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How to get clear, glowing skin

Want to know how to get clear, glowing skin? Don’t expect to find it in any one bottle or jar.

It can be hard to achieve radiant skin, and certainly harder for some than others as our  genes have a role to play. There are many factors that affect the underlying health and appearance of our skin. These include hormones, the ageing process, UV exposure, pollution, diet, tobacco, alcohol, illness and stress.

While we cannot control intrinsic factors, we can control extrinsic factors and thereby hopefully achieve the clear, glowing skin many of us crave.

Here I provide my top expert skin care tips to help you do this. As an added bonus, I’ve also provided 13 ways you can fake that fresh and dewy look for those times you need to be instantly gorgeous. Nothing wrong with faking it until you make it.

Sun protection

UV radiation accounts for 80 per cent or more of skin’s visible ageing. A 2% increase in damage to you skin ages your face by three years. This results in more wrinkles, more pigmentation, more imperfections, and rougher and dryer skin.

Stay out of the sun, seek shade, cover up your skin and wear a hat, whenever possible. Apply a broad-spectrum high SPF sunscreen daily to protect against the cumulative effects of UVB and UVA skin damage. Remember that UVA radiation can penetrate glass.

Even incidental sun exposure can result in premature skin ageing considering that damage occurs over a lifetime.

Skin does have its own natural self-protection, however this is a lot shorter than you may think, especially if you have very pale to fair skin. This ranges from 10 minutes in normal sun to 30 minutes for olive skin, however much less in extreme sun.

Most people know that UV exposure can result in sunburn, damage to skin cells and potentially even skin cancer. But it also induces matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), enzymes that cause a deterioration of collagen, elastin and other proteins in the skin, or what I like to call the youth factor. There are dozens of MMP enzymes, however MMP-1 is the enzyme that breaks down collagen fibres, which form part of the skin’s structural scaffold and maintain its firmness. MMPs are naturally present in the body but their populations increase due to ageing, sun exposure and other environmental stressors.

Sun protection and sunscreen play a frontline role in containing MMP-1 enzymes and preventing them from breaking down collagen fibres in the skin.


Correct nutrition

It’s not just what happens on the outside that matters. Overall wellness, gut health and nutrition are essential to skin health too.

Ensure to follow a diet that is varied and high in nutrients, including:

  1. Moderate amounts of lean protein.
  2. Plenty of vegetables, especially those rich in antioxidants.
  3. Small amounts of fruits, especially those rich in antioxidants.
  4. Moderate amounts of legumes and complex carbs.
  5. Some healthy oils for their essential fatty acids, such as Omega 3 and 6.

A diet high in saturated fats and sugars has been associated with increased wrinkles and thinning of the skin.

However a diet high in Vitamin C and Linoleic Acid has been associated with decreased wrinkling, dryness and thinning of the skin. Correct nutrition and fish oil also may make the skin more resilient to photo-ageing.

Also remember to drink about 2 litres of filtered water a day to keep your body hydrated. Water is essential for the body to function, however there is no definitive evidence to show that this directly affects skin hydration.

Skin is made up of three layers: the outermost layer, the underlying skin and the innermost layer. If the outermost layer, the epidermis, lacks water, it will lose elasticity, look dull and feel rough.

Stress management

Manage your stress. Sustained high levels of stress cause your adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone. Cortisol leads to an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, and puts you at increased risk of many health conditions.

Cortisol increases inflammation in the body and this can affect your overall health as well as your skin. Because of the higher inflammatory cells, people who are predisposed to skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema, often experience a flare-up. Even the scalp and hair can be affected and suffer from redness, flaking, itching and possibly even hair loss. Inflammation is pro-ageing.

Cortisol also increases the production of oil by your skin glands and the chemistry of that oil, and this can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.

The skin may appear duller too. The fight of flight response results in more circulation to the vital organs and less blood flow to the skin, which may appear tired and unhealthy.

Another factor to consider is the tensing of muscles. Repeated acts of tensing muscles in your face, especially when held over long periods, can lead to the skin in your face becoming more wrinkled too!

Adequate quality sleep

Sleep is one of the most overlooked beauty secrets. And that’s why we refer to it as beauty sleep. A lot happens when we sleep.

A lack of sleep in the short term can make us look older. Our eyes look droopy, we have dark circles and our skin looks pale and dull. A lack of sleep or poor quality sleep over the long term results in the skin ageing faster and not recovering as well from environmental stressors, such as UV exposure and pollutants.

