Let me say up front a few things that could make any beauty editor cry: I fall asleep with makeup on—a lot. I never got a facial until age 32, and since then I’ve averaged maybe one a year. If we’re being kind, you can call me a skin-care minimalist. If we’re being honest, you can call me busy (a tish lazy maybe) and with a list of priorities that don’t involve my complexion.
So lecture you about a 10-step regimen, I will not. Instead, you’re about to get some advice that is extremely attainable. Because, as I settle into my 40s, I get more compliments on my skin than I ever did when I had youth on my side. And I’m happy to say this happened by complete accident.
Here’s the short version of the story: Because of health issues that were becoming problems in my life—mostly stress, anxiety, and gastrointestinal craziness—I started paying more attention to my diet and habits. I cut out processed foods and soda (still miss you, Diet DP), and I cut waaaay back on sugar and alcohol.
The change to my skin was immediate—and it affected every inch of my body rather than simply my complexion. In fact, I noticed the biggest transformation in one particular place: the middle of my chest, right where the sun directly hits in a tank top. That spot always changed texture dramatically depending on my diet, my sleep, and my stress levels.
A few too many cocktails? The next morning, my chest would turn a pinkish hue, and small bumps, like tiny flat colorless moles, would raise up overnight. It felt rough, and no moisturizer could change it. At the time, inflammation was not yet a regular brunch topic—”inflamed” was word reserved for describing desire, or gums—but that’s exactly what I was witnessing. So, if you’re trying to live that anti-inflammatory life already, let me assure you, from the other side of 40: You are definitely on to something. What, specifically smoothed the texture of the “health barometer” on my chest? These are the 5 go-to skin savers I discovered during my 30s.
Aloe vera juice
Let me preface this by saying: This isn’t necessarily for every season. I only drink aloe vera juice in the summer months because in the cold weather it doesn’t have the same effect on me. But when it’s hot out, a nightly shot of aloe vera juice gives me softer skin, regular digestion, and, how do I put this…a much better smell. I’m not quite living the deodorant-free life (dare to dream!), but my BO is decidedly less booming.
Apple cider vinegar
When I’m not doing aloe vera shots at night, I’m drinking a daily glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I get similar benefits from both of them, but ACV works best for me in the winter. In cooler temps, I notice small rough spots (which are called keratosis pilaris), kind of chill out when I sip it. And the large pores on my face—which I exfoliated so much during my 20s—actually began to shrink for the first time. (Important dental note: Do not drink it straight, as a shot, unless you’re going for that no-enamel look.)
I’ve played sports my whole life, and in my 20s I kept up the habit: a mix of running, gym time, and fitness classes (heeey, step aerobics). When I turned 30, appreciating a good sweat session was nothing new. But I couldn’t have imagined all the inspired new ways to perspire that were coming! Hot yoga would’ve seemed insane to me back then, but the mood boost afterward is undeniable, and I don’t hate the glow-boosting benefits, which last long past my red-faced commute home. My other go-to, especially in the winter, is infrared sauna time. Same unbelievable amount of sweat—but you can just sit and rest.
Even as a skin-care minimalist, I have always, always worn sunscreen under my makeup. That is the one skin-care habit that I have kept up religiously—notwithstanding the years in my youth when I, as a very pale person living under the hot Texas sun, thought I could achieve a base tan. (One word: owwww.)
In my late teens, I finally got on the sunscreen bandwagon, and never looked back—until my doctor told me I had a vitamin D deficiency. The problem with sunscreen is that it prevents your skin from absorbing vitamin D from sunlight, as it it blocks out harmful UV rays. And one of the side effects of a vitamin D deficiency? Premature aging. Twist! By going for 15-doctor-prescribed-minute walks (that’s not long) each day sans sunscreen, I was able to get my vitamin D levels back up to normal after a year. It’s important to note that I don’t do this during the times when the UV index is at its highest (between noon and 4 p.m.) because the risk of skin cancer is still too great.
Okay, this one may be triggering your “I don’t have time to add another thing to my day” anger. But hey, no pressure! Remember, I am a busy person, too (okay, lazy—we’ve covered this). Take this info and do with it whatever you like. But let me say this: When I’m meditating a lot, people react differently to me. People will ask if I just back from vacation or they’ll tilt their head and slightly squint at me, saying, “There’s something different about you.”
Sounds weird, yes. But after eight years I can’t deny it—and the weird thing is, usually when this happens I can see no discernible change in my skin or appearance. So what’s happening? The many science-backed health benefits of meditation are well known (reduced stress and anxiety, for starters), which can’t hurt—no one looks better when they’re strung out on adrenaline, after all.
But I have my own (very unscientific) supplemental theory: Meditation seems to have some kind of energetic effect that’s like really flattering lighting. It’s as if you’re walking around in your own custom Instagram filter. Of course, other times meditation can lead you to an emotional breakthrough that turns you into a sobbing mess. But hey, no guts, no glory.
And one last piece of advice? Enjoy the hell out of your 30s! There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
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