10 sneaky ways to drink more water (it’s the cheapest, quickest way to look AND feel great!)

I did a post on acne (What is your acne telling you?) and the role that various bits and bobs of our bodies play in its horrid takeover of our faces. Amongst the 24,36,987 visitors who stopped by this post in a week, over 40% wrote in to say that they have pinpointed much of their spottiness to a lack of adequate water.

Which makes sense. Water is not called the ‘source of life’ for nothing… it is crucial for every body function, right from metabolising fat and regulating temperature to facilitating important bio-chemical reactions, lubricating the joints and limbs, aiding digestion, hydrating the skin and helping the body flush out waste and toxins. So, it stands to reason that without regular top-ups, our skin (actually our whole body) will go into crisis mode. The simplest solution? DRINK MORE WATER!

Yet, 99% of us don’t heed this advice. H2O is bland, it’s boring, it’s always “just there”… maybe if water becomes more expensive, we will start paying more attention! But till then, I would be the first to admit that sometimes drinking the requisite “8 glasses” (find out exactly how much water you need HERE) can be a real challenge! So, after much interviewing, thinking, researching and experimenting, here are 10 tips to help you accomplish that feat (and I have personally tested every one of them – they work stupendously!). Click through, then tell us the sneaky ways you trick yourself into drinking more water in the comments. We could all use the help!

Drink your water! Stay well hydrated! Stay healthy! Stay pretty!

drink-waterIn case you can’t see the image above, here are the tips in text form

1. Add two glasses of drinking water to your daily skincare regimen: Drink, cleanse, moisturise, then drink again.

2. Don’t purchase any other drinks: let’s face it, if you have your favourite soda chilling in the fridge, are you honestly going to opt for water?

3. Drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you down. (It’s also a great way to prevent a hangover!)

4. Set an alarm to beep every hour – this is your reminder to down a glass of water. If you drink only small (6 ounce or 180 ml) cup per hour, you will consume 48 ounces (1.4 liters) in an 8-hour workday.

5. Eat water-rich foods, such as watermelons, which are 92% water. A tomato is 95% water, while an egg is 74% water.

6. Add ice or freeze water in a sports bottle before taking it with you. Tt will eventually melt and stay cold, thereby creating a pleasant frisson on a hot day.

7. Purchase a water bottle that holds the amount of water you need to drink each day, or use a combination of 1-liter and half-liter bottles. This will allow you to see exactly how much water you are consuming on a regular basis.

8. Fill a glass jar with water, pop in some fruit-infused tea bags in a glass jar and place it in the sun for naturally brewed tea that has an intense flavour. Drink it chilled for loads of flavour and antioxidant protection.

9. Prefer a sweet sip to plain ol’ water? Fill 1/4 of your glass with 100 percent fruit juice and top off with water or seltzer.

10. Bring a touch of the exotic: Add mint leaves, slices of apples, strawberries, lemons or limes to a pitcher of water; serve chilled. Keep a jug in the fridge so you always have great-tasting and great-looking H2O available. For an even greater kick, drink it out of champagne flutes!

How much water do you manage to drink on a daily basis?

What stress (or anger!) does to your face… and how to fix it!

Lately, despite the twice daily cleansing and moisturising, an hour at the gym, weekly scrubs and face packs, adequate beauty sleep and copious amounts of water, I have been noticing that my skin has never ever looked this terrible. It’s reached a point where strangers at the malls are asking me if I am sick and need help… not kidding!

stress-and-skinTime to visit the dermatologist – who takes one look at my blotchy complexion, flaking chin, dark circles and the monstrous zit on my forehead and decides what I need is a “life questionnaire” rather than a session of Blue Light. And through gradual prodding and poking, we arrive at the root cause – stress (and a lot of being pissed off, to boot), which is literally killing my skin cells.

I have always known that stress leads to high blood pressure, depression, migraines, heart disease, obesity… yada yada yada! But honestly, it never bothered me because all that’s in the future. Skin problems, however, are in the here and now! Hence, this required some serious research. And what I found is that given our increasingly crazy lifestyles, there is actually a new field of medicine called psychodermatology, which focuses on the mind-beauty connection. Experts of psychodermatology treat skin problems that are caused or worsened by stress and here I am summarising what they say happens to our complexions when we are emotionally troubled.

But remember, these “quick fixes” are just that – quick fixes. To actually reverse the beauty (and overall health!) effects of stress, you need to go much deeper than lotions and potions!

Stress and skin #1: Dullness

Stress triggers a hormone called cortisol (a stress hormone), which slows down skin cells, making them take longer to reach the surface and flake off. Hence, dead skin cells build up, making your face look dull and lifeless.

Quick fix: Drink more water and exfoliate regularly.

