Lawd. If 2020 has been nothing else, it's been a 2.0 accelerated course in how to properly manage our stress levels. Let the Church say, "Amen!" But when you think about how worry, anxiety and maybe even a little bit of fear have affected you, have you ever stopped to factor in how these types of emotions can cause all kinds of wear and tear on your skin? The reality is, when we're stressed the TF out, the cortisol levels in our system tend to elevate. This can result in breakouts (including cystic acne), excessive dryness, a trigger of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and a drop of collagen and elastin which can prevent our skin from looking young and maintaining that healthy glow that so many of us love.
All of this sucks and definitely doesn't make us, well, less stressed. That's why, I thought it'd be cool to offer up some all-natural tips that can help to keep your skin looking great on the outside, even if you are a little triggered on the inside. Let's hit it.
1. Make Your Own Exfoliant
Here's something that's a trip. Did you know that when the cortisol levels in our system rise, it can hinder our body from shedding as many dead skin cells as it normally does? That's because, when stress hormones are wreaking havoc in our body, it can cause everything to become more sluggish than it should. When it comes to our skin, specifically, that can result in our skin looking duller than we'd ever like.
The remedy? Making sure to exfoliate—not just your face and neck either; you need to take care of your entire body. One way to do this is to make your own exfoliant.
As far as your face and neck go, a little baking soda and manuka honey can revive them in some remarkable ways. The tiny granules in baking soda are great at removing dead skin cells while helping to balance your skin's pH levels (which I'll get more into in a sec). Manuka honey is a powerful type of honey that contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that will treat and heal your skin simultaneously. All you need to do is combine three tablespoons of baking soda with a teaspoon of manuka honey, a teaspoon of Vitamin E (it helps to repair damaged skin cells), one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder (to increase blood flow to your skin) and 2-3 tablespoons of almond milk (to soothe your skin). Let the mixture sit on your skin for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
As far as your body goes, a nice brown sugar scrub (one-part brown sugar and one-part olive oil; the sugar is a humectant and the olive oil is loaded with antioxidants) is always bomb. (Dry brushing is effective too!)
2. Use Some Avocado Oil
After sweet almond oil, probably my next favorite "skin oil" is avocado oil. It's got vitamins A, D and E in it. Avocado oil also contains antioxidants, fatty acids, beta-carotene and protein. If you apply this to your skin, either as a primer in the morning or as a way to pamper your skin before turning in at night, it will help to deeply moisturize you from head to toe, soothe symptoms that are related to eczema and psoriasis, speed up the healing process of pimples and protect your skin from damaging UV rays which will ultimately slow down your skin's aging process, if you're not careful.
3. Apply a “Chilled Out” DIY Eye Cream
What are some pretty telling signs that your eyes need a pampering break? If you're straining to read, they are itching or burning, you notice dark circles underneath them, you're increasingly more sensitive to light, they are extra dry or they are watering up—all of these point to eyes that first need a break from phone screens and monitors (and could probably use a couple of extra hours of sleep), but eyes that could stand to get a little bit of eye cream put on them too.
Not only can eye cream help to soothe the skin that's protecting your eyes, but it can lighten the circles, soften fine lines and ultimately cause your eyes to look brighter too. One of my favorite sites for at-home hacks is Wellness Mama. She's got a cool DIY eye cream recipe here. Take it up a notch by chilling your DIY cream in your refrigerator for an hour before applying it. The cool temperature will feel great and help to soften the appearance of the circles around your eyes too.
4. Rinse Your Skin with Lukewarm Water
If you've never stopped to think about what temperature is best for your skin (especially your face and neck), now is as good a time as any, right? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, lukewarm is best. For one thing, it makes whatever face wash you're using more effective at removing dirt and debris from your skin. Another perk is lukewarm is the temp that helps to keep the natural oils that your skin produces in balance.
5. Eat What Will Balance Your Skin’s pH
Did you know that your skin has a pH balance, just like the rest of your body does? While your body, overall, has a pH level of around 7, your skin tends to be slightly more acidic with a balance about 5.5. Making sure that your skin is at the right balance is what helps to decrease your chances of breakouts, dry skin and eczema and psoriasis flare-ups because when your pH balance is off, your skin is more vulnerable to germs and bacteria—and yes, elevated cortisol levels can affect this as well.
That's why it's important to eat foods that aren't going to trigger an allergic reaction or cause your hormones to go on a roller coaster ride. Reducing junk foods, dairy and sugar from your diet helps. So does consuming more foods that are featured in the article (from our site), "9 Foods That'll Actually Decrease Your Cortisol (Stress) Hormones".
6. Consume More Collagen Too
You might recall when I said in the intro that a peak in cortisol can slow down how collagen and elastin is produced in your skin. One way to combat that is to eat foods that are high in collagen. Some of those include fish, chicken, beef, bone broth, citrus fruits, berries, garlic, red bell peppers, dark leafy greens, eggs, chickpeas and spirulina.
