You cannot do anything about your age but you can prevent anymore damage to your skin today itself. In Asian skincare, prevention is cure. Once you understand skin science, you can use skincare routine and exercise to take care of your outer two visible layers (stratum corneum and epidermis) and the invisible muscle layer. All other layers have to be addressed with correct nutrition. First let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of skincare in general.
Sunbathe. Sun damage to skin is now well-known both in the East and West. The only safe tan is the fake tan. In Western beauty, the sunkissed, bronzed skin is seen as attractive, to the point where everyone up north (eg Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle etc) is “tanned”. In Asian beauty, tanned skin is seen as unattractive due to being associated with hard manual labour as carried out by peasants in the sun, all day long. The traditionally refined Chinese classes have unblemished, clear, fair and almost white skin. I am not in the refined classes. I was born with a light golden complexion and I tan easily, probably due to the fact that I am from generations of peasant stock with a harder than hard life. I grew up where there was too much sun, but now the sun does not bother me primarily because I live somewhere where there is hardly any sun (Northern Europe, temperate climate). Back home in Malaysia, outdoor activities like swimming involved being in the sun and I probably did my skin damage in an earlier life. If you want great skin, you need to avoid the sun. Change your perception of beauty and accept the skin colour that you are born with.
Smoke.Tobacco causes blood vessels to constrict, including those supplying the outermost skin layers. Your skin is being deprived of oxygen and nutrients including Vitamin C and A which is protect your immune system, and it breaks down collagen and elastin which maintains your skin’s tightness. And we all want to be tight. That is the sure sign of being young. Look at the tightness of children’s skin. Smoking causes wrinkles and premature ageing.
Drink. Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it opens the blood vessels – which leads to a flushed appearance and a puffy complexion. The sugar in cocktails also lead to dull skin and bloodshot eyes. We’ve all experienced those mornings. Drinking also causes dehydration. Drinking water will help to flush out the effects of alcohol consumption.
Diet. (probably the best news of all that you will receive today, and always). Dieting is very bad for your health and your skin because it creates unnecessary pressure and strain on your mind and body as if life is not stressful enough. What I mean by dieting is sudden, extreme, fad or crash dieting that you just dreamt up and want to start instantly because you suddenly read it somewhere or some celeb said to do it. Bollocks to that. 2,000 years of civilisation (in my case 5,000 years) gave us the food we eat today. It is one of the finest pleasures while we’re alive and to deprive yourself is not exactly great for your frown lines and smile quotient. Food is neither a friend nor an enemy. It’s sustenance. Treat it with respect. Just look at what you put in your shopping trolley (grocery cart). The Western diet is one of the worst perpetrators of skin and body damage, mostly due to the sheer quantity of processed food available readily and cheaply. To look awesome, you need to be feel naturally confident and positive. Eating well helps tick those two boxes straightaway.
I am working on the third D because if I could completely stop alcohol consumption my skin and my health would be the best that it could be. But as I said before, nobody’s perfect since day one. Once you have made an agreement to cut out some or all on the list of prohibited items, you will already see an improvement.
Sleep.They don’t call it beauty nap for nothing.
Skincare. I do my own 13-step Malaysian Chinese one due to the fact that I grew up somewhere terribly hot, humid and air-conditioned to the max.
Use sunscreen.Use a SPF30 or more every day even if you live where there is generally no sun like I do in London. Back home in Malaysia I use a sweatproof waterproof SPF50 by Japanese brand Biore. It is quite comfortable and has none of that sticky-icky usual sunscreen feel.
Workout. Not much has been written about Asian fitness except by the celeb trainers. I have written my own program because I need it suit me. Exercise will make you feel and look fantastic. It will give you pain at first and then pleasure, perfect for the masochist like myself. You cannot escape exercise. It will be the life-changing thing you do for your mind, body, skin and self and the best thing is, it’s free.Yet the benefits are immense, immeasurable. There are no bad things. You will have great skin. You will have a small waist. You will be happy. Need I convince you further?
Eat.To understand what to eat and how to appreciate it, you need to examine your own cultural upbringing, background and history. What did you grow up eating? I am second generation Chinese and in Malaysia I grew up on a hearty, rich peasant diet because of my paternal Hakka grandmother. The Hakkas being the only nomadic tribe in China, they are often referred to as the Jews of China as they do not belong to any state or province. In fact, the word Hakka or 客家(Ke Jia) in Mandarin, means the guests, or the guest people. My mother is 福建 (Hokkien) or from the Fu Jian province, also very poor. My parents were both born in Malaysia. My grandparents on both sides emigrated from China in the 1930s due to the Great Famine. Immediately you will see why they had to flee due to starvation and my paternal grandparents even had to abandon a baby back in China due to poverty, having to work a very hard life in their new country and inability to care for the baby (my uncle).
My nutrition had no processed food as everything had to be made from scratch. It included minced pork or prawn/shrimp (minced because it made it look more and you could feed an entire family on a handful of meat or prawn/shrimp), eggs, handmade noodles, tofu in all its guises, seafood. There was very little red meat except on special occasions. Because I was raised in Malaysia, I did not just eat Chinese food. Life was also a great variety of curries with a coconut milk base, and all kinds of deep fried food and snacks. Most Malaysians had a sweet tooth and are experts at sugary treats.
My childhood diet was a bit rich but fatty food was a sign of frugality because it was very cheap and lasted you longer inside for your hard life and long days. It is the food of poverty. There was a lot of both fresh and preserved vegetables and strange ones too that you cannot even buy now in Chinatowns of the west because they were market vegetables local to where I grew up. Preserved vegetables are also very Hakka in tradition because of the nomadic nature of their existence, where there were long periods and fresh anything was not available.
The point of this brief description into the food on which we are raised is twofold:
1) to go back to first principles. It is to show you that there is no good or bad in any of this. All cultures have evolved and given you the food on your table today. Even if you now think it’s rubbish, it is mentally comforting because it has made you what and who you are today. Food is your identity, and yes, your skin. By denying it, you are denying yourself your own self-worth.
2) to show you we cannot be purists. You cannot remove your culture and identity and embrace some random celeb trainer’s diet. For that reason, though in lesser quantities, I do still eat white rice, noodles, white bread. If there was a choice, I’d still go for white. Yet these are no-nos in any modern health advice that you’ll receive. I am not going to be one of those people who say this or that is evil, and who do not appreciate what we have. I think back to my grandparents’ time of famine, poverty, hardship. Sometimes they had to go hungry. We are lucky to have any food on the table.
This is an extract from my work-in-progress e-book Asian Secrets Revealed: How to Look Awesome at 50 (or better than you did at 30) in 8 weeks which will contain detailed information on skincare, nutrition, fitness and makeup art.
If you enjoyed this post, please share! As usual I would love to hear from you. All comments and feedback are welcome. If I have missed out on anything, please let me know.
Ivy Ngeow was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. She is of Chinese origin and the author of numerous short stories and two novels, Cry of the Flying Rhino (2017), Proverse Hong Kong, winner of 2016 International Proverse Prize, and Heart of Glass (2018), Unbound UK. She trained in and qualified in professional makeup art at the Illamasqua School of Makeup Art in Piccadilly, London, in April 2013. She is a mother of two and keen on the beauty, health and fitness lifestyle. Asian Secrets Revealed: How to Look Awesome at 50 (or better than you did at 30) in 8 weeks will be her first non-fiction ebook.
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