my wedding skin care

I get giddy thinking about our wedding. I can’t help it. One year ago, I married my best friend. The guy who asked me to be his swing dance partner freshman year of college and the guy who’s been my partner for twelve adventure-filled, roller coaster years. I thought that to commemorate our anniversary, I’d let you in on some of my wedding skin care secrets.

I get it. There’s a lot of pressure to look your best on the big day, especially since you’re going to have those photos for-ev-errrr. I was never one of those people who imagined every single detail of my wedding or even what gown I would wear. But my skin, I wanted it to be as radiant as it could be.

Everyone has a different approach to what works best for their lifestyle and skin type, but I think there are a few useful takeaways for everyone here.

1. Drink lots of water

This may be an obvious one, but it’s easy for this habit to ebb and flow. Your natural skin plumper, hyaluronic acid, works by holding water up to 1000x its weight but it can only work if you give it water to hold onto. So drink up—lemon water, tea, or even hydrating fruits, vegetables, soups and stews count too.

Here's a hydrating smoothie recipe for you.

2. Eat more fats, but healthy fats

I’ve heard stories from my wedding photographer friend of brides losing too much weight before their wedding. Not only does their dress not fit properly, but they lack luster in their skin and hair, something Photoshop can’t add back in. I increased my intake of plant-based fats like avocadoes, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and others, like sustainable canned tuna and wild-caught salmon. Fish oil supplements are another option as well. Omega-3’s are particularly important for fighting inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and reducing wrinkles as they support the skin’s structure. Omega-3’s also help boost the skin’s natural barrier, locking in moisture.

Here’s a salmon bowl that will rock your world.

3. Exercise Smarter

For me, that meant reducing cardio. Ever since I was in junior high I’ve been a cardio lover, and I believe in it as both a heart strengthener and stress reducer. I think it stems from growing up an athlete, always training for some sport. Over the years, however, I’ve noticed how too much cardio wrecks havoc on my overall glow; from my experience, I believe there’s a balance between the less stressed we mentally feel from exercising and the more stressed our bodies feel while exercising too intensely and too frequently. While our head may be clearer and we’re riding high from endorphins post-exercise, too much vigorous exercise without proper rest can lead to greater inflammation. Cortisol, the hormone that’s released when under stress, especially chronic stress, can damage our collagen and elastin levels leading to reduced skin tone and more wrinkles. It can also limit the skin’s barrier function thus increasing the risk for acne. And since I’m acne-prone, I was all about minimizing inflammation.  

I rethought my exercise routine, limiting intense cardio and incorporating in more stress-reducing modalities. I took longer walks and shorter jogs. I limited cardio machines workouts and started foam-rolling. The other thing I did? I did more gentle yoga and total body conditioning. I strongly believe it was the more mindful movement and mindful breathing that reduced my cortisol levels and boosted my circulation, enhancing my glow while still supporting my heart health.

4. Catch some ZZZ's

This one is another obvious one, but we all know that we look way better when we recharge for the proper 6-8 hours. Makeup becomes voluntary rather than essential. It’s funny how two weeks before the wedding I was insistent upon getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, and then, two nights before I was SO excited, I couldn’t sleep at all. Oh well. In hindsight, I would’ve lit 100 lavender candles around my bedroom, turned on some nature tunes, and taken slow, deep breaths to try to calm myself down. Instead, I just dreamt about our first look.

5. Stay out of the sun

Or use lots of protection. We all know the sun causes premature aging and hyperpigmentation, but did you know that sun damage causes up to 90% of wrinkles versus the 10% caused my natural aging? Yes, it’s a vitamin D god, but its power must be respected. Plus, tan lines. No one wants those. I walked around in an oversized hat, long sleeves, and popped collar lest I get tan lines. I’d been scarred from the farmer tan I went to great lengths to camouflage at our highschool prom. Some swear by spray tans and self-tanners, but I’m not well-versed in either of those treatments nowadays. All I know is that I once tried a spray tan when it first came out and I swear the fumes are still sitting in my lungs.

6. Visit your dermatologist or esthetician. Stat.

I recommend making an appointment at least 6-12 months before your wedding and letting them know your goals. They’ll discuss the best treatment options for your skin, your budget, and your timeline. They’ll also assess your skin care routine to let you know what may or may not be working for you. Often, in-office treatments or therapies work optimally over a series of treatments and the 6-12 month buffer allows for enough time between treatments and some downtime before the wedding. This timeline also allows for you to tinker with new skin regimens as needed. Whatever you do, don’t go into the derm or esthi’s office one week before the wedding looking for a transformation. Our skin is too delicate to endure last-minute Hail Mary’s.

Some brides may incorporate a series of 2-3 facials to boost radiance. Facials can exfoliate dull surface skin cells and those with a massage component can stimulate circulation for a glowy effect. Plus, the little nap you may catch during the treatment works wonders. A series of microdermabrasion treatments offers a more intense exfoliation to brighten skin and reduce fine lines and can even be incorporated into a more soothing facial. Those with more severe acne, scarring, or hyperpigmentation may benefit from peels or even lasers. But again, talk to your skincare provider for the best treatment for you.

For me, I chose Clear + Brilliant. 3 rounds over the course of 4 months. I was still dealing with some residual skin problems lingering from grad school, and I was looking to smooth the texture of my skin so that my natural makeup look could have a nice even canvas. Clear + Brilliant is a non-ablative laser treatment, meaning it targets the underlying dermis but doesn’t destroy the surface epidermis, with no downtime. The laser creates teeny-tiny injuries in the skin which then heal themselves, revealing new, healthy skin and boosting collagen. To be honest, it was a bit painful despite the numbing cream and I was red, swollen, and rough from the micro-scabs for at least 2-3 days after each treatment. That isn’t to say other people noticed—to them, I probably looked like I’d come in from a brisk walk in the wind. Overall, I was happy with the results as it improved the texture of my skin and tamed my acne bumps.

7. Stop Picking

I know it’s hard. Really hard. But stop squeezing those blackheads, popping those pimples, and picking those scabs. Red, irritated, and scarred skin is so not beautiful. And if you do invest in an in-office treatment, picking only undoes its effects.

8. Find time to laugh

I don’t care how flawless your skin is already, how many fish oil pills you swallowed, or the number of facials you got if you don’t enjoy the day! Set aside all of the stress of wedding planning and get your big ol’ cheesy grin on. That’s the most genuine and beautiful glow of all.

Photos by: GraceD Photography | @gracedphotos
Makeup by: Lauren McGrath | @lo_mcgrath. Read more about her inspiring life and her beauty philosophy here!