Beauty is all around us. Channelling or harnessing it to be our best selves can be incredibly fun, and it can bring thought-provoking challenges as well. It’s not just about finding the perfect summer lip gloss (though yes, that’s part of it). It’s about making personal, creative choices. It’s about mirroring how we feel on the inside by tuning in to what resonates with us as we move through the world.
Here’s how to truly cultivate beauty from the outside, from choosing natural skincare strategies to making lifestyle pivots.
Start moisturizing like it’s your job
I once asked a celebrity, “What’s your favourite beauty product?” I was expecting a great foundation recommendation or maybe a killer concealer or mascara. Instead, she said, “Moisturizer.”
Sure, I use moisturizer too, but naming it the number one beauty product in my regimen wasn’t something I’d considered before. It deserves that status, though. Moisturizer doesn’t just hydrate your skin: it can also be anti-inflammatory and antiaging, and it helps maintain your skin’s integrity. Whoa!
Sleep with a humidifier on
This might be my beauty secret of 2019 … except it’s not a secret. I tell everyone I know. My bedroom humidifier has become my skincare BFF. If you let one do its magic while you sleep, your skin will thank you.
Our homes often run on furnaces and air conditioning units that draw the moisture out of our spaces. It’s important to add that moisture right back in. Humidifiers do just that. Some are designed so that you can add a few drops of essential oil to them (such as lavender) for a better night’s sleep!
Decorate your face like your dream home
Don’t think of wearing makeup as hiding behind a mask. Think of it as decorating a home—your bodily home! Everyone will decorate differently. For many, being bare and beautiful or minimalist with their makeup makes them feel good. Others love the part of the morning where they sweep, swipe, and dab their way to a new look.
I fall into the latter camp. Doing my makeup is part of my self-love routine. It’s a moment of me and the mirror and time to play up my favourite features. I decorate my eyes and lips in ways that reflect my mood and build confidence.
Mom was right: wear SPF daily
I had an “oh, I’m fine” attitude about sun care in my teenage years and right into my twenties. I was not fine! Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m working to reverse sun damage. I’ve learned the hard way that sun care is essential not just for beauty, but also for safety. UV radiation can cause skin cancer and damage skin. One study found sun exposure is responsible for 80 percent of visible facial aging. We’re all aging, but come on—don’t rush us!
Apply a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 to your skin daily (yes, even if the sun isn’t shining, and yes, even if you use a foundation that has SPF).
Tap into clean beauty
We all want insight into what we’re putting on our skin and whether it’s doing us good … or causing harm (see “What are you absorbing through your skin?”). Conventional cosmetic chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, and petrolatum are anything but beautiful!
Online sources and apps such as the Think Dirty app and EWG’s Healthy Living app can help you discover clean products. In general, all-natural cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and makeup will use ingredients that you know (think coconut oil for moisturizing, colour pigments from fruits and vegetables, rose water for fragrance and inflammation fighting, and more). Bonus: natural beauty products are usually way better for the environment too!
Consider topical vitamin C
Recently, I added vitamin C serum to my skincare regimen and was shocked to see a noticeable difference to my skin texture and complexion in just weeks. I was glowing!
This should have come as no surprise. Research shows topical vitamin C not only may help your skin produce collagen, but also assists in antioxidant protection against UV damage. It can even reduce skin aging and pigmentation.
Research shows topical vitamin C not only may help your skin produce collagen, but also assists in antioxidant protection against UV damage.
Build confidence with powerful posture
Standing up straight can telegraph confidence (even when it’s lacking) and show your strength. Adopting an expansive, upright posture has actually been shown to help women with eating disorders, positively impacting their cognitive and emotional responses to seeing themselves in a mirror. Good posture can even improve your mood, stress levels, and attitude!
Remind yourself several times a day to keep your shoulders back and your head high. Imagine yourself lengthening as you do it. And consider trying yoga. It’s amazing what even a one-hour class once a week will do for posture!
Slather yourself with self-care
Whether for your hair or your face, masks are the little lifesaver we need when things get dry and dull. Hey, it happens. Travel, stress, and environmental changes call for a little extra TLC.
Picking up a mask from a trusted natural health retailer every couple of weeks can be a nice way to anchor yourself in some self-care. When nabbing a facial mask, choose one suited to your skin type: gels are good for most people, while peel-off masks are perfect for oily or breakout-prone skin.
Live a beautiful life
I could go on all day about natural sunscreen, clean cosmetics, and perfect posture. But none of those are as impactful as truly living a beautiful life.
This doesn’t mean you have to travel the world and do what are societally considered “beautiful” things. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking time to tend to your garden, spending time with an elderly relative, meditating, or doing what truly brings you joy. Volunteer—be generous with your energy, your talents, and your creativity. Paint. Write. Express yourself. When you can see the beauty in everything around you, you will become more grace-filled and beautiful too.
What about clothes?
When you wear something you love, you radiate confidence in the most beautiful way. But did you know that dressing up can also elevate your thoughts? Researchers have found that wearing formal clothes enhances people’s abstract cognitive processes. (Yes, it’s a mouthful—it means the ability to identify a common feature or relationship between different objects or ideas.) The next time you feel like being fancy, remember: a more formal outfit can help you light up a room with your beauty and your brains!
What are you absorbing through your skin?
An alarming number of beauty and skincare products are made with artificial ingredients that have been linked with negative health effects, such as skin cancer acceleration and reproductive problems. But it’s tough to know exactly how much of these and other skincare ingredients get through your skin and into your bloodstream; everything from your skin’s integrity to each ingredient’s molecular structure plays a part.
Here’s what the science does say about absorption. And here are some natural ingredients you’ll want to start prioritizing in your products.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients are likely getting through
In a new study published in JAMA, researchers found that, after just one day of use, four common sunscreen chemicals (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) penetrated study subjects’ skin and entered the bloodstream at levels that should trigger further safety testing.
The natural advantage: Protect your skin by using mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Instead of being absorbed, these ingredients stay on skin’s surface and help to reflect the broad spectrum of UV rays.
Your face absorbs more than most other parts of your body do
Where you apply a product makes a big difference. One study found that absorption of sunscreen chemicals was up to four times greater when they were applied to the face versus the back.
The natural advantage: Many of us apply more products to our faces than anywhere else on our bodies, so it’s smart to choose products that contain safe, natural ingredients such as green tea, which helps defend skin from environmental stressors and repair UV damage, and vitamin E, which is deeply hydrating and has a starring role in skin’s antioxidant defences.
Perfumes can be especially problematic
More than 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrance ingredients. Some are associated with nasty effects ranging from hormone disruption to sperm damage. The fragrance ingredient benzyl benzoate, for example, is a possible immune system toxin with a skin absorption value of over 70 percent. You may never know all the chemicals used in conventional perfumes since manufacturers can use the generic term “fragrance” on the ingredients list.
The natural advantage: You don’t have to give up on smelling great. There are loads of natural fragrance ingredients, such as essential oils that have added benefits. You can even make your own signature scent using a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil. Sweet orange essential oil is the perfect summertime scent and may help brighten your mood. For those who prefer a woodsy undertone, sandalwood oil is a safe, earthy fragrance—and it actually improves skin health!
– Crystal Robbins
Sarah Landry is a 34-year-old Guelph, Ontario, mother of three awesome pre-teens. She shares truths about life, body inclusivity, and the joys of self-love on her Instagram (@TheBirdsPapaya) and blog (thebirdspapaya.com).