I was recently at a dinner party (the annual Thank God We’re Not 30 Yet dinner) with some really fabulous 20 somethings from all around the world when the unthinkable happened.
Unthinkable but totally braggable (not that that’s what I’m doing here).
I got carded. Drops mic.
For those of you still young enough to hate getting carded, here’s the deal, to those of us who’s way past the legal-drinking-age-line, or perhaps it’s just me, getting carded is just as much of a validation as fitting into that pair of skinny jeans you’ve had in the back of your closet since 1999 is. (So, excuse me while I pop open the bubbly. Snap snap.) While I’m definitely not the youngest one of the 18 fabulously under 30s, as I’m closer to the big 3-0 than I am to the line, I was still super flattered that our waiter thought so.* After a respectable amount of gloating and hair flips (throughout dinner obviously), I finally settled down enough to think about the real reason behind my seemingly ageless appearance.
In general, Asians are often mistaken to be younger (in fact, if I decide to walk around a high school in pig tails, I’d probably get scolded for skipping class. True story), we have our genetics and potentially small frames (for some) to thank for that. Mostly. However, we’re still susceptible to all the common enemies, namely smoking, drinking, pollution and the sun, that plague most of the earth’s inhabitants. So how do we stay youthful-looking? Well, with diet and our general obsession with ageless-ness. Sounds infuriatingly vague, right? Don’t worry, here are 4 things you can do to get that Asian glow at your next party.
- Less fried. ‘Nuff said.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fries (fried chicken is my fav post-drinking-binge-snack) and would sooner eat a plate of fries than a single serving of kale. However, after a 14 week hiatus from my regular routine (which consists of a 5 day oil-less diet and a 2 cheat meal every week) and A LOT of fish and chips, I noticed my skin started to dull and breakout like crazy. My tired, aged, and pimply face was on display for the whole world to see (or I guess just the 3 people in my office) since I’m not used to wearing heavy makeup. My skin didn’t exhibit the post-vacay-glow I was hoping for, instead it was more on post-vacay-strike than anything else. I blame the fish and chips. While there isn’t a conclusive research connecting greasy food to acne, it doesn’t take a scientist to link my 2-week junk-food binge to my nightmare inducing skin.
While the grease in the junk food was part of the contributing factor, the batter used to coat those yummy frieds soak up every drop of oil causing a dramatic increase in your body’s saturated fat intake, it is not the reason why our choice of sides is causing us to age beyond our years. The truth of the matter is, it’s the overly processed factor that really puts these fried foods in the definitely try not to eat more than once a month category (ideally it’d be NEVER but hey, let’s be real here). These yummy frieds are generally overly processed and modified to the point that makes it difficult for the human body to digest. So what if it makes your bowel movement a bit sluggish? Difficulties in digestion leads to bad circulation and by extension toxic build up (since without proper circulation to carry the gunk in your bloodstreams to the proper portal to be disposed of) which hinders your skin’s ability (not to mention your body’s ability) to properly absorb the necessary nutrients. Adequate nutrition can’t be provided to your skin which results in the dull complexions and the overall, tired/aged look.
Having lived in the states for most of my adulthood, I know that even Chinese food (yes, the same one we all order after a night of heavy drinking) is greasy and processed beyond belief. So short of eating everything raw (sushi and salad anyone?), here’s a quick and less fishy fix: the next time when you’re craving a bit of Chinese, go for Broccoli Beef instead of General Tsao’s Chicken and definitely forego the fried wonton/dumpling/anything. Why? Broccoli Beef, while greasy, isn’t battered and deep-fried like the chicken from the famous general. As I am an advocate for controlled deprivation, or in two words, cheat days, having less grease doesn’t mean saying good bye to your beloved fish and chips (or in my case, sweet potato fries) forever, it only means we eat less of it. Instead of having fried foods 5 times a week, cut it down to 2 and then gradually 1 (then perhaps once a month) but for days when you’re really craving that fuzzy feeling one only gets when munching on a handful of deep fried curly fries, try this baked Avocado Fries. They’re creamy, crunchy and guilt-freely delicious, especially when you add a little bit of Parmesan (aka magic, fairy dust) into the mix.
Mean while, though we can safely recognize fried foods as our common enemy, fat/oil isn’t. In fact, in order to have naturally radiant skin, we need some good fats/fatty acids on our side. More specifically, we need fatty acids, also used as a fuel source for cells, to help counteract the damage done by free radicals in the environment. Among the Essential Fatty Acids (aka EFA, includes Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9), the Linoleic acid (Omega 6) is the most important. Found in the epidermis, this acid plays an integral role in the skin’s ability to fight against oxidative radicals as well as strengthening the intercellular matrix of the skin, which leads to better looking skin. In other words, it helps cells retain moisture, fights inflammation (translation: less pimples) as well as help antioxidants penetrate your skin (so that you can absorb them). While these fatty acids are essential to our health (not just skin but heart, and brain function as well), they’re sadly not produced by our bodies. Therefore, we need to actively consume it via fatty fish like salmon (for Omega 3 EFAs) and safflower oil or nuts and egg yolks (for Omega 6 EFAs) in order to maintain the optimal level required for beautiful, healthy skin.**
- Avoid the Sun.
