The advice I wish I had been given when I was 18 about the best way to create healthy, glowing skin.
I was recently asked a question by a client: “What skincare advice would you tell your 18-year-old self?” I love this question and have not been able to stop thinking about it.
When I look back at my 18-year-old self, I see that my love for treating skin already existed. While I did not have access to the internet to watch videos or google information, I was making DIY face masks, saving all my money for a facial, and reading everything I could on skin.
However, what I would tell my 18-year-old self is, “You are doing it all wrong!”
Back then I was drawn to all things harsh, pore purging, and stripping. I was always oily, so I remember having those oil blotting papers in high school and searching for any product that would strip all the oil off my face. Again, wrong! Everything I was doing was only making my problems worse, creating inflammation, and making my skin incredibly vulnerable and unhealthy.
So below are some of the things I would tell my 18-year old self today.
What I Would Tell My 18-Year Old Self Today
The skin, our largest organ, functions to protect our other organs. That is its job. Our job in caring for our skin is to keep our skin strong and resilient and focus on not breaking down the barrier our skin provides, but instead feeding it ingredients that help strengthen that barrier.
Learn to balance your oil, not strip it away! Oil cleansing is a great technique for deep cleaning the skin, while also keeping the skin’s barrier healthy. By feeding healthy, skin-loving oils into the skin, your body naturally starts to balance out oil production, helping to decrease blackheads and breakouts.
Salicylic acid and retinol are great ingredients (used properly) for treating inflammation, breakouts, and congestion. But, you do not need to use it every night!
I love this motto for skincare. Cycle in an ingredient that is more active, such as salicylic acid or retinol, a couple times a week (but not nightly). On the other nights, feed your skin nourishment with products high in vitamins, minerals, and omega's. And then, allow the skin to rest some nights with just a little hydration. Treat, feed, rest, repeat!
For larger whiteheads, picking just makes the healing time longer and leaves behind pigmentation. For blackheads around the nose, picking breaks capillaries that will haunt you in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc. So stop picking!
Treat Skin Internally
Healthy skin starts on the inside and the best way to treat your skin is to treat it internally. Focus on strengthening your immune and digestive systems. Foods rich in Vitamin C, A, and zinc help internally create healthy skin. Foods rich in enzymes, such as pineapple and papaya, are wonderful for digestion and help brighten your skin. So, when your skin is struggling, instead of picking and treating with harsh ingredients, make a skin-loving smoothie! Add kale, spinach, lemon, pineapple, and water to enjoy a treat that helps create glowing skin!
Internal inflammation causes skin inflammation which shows up in the form of redness, breakouts, uneven texture, oil imbalance (excessively oily or dehydrated), and just plain unhappy skin! Top triggering foods for internal inflammation are sugar and dairy products. Try to reduce eating these as much as possible, but on the days that you consume too much, balance it out with some inflammation-busting foods such as leafy greens, avocados, bone broths, berries, cherries, omega-rich fish (tuna, salmon), and omega-rich nuts such as walnuts.
Stress is another huge trigger for internal inflammation. Being a teenager is stressful! You are not going to eliminate that, but you can add techniques into your day to help better deal with it. When your body is stressed it goes into fight or flight mode and you have an increase in hormone production (cortisol). Simply taking slow deep breaths can signal to your nervous system that all is well, and your body does not need to release excess hormones. Other techniques to help reduce stress include taking a walk, getting outside and taking in fresh air, and getting good sleep.
If you do need to use strong prescriptions to address your acne, try to do these other things to counteract some of the side effects. Often acne medications destroy the barrier function of your skin, so nourish in these other ways mentioned above to keep the side effects to a minimum.
So, in summary, I would tell my 18-year-old self to remember that skin is your largest organ and it functions as part of your whole body. To create your healthiest, strongest, most resilient skin, treat it from the inside to the outside. When your skin is not behaving, look at what you are eating, your stress level, and your sleep schedule. Be gentle on your skin. Focus on keeping your skin’s barrier strong and healthy and not destroying it, but instead nourishing it. Cycle in skin treatments to help the skin turn over dead skin cells some nights, take in nourishment some nights, and just rest other nights. Try to not pick! And oh, wear your zinc sunblock everyday!
A Few Favorite Products for Teenage/Young Adult Skin
Below are some of my favorite products for young adult skin. Click on any product for more information.
Products for Repairing the Skin Barrier
If you are taking a strong prescription such as Accutane, the three products that are the absolute best at repairing a compromised skin barrier are: