This is What Depression Looks Like

I lived two lives for more than a decade.

From the time I was in seventh grade until my early 20s, there was the me that everybody knew — the happy, funny, outgoing Lauren — and the me I hid from the world — the introverted, sad Lauren that, if left alone too long, got lost in the dark recesses of her mind.

Here’s the thing, though: I always felt like both lives were the real me. I never felt like I was putting on a show for my family and friends. I truly was as happy as I was sad. As loving as I was self-loathing. The difference was that I knew others wouldn’t want to know the sad version of me. My unhappiness, my eating disorder, my suicidal tendencies would only make others uncomfortable.

When I was 23, a series of events and mistakes led me to the darkest place I’d ever been. So dark, in fact, that I was no longer able to separate my two selves and my relationship began to suffer. Stephen urged me to get help.

I didn’t want to see a therapist. I didn’t want to open old wounds. I didn’t want to invite a stranger into my life to analyze and judge me. But, more than anything, I didn’t want to admit that I needed help.

But, I loved Stephen so much more than I loved myself, and so I consulted Google. On a page full of “Baton Rouge therapists,” I found the friendliest looking woman, swallowed my pride, and called.

Voicemail.

That’s it. I tried.

An hour later, she called back.

Dammit.

As my rational side knew she would be, Brittany was fantastic. She listened intently. She offered practical suggestions for dealing with anxiety. And she told me what I needed — but certainly never wanted — to hear: I had major depression.

Of course I did. I’d always suspected I did but maintained a “this couldn’t happen to me” mentality. Admitting I had a mental illness felt like admitting I was crazy. And admitting I couldn’t manage “my crazy,” as I called it, by myself. It felt like losing my power.

But, admitting all of that, realizing that my daily thoughts of suicide were not normal, and accepting that I did, in fact, have depression, was empowering in its own right. It was owning my crazy. I was able to face my demons head-on with the help of my pretty little friend, Pristiq.

It didn’t get better overnight. Just as depression isn’t a headache, anti-depressants aren’t ibuprofen. But, it did get better as the medicine helped increase my brain’s serotonin.

Once it got better, I was able to get off the medication. And then, my relationship became long distance and it got so, so much worse. I cried myself to sleep every night. I gained 80 pounds in a year. And I got back on my medicine.

That’s the thing society doesn’t seem to understand: depression is a disorder. Often (as I suspect in my case), it’s genetic. It doesn’t just go away forever like a virus your body has fought off. Stephen and I have been living together for three years, and I have countless other blessings in my life. But, it’s still a struggle. Every. Damn. Day.

But, I now know I have the support of friends, family and the love of my life. I know exactly what is happening when a suicidal thought starts creeping into my head — and exactly how to squash it. I know the mantras to keep my crazy in check. I know the workouts — not the foods — that relieve the most stress and produce the most endorphins. I now know how to manage my depression by doing things I love like writing and reading and spending time with Stephen.

That’s all I’m doing, though: managing it. I’m not cured because I’m happy. It’s something I’ll manage my entire life. But, it will never manage me again.

Am I terrified that opening up like this will hurt me professionally? Of course. I know the stigmas. For the longest time, the stigmas are what kept me from getting the help I needed. But, when I told my first boss, she was nothing short of incredible. She increased her mentorship of me but made sure to never relieve my responsibilities. When an asshole at my last job told both my supervisors — and all my coworkers — that I was suicidal, I thought it was the end of the world. But, my boss actually started being nicer to me. (There’s a silver lining to everything, right?) Fortunately, in my current job, I feel safe and am confident that my colleagues will only support me.

Regardless, I have to talk about it. Because, until society understands the realities of depression and mental illness as a whole, the stigmas will continue. I will still be told to “just get over it.” “Friends” will still consider it to be a juicy bit of gossip. And those undiagnosed will continue to suffer in silence.

 

If you suspect you may have depression or a mental illness, please tell your family or friends. If you’re too afraid to do that, seek out a therapist (most are covered under most health insurances). If that’s out of the question, go online for resources. Hell, message me. I’m in no way qualified to give you advice, but I can listen and help you find the resources and help you need. But, please, don’t continue to suffer. There’s a whole life worth living. A day worth seizing. And it’s up to you to take control.

To be honest, sometimes the depression has control and it feels impossible to seek help in any form. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the ones you love. Had Stephen not, essentially, forced me into therapy, who knows where I’d be. If you think someone you love may suffer from depression or a mental illness, be kind. Love them. Support them. And help them get help.

11 Skincare Secrets Every Woman Should Know

Every woman seems to have her own skincare secrets, whether they’ve been passed down for generations or she discovered them herself. (Personally, I’ve found my skin looks phenomenal when I start my days with some liquid chlorophyll.)

While every woman and her skincare is different, there are certain time-honored tips and tricks that every beauty needs in her arsenal.

Smooth Skin

Lather. Rinse. Moisturize.
Massaging a moisturizing lotion, cream or gel into skin right after showering will trap water to hydrate skin.

The Essence of Beauty
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Staying adequately hydrated helps your body function better and plumps and moisturizes your skin. You should drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day. (If you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water.)

Do a Dollop
Sensitive skin can be smoothed and touchy complexions nourished by applying a tablespoon of sour cream for 20 minutes, twice a week.

Protect & Refresh

Soy You Later
Resting a soy milk-soaked washcloth on your face for 10 minutes, once a week, will refresh your complexion by brightening skin, and will help prevent wrinkles with its natural estrogen.

Sky High
Always apply sunscreen before boarding an airplane, especially if you’re in a window seat. As your altitude increases, so will the levels of the sun’s UV rays.

Oat and About
Add a teaspoon of organic oatmeal to your cleanser, and smooth it onto skin for 10 minutes. The minerals in the oats are soothing and will help cleanse and hydrate your skin.

Calm Skin

Chill Out
For splotchiness and redness, drink a glass of ice water when it first occurs. The cold will constrict the blood vessels and cool you from the inside.

Cold in Here
Keeping your eye gel in the refrigerator overnight will work with the gel to reduce puffiness when you apply it in the morning.

Banish Blemishes

A Splash of Tea
Splashing your face (but not rinsing) with cool black tea controls oil and shine by acting as a natural astringent.

Time to Hang Up
A dirty cell phone can cause breakouts. Clean it at least once a week with antibacterial wipes.

Easy De-swell
Nasal decongestants are anti-inflammatories. Just as they reduce your nose’s inflammation, a small amount will reduce your pimples’ redness and inflammation.

 

What are your favorite skincare secrets?

 

Adapted from my July 29, 2016 blog post at conture.com.

3 Simple Ways to Prevent Acne

I’ve talked before about certain everyday items that can trigger breakouts, but, for most people, skincare and acne prevention go far beyond avoiding coffee or sterilizing your phone.

Though there are several things you can, and should, do regularly to prevent acne and breakouts, they all boil down to three basic principles: hygiene, health and products. Throughout your skincare routine, be sure to check the labels. You always want products that are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and water-based (not oil) when possible. Avoid fragrances and irritants such as citric extracts, menthol and denatured alcohol.

Diet and Exercise

  • Protect your skin. You know you need to wear some kind of sunscreen daily. Do you do it? Probably not. But did you know wearing daily SPF not only helps protect against skin cancer, but can also prevent acne? Overexposure to the sun can exacerbate acne, redness and irritation.
  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Staying adequately hydrated throughout the day helps your body function better, increases your metabolism and clears up you skin. When you don’t get enough water, your body can build up toxins and excrete them through your skin. Drinking at least eight cups of water each day will help your body flush the toxins the way they’re supposed to. Think of it as a daily detox.
  • Eat healthy. Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, zinc, vitamins and minerals helps prevent acne by keeping your skin healthy and functioning properly.
  • Avoid potential irritants. While modern scientists put much less stock in the idea that chocolate causes acne than scientists of the last century, certain foods can worsen your acne or cause breakouts. Every person is different, though. Try cutting out different potential risk foods—dairy, sugar, legumes, high-glycemic foods and wheat—from your diet to see what does and doesn’t work for your skin. Cut out each food (one at a time) for two weeks for the best analysis.
  • Get the patch. You know smoking and drinking are bad for your health, but they’re also bad for your complexion because the toxins in tobacco and alcohol can act as skin irritants or contribute to the unhealthy toxic excretion that happens when you’re not your healthiest you.
  • Lace up. Stress is a huge contributing factor to your acne. Putting on your sneakers and getting outside, up and moving can relieve stress and help acne. Even better, regular exercise will help your heart, overall health and mortality.
  • Catch your zzz’s. Just like exercise, proper sleep can help your body function better and reduce stress which, in turn, helps prevent acne. Each hour of sleep lost beyond your normal allotment can increase your stress level by up to 15%. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night (9-10 if you’re younger than 18).

Finding the Right Products

  • Benzoyl Peroxide is a common ingredient in acne medication because it kills the bacteria that causes acne. Look for products with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide concentration; less won’t be as effective, and more can irritate the skin. It also removes dead skin to reveal brighter, rejuvenated skin.
  • Salicylic Acid also helps kill acne-causing bacteria. It causes the skin to shed more rapidly and promotes the growth of new skin. Apply small amounts to affected areas after you wash your face at night.
  • Tea Tree Oil is a natural home remedy that acts as an anti-inflammatory, making pimples less noticeable in size and redness. The oil is often concentrated, so be sure to dilute it with water before applying to affected areas with a cotton swab.
  • Airbrush Makeup is one of the best and simplest ways to prevent acne. Using airbrush makeup on a daily basis keeps your skin hygienic (no dirty hands or brushes touch your face), moisturizes your face (it’s water-based and so hydrates your skin), covers current blemishes without being heavy and improves skin texture.

