If, like us, you're broke after the holidays but looking for a good skin pick-me-up, fear not -- there's plenty you can do with absolutely zero cash. So stop dreaming of pricey products and save your money for more important things... like clothes.
1. Drink water... lots and lots of water. We've all heard the argument that skin is an organ made up of cells, which are composed of water. Therefore, the more water you drink, the better... right? Kind of.
The whole eight-glasses-a-day theory has been debunked, but studies have shown that drinking water improves circulation. While this doesn't necessarily guarantee wrinkle prevention, dermatologist Dr. Margaret E. Parsons told the New York Times that "if dehydrated, fine wrinkles certainly seem to show up a bit more." She added, "Staying appropriately hydrated is good for our general health, and if we are eating and drinking what we should, our bodies are healthier and therefore our skin as well."
Also, it's important that you don't chug all of your daily water intake in one sitting. A 2005 study showed that those who consumed large amounts of water in less than 15 minutes simply urinated most of it out, while those who sipped water retained more of it. Moral of the story: Spend your days leisurely sipping water and you could reap the health -- and skin -- benefits
2. Get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Yes, there really is something to the whole "beauty sleep" concept. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. While you'll certainly feel less glowing if you sleep less, a 2013 study commissioned by Estée Lauder showed that missing out on precious hours of shut-eye actually increases your chances of fine lines, uneven skin tone and reduced elasticity. The same study also showed that poor sleepers suffer from dehydrated skin and slower recovery from sunburn.
In a different study, Swedish researcher John Axelsson and his team found that lack of sleep can make one appear less healthy, more tired and less attractive. "Sleep is the body's natural beauty treatment," Axelsson said. "It's probably more effective than any other treatment you could buy." So stop making excuses and get some shut-eye!
3. Reduce your sun exposure. By now, this should be drilled into your head, but it's easy to let those preventative measures fall by the wayside. Yes, you do need vitamin D, but too much sun exposure can lead to sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging. The United States Environmental Protection Agency notes that "up to 90 percent of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun." Translation: Some of those wrinkles are avoidable.
If you're heading out for a day in the sun, wear a hat or sunglasses and try to limit your time in the sun between 10am and 2pm, when ultraviolet radiation peaks. Oh, and don't forget to apply SPF every single day.
4. Cut down on sugary foods. When you eat sugar or high-glycemic foods, your insulin levels spike, leading to what Dr. Nicholas Perricone describes as "a burst of inflammation throughout the body." This causes collagen and elastin to break down, which manifests as sagging skin and wrinkles. Through a process known as glycation, sugar can also permanently attach to collagen in your skin, exacerbating skin conditions like acne and rosacea.
Instead of opting for high-glycemic foods with simple sugars, like white bread and candy, choose foods that are low-glycemic, like brown rice and vegetables. And load up on healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados, to keep your skin looking soft, supple and radiant.
5. Pat down -- don't wipe -- your body after a shower. It might be hard to do, but resist the urge to vigorously wipe down your cold body after a hot shower. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those with dry skin can make matters worse if they wipe away the skin's natural oils after a shower. Instead, the AAD recommends that you gently "blot your skin" with your towel to avoid dry skin.
Be especially mindful of this during the winter months, when the air itself is dryer and your skin is more likely to itch, flake and crack. It's also helpful to limit your shower time to 10 minutes and use warm, rather than steaming hot, water.
6. Don't pop your zits. Ever. This is a case where inaction is the best course of action. While it's certainly tempting to pop that new pimple, it can actually make things worse, leaving you with scarring or even a skin infection. Yes, really -- that popping action actually rips your skin and introduces dirt and bacteria into your pimple.
If you do need to extract, leave it to the pros. The extraction technique used by dermatologists, which involves sterile equipment and specific amounts of pressure, is a safer route.
7. Remember to smile. A 2011 study found that smiling can actually make you appear younger. When researchers presented photos of people smiling, a group of participants guessed that those people were younger than when a second group of participants were shown photos of the same people with neutral expressions or frowns. So if you want a youthful glow, just find something to be happy about. Or at the very least, fake it until you make it.