By Greg Melville
There are easier, more effective, ways to look like a million bucks than by plunking down that much on some surgical solution -- the way some Hollywood pretty-boy wannabe would. And just your luck: all involve treating your body better. It’s true, a healthier lifestyle can actually boost your physical appearance -- targeting everything from your complexion, to those bags under your eyes, to the sheen of your hair.
Follow these 10 simple health and nutrition tips to make the face staring at you in the mirror hotter than ever.
1. Care about skin care.
Too often, this advice is sloughed off like dead epidermal cells. But listen anyway: Use moisturizers to keep your skin from drying out -- and more importantly, apply sunscreen to curb premature aging and undue damage from ultraviolet rays bound to resurface in the form of leather-textured moles or other such unpleasantnesses.
“If men would simply do this, it would make the biggest difference in their appearance,” says Dr. Leslie Baumann, a dermatologist and author of the best-seller The Skin Type Solution. Make it a habit, like shaving or brushing your teeth, she suggests.
2. Butt out.
As in, stop smoking. “Cigarettes cause worse wrinkling than the sun,” stresses Dr. Brooke Seckel, a plastic surgeon and author of Save Your Face -- The Revolutionary 6-Step Nonsurgical Facial Rejuvenation Program. Smoking robs the skin of collagen and elastin -- which give the skin texture, strength and elasticity -- and in turn speeds up the aging process. Cigarette use can also give the skin a grayish tone. Hot!
3. Eat right.
A healthy diet equals a more glowing complexion, shinier hair and a fitter you.
“The key is to stay well balanced,” says Jim White, a fitness and nutrition expert, and a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. “Oatmeal is a great power food. It’s loaded with fiber and can help manage hunger and lower cholesterol. Cottage cheese, meanwhile, is low in sugar and high in protein and calcium.”
Overall, stick closely to a Mediterranean-type diet, with few high-fat meats and larger amounts of grains, fish and olive oil.
Get the recommended eight hours a night, at least. “Sleeping restores all organs of the body, including the skin, which is the body’s largest organ,” notes Seckel. “It also reduces tension and anxiety, lessening crow’s feet, frown lines and worry lines.”
Lack of sleep also causes those dreaded circles under your eyes. (See our Facebook photos.)
“Skin needs water to function properly, especially to fight damage caused by the sun,” says Baumann. Drinking the recommended eight glasses a day additionally flushes toxins from the body and brings nutrients to the deep layer of the skin (the dermis).
Trimming down will not only improve your appearance but also reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
“Don’t go on some radical diet. Instead think about portion control,” says White. “Shave your calorie intake by 500 a day by cutting back on some vices like fried foods, and you’ll lose a sensible pound or two a week.”
7. Be pro-antioxidant.
Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E found in fruits and vegetables are essential. They promote skin repair and elasticity and also reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer, says White.
8. Do cardio.
A cardio workout regimen lowers stress, makes you happier and gives your skin a glow. “Do any kind of aerobic exercise that will raise your heart rate above baseline for half an hour a day, says Dr. Douglas Peterson, a sports medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic. “It could be going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the elliptical -- something that works up a sweat a little. Don’t do too much too fast or you’ll get injured and quit. Exercise should be fun, and you should feel good doing it.”
9. Watch the booze.
“Alcohol causes swelling of the tissues, especially puffy eyes, and often leads to bad eating habits -- causing weight gain -- and smoking,” warns Seckel.
10. Stand tall.
Good posture really is a good thing. Core strength training will get rid of that unseemly slouch. (Plus, a new set of six pack abs is definitely an appearance improvement.) Dr. Peterson recommends light resistance training two to three times a week to strengthen core muscles. A certified personal trainer can work with you on a regimen that you can follow at home.
Greg Melville has been covering health and fitness for newspapers and national magazines for 15 years.
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