Keep it Clean

  • Wash your face. Dermatologists suggest washing your face in the morning and before bed. While you’ve likely always heard to wash your face with hot water to open your pores, exposing your skin to extremes can cause irritation, excess dryness and blood vessel ruptures. Always wash and rinse your face with lukewarm water. If your skin runs dry, take care to select a cleanser and products that have moisturizer. Contrastingly, if you have oily skin, be sure to avoid overly moisturizing products.
  • Wash your hands. It’s important to avoid touching your face as much as possible, but when you have to do it—such as when washing your face or applying sunscreen or moisturizer—wash your hands first. Dirty hands can transfer bacteria, causing breakouts, irritation and possibly infection.
  • Moisturize. Ensuring your skin is properly hydrated is as important as making sure it’s not oily. Apply moisturizer after every face wash to avoid dryness and irritation. If you have oily skin, choose a gel-based moisturizer, which will provide hydration without overdoing it. If you have dry skin, use a cream-based moisturizer that will, by nature, be heavier and longer-lasting.
  • Exfoliate. You may have read blogs from women who talk about exfoliating as part of their daily ritual (we’ve seen our fair share), but over-exfoliating can irritate your skin, cause excess dryness and make your breakouts worse. You should exfoliate, at most, once a week, to remove dead skin and unclog pores.
  • Take it off. Removing your makeup at the end of the day is one of the most important steps of your skincare regimen. Sleeping in your makeup can clog your pores and worsen your breakouts. Even sleeping in mascara can cause little infections in your eye area. It’s important to wash your face after removing your makeup to remove all traces of makeup.
  • No touchy. As we said earlier, touching your face—with your hands, brushes, sponges or anything that could potentially harbor dirt or bacteria—can cause breakouts and infection. This especially means no popping your pimples, as the dirt from your fingers can get in the open sore and worsen the blemish.
  • Sleep clean. While you sleep, oils transfer from your face to your pillowcase, causing dirt, grime and dead skin to spread night after night and cause acne. Try washing your pillowcases once a week. If that’s not enough, wash it more frequently and switch the side of the pillow you use every night. If you don’t have time to wash it frequently, keep several pillowcases you can alternate.

What are your tried-and-true methods to preventing acne?

 

Originally published on blog.luminessair.com

How to Make Any Meal Instantly Healthier

As much as I know about eating healthy, I know even more about eating junk food. I didn’t start truly paying attention to the foods I ate and how they affected my body until I was about 22 or 23 (roughly five or six years ago).

Before that (and maybe a bit after that, too), I had a lifetime of eating pizza, burgers, quick-fix meals and everything else you’d expect to see in Peter Griffin’s home, never giving a second thought to the fact that my choices were expanding my waistline, decorating my face with little red dots and shortening my years on this planet.

But, whether you’re in the same place I was in 2012, or where I hope to be in another five years, there are certain things you can do to make any meal healthier. Some are simple changes you probably already know — use olive oil instead of butter, swap out white grains for whole grains, substitute turkey for beef — and some you and I have never thought of.

Thankfully, these few I have heard of and use as often as I can. So, without further adieu, here are four superfoods you can add to any meal to make it healthier.

Avocado – Long avoided for its high fat content, and currently lauded as a millennial luxury, the rational among us can appreciate avocado for what it is: a yummy, healthy source of good fats. This hipster favorite is loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium and monounsaturated fats. You can easily add diced avocado to some pico de gallo for a quick, healthy guac alternative, and even add it to pancake batter for a thick, creamy carb replacement.

Turmeric  – I’ll never forget a retired LSU professor telling me about his colleague’s research that showed turmeric not only slowed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, but actually reversed them. It also has shown that it can slow the growth of certain types of cancer, specifically colon, and may fend off viral infections. Incorporate it into your diet by mixing a little in your oatmeal, or add a pinch to your daily lemon water.

Matcha – I’ll admit, matcha is an acquired taste, but one that’s well worth acquiring. It’s more potent than average green tea (because you’re ingesting the entire tea leaf) and, therefore, packs a powerful punch of antioxidants. It has been tied to possibly protecting against heart disease and some cancers; lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure; as well as aid in weight loss and slow the growth of breast cancer cells. The most common way to consume matcha is in a tea, but you can also add the powder to eggs, soup, guac and whatever else you’d like. I’ve even had some delicious matcha cookies!

