Could the secret to looking healthier and younger be in your head? Take ten years off with a daily dose of mindful, natural anti-aging strategies
If you're frustrated that those fancy skincare creams and potions lining your medicine cabinet are doing little to make you look younger, take a moment to ponder this: Your brain could hold the keys to the fountain of youth. Yep, it's no accident that meditation and yoga instructors look eternally young and glow-y; a 2013 Harvard University study showed that mindfulness and meditation can diminish the amount of stress-damaged chromosomes responsible for premature aging, essentially putting a pause on appearing and feeling old.
With that in mind, we talked to the experts and found six ways to weave mindfulness into your beauty routine. Try one or all to capture a youthful look without a drop of serum in sight.
Research suggests that regular meditation lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone that causes your body to age faster than it should). A daily session of deep breathing in the morning sets the tone for a clearer mind throughout the day and keeps you calm so that you can handle stress better, says Olivia Rosewood, author of Please Meditate and instructor at Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles.
To do so, carve out a quiet spot where you can practice before your day begins, whether it be in your bed, in a cozy chair, or on a padded cushion. Take in a deep breath through your nose for a count of five, hold it, and then slowly release the air through your mouth for the same count. Keep the focus on an aspect of your breath, whether it's the air filling your lungs or the feel of it passing through the tip of your nose. Repeat at least five times. (There are plenty of healthful reasons to meditate. Check out 17 Powerful Benefits of Meditation.)
Your morning shampoo is the perfect time to sneak in a meditative experience. "Making a daily task more mindful eventually gives you the tools to observe the world more objectively, and develop control over your reactions for less stress, " says Charles Francis author of Mindful Meditation Made Simple.
Francis recommends practicing mindfulness in the shower, when you have few distractions and can zero in on the sensory process. Start out by paying attention to every detail, like how you open the bottle, tilt it, and pour, noting the temperature of the water and becoming more immersed in the motions that you're going through. It can be a challenge to stay in the moment, but if your mind starts to wander, that's OK. "Bring yourself back into the present," says Francis. "By focusing on this totally, you will learn to eliminate that excess clutter, calm your emotions, and slow down your mind."
"Face muscles are mostly stagnant, but like your body, they need blood pumping to rejuvenate," says Cecilia Wong, a holistic esthetician in New York City and founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare. "Massaging your face with your bare hands for a few minutes a day will give you that internal glow and ultimately help you look healthier." Bonus: it's also a great tension tamer.
An acupressure undereye massage works like your dream eye cream; it can instantly reduce inflammation, drain out fluid, and break up puffiness. Start by placing each middle finger on the inner corner of your eye socket by your nose. Then gently press your finger following along the eye circle outwards (it shouldn't be painful; use just enough pressure to feel the bone). Repeat three to four times, preferably when you wake and just before bed. (Or, try 10 Beauty Tips to Make You Look Instantly More Awake.)
What yoga does for your body can also be translated to your face. A session of face-specific yoga tightens, tones, and helps you look younger, acting like a natural facelift, says Danielle Collins, founder of the Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method. "By relaxing your face muscles, you'll also be reducing and preventing the deep sets lines and wrinkles caused by stress, squinting, or grimacing."
To lift and firm cheeks and reduce lines around the mouth, practice this move daily: Cover your teeth with your lips and make an 'O' shape. Then, smile as wide as you can without showing your teeth. Go back to the original position and repeat six times. Next, hold the smile shape and place one index finger on the chin. Move your jaw up and down as you tilt your head back. Continue to move your jaw as your head comes forward. Relax and repeat twice more. (Find more poses to practice).
For a line-free look, Rosewood swears by what she refers to as the "botox rock." It's similar to a hot stone massage: When heat is directly applied to an area, it loosens up muscles and prevents atrophy, causing lines to soften. It's also a chance to calm down for a few minutes and practice mindfulness in your day. Try it by heating a flat stone in water. Once it's hot, lie down, and place it on the third eye between your brows. Relax by breathing deeply for about 10-15 minutes, or until the stone has cooled. Skin will look smoother, albeit temporarily, for a few hours. (If your skin is still stressed, try one of Eight Ways to Go on a Skin Cleanse.)
A 2013 Harvard study suggests that repeating a phrase or word over and over—known as mantra meditation—can lower adrenaline levels significantly. Too much adrenaline in your bloodstream can make you overtired and overstressed, and seem as if you've aged overnight. "Practicing mantra at bedtime helps you fall asleep easier, more deeply, and awaken feeling and looking refreshed," says Rosewood.
To begin, choose a word or phrase you want to repeat. It can be as simple as your own name or a positive affirmation. "In Hindu yogic tradition, silent practice is believed to be the most powerful. But experiment and find what works best for you, whether it's loudly singing or whispering a chant," she says. Start by doing it for three minutes and work up to ten, which has been found to give optimal benefits. "Eventually, you'll feel your body sink into a total relaxed state, where it will have time to rejuvenate," adds Rosewood.