As you know, (probably, if not you really should catch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy) the UV rays from the sun
not only empowers Superman, but also causes skin abnormalities like skin cancer. However, did you know that your sunscreen could be just as important as your anti-aging night cream? When your skin absorbs too much UV radiation, the energy packed in these rays damage the cells, requiring the body to over-compensate by sending extra blood to the injured site in attempts to heal the, for all intends and purposes, wound. We’re all familiar with this phenomenon, also known as a sunburn. The second response the body has towards UV damage, is to produce more melanin, causing the skin to tan. In other words, just because it doesn’t hurt and isn’t red, doesn’t mean it’s not damaged. Furthermore, UV ray exposure breaks down the elastin, the reason why your skin is so firm and in place, in the skin. The break down of elastin causes the skin to lose its ability to stretch and to maintain its original structure. In other words, the more time you spend roasting under the sun, the thinner, more fragile and saggy your skin becomes. On top of that, like a scar that’s repeatedly sliced open, the repetitive damage to your skin cells via UV rays (which btw begrudgingly adds up instead of simply going away after a cell cycle), can cause permanent damage.
So how do we ever venture out into the world with the monsters literally stalking us in daylight? Luckily, Asian women have a solution for that. Though sunscreens (I personally prefer Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 100+) can effectively ward off some of the UV rays touching your skin, its need for reapplication every few hours can become inconvenient, and let’s face it, who can remember to do that when you’re busy frolicking around? Enter UVP (P for protected) clothing and umbrella. Yes, it’s the reason why it’s so easy to spot a fresh-off-the-boat Asian in America. Masterfully covered up with layers upon layers of UVP clothing and the Asian staple, the UVP umbrella, these UV combating ninjas are mostly trying to keep the tanning effects of sun exposure at bay. However, such anti-tanning gears proved to exhibit more benefits than simply keeping the skin pale, by limiting the UV on skin time, the photodamage is significantly reduced therefore keeping the skin youthful looking.
- Not all products are created equal.
One of the hottest beauty trends of 2015 was the 10-step Korean skin care routine, which includes 3 steps of cleansing, and 7 different steps of nourishing your skin. The extensive scrubbing, buffing and massaging sounds mighty impressive but terribly time-consuming, and let’s just face it, impractical. Unless you’re one of the real housewives, the 10-step routine seems like too much work. I mean, it’s a miracle that we even remember to remove our makeup at the end of a grueling day let alone stand in the cold bathroom for 30 minutes trying to slather 50 different products onto our skin. My half-an-hour routine constantly makes me wonder if we really need so many products, or is it all a ploy? It also makes me lament the days of having everything in one simple jar. Well, yes and no. The truth, however inconveniently, is this: different parts of our skin aren’t created equal. In other words, the skin around your eyes requires a whole different type of #TLC than the skin on your cheeks. While some nutrients needs to be (and can be) massaged into the skin around your jawline, being so heavy handed with the massage may not be such a good idea for the delicate skin around your eyes. Furthermore, does the skin around your nose need the same dark circle treating nutrients?
So how do we get the horsepower of multi-bottle skin care routine without having to spend so much time in the bathroom when that time could be better allocated to sexing sleeping? Enter the latest beauty craze: multi-masking. Multi-masking is basically using different masks for each targeted region at the same time. In other words, you may have a moisturizing mask on your forehead, but your eyes are getting a tightening and brightening mask, while your nose is getting a detoxifying mask to clear out those stubborn blackheads. While sheet masks are still a new trend in the wester world, it’s already a societal norm in #Taiwan (fun fact: the biggest sheet mask company in the world is in Taiwan and sells on average 5 masks every second). It is possibly one of the reasons why Taiwanese girls have such beautiful skin, their general obsession with sheet-masking. While a regular sheet mask covers your entire face, I generally cut up various different sections for the customized multi-masking necessary.***
- Go for a professional facial.
When was the last time you spent some time getting a #facial? We often consider facials as a last resort to a skin problem that we can’t resolve on our own or a luxury that can only be experienced before a major event. However, in Asian countries (or is it just Taiwan?) women are making the professional facials a part of their regular skin care routine. No, I’m not saying regular old working gals like me are hitting the facial salons every other day, but they are booking appointments at least once or twice a month. In fact, a large group of the women booking these appointments are under the age of 30. Getting a facial from a facialist/skin specialist can benefit you in a number of ways. One, confront the skin issue preemptively before it pops up at your next company event, nourishes your skin instead of forcing it into defense mode. Two, a little me time is good for the soul. As part of the #WomenWhoWork club, my #stress level is at a constant 6 (if not higher) having a little bit of time to pamper myself helps with that.
There are plenty of ways to achieve the Asian Ageless Look, which is your favorite? Have you tried a #facialist that you’re considering penciling a monthly appointment for? How do you achieve your #asianglow? Leave me a message and let’s talk!
* When I was 16, I took my 10 year-old brother to school and was greeted by his English teacher who commented on how nice it was for him that his mommy took him to school. facepalm.
** While you can opt for the jarred vitamins over foods rich in EFAs, the latter is still the preferred option to avoid throwing off the delicate balance of nutrition in our bodies (sometimes too much of a good thing, or in this case too concentrated of a good thing, can do more harm than good).
*** There are many benefits to sheet masks, however, don't fall asleep in them, as they will suck out all the moisture in your skin when it gets back to its original sheet state.