Ginger – There is nothing like a glass of ginger ale to calm my upset tummy, but this best friend of sushi is also used to fight osteoarthritis because it as amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have also shown that eating a small dose of dried ginger in the morning increased fat burning for 13.5 percent for two hours. Get your ginger in by adding it to stir-fry, eggs, fruit salad, or, really any dish.

What’s your go-to healthy add-in?

These 6 Everyday Things Could be Causing Your Breakouts

I swear that every day it feels like I’m being told something else is bad for my skin or will give me acne. And, to be honest, a lot of times it seems like mixed messages. Exfoliate, but not too much. Never touch your face, but go ahead and apply makeup with your fingertips.

I researched and researched and researched to learn what things I’m doing that actually do make me break out, and how to remedy those pimple perpetuators. While it is a bit annoying to adjust a daily ritual, the good news is that, once your skin clears up, you can add all of these back — as long as it’s in moderation.

 

Your Morning Fix
In my humble opinion, coffee does more damage than good to your body. If you’re like me and love your coffee with milk, sugar, syrup, whipped cream and everything else the barista wants to throw on there, there aren’t many redeeming qualities in your blended cup of joe, other than the endorphins and sugar high. But, even just a cup of black coffee will raise your body’s acidity, throwing off its pH balance and making your skin inflamed (most usually as a pimple around your mouth).

Your Solution: If it’s the caffeine you need, switch to tea. There’s obviously a huge variety in the world, but if better skin is your biggest concern, opt for green tea. Once you’ve had a fix, drink plenty of water to hydrate your body, restore your skin and flush out toxins. If you just can’t do without your coffee, though, you can add a few pH drops to make it less acidic.


Your Bedtime Ritual
Adequate sleep is one of the most vital, precious gifts you can give your body. But, if you like to watch TV, play on your phone or catch up on emails in bed, the light from the device will make your body think it’s daytime and keep your mind awake. Devices like your smartphone will also emit electromagnetic wave frequencies that can run through your body and mess with your circadian rhythm. Your sleep pattern will be disrupted, your immune system weakened, your mind stressed and your face broken out.

Your Solution: Turn off all of your electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, and place your phone far away from you. If you need something to do before bed, read a book — a real, tangible, made-of-paper book — to calm your mind. You can also drink a cup of calming tea, like chamomile, to help make you sleep so that you get your full 8 hours and keep your body functioning properly. (Want more sleepy time tips? Read this.)


Your Daily Face
You know that sleeping in your makeup is horrible for your skin, but, depending on your foundation of choice, just wearing it can wreak havoc, too. Thick makeups can clog your pores, trap sweat beneath your layer of foundation and attract dirt, which can sit on your skin, allowing bacteria in (and further clogging pores), which will cause pimples to sneak up on you. (Not to mention the bacteria transfer that happens if you use dirty brushes or sponges to apply your makeup, which can also lead to breakouts.)

Your Solution: Opt for lightweight, water-based foundations like airbrush makeup, which offers the added benefit of never having to touch your face with dirty fingers, brushes or sponges (which dermatologists strongly advise against). Airbrush makeups also tend to be noncomedogenic (don’t clog your pores), oil-free and completely buildable, so you can determine how light or full you want your coverage to be simply by the number of layers you apply. You’ll also want to always wash your face after removing your makeup. No matter what makeup you use, there can always be occlusive residue that a makeup wipe simply won’t get.

Conture Skincare Dessert Acne

Your Mini-Binge
That after-dinner dessert, when combined with that morning-meeting donut and afternoon pick-me-up, may help with endorphins, but it’s not doing your skin any favors. When you consume too many processed carbs, breads and sugar, your body’s glycemic index will elevate, making it produce more oil. The sugar can also break down the skin cells (in a process called glycation) which will weaken your collagen and elastin, causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear. Your skin will also suffer from the overdose of bad bacteria in the body caused by the yeast in bread.

Your Solution: Moderate your sugar intake (the World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons a day for adults) within a well-balanced diet with the right proportions of protein, fiber, leafy greens and complex carbs. And, of course, drink plenty of water.

 

Your Slight Addiction
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you give up Instagramming your cute new shoes (I wouldn’t dare). But, if you’re on your cell phone all the time — you know, talking — and tend to breakout on one side of your face or jawline, it’s likely because of your mobile device. Every time you touch your phone’s screen to text, to post, to catch ’em all, you’re transferring all the germs from your hands onto your cell. That bacteria will then be transferred onto your face, creating blemishes.

Your Solution: Make it a point to regularly wipe down your cell with sanitizing wipes, especially if you’re about to make a call. If you’re completely grossed out by the idea of the bacteria getting on your face and don’t think a wipe is good enough, you can invest in a phone sanitizer (many often charge your phone, as well), which can kill 99.9 percent of your phone’s bacteria in about five minutes. These will typically run around $80.


