When I first started out as professional model, I had a lot of people come up to me with compliments like, “You’re so lucky to have such great skin!”, and “Your eyes look so fresh!” And invariably, they always credited my ‘lucky genes’ for my appearance.
The trouble began a few years later when, in spite of all my ‘lucky genes’ and the exorbitant amounts I regularly forked over for anti-aging products, the dark circles, fine lines and eye-bags still cropped up.
I then understood that my problems had very little to do with what I was born with. Rather, they were more to do with the way I was treating my body. And over time, as I researched further, I uncovered the true causes of my puffy eyes, under-eye bags and wrinkles.
Clinically termed as Edema, water retention is a condition which occurs when the cells of your body hold on to more fluid than they ideally should.
Almost 80% of the human body is made up of water. Water is also a medium which your body uses to flush out toxins, helps normalize the circulation of blood and nutrients in your body and regulates your body’s internal temperature. Ideally, your body should retain only the exact amount of water it needs to perform these functions, and excrete the rest along with any unwanted toxins. However, when you don’t consume the right kinds of food, eat too much salt and refined and processed foods, and maintain an irregular lifestyle, your body tends to hold on to more water than it really needs, which in turn causes bloating.
And this bloating causes puffiness around your eyes, making you develop under-eye bags.
Stress is your body’s natural way of dealing with challenges – both physical and mental. When you are faced with a challenging event or situation, your body prepares itself by activating your nervous system and releasing certain hormones to increase your alertness and agility.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing – in fact, stress can actually be good for you, when you have to deal with emergencies as it keeps you on your toes and equips you to overcome any immediate dangers and threats.
Your body is able to quickly bounce back from this ‘good stress’ – your nervous system resumes its regular functioning and has enough time to recuperate to then, spring back to action as and when required.
On the other hand, ‘bad stress’ is what occurs when you have to cope with long-term stress-inducing situations like work-related tension, a divorce, or even moving to a new locality. This stress isn’t the same adrenaline rush as good stress – it constantly taxes your nervous system and makes your body produce extra stress hormones over a long period of time.
These hormonal changes cause water retention, disrupt your sleeping habits and hamper your body’s internal circulatory process, making it that much harder for the delicate skin around your eyes to receive the nutrients it needs. Further, when your body has to undergo long periods of physical and emotional stress, it secrets excessive amounts of a catabolic hormone called ‘cortisol’ which causes muscle-breakdown and promotes fat storage, especially in and around your facial muscles.
Stress can also trigger many unhealthy habits like bingeing on junk food, smoking and excessive drinking… all of which cause severe damage to your facial skin and muscles.
Beat the stress before it gets to you, with these pointers:
- Exercise: Exercise causes your brain to secrete ‘feel good’ hormones which counter stress and depression, while also getting your body in great shape.
- Get a hobby: The best way to deal with a stressful situation is to take your mind off it, if only for a while. Take up a hobby you’re interested in, like gardening, painting, playing a musical instrument or even going on weekend hikes.
- Laugh: Yes, it really is that simple. Watch a silly movie, go shopping with friends or read a funny book. You’ll be surprised at how much lighter and relaxed you feel!
Improper Sleeping Habits:
Your body works hardest while you are asleep, repairing the damage caused by daily stress and tensions, and normalizing any circulatory and hormonal imbalances. Sleeping for less than five hours every night robs your body of the time it needs in order to recuperate completely, which in turn, affects your blood circulation and hormonal balance.
The first area of your body to be hit by these imbalances is your under-eye area, which suffers the most damage over the course of the day, and hence, needs the maximum amount of time to recuperate.
And so, you begin to develop under-eye puffiness, dark circles and fine lines – or crow’s feet – around your eyes.
Does that mean that you should sleep for as long as you possibly can?
Surprisingly, the answer is no. Sleeping for more than 9 hours every night, interferes with your body’s internal hormonal balance. Your body works hardest to even out your hormonal imbalances, and repair any tissue damage during the first four hours of sleep.