7. Take Some Zinc
Personally, I'm a huge fan of the magnesium, calcium and zinc supplement combo because it's a wonderful nerve relaxant (especially if you take it about 1-2 hours before going to bed at night). But if you're noticing more zits than usual, upping your zinc, specifically, can help to make your pimples a thing of the past at a faster rate and with less scarring too. The reason why zinc is so effective is because, not only does it help to keep free radicals, viruses and bacteria from damaging your skin cells, it contains some pretty powerful anti-inflammatory properties too.
For the quickest results, an oral zinc supplement will hit your bloodstream the fastest. If you want to ensure that you won't experience any side effects, a topical treatment is cool too. Of course, there are also foods that are high in zinc that won't heal the pimples you've already got extremely fast but they are good for your overall health and well-being and can help to prevent future zits from creeping up. Some foods with lots of zinc in them include nuts, seeds, whole grains, potatoes, green beans, kale, red meat, yogurt, oats and dark chocolate.
8. Keep Some Tea Tree Oil and Lavender Oil on Tap
Two times when you can almost be sure that your skin will look less than its best is the week before your period and when you're stressed all the way out. And so, if you know that you know you've got a zit forming when and where you don't want it (or an acne scar that's creeping up because you've been taking your anxiety out on a pimple), dabbing some tea tree oil and/or lavender oil can be the perfect all-natural remedy for it.
I can personally vouch for the fact that tea tree oil contains some mad potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can take a pimple out, oftentimes overnight, if you apply it before turning in at night. Also, if your eczema seems like it's a bit worse due to how stressed you're feeling, tea tree oil has the reputation for being better at treating it than zinc oxide.
Mixing 2-3 drops of it into three tablespoons of grapeseed oil (which also has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce itchiness) is a quick fix. Lavender oil? It kills bacteria-causing acne and has antifungal properties that can reduce the inflammation that's associated with eczema and psoriasis flare-ups. Just make sure to mix this with a carrier oil too. Grapeseed or coconut oil (thanks to the Vitamin E and anti-inflammatory properties that it's got) are pretty ideal.
Something that the top layer of your skin does is protect the deeper layers from getting attacked by bacteria, dirt and debris. But when you're super stressed, the cortisol increase can work against your top layer from functioning at its peak. One way to make sure that it is getting all of the nutrients and oxygen that it needs from the inside out is to up your water intake. Plus, there are studies to support that the more hydrated you are, the better your system will be at keeping your cortisol levels in check.
You probably already know that you could stand to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day and that if you're thirsty, that's a telling sign that you're dehydrated. But if you know that you're stressed, add a couple of glasses of water to what you already naturally consume. You might be surprised by how feeling more refreshed can decrease your worry and anxiety levels—and how much your skin will thank you for it too.
Did you know that sleep deprivation can totally wreck your skin? It's proven that when you consistently get less than 6-8 hours of zzz's, that can slow down collagen growth, increase skin inflammation, reduce how quickly your skin's wounds heal and it can make your skin extremely dry. So yeah, no matter how stressed you might feel, try and not let it keep you from getting some much-needed rest. When you're sleeping, that's when your body is able to repair itself and your skin is certainly not exempt. Besides, the more sleep you get, the less stressed out you'll feel and the better off your skin will be in the long run. Hmph. Funny how that all works together—isn't it?
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Victoria Monét has had an incredible year. Thanks to the success of the widely popular “On My Mama” that went viral, the singer/ songwriter’s Jaguar II album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She also went on to headline her own sold-out tour. So, when the MTV VMAs happened in September, everyone was surprised to learn that Victoria’s team was told that it was “too early” for the “Smoke” artist to perform at the award show. However, a couple of months later, the mom of one received seven Grammy nominations, including “Best R&B Album” and “Record Of The Year.”
Victoria is currently in London and stopped by The Dotty Show on Apple Music and shared how she feels “validated” after being dismissed by the VMAs.
“It really does feel nice and validating because, in my head, the reason why I wanted to be a performer at the VMAs or award ceremonies like that is because I felt like I am at the place where I should. I would work really hard to put on the best show that I could, and I was excited to do so,” she said.
“And I guess the best way to describe it for me is like when you're like on a sports team, and the coach is like, ‘No, you gotta sit this one out.’ When they finally put you in, and then you score all these points, and it feels like that feeling. You're like, yes, I knew it wasn't tripping, but I knew I worked hard for this, and so it's been super validating to just have these accolades come after a moment like that, and I know the fans feel vindicated for me.
While her fans called the VMAs out on their decision, the “Moment” singer kept it cute and is still open to performing at the iconic award show. “I feel no ill towards them because it's just maybe that's just truly how they felt at the time, but I hope their mind has changed,” she admitted.
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