The Best “Products” for your Skin


Hi, my name is Cass and I used to be addicted to buying beauty products. New hair products, moisturizers, cleansers, BB creams – sign me up, I’ll try anything once (probably twice). When I threw out over 500+ things last February, my bathroom was a goldmine (read: graveyard) of half-used tubes, bottles and sprays.

I’m no expert on skin. I don’t have a background in science (I sat in on a 400-level biology class for a friend once, though) and I have not studied dermatology. I’m not claiming to be well-versed here, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out a skin routine that worked for me. Pictures of me in college show a rollercoaster of blotchy, hormonal, acne-prone skin at its lows and clear, healthy skin at its highs. And yet, I couldn’t pinpoint what was causing either the highs or lows, but I always assumed it was solely based on the products I was using.

The promises that products made me were too good to pass up – hydrated, clear, glowing skin? Sign me up! But here’s what they don’t tell you (and it took me way too long to figure out): sure, products can help to some extent, but the baseline of getting healthy skin starts with what you put inside your body, not on your body.

So with that, here’s a new type of list for the best “products” for your skin:

1. Water! Drink it!

Try drinking a glass of water when you wake up, before you even have a cup of coffee in the morning. There are a lot of benefits to drinking water and I know we all try to drink lots of the stuff, but sometimes it’s hard to do. We just forget. We get busy. It happens. But, I firmly believe the key to a lot of our potential can be unlocked by adjusting our daily routine.

Water is such an accessible and easy answer to so many of our health issues. Dehydration has been shown to increase acne, while being more hydrated actually supports collagen and the plumpness and structure of our skin. Water can also help balance oils on the surface of the skin. While you’ll still want to use a moisturizer on the outside, staying hydrated on the inside can be just as important.

Tips for drinking more water: Bring a huge bottle or cup to work and hold yourself and other co-workers accountable for filling it up with water a few times each day (the buddy system always helps!). Mix it up by bringing fruit or mint to add some flavor to your water so you are more enticed to drink it. Make it a conscious effort at first (e.g., I will drink 20 ounces of water with lunch today) until it becomes more second nature. I promise, your body and skin will thank you for it.

2. Veggies and fruits! Eat them!

Fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, beets, lemon, strawberries and spinach have all been shown to have a positive impact on skin for various reasons, from antioxidants to vitamins A and C. Dark green vegetables have a wealth of health benefits for the skin, as they contain beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps both repair and renew skin and gives it a youthful glow. If you’re like me, you’re probably trying to up your veggie intake as it is, so healthy skin is just another motivator to get more servings in per day. To be honest, eating a bowl of veggies or a fresh salad when my skin is getting a little out of control has done more for my complexion than any spot treatment ever has.

Tips for eating more veggies: Challenge yourself to eat some sort of vegetable with breakfast, whether that be in a smoothie or in a savory dish with eggs. Even if you are not vegetarian, finding some good basic vegetarian recipes that pack in fruits and vegetables is a good place to start (and you can always add in meat to the meal if you are so inclined).

3. Cut down on the dairy.

Numerous studies have shown that dairy is often linked with inflammatory responses, breakouts and aging skin. Studies also show that everybody reacts differently to various foods and that diets that work for certain people vary greatly from others, but chances are that dairy is not helping your skin game.

Tips for eating less dairy: Non-dairy alternatives are (thankfully) becoming ever-more popular, so opt for almond milk instead of the traditional stuff and non-dairy ice cream (it’s real!) instead of Ben and Jerry’s. I’m still working on a good alternative for cheese, though (to no one’s surprise, the vegan cheese I have tried is NOT good). If anyone has suggestions for cutting down on cheese without having a mental breakdown, please share in the comments!

4. Coconut oil can probably replace a lot of your current skin products.

Coconut oil is a great make-up remover, moisturizer, after-sun lotion, shaving cream, conditioner, lip balm, and anti-frizz serum. It has truly replaced a handful of products in my bathroom at a fraction of the cost.

Tips for using coconut oil: if you haven’t tried swapping in coconut oil into your beauty routine, just go buy some. It’s not that expensive. Try it out in a few different ways and see what works for you. You don’t have to use it if you don’t like it!

5. Watch what you are putting on your skin

Many of your skincare products can actually be causing you a hormone imbalance (and you thought that only happened once a month). Try to opt for more natural products that do not contain estrogen and parabens in them, along with a whole other list of things that I can’t pronounce.

Tips for buying more natural products: You can find out how “good” a product is for you by checking it on the Environmental Working Group’s rating scale (EWG also has a handy app for this). Now, it’s not very feasible (or in many people’s budgets) to switch over to a more natural and healthy product suite overnight, but this is something to be conscious of when you begin to run out of and replace products you already own.

6. Get some sleep

Beauty rest is real. A good night’s rest can lead to fewer wrinkles, a better complexion, and less puffy eyes. Sleep is your body’s “repair mode”, so the more you get of it the more time your body has to build and repair cells, making you look (and feel) happier and healthier.

Tips for getting better sleep: I thought you’d never ask.

Beauty Live

About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.