By Rona Berg, Naural Solutions
The skin never lies. Unlike other organs of the body, hidden and shrouded in mystery, the skin is an extrovert, blithely revealing your inner life without so much as a disclaimer. And the confidences it gives away? Sloppy skincare, secret vices, and sleepless nights. Because the skin connects to every system in the body, when something gets out of whack inside, it shows up front and center on your face.
The good news? Skin forgives (and forgets). Give it a little love, and it will love you right back. “Reduce stress, boost your omega-3 intake, sleep for at least seven hours every night, and eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, and you will see a dramatic improvement in the tone, texture, and health of your skin,” says Stephanie Tourles, licensed holistic aesthetician, herbalist, and author of Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, 2007).
We’ve targeted six common problems to give you some fast, effective ways to look your best.
Puffiness and dark circles
These two conditions “go hand in hand,” says Jennifer DiFrancesco, spa director at The Well Spa in Indian Wells, California. Both stem from a lack of circulation. “Puffiness is caused by fluid that collects and doesn’t move with the lymphatic flow,” DiFrancesco explains, “and dark circles indicate a need to stimulate your blood circulation.”
Of course, your genetic inheritance may contribute as much to the problem as too many late nights spent staring at the computer. Other culprits include alcohol, salty foods, and allergies. Furthermore, stress, poor diet, or inflammation in the nasal area can weaken the blood vessels, which may leak and cause what appear to be bruises under the eyes. Ultimately, to solve this problem you need to get your blood circulating and your lymph fluid flowing.
To help that along, DiFrancesco suggests giving yourself a gentle under-eye massage each night. Apply eye gel instead of cream if you have pouchy eyes–and be sure to chill it in the fridge beforehand. (Cold contracts and constricts the blood vessels, and gels have a tightening effect.) Look for ingredients like green tea or vitamin K, which strengthen the blood vessels; calendula or chamomile to reduce swelling; and gotu kola to stimulate circulation. Apply gel with your ring finger (it exerts the least pressure), and gently massage in clockwise, circular motions from the edges of the “bruise” toward the eye. “Use the lightest touch possible,” says DiFrancesco, “because the skin below the eyes is some of the thinnest in the body. Too much pressure, over time, may stretch the skin and lead to lines and wrinkles.”
Do-It-Yourself: Steep two cups of green tea for five minutes, and then remove the tea bags and chill them briefly in the freezer. Pour the tea itself into an ice cube tray and freeze. Squeeze the excess water out of the chilled tea bags, lie down, and place them on the under-eye area for 10 minutes. And the tea ice cubes? When you wake up puffy-eyed but in a hurry, pop out a cube and run it over the area before you dash out the door.
Blackheads and chin breakouts
The nose, chin, and forehead (aka the “T-zone”) have more oil glands than anywhere else on your body. So if you have oily skin, the T-zone will be your problem area–especially when you have your period. And because the pores on your nose can be large relative to those on the rest of your face, they’re prime real estate for blackheads when oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria become trapped in them. Hormones trigger most chin breakouts–especially during pregnancy, an irregular menstrual cycle, or perimenopause, or when taking birth-control pills. “Breakouts around the chin, in particular, are usually hormone-related because increased estrogen creates extra oil that clogs the skin,” says Zoe Picayo, head aesthetician at Priti Organic Skincare in New York City. To banish blackheads, exfoliate regularly, using a natural abrasive scrub two to three times a week. But handle with care. “Scrubs can sometimes tear at the edges of your pores, and end up spreading the bacteria around,” says Picayo. Wet your face and gently press–don’t rub!–the scrub on your nose and T-zone, using the same light pressure you use to shave your legs.
One final tip: Sometimes, clearing up your chin can be as simple as cleaning your cell phone–especially if you’re only breaking out on one side. When oil and bacteria accumulate on your phone, they can get pressed into your skin and clog your pores.
Do-It-Yourself: Sprinkle a quarter-size dab of baking soda into your palm. Moisten with a few drops of warm water, gently press into your face to exfoliate, and rinse.
Inside-Out Beauty: Your chin may also break out if your digestive system is out of balance. The jawline and chin correspond to the intestinal region in Chinese medicine. Take probiotics, which help maintain a healthy pH in the digestive system and aid in absorption of nutrients. Find them in supplements, yogurt, and many fermented foods. Make sure to drink six to eight glasses of water daily to flush out the cells and hydrate the skin.