Skincare is Self-Care: 6 Steps to Better Skin This Year

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For about as long as I can remember, I’ve had a rough relationship with my skin. A particularly traumatic memory was the sudden appearance of about 40 warts on the back of my neck sometime in elementary school.

Until I was able to go to the doctor to have them frozen off, I wore turtlenecks to school in the hopes no one would discover my shameful secret. By the time middle school rolled around, I had developed severe body acne and a nasty picking habit.

Another vivid memory of that time in my life was when a fellow eighth grader asked me if I had chicken pox when the reality was, I had just picked at my forehead so much, the angry red spots looked like some sort of rash or infection. Yikes.

In high school I continued to struggle with these things as my self-esteem sunk further and further down the drain.

With my infinite wisdom of adulthood, it’s easy to see there was probably some sort of subconscious patter playing out here–a pattern of not believing I was beautiful, or believing my skin was ugly. I can see that my child self had a lot of healing to do, which has now been passed on to my adult self.

Thankfully, I’m now ready to do that healing work.

But as I work through my emotional issues and release old traumas, I also need practical ways to improve the look of my skin for the sake of my confidence and self-esteem. Holistic health is all about healing on all levels; healing both the inner and outer aspects of my being.

So, here are some of the most powerful ways I’m healing my skin from the outside in, and from the inside out. Perhaps they will inspire you to love the skin you’re in a little more deeply.

1. Reinventing My Relationship With My Skin

I’m putting this one at the top of the list because honestly, it won’t matter what lifestyle changes you make if you’re still at odds with yourself and your skin. You can’t hate yourself into a version of yourself that you can love, so they say, and this goes for your skin, too.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I’ve been in a decades-long battle with dermatillomania, or obsessive-compulsive skin picking. So, for wayyyy too many years, I’ve felt like I was constantly “at war with my skin.”

I’ve struggled with acne for most of my adolescent and adult life (with the exception of a few years during college when I was on a form of birth control that eliminated most of it) so the combination of the two (acne plus a compulsive need to pick at everything) really left me with low self-esteem and a mountain of shame.

It was always a challenge for me to look in the mirror and like what I saw, much less think of myself as beautiful.

But now, with the understanding that everything is vibration and our thoughts create our reality, I’m recognizing the need to consciously change the way I think about my skin and certainly the way I treat my skin.

I don’t want to be “at war” with any part of myself, and I know now that doing this will never help me cultivate love for that part of me–in fact, it’ll do just the opposite: it’ll prevent me from ever fully loving that aspect of myself.

So, this year I am working on reinventing my relationship with my skin and the image I see when I look in the mirror. I’m learning (through a regular meditation practice and daily journaling) how to catch myself in these negative thought patterns so I can stop them in their tracks and choose more loving thoughts instead.

These photos were taken roughly four months ago. It was all too easy to look at this face in the mirror and think more harmful thoughts, but I knew something had to change.

So instead of thinking or saying things like “My skin looks so awful” or “I’m really struggling with my skin right now,” I now choose to think and say things like “My skin is healing” or “I love my beautiful clear skin.”

I’m learning to treat my skin as if it were a little child that needs loving care and attention, and I’m changing my behaviors to match this new belief.

It’s a work in progress, of course. But, I’ve seen how powerful intention can be, so I know that if I hold the intention of having beautiful, healthy, clear, glowing skin, it will become my reality.

2. Clean Pillow Cases Every Few Days

The great thing about changing your thoughts around something in your life is that your actions have no choice but to follow suit. If I believe I have beautiful clear skin, I’m going to act like it.

So, I’ve adopted a few new habits to support my intention of clear skin, and one of those is to be more diligent about changing my pillow cases often. Our faces get dirty throughout the course of a day, and no matter how well you scrub your face at night, you’re still going to end up accumulating dead skin cells, oil, and dirt on your pillow case.

And now that I’m paying more attention to my skin and everything that potentially affects it, it seems like a no-brainer to use clean pillowcases to prevent breakouts. I have three sets of pillow cases so I can change them every couple of days.

It took a while to create the habit but I’m really in the swing of it now! It might help to put little reminders on your calendar so you don’t forget.

3. A Designated Face Towel

This one might seem like common sense to many of you, but it wasn’t to me so I’m going to share it anyway. When showering or washing your face, it’s always a good idea to use a clean towel or at the very least use a towel that is for your face only.

After showering, the big towel is now for my body only and I dry my face with a separate towel (I feel like this is especially important if you like to reuse a towel a few times before you wash it like I do). This way, you’re not transferring any leftover dirt or dead skin cells from your body to your face.

When I wash my face or do a treatment with a mask, I always dry my face with a brand spanking new, clean towel. What a novel idea!

I may do laundry more frequently now, but that’s a small sacrifice I’m happy to make for improved self-esteem and self-love.

