs, those Big Hairy Audacious Goals, have gone the way of no pain, no gain beauty because they generally set us up for failure. Instead, setting intention and lowering the bar with small, achievable goals that easily fit into our daily routines set us up to experience the empowerment of accomplishment. Little successes provide the motivation that keeps us going to incorporate further changes that ultimately add up to a more balanced life and radiant wellbeing.
Start With a Cold Shower to Overcome Procrastination
If you’re finding it’s hard to get started, try taking a cold shower.
Of course, nobody likes the idea of rolling out of a warm, cozy bed into the rude awakening of three minutes of chilling water. But really, it’s just three minutes. And so worth it because voluntarily subjecting yourself to the temporary and manageable stress of a cold shower is a way to break the pattern of avoidance. If you can willingly subject yourself to this minor discomfort, you may be more likely to confront other tasks and activities, rather than putting them off. Plus, overcoming the minor discomfort of a cold shower can activate the brain's reward system, triggering the release of dopamine for more positive mood and motivation.
How Mood Affects Skin
It’s all about hormones. When your mood is positive, several chemical reactions are in play that support your brain’s “smart state.” But when you’re experiencing stress, one particular hormone, cortisol, can wreak havoc on virtually every aspect of wellbeing and the impact on skin is not pretty. The effects of chronic, stress-induced cortisol release include dull, uneven skin tone, acne and breakouts, skin sensitivity, collagen breakdown and moisture barrier disruption, among others.
If you’re stressed about what stress is doing to your skin, but reluctant to incorporate the changes to manage it, that would be another good reason to try that cold shower. That short duration wake-up call can activate a process called hormesis, supporting skin’s natural cellular defenses and repair processes. Then embark on your integrative beauty journey by incorporating some simple, mindful beauty and wellness practices throughout the rest of your day.
Five Integrative Beauty Bio-Hacks
Here are five simple changes that can fit easily into your daily routine and that provide integrative benefits for body and mind. Try committing to just one for 21 days to convert intention into habit. Then continue for 90 days as you track the benefits in how you look and how you feel.
Mindful CleansingElevate the practice of washing your face to a 2-minute beauty treatment with enhanced self-care benefits. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, use of a cleansing mask in the morning, rather than at night, may be one of the most immediately impactful bio-hacks for radiant skin.
The benefits of a clay-based mask for morning cleansing are multi-faceted. If you seek a more natural approach to skincare, clay-based cleansers are a good way to avoid exposure to synthetic surfactants and harsh lye-based soaps. For exfoliation, they’re better for you than grain-based or chemical exfoliators that trigger low grade inflammation with the potential to lead to a duller, more aged appearance over time. A cleansing mask is an ideal alternative for refining skin’s surface without stressing your skin.
When your feet hit the floor in the morning, immediately apply your clay cleanser to dry skin, wetting fingertips to facilitate spreading a thin layer over your entire face. Allow the clay to dry for 2 to 3 minutes or longer. Some clay masks contain other beneficial ingredients such as pre- or post- biotic lysates to support skin’s protective microbiome, the healthy bacteria that help protect skin from breakouts and the aging effects of inflammatory stress. The drying time allows these ingredients to do their work rather than just being washed down the drain.
During the drying time, you could be busy with other tasks but, better yet, taking those two to three minutes for a simple box breathing exercise is a proven way to develop the part of your brain that supports focus and productivity. The result, a brighter start to your day from the outside in and inside out.
Multi-Functional Facial Massage with Resilience-enhancing SerumNo doubt you’ve heard about and maybe even tried using a jade roller for daily facial care. Jade rollers and other stones such as rose quartz have been used for centuries in Chinese beauty routines. The temporary skin tightening and reduced puffiness associated with use of jade rollers is believed to be due to increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Use of a jade roller on the face can also help to relieve stress and tension that can contribute to skin issues, so taking time out for a home-based facial massage may have a positive impact for a healthier looking glow to skin.
Solvasa co-founder and leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Dr. Ritu Chopra, suggests that there is an alternative approach to facial massage that involves a vibrating crystal, rather than a roller, that pairs with an adaptogen-rich serum for a more comprehensive skincare and self-care treatment. “Lymphatic massage should be performed in one direction, from the center of the face towards the lymph nodes at the perimeter,” recommends Chopra. “With a roller, there is a tendency to move back and forth which is less effective at flushing toxins from the skin.”
With a vibrating crystal combined with a treatment serum, sufficient pressure can be applied to break up lymphatic congestion without tugging delicate skin tissue. It’s also easier to reduce the appearance of puffiness by pressing the vibrating massage stone directly onto the puffy under-eye area. The vibration further serves to enhance micro-circulation, drawing internal nutrients to the skin as the glide-enhancing serum delivers beneficial ingredients to skin’s upper-most layers.