When you go overboard with excessive amounts of sleep, your sleep is lighter and more disrupted. And so, your brain is unable to transition into the Delta state, and hence is unable to repair your body at a cellular level. Delta sleep is also responsible for dissolving the free radicals which cause ageing, like wrinkles and fine lines. Oversleeping can cause fluid to accumulate around your face, bringing about those unsightly under-eye bags.
So, how much sleep does your body really need?
Researchers suggest sleeping no less, and no more, than 7 to 8 hours on a regular basis. It is also recommended that you try to sleep at the same time, and for the same number of hours, every night. Try to avoid late nights, unless you absolutely need to, to keep those dark circles from appearing around your eyes.
Don’t be fooled by hollow phrases like, “I’ll sleep only when I’m dead”, as is the norm with many ambitious professionals. Also, don’t try to ‘make up’ for sleeping less on weekdays by oversleeping on weekends. Doing so actually causes your body a lot more harm than good, and can effectively eliminate any benefits your body gains from sleep.
If you have trouble sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, try these tips to make sure your body gets all the rest it needs from your sleeping hours:
Avoid caffeinated foods like chocolate, coffee, tea and soda for at least four hours before bedtime:
Caffeine stimulates your nervous system to keep your body ‘charged’ for up to 12 hours after you drink it. If your body is charged, it finds it difficult to unwind at will and slip into the ‘relaxation mode’.
Try to restrict your consumption of caffeinated beverages to a maximum of three cups a day. If you simply can’t keep going without multiple cups of steaming latte, cut back on your caffeine intake after lunchtime to sleep deeper and more restfully.
Skip the bottle before bedtime:
A nightcap may make you fall asleep faster, but the quality of sleep you get is far from the restful state your body really needs. what’s more, consuming alcohol just before you sleep can keep you awake after merely a few, ‘unrest-ful’ hours which in turn, encourages those dark circles and baggy eyes to take shape.
Make breakfast your heaviest meal, and dinner your lightest:
After every meal, your body’s digestive system goes through a long, elaborate process breaking the food down into simpler nutrients it can use. Trying to sleep when your body is so active results in lighter and more disrupted sleep, which in turn, deprives your body of rest. if possible, try to eat a light dinner at least four hours before bedtime.
Don’t exercise for at least four hours before bedtime:
Exercise is a natural stimulate which kick-starts your metabolism and has your body working a lot harder than usual in order to burn those pesky calories. Exercising right before you sleep makes it a lot harder for you to fall asleep on time, and also cuts down on the benefits you receive from your workouts.
Don’t sleep on a very soft, or very hard mattress:
Your mattress should be firm enough to support your body without being so hard as to give you cramps and aches. Avoid excessively soft and fluffy pillows in favor of firmer ones.
Your bedroom should be as dark, quiet and well-ventilated as possible to make sure that your sleep is restful and deep enough. Noise and light can trick your body into thinking that it’s time to wake up, even though you haven’t received an adequate amount of rest.
n addition to following these tips, here are a few more pointers on how you should sleep, to avoid those morning-after puffy eyes and eye-bags.
Sleeping on your back:
Sleeping on your stomach, or with your face turned to one side, can cause fluid to accumulate in your face bringing about that bloated appearance when you wake up. Try to sleep on your back, as far as possible to help blood, and hence nutrients, circulate more effectively to your face.
Cleanse your skin of all make-up and use a moisturizer before bedtime:
Going to sleep with your makeup on, clogs the pores of your skin, making it that much harder for your skin to breathe. If your skin doesn’t receive enough oxygen, it’s not going to be able to revive and recuperate from the stress it undergoes over the course of the day. Using a good quality moisturizer, which is easily absorbed by your skin, helps to keep your skin hydrated, without restricted respiration.
At what time should you sleep?
Your body’s internal biological clock is tuned to perform different functions at different hours of the day.