Sleep allows the body to repair itself. Skin is the body’s largest organ and, like other organs in the body, it needs time to rest and rejuvenate.

During sleep, blood flow in the skin increases, UV damage is repaired and collagen is produced, helping to reduce pigmentation and wrinkles.

Seven to nine hours of shut-eye is recommended each night. Make your sleep count by ensuring you wind down before you go to bed, your room is dark, your bedding is both comfortable and you find your goldilocks temperature: not too hot or too cold. Also make sure there are no interruptions or distractions.

You may even like to try a silk pillowcase for the ultimate skin care treat. Not only is silk much kinder to your skin and minimises crease wrinkles, it doesn’t absorb as much of your skin’s night creams or moisture.

Daily exercise

Exercise increases blood flow in the body, which helps nourish skin cells. Our blood carries oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body to keep them alive and healthy. It also improves lymphatic drainage (think puffiness) and the removal of waste products, including free radicals.

Working up a sweat enables the body to better eliminate toxins and clear the pores. Make sure, though, you wash off the sweat to the build-up of bacteria and possible breakouts. Additionally, exercise promotes the formation of new skin cells and the production of collagen, helping it look younger and giving it that glow.

Just as beneficial is that exercise also reduces stress and cortisol, improves immunity and enhances sleep. It also releases endorphins, which relieve stress and pain, and hormones, which have an anti-ageing effect, such as testosterone and human growth factor.

According to some studies, high-intensity aerobic exercise can stimulate growth hormone in the body. Human and animal studies suggest that certain anabolic hormones, such as testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), have regenerative effects.

The authors of one study found that exercise promotes overall health and lifespan and concluded that “exercise is so effective that it should be considered as a drug”.

You can help keep your body as young as possible by staying active. Hippocrates may have got it right about 2400 years ago when he observed:

“That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”

What’s more, looking fit and toned may even make your skin appear firmer.


Correct skin care

Neglecting your skin care or incorrectly caring for your skin also can damage it and cause it to look older than its true years. Blemishes, dryness, dullness, impaired barrier, irritation, pigmentation, roughness and uneven skin tone are all signs that the skin is not functioning correctly and needs to be better cared for.

Avoid aggressive and irritating ingredients in your skin care, and go easy on the exfoliation.

Overdoing your skin care can worsen rather than improve your skin. You can find out why fragrance, essentials oils, denatured alcohol and various chemicals used in skin care are not good for your skin  here.

In addition to meticulous sun protection, here are my top expert tips for your skin care routine to help you achieve clear, glowing skin:

  1. A gentle cleanser to remove impurities, pollutants, makeup and sunscreen. Try a BHA cleanser if your skin is oily, has blackheads or is prone to breakouts.
  2. An antioxidant serum to protect the skin from environmental free radical damage.
  3. A broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against UV damage and premature skin ageing. It may even aggravate acne.
  4. Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate and make skin appear plumper and smoother.
  5. An exfoliant to maintain cellular turnover, help clear pores, promote collagen production and improve pigmentation.
  6. A retinoid, such as Retinol, to help clear pores, refine the skin and fight signs of ageing. If your skin is sensitive, try buffering your Retinol or sandwiching it between two layers of moisturiser. Otherwise look to peptides.
  7. A moisturiser to hydrate and replenish the skin, according to your skin type.
  8. An eye cream that targets darks circles, puffiness and fine lines.
  9. A antimicrobial spot cream for those blemishes. Something with Azelaic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide can be helpful.
  10. Avoid transferring bacteria and fungi to your skin through unnecessary touching, grubby  phones, dirty pillowcases, unclean beauty tools and old skin care products and cosmetics.

Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Retinol and peptides are widely regarded as ‘hero’ ingredients in skin care due to their positive effects on the appearance of the skin. I won’t go into detail about each of these here as I cover these in more detail in Skin Intelligence and in other articles in the blog.

Hyaluronic Acid was once the secret weapon of professional makeup artists and runway models. The makeup artists would apply Hyaluronic Acid to the models to give their skin that extra boost and help makeup glide on. Now Hyaluronic Acid, also known as Hyaluronan, has made it into mainstream skin care it is here to stay.

It’s a clear substance that is naturally produced by your body, with the largest amounts found in the skin, connective tissue and eyes. The main function of Hyaluronic Acid is to retain water to keep your skin, joints and eyes well lubricated and moist. When used in skin care products, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in moisture. Not only does it help replenish, although only temporarily, our diminishing reserves of this wonder ingredient in our skin, but it also acts as a humectant – that is, it draws in and holds onto moisture. Hyaluronic Acid also plays a role in supporting and rebuilding the skin’s natural microbiome. The result is that skin health is enhanced, and it looks and feels more supple.

Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A that are used to treat skin conditions or used for cosmetic purposes. They are active molecules that can influence the skin’s underlying structure. Retinoids come in prescription oral or topical form and are therefore classified as medicines. But they also can be found in in some over-the-counter skin care products in lower strengths. They can help congested and acne skin.

Tretinoin (Retin-A) is the best known prescription retinoid globally and is now widely used for its remarkable anti-ageing effects on the skin. It was originally used to treat acne in 1969, however dermatologists noticed that it did a lot more than just that. In 1988, it was scientifically demonstrated that a topical product could transform the skin at a cellular level. Adapalene and Tazarotene are other prescription retinoids used to treat acne.

Cosmetic retinoids are not as potent as prescription retinoids, but they also can help with blemishes and other skin imperfections.

Retinol is the best known cosmetic retinoid and has a long record of use in skin care, as well as substantial research behind it. Retinol is more easily available and better tolerated that prescription retinoids. It converts to Retinoic Acid in the skin and works to increase cell turnover, stimulate collagen and elastin production, lighten hyperpigmentation and help the skin retain moisture. By encouraging healthy cell turnover, Retinol can improve certain skin conditions, including cystic acne, eczema, dark spots, rough patches and fine wrinkles.

Retinol, like other retinoids, reduces matrix metalloproteinase and therefore the degradation of collagen, elastin and other proteins that help maintain the youthful appearance of the skin. MMPs contribute to skin wrinkling, which is characteristic of skin ageing.

Peptides are used in skin care to stimulate collagen production and thereby diminish the appearance of wrinkles. They are also used to strengthen other proteins in the skin, namely keratin and elastin, which give the skin elasticity and resilience.

There are many peptides used in skin care, although some of the better known ones are:

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) improve the function and appearance of the skin. AHAs include Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and Mandelic Acid. They break down the bonds in the outer layers of the skin,  including dead skin cells. This results in smoother and  clearer skin. Additionally, by removing old skin cells, AHAs help treatment products better absorb and enable your skin to hold onto moisture. AHAs are particularly helpful for those with congested skin as they prevent dead skin cells, sebum and bacteria from clogging pores. This usually leads to fewer breakouts and clearer skin. Another benefit of AHAs is that they can stimulate the production of collagen when used at the right strength and pH.

The type of AHA yo use will depend on concern, skin type and what else you’re using in your skin care routine.

Results take time and commitment. But if you’re looking for something more instant, you can follow my tips for giving your skin that extra glow. These are especially helpful when your skin is not playing nice, you’ve been experiencing stress or you have an important event and just need to look like you’ve just stepped out of a day spa.

Top 13 tips to fake it … for now

If your skin isn’t playing nice and you need to fake that glow, here are some ways you can quickly boost the appearance of your skin instantly.

  1. Moisturise your skin immediately after cleansing and showering. Well hydrated skin looks healthier and less wrinkled.
  2. For a just-moisturised appearance, try a glow moisturiser. These types of moisturisers give the skin a fresh, dewy look, making the skin look younger.
  3. Use a humidifier, as this plumps up skin cells.
  4. Use a hydrating sleep mask, as this adds more moisture and keeps it there for longer.
  5. Try silicone patches on your smile lines, elevens, crows feet and/or forehead. Silicone patches retain moisture in the skin and this smooths out the appearance of wrinkles, only temporarily though.
  6. Use a dedicated face tan for that just-back-from holiday look, but without the additional wrinkles.
  7. Apply a glow highlighter to the cheeks, top of forehead and chin.
  8. Apply an illuminator to your eyes: underneath the brow or lower lids. This will give you a brighter and more awake appearance.
  9. Use a concealer to blur away those dark circles and make your under-eye area look less puffy.
  10. Stick with a moisture-rich BB cream or foundation, and avoid matt foundations. And apply powder only to the oily zones, rather than all over.
  11. Apply fake lases. This accentuates your eyes and makes them look larger and more youthful.
  12. Switch to a lighter lipstick colour and apply a gloss over it.
  13. Whitening your teeth also makes you appear more youthful. Yep, controversial but just look at all the celebrity photos!

By adopting some of the above tips, you’ll be on your way to achieving clear, glowing skin And, hopefully, you will look more radiant and feel more confident, too.

Yours truly in better skin

Anna Marie from Skin Clinica - The Skin Experts


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