Most of us strive to be more beautiful — buying magic creams, getting our hair dyed or exercising to help sculpt our bodies — and all of this effort isn’t just about vanity. As Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz, authors of YOU: Being Beautiful, say, “Outer beauty serves as a proxy for how healthy you are; it’s the message you send to others about your health.” But beauty is rooted more in hard science than in abstract and random opinion. Of course, we’re not just talking about outer beauty here. In their book, Roizen and Oz share the biology of beauty and help offer up tips to help you look and feel your most beautiful — inside and out. Here’s a few ways to get started:
1) Cream It On
There are hundreds of skin-care ingredients, including many with fancy names and expensive price tags. But there is very little science to most of them and no science to many of them. The list of ingredients that really can make a difference in the skin is small. The big ingredients (and their closely related derivatives) to know that can be useful:
• Vitamin A (retinoids
• Vitamin B3 (niacin or nicotinamide)
• Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid, panthenol)
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin E
• Alpha-hydroxy acids
• Ubiquinone or coenzyme Q10 (small-molecule antioxidant)
• Ferulic acid (small-molecule antioxidant)
These eight are examples of skin-care ingredients you can cream on with solid scientific backing.
2) Practice Good Hair Hygiene
Most of what we do with hair is hairicidal: We blast it with hot air, bleach it, and then dye it. High hair-dryer heat (and that from curling irons) causes the water under the cuticles (the outermost layer of the hair) to form bubbles that stress and break the hair. The tiles that cover the hair dislodge, and your hair handles water like an unroofed house. You’ll get those dreaded split ends and your collie’s hair will outshine yours. It’s best to blot hair dry with a towel and then use low heat if you use a dryer. Your hair is most vulnerable when it’s wet, and you should treat your hair almost as you would a silk blouse — don’t iron it or heat it up to extremes. Also, it’s smart to use a brush with smooth or rounded teeth or bristles, which will massage the hair and scalp without damaging them.
3) Employ Antistaining Techniques
Certain foods will stain your teeth as surely as a new puppy will stain the carpet. The culprits include red wine, coffee, tea, blueberries, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce, and grape and cranberry juice. We don’t want you to avoid these foods, because of their health benefits, but here’s how to combat their staining ways:
• When you eating staining foods, keep a glass of water handy. Swishing and sipping after every couple of bites or slurps will help decrease staining.
• Never skip a bedtime brush, and brush your teeth as soon as possible after a staining meal. Here’s where a travel toothbrush comes in handy.
• Some foods can whiten your teeth. Apples, celery, and carrots act as a natural stain remover, while greens such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce create a film over your teeth that acts as a barrier against staining.
4) Protect Your Nails
Your nails are exposed to lots of threats: bacteria, incisors, circular saws. Here’s how to protect them from threats that come from the outside world — and those that come from you.
• Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when using soap and water for prolonged periods or when using harsh chemicals or cement.
• Trim fingernails and clean under the nails regularly. Us a sharp manicure scissors or clippers and an emery board to smooth nail edges. Filing alone will weaken nails (use a fine-textured file to keep the shape and smooth away snags). Fingernails should be cut straight across and rounded slightly for maximum strength. Never pull off hangnails; doing so almost always results in ripping living tissue — painful at best and possibly a cause of severe infections.
• Nails need moisture, just as skin does. Rub lotion into your nails when moisturizing your hands. Apply moisturizer each time you wash your hands.
5) Fight Fat with Food
In movies, it may not always be easy to tell the good guys from the bad, but in refrigerators, it can be — as long as you know what you’re looking for. These nutritional cops and robbers will help you achieve your ideal body shape, as long as you know who’s on your side and who’s out to hijack your thighs.
The good guys: Eat foods with fiber, healthy fats (monounsaturated omega-3 with DHA and some polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil), 100 percent whole grain carbohydrates, fish and nut protein, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also smart to eat a little healthy fat (such as a handful of nuts) 30 minutes before meals to allow the satiety signal to go from your stomach to your brain so you avoid overeating. Drink buckets of water to do the same (we’re kidding about the buckets here and really don’t want you to get what we call water intoxication, but you get the point). No matter what diet you choose, water helps you lose weight.
The criminals: Avoid five aging foods: trans fats, saturated fats (aim for 0 and never more than 4 grams per serving), simple sugars (they end in –ose and include syrups, such as high-fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, molasses, or cane sugar), and any starch or grain with less than 100 percent whole grains.
6) Sleep Eight
While you may think that sleep is just a good way to let McDreamy enter your subconscious fantasies, sleep has the ultimate restorative powers and you need it for your hormonal balance and for increasing the rejuvenating human growth hormone, which is needed to choreograph the looking and feeling beautiful dance in your body. Eight high-quality hours a day will help you restore energy, decrease pain, and lose weight.
Not sure how to get the sleep you need? Try Cleveland Clinic’s online program GO! to Sleep and learn how to look and feel better.
7) Use Guided Imagery
Guided imagery isn’t the screen of your car’s GPS; it’s actually a way of making you feel better. The technique has been shown to improve the ability to cope with depression, improve mood, and decrease stress. How do you do it? Go to a quiet place (the bathroom often works well, since privacy is usually respected there). Start by relaxing and breathing deeply, then visualize yourself in different scenarios. Some variations include visualizing yourself in a pleasant place (the beach), fighting disease (seeing your good immune cells fighting off bad germs), or practicing for a big performance (doing well in your job).
8) Keep It Pumping
Good sex isn’t just about blindfolds. It’s really about good blood flow. That ensures you’re getting the right nutrients to your brain, as well as the right stimuli to your sex organs. So improving your sex life means avoiding the things that decrease blood flow (nicotine, drugs, saturated fat, trans fats, sugar, syrups, diabetes, high blood pressure) and embracing the things that increase blood flow (exercise, avocados, fruits, vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, ginseng, gingko biloba, L-arginine, lemon, citriulline).
9) Bust Your Body
You can’t spot-reduce body parts when it comes to frying fat (your body decides where it comes off first). Forget those ads for “electrostimulation” that promise to reduce two inches of fat in an hour. But that doesn’t mean you can’t target muscles in your hot spots. How? You do it by incorporating some resistance training into your workout. Building muscle will help you burn fat because it takes more energy to maintain muscle than it does fat, and it will also help give you that toned (not bulky) appearance. The best way to tone your muscle: Do each exercise with a higher number of repetitions (say, 15 to 20) and using a lighter amount of weight than you’d be able to lift for 8 or 10 repetitions. In addition, you can help create that long look by lengthening your muscles through stretching and yoga.