Lifestyle Advice That Supports a Healthy Complexion


Clear lifestyle choices and habits that will boost beauty and health from the inside out.


lifestyle-and-skincareCopyright Getty Images

Americans make an average of 70 decisions in a typical day, according to Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar. And at least some of those choices will arguably impact a person’s skin health. Whether it’s deciding when to wake up or what to eat for breakfast, one’s daily habits can be directly reflected in the complexion. “The skin is our body’s largest organ, and lifestyle choices affect it much like other organ systems such as the heart, lungs or liver,” says New York City-based dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD. Unfortunately, plenty of people make poor decisions that can lead to all sorts of issues, from premature wrinkles and hyperpigmentation to acne and irritation.

The good news? You can steer your guests in a skin-saving direction by encouraging a healthier lifestyle. “Just as you supply clients with a list of product recommendations after each treatment, you can provide them with a list of daily choices to implement into their routines,” notes Danielle Cuccio, CEO and founder of health and wellness brand Cuccio Somatology. Here, leading experts break down the smart strategies every skincare pro should be suggesting, so that clients can learn to practice complexion-boosting behaviors.

Slay Your Stress
Breakouts tend to be the biggest concern for chronically stressed spa-goers. “Stress induces the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, a steroid that causes the sebaceous glands to release more oil,” says Renée Rouleau, Austin, Texas-based esthetician and founder of Renée Rouleau Skin Care. “During these times, people experience an increase in acne—usually more inflamed, pus-filled papules rather than whiteheads or blackheads.” More anxious clients may also struggle with eczema, hyperpigmentation and rosacea.

RELATED: Spa Services That Undo the Effects of Too Much Screentime

To help them squelch stress outside of the spa, encourage guests to channel their energy into activities such as yoga, Pilates or meditation, suggests Aliesh Pierce, licensed esthetician and director of education for online skincare coaching platform “When we work on our breath and do calming exercises, we tap into our parasympathetic nervous system—the part of the autonomic nervous system that’s associated with rest and relaxation,” she explains. A clearer complexion naturally follows from this calmer state of mind.

Watch What You Eat
Everyone knows that diet and health are connected, but what your guests may not realize is that consistently poor eating and drinking habits, as well as vitamin deficiencies, can exacerbate acne, dullness, hyperpigmentation and inflammation. Pierce warns that too many sweets in particular can result in glycation, a process in which sugar attaches to other molecules in the skin and contributes to premature aging.

Similarly, drinking alcohol leads to a dry, puffy, compromised complexion. “Alcohol inflames the tissue and causes a histamine response,” explains Rouleau. “The blood vessels in the face can become enlarged, and then they constrict, creating a back-and-forth movement that results in broken capillaries and a loss of elasticity.” Meanwhile, consuming too much caffeine can leave skin dehydrated and dull looking, and dairy can trigger an increase in sebum production, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.

Remind clients that they can (and should!) feed their skin. Vitamin-rich produce—such as citrus, berries and leafy greens—is especially good for defending against sun damage; healthy fats like those found in olives, nuts, avocadoes and salmon minimize dehydration; lean protein (fish and chicken) helps encourage collagen and elastin production; and drinking plenty of water (at least 9 cups a day for women and 13 for men, according to the Mayo Clinic) will offset sensitivity and signs of aging. And of course, suggest they cut back on the sugar if necessary.

Get Defensive
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), an estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Despite the shocking statistic, many individuals fail to apply SPF daily. “A lot of people only use sun protection when they’re at the beach or poolside,” says Dr. Mudgil. But the unfortunate reality is that UV rays always pose risks, rain or shine—and, as if the prospect of melanoma isn’t enough, regular sun exposure can cause redness and premature signs of aging. “UV rays break down collagen, resulting in wrinkles and sun spots,” warns Dr. Mudgil. As a skincare professional, you must insist that clients apply SPF daily (ideally 30 or higher), suggest they stay out of the sun during its peak hours (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), and instruct them to avoid tanning beds at all costs.

Clear the Air
Whether it’s secondhand (think: diesel exhaust) or self-inflicted (read: smoking), environmental toxins of any kind can irritate the skin, resulting in clogged pores, dullness and wrinkles. Much like the rest of the body, the complexion requires some oxygen for proper cell function. “Typically, your skin absorbs less than 10 percent of oxygen from the air, but in a polluted environment it retains even less,” explains Pierce. “High levels of pollution and smog can generate free radicals, which attack all areas of our cells, deform DNA, destroy the moisture barrier, and can lead to acne and redness,” adds Rouleau.

RELATED: The Chinese Practice of Qigong Provides a Wealth of Benefits

So for starters, advise anybody who smokes to kick the habit. Unfortunately, escaping other forms of pollution isn’t as easy—especially for people living in urban areas—which is why Rouleau suggests relying on antioxidant-rich products. “Vitamin C keeps the skin looking fresh and bright, and slows down environmental damage,” she explains. Clients can also restore moisture with hyaluronic acid (HA). “Oftentimes, when there isn’t enough moisture in the air, the HA pulls moisture from the deeper tissues,” notes Pierce.

Rest Up
There’s a reason they call it “beauty sleep”—the more shuteye people get, the better their skin looks. “Sleep is essential for tissue repair, cell regeneration and strong immune function,” says Rouleau. “A lack of sleep can put stress on the body, triggering cortisol production and causing breakouts and clogged pores.” Rest-deprived guests may also have issues including dark undereye circles, dullness, eczema and loss of elasticity.

The upshot? Insist they hit the sack! “Ideally, people should aim for seven to eight hours each night,” says Rouleau. The National Sleep Foundation also recommends keeping a consistent bedtime and wake-up time; getting natural light first thing in the morning; limiting light exposure before bed; and scaling back on food, drink and other stimulants as bedtime approaches. All of these help regulate the body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at night and awake refreshed. Cuccio adds that a quick getaway is always beneficial. “Ever notice how flawless people look after returning from vacation? That’s because they’ve relaxed and taken care of themselves for a few days,” she says. “There is no quick fix. Beautiful skin must start from the inside out, and getting enough rest is absolutely essential!”

—by Taylor Foley

This story first appeared in the July issue of DAYSPA Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

More in Treatments