They clock at least 7 hours of sleep.
Beauty sleep is real: Unless you have a team of makeup artists waiting in your bathroom every morning, it’s hard to look gorgeous and youthful when you’re skimping on Zzs. If you’ve ever woken up with dark circles under your eyes, you already know what research has shown—that a lack of sleep can contribute to periorbital hyperpigmentation, a.k.a. “raccoon eyes.” And a 2010 study from researchers in Sweden showed that a group of participants were rated as more attractive after eight hours of shut-eye compared to when they were sleep deprived.
They protect their skin from sunlight.
Sunlight is the cause of at least 80 percent of the signs of visible aging, such as freckling, skin thinning, wrinkles and some facial lines, and can contribute to the development of skin cancer. Protect your skin daily using “broad-spectrum” sunscreens that block both UVB and UVA light, advises Roger S. Ho, M.D., of the NYU Medical Center. Reapply every two hours that you’re in the sun, Ho says. And try to avoid direct sunlight during the hours when UV rays are the strongest (usually between 10 am and 4 pm), and supplement sunscreen with shade, protective clothing and sunglasses. Remember, too, that just because it’s cold outside (or a cloudy day) doesn’t mean you’re exempt from slathering on the SPF—sun damage can still happen.
They know how to relax.
It is important to find your inner Zen zone. Chronic tension and physical stress causes surges of cortisol in the body, a hormone that can break down collagen and elastin, ultimately leading to wrinkles, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor at the Yale Department of Dermatology. Stress can also worsen certain skin conditions, like psoriasis or rosacea, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
They moisturize regularly.
Maintaining the water content of the skin is crucial for healthy skin. Moisturizers slow down water loss through the superficial layers of the skin and strengthen your skin barrier, Ho says. If you have sensitive skin, look for products with “ceramides,” one of the three types of lipids or fats in the skin. When the air is dry in the winter, people with flawless skin know to ramp up their moisturizer use on their entire bodies. Then, when the air is more humid in warmer months, they can ease up. “People with perfect skin are in touch with how dry their skin may be and how important it is to keep skin moist,” says David J. Leffell, M.D., professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine.
They have a regular workout routine.
If you want a fresh-faced glow all the time, you’ll need to log a few hours a week getting sweaty. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of activity at least five days a week. Research presented at last year’s annual American Medical Society for Sports Medicine meeting showed that previously sedentary subjects who started a regular exercise routine actually experienced a reversal in their skin’s signs of aging. In fact, the participants’ skin “looked like that of a much younger person [under the microscope], and all that they had done differently was exercise,” study leader Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science at McMaster, told The New York Times when the results were first reported.
They wash their faces every night.
Sun damage isn’t the only environmental factor you have to worry about: Small micro particles from air pollutants might just hurt your skin, too. Play it safe by remembering to take a minute to cleanse your face to remove yucky debris that could be weakening your skin, as well as to take off makeup, Gohara advises.
They lay off the excess sugar.
That daily candy habit isn’t just damaging your waistline; it could be aging your face. Foods with a high glycemic index (think sugary sweets and white carbs) create an increase in cortisol through a process called “glycosylation,” where sugars bind to collagen and weaken it, Gohara says. Create beautiful skin from the inside out by making sure your diet includes healthy fats (like olive oil), omega 3s (found in walnuts and salmon), antioxidants (greens), and vitamin C (berries and citrus fruits). Try fixing up a kale salad and salmon for dinner, with a berry mixture for dessert—it’s a great recipe for healthy skin, Gohara says.
They’re gentle with their skin.
If you’re still scrubbing your face raw to get it clean, you might want to stop that habit tonight. “One of the biggest hidden culprits of skin trouble is working too hard on it,” says Jessica Krant, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in NYC and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Using too many products, harshly scrubbing, or over-exfoliating all lead to increased microscopic inflammation that can actually swell the surface of the skin, clogging pores and increasing blemishes and redness. Always treat your skin gently, and limit exfoliating to once a week—enough to help buff the old cells out to make way for the new skin cells, Leffell says.
They never pick.
If you haven’t popped a pimple since high school, congratulations on your self-restraint. As for the rest of you, it’s time to find a safer way to treat zits. Picking at blemishes to the point that the epidermis is disrupted and there’s a little bleeding means you’ve just created a permanent scar, Krant says. Always treat blemishes gently, steaming them or minimally applying medication to avoid burns or permanent damage. If the pimple is too stubborn, you can see a dermatologist, who may give you a tiny diluted cortisone injection to help the deep inflammation resolve, she says.
They don’t smoke.
As if the carcinogenic effects of nicotine on your health weren’t terrifying enough, here’s one more reason to quit smoking for good. Remember great Aunt Ida who had a chain-smoking habit since the 30s? Chances are, her face had fine lines around her mouth and she had grayish-looking skin, as well as yellow stained teeth and nails. “Nicotine destroys skin substructures leaving it saggy and listless,” Gohara says.
They don’t try every fad product.
People with healthy, flawless skin know that the right routine matters more than the latest hot product. If it sounds too good to be true or fails the common sense test, it probably won’t work, Leffell says. “People with flawless skin save their money for products that work: moisturizers, sun protection, [and] medications that have been proven to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles, like retinols,” he says.
By Diana Kelly
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