The Natural, Product-free Skincare Hacks Beauty Brands Don't Want You to Know

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Rafaella Menendez Diniz/Unsplash

Have you ever purchased a bunch of beauty products and then regretted all the time and money you seemingly wasted on them because you didn’t see any results? You’re not alone. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to take care of your skin without using a dozen products every day, and you don’t need to spend extra cash testing them all out. We’ll help you turn your beauty-haul habit into a beauty-hack habit with these natural tips and tricks.

Wear Sunglasses

No, your eyeballs don’t have skin on them, but behaviors like squinting and peering, which cause you to narrow your eyes, can cause wrinkles to develop. Excessive wrinkles around the eyes and forehead are preventable (to a degree) when you wear sunglasses.

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Photo Courtesy: Charles/Unsplash

Too much sun can also damage your actual eyes. The radiation from UV light is cumulative in the cornea and grows over a lifetime of sun exposure. You should also wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy outside, as the sun can cause permanent damage to your eyes even when you can’t see it.

Sleep Like Royalty

Humans sleep for approximately one-third of their lives, so how you sleep and what you lie on both significantly impact your skin. People who smash their faces into the pillows when they’re sleeping on their sides or stomachs are at a higher risk of getting slumber-induced wrinkles.

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Photo Courtesy: Dominic Sansotta/Unsplash

However, there’s a remedy for this common problem if you happen to be a face-masher, and that’s to use silk or satin pillowcases. These fabrics are much less likely to cause wrinkles than cotton or other fabrics because they allow your skin to slide smoothly against your pillow.

Seek Shade

An estimated 90% of skin aging (especially for lighter skin tones) is caused by exposure to the sun. Seek shade when you have to be outside, and limit your time in the sun overall. Aside from staving off signs of aging, this also reduces your risk of skin cancer.

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Photo Courtesy: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the number-one cancer in the United States and also worldwide. About 20% of Americans develop skin cancer by age 70, but when detected early, there’s a 99% survival rate for melanoma after five years.

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Don't Dehydrate

Water helps all organs function better, and the skin is the largest organ your body has, so it makes sense that it requires (and benefits from) a decent amount of water. When you drink more water, your body clears more toxins out via your liver and kidneys, which in turn promotes plump, healthy skin.

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Photo Courtesy: Serenity Mitchell/Unsplash

There’s even some evidence that consuming enough water reduces dark circles and can help with psoriasis and eczema. There’s conflicting advice out there about exactly how much water to drink in a day, but aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses.

Go Sugar-free

If you consume a lot of sugar and refined carbs (which our bodies convert into sugar), it may begin to show up not only on your waistline but on your face. Insulin surges can cause collagen breakdown, which can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, acne, wrinkles and a loss of elasticity.

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So, stay as far away as you can from soda, candy, bakery sweets, white bread and canned and boxed foods with sugar added. Start shopping more from the produce section, and cook your food at home to avoid added sugar.

De-stress Often

When you’re stressed out, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which in turn makes the glands in your skin produce more oil. This can lead to breakouts and acne. Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stress and skin.

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Stress can make existing skin problems — like psoriasis, eczema and rosacea — worse and can even cause rashes, hives and blisters. Some ways to protect your skin from stress are to get enough sleep, exercise and do something that you enjoy every day. Yoga, breathing exercises, visualizations and meditation also are proven stress-relief techniques.

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Avoid Over-exfoliating

While exfoliating is great in moderation, there’s a trend of overdoing it, according to dermatologists. Exfoliation can scrub away dead skin cells, which helps prevent dry, peeling skin and breakouts, but the flip side of this coin is that you can also cause these problems if you over-exfoliate.

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Use exfoliators only once or twice per week. If your skin is inflamed, red, irritated or increasingly sensitive, you can exfoliate even less than that. When this problem is extreme, your skin can become tight and wax-like, which is uncomfortable and unattractive.

Stop Picking at Pimples

Many people squeeze and pick at pimples as soon as they notice them, but what they may not know is that this behavior can cause scars, infections and acne mechanica. Acne mechanica is caused by the mechanical action and friction of squeezing pimples, which often pushes bacteria and oil back into the pores.

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Photo Courtesy: Barcroft TV/YouTube

Nobody wants to create more acne than what they already have, and scarring and inflammatory hyperpigmentation are generally undesirable too. Inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a condition in which brown spots remain on the face where pimples once were.

Practice Good Hygiene

Showering daily might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a lot that can cause a person to have poor hygiene, and stress is one of them. Dermatologists find that stress and exhaustion by the end of the day can be big reasons why people don’t take better care of their skin.

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Photo Courtesy: The Creative Exchange/Unsplash

Other reasons people might not shower or wash their faces as often as they should include untreated or undiagnosed mental or physical health problems, a disability or an addiction. It’s important to address these issues first and foremost. Beating the stress where it starts can make it easier to maintain proper hygiene, including washing your face twice a day.

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Use Lukewarm Water

The reason dermatologists don’t want you to use hot water for washing your skin is that the oil, or sebum, in our skin is a waxy substance that can "melt." When it happens, this melting strips away the protective barrier that holds moisture in the skin.

