Eat, sleep, and sweat your way to feeling (and looking) like a million bucks.

By By Mirel Zaman
Updated: April 05, 2019
Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Wellness and beauty are intricately connected, new research finds, and when it comes to creating radiance, what you put in your body is as important as what you put on it. (Hellooo, minimalist skincare routine!)

Studies show your skin benefits from a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep habits plus low-stress levels. And on the flip side, looking your best has a positive impact on your well-being. "When you feel great about your looks, you're happier and you have more self-confidence," says Jennifer Chwalek, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.

After investigating what has been proved to affect health and skin simultaneously, we came away with five key findings. This comprehensive guide offers strategies, based on cutting-edge research, to help you foster the beauty-body connection.

Acupuncture for Your Mind, Body, and Skin

Specialized needles stimulate small nerves, which send signals to the brain to shut down the fight-or-flight reflex. "In response, the brain releases relaxing neurotransmitters and stabilizes levels of the stress hormone cortisol," says Stefanie DiLibero, a licensed acupuncturist in New York City.

The result is a happier mood and deeper sleep, both of which improve skin vibrancy. "The needles also increase blood flow, creating a beautiful glow," she says. Look for a licensed acupuncturist who studied cosmetic acupuncture. (See: Why You Should Try Acupuncture Even If You're Not In Pain)

Nutrients That Make You Vibrant

Eating for good skin looks a lot like eating for good health: lots of produce and healthy fats. (Case in point: These 10 Healthy Foods for Better Skin)

Antioxidants found in bell peppers, greens, and berries help protect the skin from cellular agers like UV rays and airborne pollution, says Lance H. Brown, M.D., a surgical and cosmetic dermatologist in New York and East Hampton. And fish oil keeps the skin supple and fights inflammation. Dr. Brown advises increasing your intake of fatty fish like salmon, which contains vitamin E and zinc to prevent skin damage.

Beauty supplements are also growing in popularity. One biggie is collagen, like One Ocean Beauty Marine Collagen (Buy It, $48, oneoceanbeauty.com), a protein that makes skin look plump and smooth.

"Taken orally, collagen may help hydration and potentially promote elasticity," says Dr. Chwalek. "One study found that taking collagen with hyaluronic acid, a super-hydrating ingredient improved the appearance of wrinkles." Bonus: Other research found that collagen helped relieve exercise-related joint pain. (Here's more on collagen and whether supplements are worth it.)

The Belly-Beauty Link

"Research shows that people with healthier and more diverse gut microbiomes tend to have healthier fatty acids in their skin, meaning it's more hydrated and plumper," says Carla Oates, the author of The Beauty Chef Gut Guide.

Because of these findings, we're starting to see more probiotics and prebiotics (food for your gut bacteria) targeting your skin as well as your stomach. "There is some new evidence that probiotics may help minimize photodamage to the skin," says Dr. Chwalek. Other research shows that the duo may also help treat inflammatory issues like acne.

To nourish your gut, remember the two Fs: fiber and fermented, says Oates. "Fiber is good for gut bacteria and the gut lining. And kimchi and kefir are rich in live bacteria that help improve digestive function for optimal well-being and generating a glow. "If you're looking to supplement, Oates says lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces strains of probiotics all have proven skin benefits.

The Antiaging Workout

Cardio can take up to 30 years off your skin. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario found that aerobic exercise prompts your body to produce IL-15, a protein that encourages the growth of mitochondria, structures in skin cells that produce energy to make your complexion smoother. "Increased blood flow also makes you rosier and brings more nutrients to the skin," says Dr. Chwalek. (Related: You Don't Have to Do Cardio to Lose Weight-But There's a Catch)

Plus, sweat exfoliates dead layers of dermis. Mark Tarnopolsky, Ph.D., the study's author, suggests doing cardio for 30 to 45 minutes, three to five times a week. Just wear SPF 30 or above in a sport formula if you exercise outdoors, and reapply it according to the label.

Repair While You Rest

"Lack of sleep can lead to excess levels of cortisol and inflammatory compounds. This can accelerate aging," says Y. Claire Chang, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. "A recent study found that chronic poor sleep was associated with increased fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and reduced elasticity." Seven hours a night is a good goal. (Seriously, sleep is the most important thing for better health.)

The z's are only part of the story. Skin stem cells go through cycles of rapid growth from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. "This is when the skin is most susceptible to regenerating ingredients, like antioxidants and retinol," says Dr. Chwalek. To maximize this window, use a serum like ISDIN Melatonik (Buy it, $150, isdin.com), which contains vitamin C and bakuchiol, a plant-derived retinol alternative, then finish with an oil. "At night, skin's oil production slows. Face oils counteract water loss," says Dr. Chwalek. She likes jojoba and rosehip oils, both in RMS Beauty Oil (Buy it, $78, sephora.com).

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