Hands up if you brushed off your mother’s beauty advice as an old wife’s tale when you were a kid. Looking back, she may not have been far from the truth. Not far from the truth at all.
This Mother’s Day we relook some of her advice.
“Junk food will ruin your skin”
Conventional wisdom used to be that diet didn’t affect your complexion. But studies in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that people who replaced processed carbs with foods high in protein and whole grains broke out less. The reason? ‘High-glycemic foods cause your blood sugar to rise, triggering a surge of insulin. The insulin stimulates oil-producing hormones called androgens, leaving you with pimples,’ says Leslie Baumann, professor and director of cosmetic dermatology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. Cut the junk, and you could see an improvement in your acne in about six weeks.
“If you keep making that face, it’ll freeze that way”
Your expression won’t be paralyzed in an instant, but consistent movements do create lines over time. ‘Muscle contractions in the face cause the skin lying over them to be pushed, pulled, and scrunched,’ says David E. Bank, associate professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. ‘Many lines in the upper part of the face are caused by these multiple repetitive movements.’ Prevention for this type of wrinkling is easy: Relax, wear sunglasses, and don’t read in low light, since squinting contributes to wrinkles and crow’s-feet.
“Don’t ever let me catch you smoking”
Besides the obvious health risks, smoking makes you look older. ‘Every time you take a puff, you’re inhaling toxins, which induce free-radical damage – that means wrinkles and sagging over time – and constricting blood flow, which makes skin sallow,’ says Katie Rodan, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford School of Medicine. Also, inhaling repeatedly causes lines around the mouth. Quit now, and you’ll see a boost in the colour of your skin in months, as blood flow returns to normal – and you’ll eventually see fewer fine lines and increased firmness.
“Get your hair out of your face”
Hair in your face means oil (from your scalp) on your skin. Add styling products to the mix, and bring on the breakouts. If you wear bangs (which can also hide zits), shampoo them daily or every other day, and stick to oil- and silicone-free styling products. And ‘sometimes just growing out bangs will get rid of bad acne confined to the forehead,’ says Karyn Grossman, a dermatologist in Santa Monica and New York City.
“Don’t bite your nails”
Gnawing is not only gross: It also weakens nails and makes them peel and split; it can cause infection (since even a minor cut around the nail provides a gateway for bacteria) and it may lead to lasting injury. ‘Biting can cause damage to the nail bed, which will then prevent the nail from growing out smoothly,’ says Grossman. A bright manicure can make you think twice about chomping, but if you’re hooked, consider hypnosis or psychotherapy – chronic anxiety could be the cause.
“It’s past your bedtime”
They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. ‘Sleep deprivation causes stress, which can aggravate all skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis,’ says Grossman. ‘Sleep is also the time when your body repairs the damage from the day, and interrupting that process will slow down cell turnover.’ This interferes with proper blood flow to the skin, making your complexion sallow (an unhealthy yellow or pale brown in colour).
“Sit like a lady”
Yes, cross your legs. But do so at the ankles, instead of the knees, to help prevent spider veins. Although multiple factors contribute to the veins, ‘increased pressure from crossing your legs can lead to more,’ says Grossman. So if you notice them, try not to cross your legs. If you want to get rid of spider veins, doctors recommend sclerotherapy – injections of salt solution that shrink and dissolve the veins.
“Get off the phone”
Resting your chin or cheek against a phone – cell or old-school – can lead to breakouts, whether or not the phone is clean and bacteria-free. ‘Just leaning your face against it can cause friction, occlusion, and heat, all of which can make you break out,’ says Rodan. Consider a headset.
“Turn off the TV and get some exercise”
Along with lifting your mood, exercise increases blood flow to the skin, causing a healthy-looking flush. Both immediately and over time, it has been shown to decrease tension, which can result in better skin. ‘When you’re stressed, cortisol levels rise, and that leads to acne and other skin aggravations,’ says Rodan. ‘Lessen your cortisol spikes, and your skin will become smoother and clearer.’ Just wash your face right after that workout.
“Don’t rub your eyes”
The skin around your eyes is among the most delicate anywhere. ‘The occasional gentle rub is probably fine,’ says Grossman. But rubbing aggressively can irritate skin and break blood vessels (which can cause dark under-eye circles or leave red marks that could be permanent and, if so, would only be treatable with lasers). ‘If you do it all the time, you could possibly even cause stretching and loose skin.’ Besides kicking the habit, using a cream with a peptide and mild retinol can help.
While we only realised years later, there was truth in all those little bits of advice our mothers shared. What is the best advice your mom gave you? Share it with us in the comments section below.