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Get the Glow

Bring home vacation's healthy habits for radiant skin.

By Mandy Ferreira

"You're glowing!" Come home relaxed and refreshed after a vacation or yoga retreat, and chances are you'll hear compliments on your radiant appearance. Taking a break from the stresses of everyday life isn't just good for your health and well-being—the effects can be seen all over your face.

It turns out many of the things you do when you get away, like getting enough rest, exercising, and stress-reducing activities like yoga, are some of the same practices that dermatologists recommend to maintain the health and appearance of your skin.

But you don't have to wait for your next trip to reap the benefits. Get radiant skin at home by adopting the good habits of vacation and indulging in a few at-home spa treatments. Here are eight key vacation-inspired beauty habits to remember.

1. Look Sun-Kissed Minus the Sun

Whether on vacation or at home, load up on colorful, carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies. You probably already know they're good for your health, but they may also be nature's self-tanner. Researchers in Scotland measured the skin tone of people who added more fresh produce to their diets and found that their skin took on a warm golden tone, which was deemed more attractive by study participants than the skin tone of people who ate less produce. Another bonus: Eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables protects your skin from free radicals and sun damage.

2. Move Your Body

Whether it's time on your mat, a hike, or a swim, regular exercise can brighten your complexion and improve the health of your skin. Movement stimulates the lymphatic system, which carries away waste products from your cells, says Alan M. Dattner, MD, a holistic dermatologist in New York City. And exercise increases microcirculation in your face, nourishing your cells. Dattner recommends yoga, in particular, because inversions such as Handstand and Headstand increase blood flow to the face and enhance lymphatic drainage.

3. Picture a Peaceful Place

Your thoughts can have a powerful effect on your appearance, according to Richard Fried, MD, PhD, a dermatologist and clinical psychologist in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Stressful thoughts and feelings trigger the release of biochemical signals from the brain, including the hormones testosterone and cortisol and pro-inflammatory signals that can incite acne, cause the skin to be more sensitive and more prone to infection, and lead to blotchy skin tone, Fried explains.

On the other hand, practices that calm you and keep your stress levels in check—including focusing on positive and peaceful thoughts—have the opposite effect, notes Fried, leading to healthier, more glowing skin that's less sensitive, less breakout-prone, and more evenly toned. Next time you feel anxious during a busy day, take a moment to recall an especially peaceful vacation memory, suggests Fried. Imagine the feeling of the sand between your toes, the view of the ocean, the smell of the sea breeze. Your skin will thank you for this moment of serenity. "If you can reduce stress on a regular basis throughout the day, you are giving the skin a vacation," says Fried.

4. Breathe Freely

It might be the simplest beauty routine of all: Take a slow, deep breath. According to Jeannette Graf, a dermatologist, professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and author of Stop Aging, Start Living, a book on holistic approaches to beauty, deep exhalations clear stale carbon dioxide from the lungs and allow them to draw in more oxygen on the inhalation. This has an alkalinizing effect on the body that can help promote the growth of healthy skin cells—perhaps another reason why yoga practice makes you glow.

5. Indulge in Moisture

Protect and condition hair and skin that's been exposed to the elements with nourishing tropical oils like macadamia nut oil. This nourishing oil fights hair breakage, smoothes frizz, and adds shine to dull, dry hair, according to Tere Ochoa, the spa director at Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, Mexico. She recommends this treatment to give your hair a healthy sheen: Warm up some macadamia nut oil before gently massaging it into your scalp. Then comb it through to the ends of your hair. Let it sit for up to two hours before washing your hair as usual. Massage any extra warm oil into your cuticles or onto rough heels and elbows.

6. Say Goodbye to Dry Skin

Make time for a spa-vacation ritual that exfoliates dead skin cells and leaves your skin smooth and supple. Regular scrubs boost the look and color of the skin and stimulate the lymphatic system, says Jennifer Affatato, the spa director of Naturopathica Healing Arts Center and Spa in East Hampton, New York.

Try this energizing scrub recipe from blogger Sophie Uliano of Gorgeously Green:

2/3 cup sea salt
1/3 cup olive or almond oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
10 drops lavender essential oil

1. Combine ingredients in a glass jar. (If you prevent water from getting into the jar, the scrub will keep for up to 6 months.)
2. Gently scrub your whole body, giving extra attention to rough spots like heels, hands, and elbows.
3. Rinse off in the shower.

7. Get Your Beauty Sleep

Your skin cells respond to environmental cues such as temperature and light—in effect, keeping time and following their own circadian rhythm, according to recent research in Germany. These cues trigger important repair and regeneration processes that take place at night. "Sleep is free cosmetic medicine, pure and simple," says Amy Wechsler, MD, a dermatologist and psychiatrist in New York and the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection. While you sleep, says Wechsler, lower cortisol levels and higher growth hormone levels stimulate cell reproduction and growth. So turn off the electronics an hour before bed, dim the lights, and drink a soothing cup of herbal tea, recommends Wechsler, to sleep well and wake up to healthier skin.

8. Cool Off

Breathing in the scent of roses can soothe overheated or irritated skin. Researchers in Japan recently found that inhaling rose essential oil calms inflamed skin and helps skin stay hydrated. In Ayurveda, India's ancient healing science, roses are viewed as ideal for cooling and soothing an excess of the fire element, or pitta, says Ayurvedic practitioner Melanie Sachs of San Luis Obispo, California. Rose scent is especially recommended for calming the skin in the heat of summer, when the quality of pitta increases. Sachs suggests keeping a bottle of rose water on hand on hot days to spritz your face, wrists, and ankles. For added pitta-cooling power, brew a cup of fennel and dried rose petal tea, cool it in the refrigerator, and add a few drops of rose essential oil. Pour it into a mister, give it a shake, and spray your face. For dry or bloodshot eyes, soak several fresh rose petals in rosewater and place them over your eyes while you rest.

June 2013

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