Your Skincare Routine
The obvious solution to oily skin is to dry it out, right? Except that drying out your skin — from harsh cleanser, too many spot treatments, etc — can ruin your skin’s natural protective barrier. This will cause more bacteria to get into your pores and cause breakouts and, if you’ve let your skin get so dry that it cracks, that bacteria can cause infection.

Your Solution: Learn the best skincare solutions based on your skin type. You should wash your face at least once a day, more if you have oily skin, and pay special attention to the type of cleanser you use. Charcoal products like a charcoal soap or a charcoal mask will get rid of the bacteria and clear your pores without over-drying your skin. Make sure you’re not over-using your acne treatment, and finish your routine with a lightweight moisturizer.

 

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7 Things to Drink for Amazing Skin

If you’re like me, you take care of your skin. You use sunscreen every morning. You wash your face every night. You even started an anti-aging regimen as a teenager. (Or, is that last one just me?)

But, is your skin the best it can be?

All the topicals in the world can’t guarantee great skin if your diet is lacking. Great skin is helped by great nutrition—specifically, incorporating plenty of Omega-3s and antioxidants. While there are definitely food choices you can make for better skin, today I’m focusing on your drink choices, and how exactly you can drink your way to better skin.

Water. Water is vital for both skin health and overall health. It keeps the body functioning properly and makes your skin look plumper and firmer. Experts agree that the right amount of water for each person is half their body weight (in ounces). For example, if a woman weighs 140 pounds, she should drink 70 ounces of water each day.

Lemon Water. Starting your day with a big glass of lemon water (like I discussed here) can help flush toxins out of the body to rejuvenate skin. Added bonus: lemon water also helps with digestion, increases metabolism and boosts your immune system.

Green Juice

Green Juice. Vegetables, especially kale, are amazing multi-vitamins for your skin. Kale is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and copper, which are all staple ingredients in anti-aging creams. Kale also helps promote healthy cell growth and healthy cell turnover, getting rid of old, dull skin, and keeping skin strong. Need a little guidance on how to create a green smoothie you actually like? Start with the recipe below, then tinker with it based on your preferences. It provides a perfect combination of natural sugar to sweeten it, and green veggies to hydrate and de-puff the skin.
Combine all ingredients in a juicer or high-powered blender

  • 1 apple
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beet
  • 1/2 handful of kale
  • lemon and ginger to taste

Soy Milk. Using soy milk instead of regular milk in your morning coffee or tea can help protect collagen and prevent new wrinkles from forming due to sun exposure. The minerals and proteins in soy milk can also help brighten and even-out your skin tone.

Green Tea. Green tea, like I’ve mentioned before, is excellent for your skin. It’s loaded with antioxidants that protect the skin against sunburn and reduce redness and inflammation in your cheeks. For best results, drink two or three cold cups a day. If you do go for cold green tea, be sure to make it yourself. The bottled kind you pick up at the store is loaded with sugar and not much else.

shutterstock_365724791

Pomegranate Juice. This super juice is packed with twice the anti-oxidants and polyphenols as green tea, and nurtures your skin’s fibroblasts, which make collagen. Drinking a glass of this a day produces more collagen, results in less wrinkles and fine lines, and evens out your skin tone.

Cucumber Water. Cucumbers are already mostly water, so when you infuse them with a daily glass of water, they help super-hydrate your skin. They’re also filled with magnesium, potassium and other minerals that help keep the alkaline pH of skin and decrease inflammation.

 

What are you favorite drinks, regardless of health value? (Let’s just say, if Long Island Teas were health, I’d be in a world of trouble.)

20 Super Foods for Super Skin

I always find it funny how accurate the old cliché “You are what you eat” is. If I opt for a burger over a healthy meal, I can feel it in every breath I take. If I eat junk food two days in a row, my skin shows it. I get blotchy, pimply and greasy on top of feeling sluggish and maybe a bit gassy.

Whether you want brighter, firmer, younger or more even skin, the right products and a good diet can help you get there. Let’s take a look at a ton of foods that benefit skin, and why they’re so super.

Salmon

This king fish goes at the very top of the list because it’s so good in so many ways. Broiled, baked, smoked and grilled, yes, but also because it’s good for your skin, your eyes, your heart and your diet. Salmon is a reliable source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. Inflammation not only causes digestive discomfort, but also contributes to a harsher skin appearance. While the omega-3s are battling the aging process by combating inflammation, they’re also allowing cells to hold more moisture—which results in softer, less blotchy skin—and the fish’s vitamin D helps produces compounds that protect against skin infections. Win-win-win!