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Photo Courtesy: Sasikan Ulevik/Unsplash

The idea is to wash enough to be clean, but not enough to scald and irritate your skin. It’s recommended that you massage your skin for a full minute with lukewarm water and a water-based cleanser for the best, cleanest results without damaging your skin.

Don't Scrub

It’s better to massage your face with two fingers gently in a circular motion rather than scrub it with a washcloth or loofah, even if you’re using a facial scrub. Actually using a scrubbing motion when washing your face can cause a lot of irritation and moisture loss.

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Scrubbing can lead to overdrying and peeling of the skin — and acne or a rash. If you choose to use a facial scrub, only use it once or twice weekly. Wet your face with cold water afterward to close your pores (hot water opens them), and be sure to moisturize.

Wash Your Makeup Brushes Weekly

Cleaning your makeup brushes every week is a good idea. Lots of unsavory things can accumulate on makeup brushes besides old makeup — like oil, bacteria, sweat and dust. All of these things can cause skin problems like acne separately, but combined together it’s almost a sure bet they’ll affect your skin.

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To clean your makeup brushes, use lukewarm water to wet the bristles. Place a drop of soap in your hand and move the brush in a circular motion gently around your palm. Then rinse, squeeze out the bristles with a clean towel and reshape the brush head.

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Exercise

Exercising has many incredible and lasting health benefits, and those benefits extend to your overall skin health too. When we exercise, our blood circulates faster, bringing essential oxygen and nutrients to all of our organs. This includes the skin. The extra oxygen makes it younger-looking and better able to repair itself quickly.

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Photo Courtesy: Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

Exercise also can improve your skin elasticity. This is a huge plus for anyone who has given birth or lost a significant amount of weight quickly, which can sometimes leave sagging extra skin. Exercise also reduces stress and cortisol levels, which is good for your entire body.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking cigarettes and vaping are bad for your health for many reasons, but one of them is that when tobacco burns, it releases free radicals that are damaging to the DNA in your skin cells. Collagen and elastin break down during this process, which accelerates signs of aging.

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Smoking also depletes oxygen and nutrients in the skin due to blood vessel constriction. If that wasn’t enough, the smoke can cause blackheads around your mouth, which are unsightly and difficult to get rid of.

Get Enough Sleep

There’s a lot of truth behind the term "beauty sleep," because while we sleep, our cells regenerate and our bodies heal themselves. This is important for many reasons, one of which is how bad it feels when someone tells us that we "look tired."

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Our bodies also produce new collagen while we’re sleeping, which decreases the appearance of wrinkles and lines. Cortisol (the stress hormone) also decreases. Another bonus to getting enough sleep is that our bodies produce melatonin while we slumber, which acts as an antioxidant for our skin.

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Use a Separate Face Towel

The reason you might want to consider using a separate face-drying towel when you get out of the shower is because of cleanliness issues. The products you use on your body — fragrances, lotions, hair products, body washes — may not be the best products to put on your face.

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Photo Courtesy: MB SRL/Wikimedia Commons

These products may cause breakouts, irritation or even rashes on your face if you use the same towel you use to dry your body on your face. Think about bacteria from different parts of your body, dead skin cells and foot fungi; none of these belong on your face.

Put Your Hair Up at Night

If you leave your hair down at night, it’s going to come into contact with your face. This means that any hair products, sweat and dirt from the day can all get on the skin of your face, even when you’ve just washed it.

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All of the above can cause acne and breakouts. To avoid this potential problem, be sure to put your hair up at night while you’re sleeping. Some of the harsher, alcohol-based chemicals used on hair, like hairspray, may even cause enough irritation to create a rash.

Pat Your Face Dry

We’ve discussed scrubbing and how it can lead to acne, irritation and rashes and strip moisture from the skin. The same concept goes for how you dry your face. Be gentle with your skin, and if you must use a washcloth, use it ever so softly. Pat your face dry with a clean towel.

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Patting is especially important. If you rub your face, you may actually cause more oil production due to irritation — and as a result, more acne. Rubbing will also disrupt the natural oils on your skin, which may create dry, tight skin.

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Change Your Pillowcase Frequently

Just like oils, sweat and products can transfer from your hair to your face, they can also transfer from your hair to your pillow to your face. Or from your face to your pillowcase and back to your skin. Or from your mouth to your face — yep, drool.

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Photo Courtesy: David Veksler/Unsplash

The things that lurk in your pillowcase can clog your pores and lead to irritation. For better skin health, change your pillowcase at least once a week. If you have severe acne, it’s fine to change it every day, too. If you’re still experiencing irritation, try changing your laundry detergent or fabric softener.

Eat More Plants

Eating vegetables is a natural way to get all of the vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that you need for clear, radiant skin. Many vegetables are high in fiber, which means that they help clear unwanted waste out of your system efficiently.

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Photo Courtesy: Chantal Garnier/Unsplash

Vegetables are also high in phytonutrients and water, boosting your hydration levels and reducing signs of aging. All plants contain phytonutrients or protective plant chemicals, but if you’re not a fan of vegetables, you can get them from nuts, fruits and whole grains instead.