An additional benefit of vibration is muscle tension relaxation for forehead and glabellar lines (the dominant “11” that appears between the brows). Vibrational therapy is also a way to stimulate the release of endorphins to relieve stress and promote a sense of wellbeing.
Plan Your Day for Sleepful NightsGranted it’s easier said than done, but optimal sleep-wake cycles are essential for skin’s natural ability to repair and rejuvenate. Lack of quality sleep can trigger inflammation in the body that will show up in the mirror as redness, acne, and puffiness. Over time, the cumulative effects will start to etch into skin as lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Although the signs of lack of sleep are obvious to most, what you might not know is how what you do during the day affects your best chance for a regular 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
For your best night’s sleep, you want to get the dopamine going early in the day. If you can, get outside early in the morning to expose the light receptors in your eyes to energy-giving sunlight. This will support wakefulness during daylight hours which, in turn, will set you on a circadian course for sleepiness at night.
Enjoy your coffee, and all the anti-oxidant benefits it brings, before noon so that the effects of caffeine are not onboard when it’s time to call it a night. After noon, switch to soothing beverages that have proven stress-resilience benefits. Look for turmeric-infused options that contain at least 250 mg of curcumin and a similar dose of ashwagandha, two ingredients known for anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety benefits respectively. And while you’re enjoying an afternoon adaptogen break, calm your mind by reflecting on three good things, no matter how small, that happened in the prior 24 hours. This little gratitude practice will help to calm an overly busy mind that might otherwise keep you counting sheep into the wee hours.
On-demand Micro-MeditationIf you can no longer deny the mind-body connection for all aspects of health and beauty, but you’re not ready to jump into practices of regular and lengthy meditation, you’re not alone. Start by first knowing that mindfulness is not only about meditation; it’s about recognizing the stress triggers that put your brain into monkey-mind chatter or an unnecessary reactive alarm state. When even small emotional stresses are triggered, developing a habit of PBR, that is PAUSE, BREATHE, RESPOND WITH INTENTION, can set you on a course to managing stress in a surprisingly effective way.
When stress is triggered, direct your senses to a mindful anchor. Some people wear a crystal pendant that can be grabbed, others keep a small, portable vessel of aromatherapy oil on hand. With essential oils, simply place a small amount onto your inner wrists, take a deep breath in and out, anchoring your focus on the aroma and your breath. Then take a second breath in and as you’re releasing, note where your body is holding tension. Then take a third breath in and, as you’re releasing it, ask yourself, “what is most important right now.” This helps you be present in the moment and regain a sense of control. It’s that simple.
As you discover the benefits of simple breath exercises, they become on-demand tools that you can use to help reduce the effects of inflammatory stress and let mindful radiance shine through.
Digital Detox and Mindful EatingHealthy or not, our devices are part of almost every aspect of our lives, including our ability to discover and engage in virtual wellness and beauty programs and services. For some of us (including this author), the very idea of unintentional separation from our phones puts our brains into the alarm state. So the strategy is to BE INTENTIONAL about when you’re engaged digitally and when you commit to powering down.
One way to gain control over your devices is to set them to help you set limits. Preset periods of each day that are digital fasting periods. When the alarm signals quitting time, it’s time to let whatever is waiting in that email, text or social media feed rest until you’re set to go back on line to give your brain a recovery period. Many are reverting to the old school therapy of journaling. Neuropsychologist and Solvasa’s Director of Mindfulness, Dr. Kristen Race, watches TV re-runs or old movies she’s seen before to give her mind a rest and help prevent the burnout so many of us experience as the result of seemingly endless hours of video conferencing.
You might want to consider incorporating mindful eating into your digital detox practices. Mindful eating is not only a way to give your brain a break from digital stimulation, but also a way to sneak a little meditative therapy into your day while enhancing your enjoyment of simple foods.
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the present moment and being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. Psychologists and other mental health professionals often use mindful eating as a form of therapy for their patients. It involves maximally engaging the senses while enjoying healthy food including noticing the color, taste and feel of the texture of food in your mouth and paying attention to chewing and swallowing. Without the distraction of your digital devices, mindful eating can provide the benefit of helping you tune in to your body's signals of hunger and fullness to avoid overeating or undereating.
Lean In to the Radiance of You
Bio-hacking is about making changes in your lifestyle with the intention of improving physical and mental performance, health, and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s about nutritional optimization, getting better quality sleep, boosting physical performance, or reducing stress and enhancing mental acuity, we can expect that anything that supports health and wellbeing will manifest as more radiant skin. However, that does not mean forgetting the basics of responsible skincare, including sun protection and staying hydrated.
The key is remembering that it’s all connected. Respecting the skin-body-mind trifecta and finding ways to habit stack small, healthy changes into your daily routine promise to have you feeling better, looking better and feeling better about how you look.