Kiwi

When looking for a fruit high in vitamin C, skip the orange and head straight for the brown. Kiwis pack almost 120 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C in every single furry fruit! A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proved that higher intakes of the nutrient were associated with less dryness and less noticeable wrinkles. Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis, which smooths fine lines and keeps skin taught.

Flaxseed Oil

Make this your go-to superfood if you’re battling red or dry skin. Flax is abundant in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help skin retain moisture, limiting roughness and dryness. The British Journal of Nutrition published an investigation that determined that flaxseed oil consumption can reduce skin reddening. Try drizzling it on top of your favorite yogurt snack. Which brings us to …

Yogurt

While dairy can be a main cause of inflammation, Greek yogurt can be pretty beneficial to any diet. The protein found in yogurt—which helps skin become firmer and more resistant to lines—is often doubled in the Greek variety. All it takes is a single serving a day to smooth your complexion.

Brazil Nuts

This giant-sized nut is an excellent source of selenium. According to research from scientists in Australia, blood with high levels of the mineral were associated with a 60 percent decrease in skin cancer incidents. It’s believed that selenium works as an antioxidant, protecting against skin damage caused by exposure to the sun.

Butternut Squash

This fall and winter staple gourd is a good source of carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that may improve skin tone by reducing skin cell damage, resulting in more luminous skin.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

A 2008 UK study found that people who ate 5 tablespoons of tomato paste daily (along with almost a tablespoon of olive oil) for 12 weeks had 33 percent more protection from sunburn than a control group that only had olive oil. Cooked, processed tomatoes contain higher levels of lycopene which improves skin’s natural SPF. (This is not a substitute for applying sunscreen every day!)

Olive Oil

Start using this as a butter substitute as soon as possible! A 2012 study in PLOS ONE found that women who consumed at least two teaspoons a day of olive oil showed 31% fewer signs of aging, compared with women who had only one teaspoon. The study also tested sunflower and peanut oils, but they paled in comparison; about 75 percent of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids, which may assist with a youthful appearance. Also, the antioxidant polyphenols in olive oil could fight damaging free radicals. Need more reasons? How about …

Dark Chocolate

While milk and white chocolates can cause inflammation, dark chocolate is rich in cocoa flavanols, which help hydrate skin and improve circulation. In a study, women who consumed 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day for 12 weeks experienced less skin roughness and scaliness. But, that’s a lot of calories. Consuming just one ounce daily can help you get the benefits without gaining weight.

Kale

Disgusting as it may be, it’s one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients absorb and neutralize UV-created free radicals, even those that pass through sunscreen and reach your skin. Just one cup a day can give you more than 130 percent of your daily requirements for skin-firming vitamins A and C.

Orange Peel

People who eat fruit peelings (like orange peel or lemon zest) have 33 percent lower risk of squamous cell carcinoma, according to research from the University of Arizona. Peels are rich in limonene—which isn’t present in the fruits themselves—that offers UV-protective benefits.

Grass-fed Beef

Beef itself is a great source of protein, packing nearly 30 grams per 3.5 ounces, but grass-fed beef is even better because it contains a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. The fatty acids reduce inflammation, while protein is the cornerstone of collagen and elastin tissue. Both collagen and elastin tissue help keep skin taut and less wrinkled. For optimum all-over health results, stick to lean cuts like sirloin and flank steak.
Rosemary

Rosemary

While it’s a great garnish, we like our Rosemary protecting our skin. A study in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that consuming four or more herbs regularly, like rosemary and thyme, was associated with a 60 percent reduced risk of melanoma. Herbs are bursting with antioxidants—and great scents—that squelch free radicals from the sun before they can damage skin.

Oysters

These slimy little sea creatures are arguably the best dietary source of zinc; just six of them provide more than 500 percent of your daily requirement (and only cost 57 calories). Zinc is essential for the growth and function of skin cells, and studies have suggested that acne sufferers have zinc deficiencies.

Eggs

Here we are with the protein again, but this time, it’s more about the fat. Or lack thereof. Eggs are a great source of protein without the fat that often accompanies it. Higher fat diets may contribute to the aging of skin, and a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a 17-gram fat intake increase also increases your chances of forming wrinkles by 28 percent.

Mackerel

This fish is one of the best sources of vitamin B12, with 270 percent of your daily requirement. A B12 deficiency can result in hyperpigmentation and vitiligo (dark and white spots, respectively). Getting enough B12 every day can help even out your skin tone.

Pomegranates

Greek mythology aside, this superfood basically has magical powers. Pomegranates are packed with polyphenol antioxidants which fight free radicals and regulate skin’s blood flow, making it appear naturally rosy. When applied to the skin, the antioxidants also moisturize and help smooth lines.

