While most of us are guilty of already breaking our New Year’s resolutions – pass the chocolate, please – there are some we’re diligently sticking to. Not only because they promise to leave us feeling a million bucks, but because they help us look our very best, too. Yes, we’re talking about beauty resolutions. But exactly which ones should we be making (and sticking to) in 2020? To answer that, we tapped celebrity skincare expert Debbie Thomas to find out all her top beauty tips and tricks to maintaining gorgeous, glowing skin. Read on.
Strip It Back
One of my New Year’s resolutions is stripping back on my home-care regime – gone are the days of the 12-step Korean skincare routine! There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, to be honest, I’m too busy! The more complicated a regimen is, the less likely you are to keep it up. So, by paring it down, you’re more likely to stick with your day-to-day skincare.
The second reason is that only so much product can penetrate your skin. Once you’ve put three layers on, the likelihood is that the active ingredients you’re then applying aren’t actually going to go in – they’re just going to sit on top of the product you’ve already applied. It’s much better to use targeted, specific products. That way, you’re much more likely to get the full benefit from them.
Add These Ingredients
If you are paring it back, what should you look out for? I have three key ingredients that I recommend to almost all of my clients. If you have really problematic skin and specific concerns, you will need to add in some others, but for general healthy skin across most skin types, my three favorite and must-have ingredients are…
Antioxidants neutralize free-radical damage, which is the damage done to your skin cells – and the cells in the rest of your body – by things like pollution, smoking, stress, air-conditioning, UV rays, and blue light emitted from computer screens, phones, and tablets. By using an antioxidant, you’re actually going to reduce the damage from these things. The most popular antioxidant is vitamin C, but there are others if you can’t tolerate it. The ideal time to use it is in the morning when you’re applying the rest of your daytime skincare.
My second must-have ingredient – and I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before – is an SPF. It’s your biggest preventative when it comes to aging. Clinical studies show that 80 percent of aging is due to sun damage! Everyone thinks of this as being pigmentation, but it’s also lines and wrinkles, redness, sensitivity, blotchiness, and loss of elasticity – so some of the drooping that happens as we get older. It’s all caused because the UV rays damage the DNA within the cells, making them weaker and more prone to showing imperfections. So, SPF daily is an absolute must!
We’ve all heard of vitamin A and retinols, but in the past, some were quite aggressive and couldn’t be tolerated by sensitive skin. However, with newer forms of vitamin A on the market, everyone can find a retinol or retinol-type product to suit them. It’s important because it’s the most scientifically proven anti-aging ingredient on the market.
It not only helps to repair DNA damage to the cells, but it also regulates the skin’s processes – from oil secretions to cellular renewal (how quickly you make new skin cells) and collagen production. It also strengthens the skin and can, over time, help to reduce sensitivity and suppress melanocyte production to reduce pigmentation. Retinol was actually originally used as an acne ingredient, so if you suffer from congestion or breakouts, it can be a really great tool to help to manage that.
Watch Your Water Intake
Nearly everyone’s New Year’s resolution is drinking more water. This is great because it helps hydrate from your body from within, and your skin actually absorbs the water you drink. It takes it from inside and draws it out to make skin plumper and healthier. That being said, you do need to be careful not to overdo the water – drinking lots and lots of it can actually flush out essential minerals and vitamins that your body needs to function correctly.
In the past few months, I’ve actually had two cases of clients who were drinking too much water and it presented itself as lower backache, which is where your kidneys are. When they went to the doctor and complained about the pain, they were told to drink less water and the pain disappeared! It’s essential that you listen to your body when you make these changes.
Seal the Deal
Following on from drinking more water, but not going overboard, is locking moisture into the skin. Again, I see several clients drinking the right amount, but their skin is still dehydrated. The reason is that the barrier – the very upper layer of the skin – function is compromised. This layer acts as a shield, and it has two purposes: keeping bad stuff out (irritants, pollution, etc.) and locking good stuff in. When you’re drinking lots of water, it may be getting to your skin, but if your barrier function is broken, the water will quickly evaporate.
There are a couple of things you can do to combat this. Water will only come out of your skin if the air around you is very dry. So, A/C and very dry, hot weather – like in the UAE – is not ideal. What you can do is get a humidifier for the room you spend the most time in – whether that’s your office or your bedroom. Humidifiers gently put water back into the atmosphere so the air itself becomes less dry and more moist.
Secondly, you need to repair the barrier function and fix the shield so it can lock in moisture. One of the ingredients we saw a lot of last year, and that I think is great to use moving forward, is essential fatty acids like ceramides. They’re lipids, and lipids are naturally found in the skin. When they’re applied to the upper layers of the skin, they’re absorbed, and the ceramides actually add to your natural barrier and help to lock in all the essential moisture.
Clean Up Your Diet
I definitely live by this one, and it’s to do with your diet. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, and it really is true. The more good stuff you put in, the better you look and the better you feel. If you’re eating lots of foods that cause inflammation – things like meat, gluten (if you have an intolerance), dairy, and sugar – they’ll have a negative impact inside your body and on your skin. Whether that’s your acne or rosacea flaring up, pigmentation coming to the surface, or your skin looking puffy and dull – all of these things will look a lot worse if your diet isn’t on point.
I’m a massive advocate of eating organic and plant-based foods. So, eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can and lots of whole grains and pulses. You get so many more nutrients this way, and they help produce more collagen and elastin and improve cellular renewal. If you can, try to have at least two days a week during which you eat only plant-based foods – so no animal products. This gives your stomach, intestines, liver, and kidneys a chance to detox in between eating the slightly heavier foods.
My final resolution for 2020 is to treat yourself more! When it comes to your skin, it’s all about high-tech, but I said cut back on your home-care products in the same breath. As much as the high-tech treatments can be amazing, sometimes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Really research your treatments and go into them with a well-thought-out plan that’s bespoke to you, rather than chopping and changing and trying everything. All that will do is confuse your skin and you’ll probably end up with irritation rather than that glow we all want!
My favorite treatments tend to be laser-based. I’ve been working with lasers for over 16 years and, in the right hands, you can see amazing results ranging from general strengthening to slower aging. There are some incredible lasers that target specific issues, from acne and rosacea to pigmentation, hair removal, and brightening. When you go to a clinic, check that it has many different lasers so you have a good mix of options if you have several skin concerns. It’s also vital to make sure they’re experienced with lasers. It’s no good having the absolute best new machine if they don’t know what to do with it! It takes experience to really fine-tune and get the best out of each piece of equipment.
One of my other favorite treatments, which has been around for a long time, is microneedling. It’s a really good go-to, especially if you’re in a hotter country where, sometimes, you can’t have all the lasers done. Microneedling has come so far from when we first starting using it 10 to 15 years ago, and it can give your skin a really nice glow, help with pores and fine lines, and generally make the skin look healthier and fresher if used correctly.