4. Self-Loving Skincare Rituals for Morning and Evening

This past year has been all about creating self-loving daily rituals that fill up my cup and help me to feel cool, calm, and collected. This absolutely extends to my skincare routine, because yes, as a matter of fact my outward appearance does impact how I feel on the inside, so I always want to put my best face forward. #puns

In the morning, my routine might look something like this:

  • Exercise (go for a jog or do some yoga–exercise is so important for blood flow to the skin!)
  • Take a spoonful of raw apple cider vinegar  mixed with 8oz water (some people also use this as a face wash for its astringent properties)
  • Drink a cup of warm lemon water (good for so many things, including the skin)
  • Dry brush whole body before getting in the shower
  • Wash face with exfoliating cleanser and facial brush
  • Use jade roller to reduce puffiness (and because it feels soooo good)
  • Apply acne medication, moisturizer, and sunscreen

My evening skincare routine might look something like this:

  • Wash off makeup, sunscreen, and other grime from the day
  • Apply an exfoliating mask or charcoal mask
  • Swab whole face with witch hazel
  • Apply acne medication
  • Drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep!

As you can see, skincare doesn’t stop at the products you apply directly to the skin. Your whole lifestyle affects your skin, so it’s important to take your skin into consideration when making choices about what to do, eat, drink, and even what kind of environments you put yourself in.

5. Investing in Skincare Products That Actually Work

I don’t have many requirements when it comes to skincare products, but I do have a few:

  1. They need to be eco-friendly and cruelty-free
  2. They need to actually produce results

Aaand that’s pretty much it! If I can find skincare products that tick both of those boxes, I’m a pretty happy camper. And thankfully, more and more brands with a conscience are making waves in the beauty industry and creating amazing products that work.

Here are some of the cruelty-free skincare products I’m currently loving:

Herbivore Botanicals

There are so many reasons to love Herbivore Botanicals (<– use this link to get 20% off your first order!) that I almost don’t know where to start.

Their products are cruelty-free, vegan, and formulated with organic, high quality, and food-grade ingredients. Just about every ingredient included in their products can be considered an “active ingredient,” meaning they are both highly concentrated and highly effective.

In my arsenal I currently have the Prism Exfoliating Glow Potion (used after cleansing and left on the skin) as well as the Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask. They both exfoliate naturally using fruit acids and I always feel like a queen using them because they come in such pretty containers that look ahhh-mazing just sitting on display in my bathroom.


Quick disclaimer on this one–Proactiv does not test on animals but their products are not 100% vegan, so if that’s something you’re concerned about then these products might not be for you. But, man do they produce results.

I had my first positive experience with Proactiv way back in high school when I had terrible back acne, and their 3-step system cleared that shit right up. Now I’ve found my way back to them, this time using only one product that I kind of grabbed at the store in desperation because I was feeling at an all-time low.

ProactivMD is basically their line of prescription-strength products and I’m using the Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment (you can also purchase a 3-step system that includes a face wash and an SPF 30 moisturizer).

This is a topical retinoid that until recently was only available by paying a visit to your dermatologist. This product has probably produced the bulk of my results and it’s hard to argue with results, so I’ll continue using it for the time being.

With this one, consistency is key, because results might not come immediately–there may be some initial purging that takes place before clear skin shines through.

Paula’s Choice

I really love Paula’s Choice products because, like the others I’ve already mentioned, they’re a cruelty-free company boasting science-backed results. Whenever I start using Paula’s Choice products I see results almost immediately.

Currently I’m obsessing over the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (BHA = Beta Hydroxy Acid, more commonly known as salicylic acid). Seriously guys, in just a day or two of using this leave-on exfoliant, my face started to look like a snake shedding its skin. Gross image I know, but what was left afterward was clearer pores, a smoother texture, and a more even tone almost instantly.

I’m beginning to understand the importance of daily exfoliation and the results from this product are really driving the point home. I think an acne-fighting product and an exfoliant is a super powerful combination if my skin is any indication.

I’m also currently loving their Omega+ Complex Moisturizer made with chia and flaxseed. It’s fragrance-free and doesn’t feel greasy, and contains three forms of Omega fatty acids. It doesn’t contain any sun protection but thankfully my go-to foundation from BareMinerals does.

6. Mineral Sunscreen All The Time

This one might also seem like a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning because, since moving to Hawaii, I’ve been made acutely aware of our need to move away from chemical sunscreens. Not just the people who live here and swim in the ocean regularly, but all of us.

I have a lot to say on this topic but I’ll try to keep it brief for now–if I’m going to use any sunscreen these days, it’s non-nano Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, or bust. In fact, Hawaii has recently become the first state to ban the sale of chemical sunscreens, and although the new law won’t go into effect until 2021, we need to start making the switch NOW.

You guys! If those chemicals (Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octisalate and others) are killing our ocean ecosystems, imagine what harm they could be doing to us as they absorb into our bodies! Yikes.

Thankfully, I’ve found the perfect liquid foundation that not only provides excellent, natural-looking coverage, but is also a mineral sunscreen. bareMinerals BarePro is an absolute GAME CHANGER.

If I really don’t want to slather mineral-based sunscreens on my whole body, then I’ll do my best to cover up or avoid sun exposure around midday. For so many reasons, sun protection should always be a part of your skincare routine. Your future wrinkle- and cancer-free self will thank you!

What does your self-loving skincare routine include? Share your best tips in the comments!

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