9 pm – 11 pm is when your body begins eliminating toxins from the lymph nodes. Hence, it’s best that you schedule your bedtime within this two-hour period. Before you sleep, unwind with some soothing music or a self-massage to help your body detoxify itself more effectively.
11 pm – 1 am: At this stage, your body begins the detoxification process in the liver. Ideally, you should have reached the Delta, or deep sleep, state.
1 am – 3 am is when your gallbladder begins eliminating toxins. This process should also be done in a deep sleep state.
3 am – 5 am: Now, your lungs begin the process of detoxification.
5 am – 7 am is when your bowel is detoxified, and is hence also the ideal time for you to begin your day by emptying your bowel.
7 am – 9 am is when your small intestine is at its most active. Hence, this is also the best time for you to have your first meal of the day (breakfast).
I often turned to cigarettes to keep me going through long, tiresome shoots and stressful fashion shows. It was only a matter of a few months before I developed the ‘Smoker’s Face’. I developed fine lines and wrinkles around my eyes and lips, my skin looked leathery, worn and rugged, and gradually began to take on a grayish tone.
Cigarette smoke releases as many as 4,000 toxins into your bloodstream, which are then transported to your facial skin. Smoking regularly also makes your skin thinner, and reduces the transportation of oxygenated blood to your facial skin, by narrowing your blood vessels. As a result, you are more prone to developing wrinkles and fine lines, and also lose the skin-elasticity a lot faster than you normally would.
What’s more, cigarette smoke contains nicotine – another powerful stimulant which can keep you awake at night. This again, retards your body’s natural healing mechanism, causing premature ageing, eye bags and wrinkles.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, there’s no better time to quit than right now.
Allergies and certain kinds of medication:
Allergies like hay fever, lactose intolerance or even reactions to certain medicine can cause puffiness around your eyes and dark circles. If you do take any medication, or experience any irritation and itchiness around your eyes, you may want to check for possible food, environmental and medication allergies and eliminate the allergens from your lifestyle.
One of the most common questions people ask me is, “If there was one thing you would recommend to prevent puffy eyes, eye-bags and dark circles, what would it be?” And my answer always is, “Focus on your nutrition.”
Unbelievable as it may seem, the food you eat has a very important role to play in how healthy and wrinkle-free your skin and facial muscles are. Most of us spend don’t hesitate when it comes to spending hours and valuable resources on caring for our skin; but when it comes to eating right, our efforts grind to a halt.
And the reason for this is ‘our addiction to modern-day packaged and processed foods.’ Eating too much of the wrong types of food which are so far removed from their natural state that it’s almost hard to recognize them, can severely inhibit the circulation of oxygen-bearing blood in the body. And once your facial muscles and skin are deprived of oxygen, they begin to age faster and shrivel up, causing those baggy under-eye sacks, wrinkles and dark circles.
Further, most of these foods contain little to no nutrients and alarming amounts of preservatives, pesticides and artificial chemicals. And then, there’s always the unhealthy grease, salt and refined sugar to leach away any ‘good nutrients’ they carry…
If your skin is starved of nutrients, it loses its elasticity and begins to sag. If your facial muscles are deprived of nutrients, they shrivel up.
And so, it’s important that you first learn the difference between the right kinds of food and the wrong kinds of food, and gradually eliminate any skin and body-damaging food sources. To help you understand this better, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to ‘skin nutrition’ which deals exclusively with the foods you should eat, and those you should avoid.
Another modern-day phenomenon which produces wrinkles and dark circles faster than you can even count them, is ‘crash diets’. Crash diets are eating programs which promise you miraculous weight-loss results, provided that you starve your body with ridiculously small amounts of food. Another breed of ‘crash diets’, which are also ‘fad diets’ make you eliminate an entire nutrient group altogether – this could either be carbohydrates, proteins or vitamins, depending on what the latest craze is.
The problem with these diets is that they don’t produce sustainable weight-loss results which you can flaunt for the rest of your life, but cause dangerous nutritional deficits in your body.