Bell Peppers

Or, really any green and yellow veggies. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition determined that people who eat up to 250 grams (one large pepper is about 190 grams) of green and yellow vegetables regularly had fewer wrinkles, especially around the eyes, than those who ate about 70 grams a day. Yellow peppers pack an extra punch because they contain carotenoids which can decrease the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Soy

You can thank your soy latte for your clear complexion. One cup of soy a day can reduce dark spots and fine lines, and improve skin elasticity. The minerals and proteins in soy help with the hyperpigmentation, while the aglycone can keep collagen from breaking down.

Sunflower Seeds

Baseball players may be doing more for their skin than they realize with this dugout favorite. Sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamin E to keep your skin supple and pimple-free, and protect its top layers from the sun. Sunflower seed oil is also great because its high essential-fatty-acid content helps dried out body parts like lips and heels. Vitamin E also enhances immune function, helping your body fight off the inflammation that leads to acne.

 

What are your favorite superfoods?

How I Keep My Skin Acne-free

Last week, I talked about the history of my complexion and how I’ve managed to avoid acne for most of my life. It wasn’t meant to be a humble brag, though I have been blessed to not have painful, embarrassing acne. But, I’ve mostly been able to avoid terrible breakouts with a few lifestyle changes.

Drink more.

Water, that is. Water is paramount to your skin’s health, as it refreshes and revitalizes your entire body and helps it perform its functions better. Staying properly hydrated helps your body process and clean out toxins. Often, when our kidneys are overloaded with toxins, they’ll expel them through our skin. Drinking plenty of water helps flush them out. Experts recommend drinking half an ounce of water for every pound of your body weight. So, if you weigh 130 pounds, you should be drinking 65 ounces of water every day for adequate hydration.

Take it off.

Always, always, always remove your makeup before bed. Sleeping in your makeup once in a while won’t necessarily cause a breakout, but it’s best to consistently be in the practice of taking it off first. Sleeping in your makeup can cause bacterial infections and clogged pores, making your acne worse. Wash your face after removing your makeup to ensure you get all of the concealer and foundation off. (If you’re in the market, these my absolute favorite makeup wipes are the Clean & Clear Night Relaxing Cleansing Wipes. They’re incredibly soothing and help me wind down for the evening, while getting all my makeup, including waterproof mascara.)

Baby your skin.

While acne can be exacerbated by a poor skincare regimen, it’s not caused by dirty skin. People who believe otherwise often end up over-washing their faces, or using harsh chemicals and treatments that only irritate the skin more. As important as it is to wash your face before bed and in the morning, it’s just as important to be gentle in your washing. Over-exfoliating can dry out your skin and cause “microcuts,” through which bacteria can enter and, again, worsen acne. For a gentler exfoliation than grainy scrubs, use a salicylic- or glycolic-acid cleanser. Start using one of these three times a week, alternating with your regular cleanser, and adjust depending on your skin’s reaction. Avoid getting a daily cleanser with fragrance or harsh soap. If you have dry skin, try a cleanser with shea or glycerin. If you have oily skin, try a foaming wash to help your skin feel cleaner. (For more info on how to take care of your skin, read my blog post, The Best Skincare for Your Skin Type.)


Clean your brushes.

Most women don’t clean their makeup brushes regularly or take any extra precautions to ensure their brushes and sponges are hygienic. They leave them in the bathroom, in the open air, etc. and never clean them. When you apply makeup with dirty hands, brushes or sponges, you’re transferring bacteria to your face which can clog pores and, sometimes, lead to infection. I admit it, I’m terribly about washing my brushes, too. I maybe do it once a month. I justify it in my head with the rationale that I rarely wear makeup and, when I do, I use an airbrush system. Using an airbrush system to apply your makeup means you never have to touch your face and make your acne worse. Just drop your makeup into the bowl of the stylus, pull the trigger, and let air do the application and blending work.

Check the label.

There are many chemicals and factors in the ingredients of your skincare products that can actually irritate your skin more. Check the labels of skincare products for known irritants like essential oils, citrus extracts, menthol, denatured alcohol and, obviously, anything you might be allergic to. These can cause daily irritation that only lengthens the amount of time before your skin can heal and your breakouts clear.

Check your makeup.

Oftentimes, the relationships we create between acne and makeup is a vicious cycle. We have a little breakout, so we cover it up with oily, pore-clogging (comedogenic) makeup. The makeup makes our breakout worse, so we cover it with more caked-on heavy makeup. And the cycle continues. So, break the cycle. Using a water-based, noncomdedogenic foundation provides a light (yet acne-concealing) coverage that allows your skin to breathe and, therefore, heal. Again, I use airbrush makeup, but you can find other solutions that work with your skin and lifestyle. Start by looking specifically for oil-free foundations, and go from there. You’ll want to look for “noncomedogenic” as a benefit.

