7 Healthy (and Free!) Habits for Great Skin

7 Healthy (and Free!) Habits for Great Skin

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By now, most people know the many factors that age our skin: sun damage and smoking to name two biggies.And while wearing sunscreen every day and ditching the ciggies will do wonders for your complexion, the biggest beauty thief and ager of all is the stress our minds try to endure day in and day out.You probably know how to care for your skin on its surface, but it’s so important to remember that for your healthiest, most vibrant skin, you must nurture it from the inside out. Enter the seven healthy habits for great skin. These are habits that you form to support radiant physical beauty.All of them will help you to combat the stress that can age you six years or more.

QUIZ: How healthy is your skin?

It’s true that the best things in life are free. You don’t need a million bucks to feel (and look!) like a million bucks. There is so much you can do without spending an exorbitant amount of money, or time. In fact, a lot of what you can do right away costs close to nothing, including adopting these habits, some of which can create new neuronal pathways in your body.The brain is not hardwired as much as we previously thought. And neither is your skin. The moment you decide to adapt these ideas to your life is the moment you begin to make physical, neurochemical, and hormonal changes in your body for the better—ones that will support your goal of bringing out the best in your looks.The good news is that most of these habits involve doing less, not more, than you usually do!

1. Practice deep breathing

A classic sign of the stress response is shallow, crazy-fast breathing. That’s why the opposite—deep, slow breathing—is such an effective way to calm yourself down. It can help you halt a stress reaction, or at least control it. Plus, it shifts the body’s balance of carbon dioxide to oxygen in favor of energizing oxygen. (The integrity of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs depends on oxygen, and in any shortage in supply will have a profound impact on the entire body, both inside and out.)

MORE: The science of stress and beauty

Breathing goes far beyond just delivering life-sustaining oxygen to the body. Slow, controlled breathing in particular is the foundation for many Eastern practices that aim to return the body to a more balanced state, and one that has removed all signs of stress. When you’re focusing on your breathing, you’re not thinking about anything else. That shift in your mind helps remove stressors, bringing you to a deeper level of consciousness, a place where you can out things into perspective.

2. Get active

The stress response preps your body to leap into action. But most of the time you need to stay calm. Exercise releases all the revved-up energy inside you so you actually can stay calm. Additionally, it boosts the activity of white blood cells, increasing levels of beta-endorphins, improving your mood and circulation, which is good for your skin. Beta-endorphins have immense anti-inflammatory benefits that fight your stress hormone cortisol.If there is one magic bullet for enhancing the quality of your looks, and your life in general, it’s exercise. The science is well documented: exercise fights the onset of age-related disease, lifts your spirits and sense of well-being, increases your lung capacity so you can take in more oxygen, boost circulation to deliver nutrients to cells and skin, lowers inflammation, and, for many, is the ultimate stress reducer. That healthy glow you get after a great workout (rosy cheeks indicative of the increased circulation that is nourishing all of those facial cells and tissues) isn’t just for show.

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