Stress and skin #2: Sagging

Furthermore, prolonged cortisol production leads to loss of collagen and elastin, resulting in slackness, sagging and loss of elasticity. Not a good beauty look at all!

Quick fix: Consume foods that increase collagen production and benefit the skin. For example, soy products help block enzymes that break down and age the skin. Also, try topical beauty products containing Vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) or hyaluronic acid (sometimes listed as sodium hyaluronate). Skip the retinoids though – they will further irritate stressed skin.

stress-and-skin-3Stress and skin #3: Dryness

Stressed skin has a very low lipid (protective) barrier, so fluids evaporate more easily. In addition, cortisol also reduces the skin’s ability to retain water, leading to excessive dryness.

Quick fix: Try a weekly moisture mask and apply a hydrating serum along with moisturiser. Also, avoid using toners and cleansers that contain harsh ingredients such as Ammonium Laurenth Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate, which can dehydrate and irritate the skin.

Stress and skin #4: Skin infections

The epidermal skin cells are packed tightly together, forming a strong barrier that blocks the entry of bacteria and other toxins. When you are under stress, this protective layer becomes less effective, allowing harmful bacteria to reach the deeper layers of skin.

Quick fix: Keep skin scrupulously clean with a mild soap. Use warm, not hot water, and pat skin dry instead of rubbing; put moisturiser on immediately.

Stress and skin #5: Itchy rashes

Stress decreases skin’s self-repairing abilities, while also releasing histamines (which create allergic reactions) into the bloodstream. The result? Flareups of immunity-related conditions such as hives, rashes, cold sores, psoriasis and eczema.

Quick fix: Look for beauty products that contain soothing ingredients like avocado oil, almond oil, aloe vera, Shea butter, sunflower oil and chamomile. Also, cut down on the number of skincare products you use –  fewer products means lesser ingredients and hence a lower risk of an allergic reaction.

Stress and skin #6: Blemishes

Stress increases oil production, which blocks the pores and results in breakouts.

Quick fix: Keep skin clear of surface dirt, oil and dead cells. Use oil-free beauty products and wash your face gently with a soft cloth. Don’t scrub, as this can further irritate acne and make it worse.

stress-and-skin-2

Stress and skin #7: Premature ageing

During times of crisis, our body redirects the flow of blood to areas that are vital for reacting to stress – such as lungs and heart. This leaves skin without essential blood and oxygen. The result? Increased production of free radicals and tissue-damaging oxidants, which speed up wrinkles, lines and other signs of premature ageing.

Quick fix: Try some facial exercises and massage. These help release tension along with increasing oxygen-rich blood flow to muscles, tissue and skin, making the complexion look vibrant and healthier.

Stress and skin #8: Sallowness

Stress hurts the digestive system. This means essential nutrients are not digested properly, allowing build up of impurities. As a result, stressed skin looks dull, lifeless and sallow.

Quick fix: Step up intake of leafy greens, fruit and high protein grains and lentils as well as healthy fats like those found in avocados and olive oil; cut down on caffeine. Skipping meals is a complete no-no!

Stress and skin #9: Inflammation

Prolonged stress creates chronic internal inflammation, which leads to premature ageing, uneven skin tone and texture, lack of radiance and hyperpigmentation.

Quick fix: Sleep is anti-inflammatory – a time of healing, when cortisol levels are at their lowest. Getting enough will keep your body’s best coping skills at hand.

Stress and skin #10: Skin cancers

In a study at Yale University, it was found that people with melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – were more likely to have gone through stressful life events during the years leading up to their diagnosis than people who did not have skin cancer.

Quick fix: Remember to not skip the sunscreen – even if you are indoors. Rule of thumb is that if the natural light is bright enough to read, it’s bright enough to damage your skin.

Have you ever felt your skin take a nosedive in the face of stress? Or anger? Or anxiety? Or depression?

Beauty recipe: Super-easy DIY detox juice from the Mandarin Oriental

Gooooood morning, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you had an awesome weekend! And if it was as full of boozy cocktails and stacks of greasy burgers, help is at hand in the form of this detox juice, which is a great way to rid your body of toxins while replenishing it with nutrients it needs. It’s been concocted by Chef Toni Robertson for The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York and he recommends drinking a glass whenever you need a refreshing pick-me-up.

Added bonus: it tasted delicious and takes about 10 minutes to make and gulp down… which is a definite blessing on hungover mornings!

Detox juice: Ingredients

2 green apples
2 large cucumbers
1/3 stalk lemongrass
1/3 small piece (thin slice) fresh ginger
1 freshly squeezed lime

Detox juice: How-to

1. Using a juicer, press the apples, ginger and lemongrass. Include the skin and stalks because these contain the highest concentration of antioxidants.