Eat Certain Vegetable Oils

Hydrogenated oils aren’t recommended for better health or better skin, but there are a few oils that may improve the skin because of their high antioxidant levels. These include almond, olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia nut and grapeseed oils. Buy cold-pressed, virgin and unrefined types of these oils for maximum health benefits.

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Other oils that may be healthier than regular vegetable oil include walnut, sesame and flaxseed oils. Some of these oils have antimicrobial properties, and in moderation, they’re good for heart and skin health.

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Tone Your Face Muscles

Facial yoga is a series of exercises that some say tone the muscles in your face and increase skin elasticity, making you look younger. It’s like a workout routine for your face, and it can take some time to see results.

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Photo Courtesy: Face Yoga Method/YouTube

There are a lot of skeptics when it comes to face yoga, but the dermatologists at Northwestern University think otherwise. They published a study that shows that some of these exercises actually do what they claim. Face yoga is designed to smooth the skin by working out the muscles above your shoulders.

Splash on the Cold Water

This may seem too simple to actually work, but it can reduce puffiness, especially after sleeping. While we sleep, our cells regenerate all over our bodies, including in our skin. Also, our pores expand, which can cause puffiness, especially upon waking.

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Photo Courtesy: Alonso Reyes/Unsplash

After you wash your face with lukewarm water, splash some cold water on it to close up those pores and reduce morning puffiness. Another benefit of closing up your pores is that they’re much less likely to accumulate dirt and cellular debris if they aren’t open.

Practice Self-awareness

Our bodies react in various ways to everything that happens to us — and our skin isn’t immune. Just like stress can cause body-wide inflammation, an emotional or mental challenge can cause some skin problems that no product can fix. Claire Zhao is the co-founder of Amareta, a clean, plant-based, hormone cycle-related skincare line.

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She says we should all "get more in tune" with our bodies, and that the skin is "an organ that tells a lot about our bodies’ overall wellness." She recommends that we should take time every day to assess our skin health by reflecting on how we feel physically and emotionally.

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Cut Back on Salt and Caffeine

If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve seen some skin symptoms due to your menstrual cycle. Along with cramps, bloating, breast tenderness and other signs of premenstrual syndrome, women often get skin blemishes immediately before they start their periods.

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Along with cutting out sugar, especially before your period, it can also help your bloating and your skin to reduce your caffeine and salt intake. All three of these substances can cause water retention in your skin and your body, which can be uncomfortable and lead to puffiness.

Take Shorter Showers

Showers can be therapeutic, but if yours are hot and longer than 10 minutes, you’re not doing your skin any favors. Hot water can dry out and irritate the skin, which can predispose you to rashes, blemishes and other annoying and potentially painful skin problems.

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Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip is Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at South Shore Medical Center. According to Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip, "showers should be lukewarm and no more than 10 minutes" for optimum skin health. She also recommends patting dry with a soft towel afterward.

Use Less Heat but More Humidity

Just like taking hot showers, having the heat up too high in your home or office can dehydrate your skin. It’s better to have the heat down a bit and wear a sweater if you want to stave off wrinkles, lines, dryness and other signs of aging and poor skin health.

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Photo Courtesy: Luke Besley/Unsplash

Use a portable humidifier in your home or office to support your respiratory and skin health. Just be careful not to let children near hot steam humidifiers, because the steam can cause burns. Clean your humidifier often and use a cool steam humidifier if you have children or pets.

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Try Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Athena Hewett is an esthetician and founder of Monastery, a company that focuses on aromatherapy and natural skincare. She says that people can keep their skin supple with a technique known as lymphatic drainage massage. It sounds fancy, but you can actually do this simple massage at home.

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Photo Courtesy: TheMoments/Youtube

Lymphatic drainage massage moves excess fluid out of the face and is said to "energize" the skin. You push on the lymph sites to move the fluid out. These are located between the brows, on each side of the nose, above the lips and on each temple.

Apply Ice Cubes

Just like cold water closes up pores, so does ice. Athena Hewett, an esthetician, recommends creating glowing skin that appears firmer by rubbing ice cubes on your face. Hewett says that "cold water tightens the skin by bringing blood to the surface."

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Photo Courtesy: Darren Hester/Wikimedia Commons

However, you must put a barrier on your face before you do this to avoid causing redness. Hewett says that plain yogurt from your refrigerator will do the trick to protect you and create a barrier between the ice and your skin. The extra probiotics won’t hurt, either.

Use Zero Products

Some people are doing the zero-product skincare routine and having wonderful results. Ted Lain, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, says that this is "usually...because a person’s using the wrong products for their skin type, or they’re using the right products…too much [and] it’s causing dermatitis."

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Photo Courtesy: Aiony Haust/Unsplash

Dr. Lain suggests taking time off from your skincare routine and starting over at the beginning for a few days. You can then slowly reintroduce other products to see if anything is irritating you. You may even find that you don’t need the products you’ve been using.

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