Your body can’t survive on only one type of food for too long, without falling prey to some deficiency-related disorder. And this is the most common reason why people who have experimented with crash or fad diets, or are currently following one, often complain of dark circles, puffy eyes and fine wrinkles in the eye area.
The skin around your eyes is the most sensitive to any imbalances in your body, and is the first area of your body to display the effects of these imbalances.
The good news is that if you pay attention to what you skin and facial muscles are telling you and correct your eating and lifestyle habits, you can avoid the many dangerous repercussions in your later years. The bad news is that if you ignore these warning signs for too long, your only alternative to get rid of the fine lines, wrinkles and under-eye bags is expensive cosmetic surgery.
Vitamin deficiencies can also cause pallor – or paleness – in your skin, which in turn makes your under-eye area look darker than it actually is.
The bottom line is this: There is no shortcut to losing weight and getting into shape, just as there isn’t a quick-easy workaround to flawless skin and great facial contours. We’ll talk more about skin nutrition and how you can easily tweak your eating habits to nourish and revitalize your skin, in the next chapter.
Skin creams and massages:
You heard me right – skin creams and massages which are actually meant to rejuvenate and revitalize your facial skin and muscles, can actually be bad for you. And before this sets any alarm bells ringing, let’s first understand what this statement actually means.
It’s no secret that today’s beauty industry is one of the most lucrative ways for unscrupulous manufacturers to get rich quick. But the problem arises when the products these manufacturers sell you don’t contain quality ingredients and are filled with artificial chemicals. And so, even as you continue to layer your face with innumerable layers of expensive beauty products, these creams and lotions interfere with your skin’s natural collagen-producing ability, which in turn makes your face age faster.
Even worse, did you know that the exorbitant amounts of money that you pony up for a ‘day of relaxation’ at the spa, are actually buying you ugly under-eye bags, puffiness and wrinkles? Surprising, but true.
The problem with most spas is that there is barely any uniformity in the level of expertise and training that the Technicians boast of. Therefore, although you may have experienced terrific results with Spa Technician A, Spa Technician B may not be as well-trained and experienced as her colleague. And so, you may get a lot more from your spa visit than you originally bargained for, in terms of wrinkles and eye bags caused by incorrect massage techniques.
Think about it. Would you be willing to risk your facial health and well-being, just because you couldn’t be absolutely sure about how skilled, or otherwise, the Spa Technician actually is? Is the risk worth taking, especially when it’s no longer just a question of your hard-earned money, but also your facial health?
My answer is “No.” I can’t be sure about the mysterious techniques these Technicians implement and I’m certainly not willing to go out on a limb to find out.
So, does this mean that all massages are bad for your skin?
Once again, the answer is no. The problem here isn’t with massages in themselves; it’s with the massage techniques you use. Your facial skin is delicate and is hence, most responsive to massage strokes. If implemented correctly, massages can enhance the circulation of oxygenated blood and nutrients to your facial skin, replenish lost elasticity and stimulate the production of collagen to reduce wear and tear.
When applied incorrectly, massages can cause your facial muscles to sag, and even encourage the appearance of wrinkles. Over the years, I’ve concluded that the only foolproof way to get yourself a good massage is to massage your face yourself.
And to do this, I’ve explored various massage techniques to uncover those which really do bring about positive results and trash others which are damaging to your facial skin and muscles. In the process, I’ve saved myself a lot of heartache, valuable time and tons of money which I would have otherwise spent at expensive spas and clinics.
Through this program, I’ve put together some of the most effective self-massage strategies which you can implement in the comfort of your very own home.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, almost all these factors are dependant on your lifestyle choices and eating habits. Hence, contrary to what you’ve been hearing all along, you don’t really need expensive surgery and medical ‘enhancements’ to set them right.
In the words of a famous philosopher, “The answers to many of life’s greatest challenges lies within”, and this is exactly what this program aims to do. Through this program, you’ll learn just what it takes to get started with your very own face and skincare routine, and how to look like a million bucks without literally spending that amount over your efforts at looking attractive!