2. Add cucumbers with skins and strain the juice through a very fine sieve.

3. Mix with the freshly squeezed lime juice in a cocktail shaker; shake the juice with crushed ice and serve cold.

How was your weekend? And what’s your go-to detox remedy?

What is chronic inflammation? And why is it giving me acne? Or wrinkles?

It’s skincare’s latest buzzword: Chronic inflammation. Everyone from dermatologists and endocrinologists to physical trainers and nutritionists are reaching out for this term to explain (and treat) skin problems like chronic acne, eczema, wrinkles, fine lines, dullness and sagging. And that’s not all: ‘chronic inflammation’ is also a key reason behind deep rooted diseases such as diabetes, auto-immune disorders, heart trouble and even Alzheimer’s.

But what is chronic inflammation? And is it really as bad as we are led to believe by a slew of specialists and celebrity lifestyle pros?

What is inflammation?

At the most basic level, inflammation is our body’s response to any foreign organism or injury. For instance, suppose you are stung by a wasp. This punctures the skin and also releases a flood of foreign chemicals inside our body. When this happens, our body calls upon certain types of blood cells and natural chemicals to isolate and destroy the invaders. Consequently, the area around the bite gets swollen. Once the attack has been negated and skin is healed, the swelling subsides.

This swelling and the process which brings it about is inflammation – of the good kind.

Sometimes, this process is not visible to the naked eye. Like when our body is dealing with an internal problem such as food poisoning or a cold. That’s when we have internal inflammation, which works to isolate and heal the organs inside our body.

Again, this is good inflammation. In fact, it’s necessary inflammation, without which our body would not be able to get rid of bacteria or virus and heal itself.

When does inflammation become ‘bad’?

Sometimes, our body makes a mistake and starts treating its own organs as if they are foreign invaders. This kind of inflammation exists even when there is no wound or infection that needs healing. It starts creating a swelling under the skin or around our vital organs – such as the heart or liver – putting extra pressure on them (think of it as an extra layer of fat or mucus that’s squeezing the organs), while simultaneously blocking optimal supply of nutrients.

This is known as internal chronic inflammation and unlike external inflammation, it is trickier to spot and treat. In fact, you may live with chronic inflammation for several years and not realise it at all.

inflammation2What happens when you have chronic inflammation?

A lot! Skin-wise, chronic inflammation invariably starts piling on the acne, sallowness, puffiness, lack of radiance, loss of smoothness, fine lines, dark circles, wrinkles and sagging. If left untreated, it manifests in more chronic skin problems such as dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.

And that’s not all: chronic inflammation is also a known factor in diabetes, heart disease, dementia, inflammatory bowel conditions, arthritis, cancer, stroke, asthma and a whole lot of other ailments.

Do I have chronic inflammation?

Internal inflammation is difficult to spot and tricky to treat. However, if you lead a busy lifestyle, live in a city or indulge in bouts of junk food, you’re at risk and prone to chronic inflammation. And as with anything, prevention is better than cure.

So, how do I tackle chronic inflammation?

Luckily, it is possible to keep inflammation in check with small lifestyle changes – whether for your looks or your health.

inflammation 3Slim down: When you are overweight, the body pumps out more of the chemicals that cause inflammation. Belly fat is particularly dangerous – it is estimated that up to 40% of the fat cells in our bellies are producing inflammatory chemicals. Lose the excess weight NOW!

Exercise regularly: Any physical exercise releases chemicals that decrease both pain and inflammation. So, get moving!

Eat better: When you eat refined sugars or starches, there is a rapid rise in blood sugar. This, in turn, causes insulin levels to rise. And when insulin levels are high, it kicks up an inflammatory response. If this happens often, the body enters a state of chronic inflammation. The solution? Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet. This would include lots of leafy greens, fruits and spices for the antioxidants; essential, monounsaturated fats, like those found in nuts and olive oil; and high alkaline content foods such as avocados, leafy greens, soya beans, radish and broccoli.

Get a health checkup: Untreated infections, like bronchitis or tooth decay, can create chronic inflammation.

Manage your stress: Stress increases cortisol levels, which regulate the body’s anti-inflammatory response. While stress is an inevitable part of urban living, we can still minimise its effects by getting adequate sleep, exercising, meditating and getting professional counselling.

Quit smoking: Smoking causes diseases such as bronchitis, which lead to long term inflammation. Another reason to quit!

Put on the SPF: When UV rays penetrate our skin cells, they sets off inflammatory reactions. In fact, sunburn itself is an inflammatory reaction. One of the best ways to prevent this kind of inflammation is to use sunscreen every day.

Are you suffering from signs of chronic inflammation? How do you deal with it?