Updated 5/10/17. Of all the questions my clients ask me, “How can I get my skin to glow?” is a common one. So what is the secret to having that youthful, vibrant glow from the inside out? While using exfoliating products and barrier repairing moisturizers, as well as eating a diet rich in antioxidants and avoiding the sun will all help, there is one thing that most people overlook in their quest for glowing skin and that is focusing on their skin’s circulation. (Whenever I first work with a client, the first thing I do is the pinch test so I can understand how their blood flows.)
Let me go into detail of how circulation can have an impact (both good and bad) on the appearance of your skin.
First, what you need to know is that blood carries oxygen and nutrients to feed cells both in our skin and body. The arterial, venous, capillary and pulmonary systems are all avenues for which blood circulates. What occurs with age is the slow down of blood flow and oxygen that results in slower metabolic activity, making the repair processes not function as efficiently as it did in your younger years. Oxygen is what makes the blood turn red so with poorer circulation and less of this, the result is pale, lifeless skin that has a hard time glowing from within.
To further educate you about blood flow, here are some examples:
-Frostbite. The reason why frostbite occurs is because freezing temperatures cause blood vessels to contract (close up), which reduces blood flow and oxygen to that area. As a result, frostbite will turn the skin dark in color and is very slow to heal due to the reduction of circulation. Frostbite occurs in areas that are farther away from the body core like the fingers and toes, where naturally blood is flowing less.
-Suffocation. When a baby’s skin looks blue in color, it is because the lungs are not getting enough oxygen and the underlying blood is moving more sluggishly, so the normal veins underneath that carry blue, oxygen-poor blood back to the heart are more noticeable. (It’s a condition called “cyanosis.”)
-Smoking. This habit can affect the skin’s appearance dramatically since cigarettes impair the skin’s ability to get enough oxygen. The result is a grey or yellow look to the skin because capillaries are dying and closing off, which reduces blood supply and oxygen to the skin.
As you can see from these examples, blood flow (circulation) can definitely have an impact on how the skin appears.
What can you do to make sure your skin’s circulation is performing at its best?
Practice deep breathing. Not only does it help to lower blood pressure and decrease stress, practicing deep breathing will allow oxygenated blood to flood your system.
How to breathe deeply:
1. Breathe in slowly until your lungs fill up completely
2. Hold your breath for 10-15 seconds
3. Let ALL of the air out slowly, as this removes carbon dioxide and cellular wastes from the body
4. Practice this as often as you can during the day
Note: It’s always best to be outside or in a clean environment when doing this technique.
Get regular exercise. Similar to deep breathing (which also occurs during physical exertion), exercising is essential for reducing stress and can also promote healthy and vibrant skin. Blood flow increases through walking, running, yoga or cross training, which nourishes the skin cells to keep them vital. Bonus: Exercise can reduce breakouts! Cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, increases inflammation and can cause breakouts so when you are less stressed (which can be achieved through regular exercise), you may notice a decrease in blemishes.
Hang your head upside down for three minutes a day. You can do this by doing yoga (especially the downward dog position). You should notice that, after three minutes, a slight redness will appear on the skin and, in the long run, it can make a big difference in getting and keeping an inner glow. Read more about this here.
Give your skin a facial massage. Immediately after applying moisturizer at night, close your hand to make a fist and use your knuckles to massage the skin in small circular motions for two minutes. This helps to gently stimulate blood flow to the skin to bring new nutrients to the skin cells, as well as a vibrant glow. Getting a professional facial usually includes a face, neck and shoulder massage, which will also encourage proper blood flow.
Use stimulating skin care products. Ingredients like vitamin B12 and peppermint in skin care products work to give the skin a circulation pick-me-up. When applied topically, these ingredients dilate the blood vessels, allowing the skin to accommodate more nutrient-rich blood. With continued use, you can see the skin getting visibly brighter.
Simply put, blood circulation is what feeds the skin and its cells to keep them acting healthy, while giving your skin a glow from within. Practicing these tips regularly along with using high quality, high performance products exclusively for your skin type will ensure your skin stays bright and vibrant for years to come.
It’s important to mention that not all skin types are equal and for certain skin conditions like rosacea and psoriasis, where the skin is already has a red appearance and stimulates all too easy with heat and physical exercise, the focus for this type of skin would be to decrease circulation with soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients.
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”