4 Foods to Eat for a Killer Complexion

I’ve always been complimented on my “lovely complexion.” Because my skin tone was even, I never really had to worry about acne, and my skin naturally glowed, I never had to worry too much about making it look good.

Over the last year or so, though, my well of good complexion genes hath run dry. While I still don’t have to worry about acne other than the occasional breakout, my skin is now dull and blotchy. My body has seemed to realize that both of my parents have a ton of redness and, therefore, I should, too. Because why not?

But, because my skin has been so good for so long, I have a lifetime of habits that glorify a good complexion. I tout the value of natural beauty and I prefer to only wear makeup if I have a function to attend.

I’ve learned to keep my skin in check by knowing what skincare products to use and, most importantly, how to nourish my body. Obviously, I still love junk food (especially sugary treats), but I know the key to a good complexion (and not expanding to the size of a whale) is moderation. A week of emptying my Easter basket will send my skin into fits of rage.

All of the skincare creams and serums and washes and exfoliants in the world can’t beat the complexion that a healthy diet can give you. But, if you’re not entirely ready to trash your chips and chocolate, start small by incorporating these yummy foods into your diet.

Sunflower Seeds

Keep your skin pimple-free and prevent wrinkles by adding sunflower seeds to your yogurt, salad or basically anything that you want! Sunflower seeds are filled with vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from free radicals while boosting your immune system.

Carrots

Once you find out what carrots can do for your skin, you won’t want to stop eating them! We all know carrots are good for your eyes and also clearing out breakouts, but they’re also good for your skin. Carrots contain carotenoids which help give your skin more of a yellow tone, resulting in not only a healthier complexion, but also a natural glow!

Orange Fruits

With orange fruits like mangoes, peaches and apricots you get so many benefits. Not only are they super delicious and good for your health, but they’re also good for your skin! Orange fruits are filled with beta-carotene, a compound your body uses to make vitamin A. Eating a lot of these orange fruits helps to fight acne and psoriasis.

Green Tea

Green tea has a multitude of benefits for your whole body, including your skin! Green tea is very high in antioxidants, especially one named EGCG, which is proved to reduce redness and keep a healthier complexion.

 

How do you maintain a good complexion?

5 Easy Ways to Instantly Feel Better

Whether you’ve been a fitness freak for 20 years or have a long-term monogamous relationship with your couch, some times, you just don’t feel up to your best.

Maybe you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe it’s that time of the month. Or, maybe your boss has it out for you today. No matter how hard you try, or don’t, not every day is perfect.

But, luckily, you have the power to seize the day. Any day.

Here are my tried-and-true, fail-safe ways to instantly feel better, no matter what’s going on.

  1. Drink more water. Whenever I’m dragging, unable to focus or just not up to my best, a huge glass of ice water feels magical. More often than not, we have those feelings when we’re dehydrated. Chugging water will nourish your body, helping it to function better, recharge your brain cells, improve your mood and reduce headaches and migraines. It baffles me that some people literally drink no water during the day. You should be drinking at least half your body weight in ounces. (For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces of water.) Once you’ve worked up to that amount, try to drink a gallon of water every day. Your body will thank you for it.
  2. Go for a walk. Taking a walk is one of my favorite ways to spend my lunch break. It gives me time to myself to think and reflect, or just listen to music. While my brain is, more or less, resting during a walk, my skin and body are supercharging thanks to the natural vitamin D in sunlight. Experts suggest spending at least 15 minutes in the sun every day, without sunglasses for adequate vitamin D exposure and absorption. Not to mention, a quick 30-minute walk will put you a couple of thousand steps closer to your daily goal!
  3. Read in bed. Ending your evening with a good book instead of a tv show or a game on your phone will calm your mind and let your body know it’s time for bed. This will not only ensure you get a better night’s sleep, and, therefore, help you feel better during the day ahead, but can also help you destress and decompress after a long, hard day. The improvements in your vocabulary and concentration are just a bonus.
  4. Make a list. There’s a reason therapists, motivational speakers and wellness coaches constantly encourage people to use positive affirmations — they work. When you’re feeling low, saying these kinds of statements to yourself can boost your mood and your confidence to help you feel better. Make a list of all your positive attributes and what you like most about yourself as reminders of how awesome you are. Start with thinks like, “I’m kind to others,” “I’m strong,” and “I’m a hard-worker” and go from there. When I make these lists, I tend to make them specific to how I’m feeling at the moment. If my pants are fitting quite right, I focus on body-positive statements.
  5. Play with your pooch. Studies have shown that dog owners are as emotionally close to their dogs as they are to their closest family members. Spending time with your cat or dog can lower your stress levels, give you comfort, get you moving, boost your confidence and combat loneliness. As if you needed an excuse for kitten cuddles or puppy kisses.

What about you? What’s your go-to method of improving your mind, your mood or your day?