So often in beauty we talk about strengthening the skin, which isn’t necessarily the clearest concept. You know you can build your muscles through lifting and working out, sure, but skin strength is something else entirely. What we mean when we talk about strong skin is essentially resilience and durability: the ability for the organ to withstand pressure from external aggressors. It’s skin that’s able to recover, stay hydrated, and bounce back easily when stressed. Sounds pretty great, no?
But strength training your skin looks nothing like it does for your body (I’m sure you could have guessed that). Here, our quick guide to making your skin more robust:
1. Provide your skin with proper nutrients to build it up.
Creating a strong dermis requires providing the skin with the proper tools—namely structural proteins and antioxidants. Let’s start with the primary structural protein: Collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin, and we make it naturally throughout our lifetime. However—like many things in the body—the natural source declines with age. The good news is there are many ways to encourage it’s production (check out a few here), but one of the most effective ways seem to be collagen supplementation.* The research shows that these collagen peptides are able to support skin elasticity and dermal collagen density as the peptides support your skin cells’ fibroblasts, or the things in the cell that produce collagen and elastin itself.*
But you also need to fuel your skin with antioxidants, as these help protect your precious proteins from free radical oxidation.* There are many antioxidants you can take for skin health—all with their own unique properties and benefits—so our suggestion is to get a wide variety of them. There are the more famous ones, like vitamins C and E, which additionally support the collagen synthesis process.* Or look for lesser known ones like sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS, or commonly referred to simply as sulforaphane), which actually activates the body’s natural detoxification and antioxidant enzymes.* And definitely look for other botanical bioactives with photoprotective qualities like astaxanthin and pomegranate whole fruit extract.*
2. Protect it with topicals.
So you’re fueling your skin internally—great first step—but you’ll also want to protect your strengthened skin with the right topicals. By this we mean increased barrier support and environmental protections, like antioxidants and SPF.
In short: The skin barrier is what makes skin strong. “It protects us from mechanical injury, low humidity, cold, heat, sun, wind, chemical exposure, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens,” explains board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., stating that, “a healthy barrier is critical to normal skin function.” So you must make sure that you’re aiding it with the right products, like natural emollients, lipids, and botanicals that soothe inflammatory processes. A few good topical ingredients to look for are squalane, shea butter, aloe vera, as well as biome-supporting ingredients like pre-, pro-, and post-biotics.
As for environmental protectants, you should, of course, always protect it from sun damage from mineral sunscreens, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Then load up on antioxidants here, too, to bolster the free-radical-fighting properties of the skin: Look for serums with vitamins C, E and coenzyme Coq 10.
3. Give your skin days off.
Modern skin care regimens seem to relish in exfoliation and layering on product after product—and while encouraging cell turnover is good and has lasting skin benefits like increased collagen production and unclogged pores—too much will weaken your skin. Think of it like your muscles: You can’t properly strengthen them if you don’t give your body rest days.
And as derms often remind us, when it comes to exfoliation, we need a lot of rest days. “The most important tip is that ‘less is more.’ You want to exfoliate just enough to increase cell turnover and reveal fresh new skin,” says Ife Rodney, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology. “But be sure to not scratch or damage your skin by overusing these devices or products.”
Only you can judge how much your skin needs, but the recommendation is usually one to three times a week.
You can strengthen your skin, making it more resilient and able to bounce back from external stressors. But much like strengthening your body, the process requires a holistic approach.