My bridal journey began in June of 2022—when I got engaged—but my (unofficial) bridal skin prep boot camp started right as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day 2023.
I enjoyed the first six months of my engagement, through the holiday season, experimented with exfoliating masks, and kept track of which foods and products ushered in a blemish or two; I wasn’t hard on myself if I forgot to drink collagen water or skipped my eye cream application.
These months were also spent devising a master plan to achieve “my best skin ever,” which consisted of changes to my diet, an overhauled exercise routine, and a new skincare regimen. The goal was to eliminate the enlarged pores that had plagued my T-zone since high school, tackle the stubborn hyperpigmentation left behind by a decade-long struggle with hormonal acne, and de-puffing my often very puffy face. And after six months of intensive care and attention, I can confidently say that my skin is as good as it can be from a realistic perspective. This was the first time I put so much thought into how my lifestyle could affect my skin, and I may have cracked my personal code. Below, read more about how I got my skin ready to walk down the aisle.
Step One: Reduce Stress
My extensive research (read: hours of TikTok viewing) planted the seed in my head that increased cortisol levels may be partially to blame for the inflammation in my face. I could have told you prior that my stress levels have a direct correlation to my breakouts, but I hadn’t previously associated stress with facial swelling. While fully eliminating stress is a laughable goal for anybody planning a wedding while also working full-time, sticking to a consistent workout schedule, preparing nutritious meals on a daily basis, and maintaining a social life, there were few instant lifestyle changes that worked for me in reducing the effects of stress on my body.
Changing exercise habits: Prior to this year, I always put pressure on myself to get in five days of cardio per week. In an effort to build more muscle tone for the big day, I found myself simultaneously reducing my cortisol levels by switching from a routine heavy on spinning, running, and HIIT classes to a mix of barre, pilates, and yoga. While the relationship between cortisol levels and cardio workouts seems to still be up for debate, I personally saw an overall decrease in inflammation throughout my entire body.
Structuring a morning routine: Does a podcast that revolves around recapping Bravo shows fall above or below a TikTok video on the reliability scale? I decided that an experimental shift to my morning routine was pretty inconsequential wellness advice to take after hearing the host of one of my favorite pods mention that she would no longer drink coffee on an empty stomach due to the adverse effect that it had on her hormone levels. I decided to try it for myself and waited until after I had a full bottle of water and a substantial breakfast in my stomach to drink my daily coffee for a few days in a row. Maybe I’m the last person on the planet to discover it, but I was instantly less anxious throughout the day after implementing this shift.
Taking ashwagandha: My reduction in daytime stress and anxiety can also be attributed to a dose of ashwagandha on a somewhat-regular basis. I started out taking a capsule every day before tapering off to take as needed and found it to work for me.
Step Two: Say Goodbye to Dairy
In one of the first correspondences with my wedding day makeup team, I was strictly instructed to cut dairy out from my diet ASAP. As the recipient of an unprecedented amount of unsolicited advice during this time period, I initially took this suggestion with a grain of salt for a few months until I began to devise my bridal skincare plan and decided to give the dairy-free lifestyle a chance and see if it made a difference. While avoiding dairy wasn’t difficult when it came to homemade meals, I definitely struggled at dinners out and social gatherings, always keeping my eye on the brie and promising to be reunited soon. After half a year of being dairy-free, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the appearance of my pores. While I plan to introduce the occasional charcuterie board back into my life following the wedding, I do see myself continuing to at least partially avoid dairy in the future.
Step Three: Stick to a Skincare Routine
I’ve never met a celebrity skincare line that I wasn’t skeptical of, but Hailey Bieber’s Rhode has made its way into my permanent routine. The combination of Augustinus Bader’s The Essence followed by Rhode’s Peptide Glazing Fluid and Barrier Restore Cream is one of the only product combos to successfully hold off any skin flaking from underneath my makeup all day long. The last step of this routine involves the pleasant (and somewhat addicting) spritz of Habit’s SPF 38 Mist. As I’ve spent the summer with my skin fully protected from all UV exposure, Glow2Go has been a staple for helping me achieve a tasteful bronze ahead of every event from the comfort of my own living room, a dream for any busy bride-to-be.
While my AM routine is more about hydration and protection, my PM routine did more of the heavy lifting with two products that each packed a punch. I will credit the newly launched Molecular Hero Serum from Mother Science for being the only product to visibly reduce my stubborn hyperpigmentation, and I imagine that a few more months of use could see my acne scars gone for good. While I found its effect to be a bit too shiny for daytime use, the Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench moisturizer worked to lock in the serum and left my skin glowing each morning.
Step Four: Invest in Masks and Treatments
I’d never made a habit out of regular facials, but I knew that if there was any time to do it, it was now. After trying a few different service providers, I can say that there is nowhere better than Heyday for ultra-personalized treatments with visible results. My esthetician took my history of hormonal breakouts into consideration and proactively incorporated red light therapy into every treatment, successfully keeping blemishes at bay. I felt such a sense of relaxation after the facial massage at the end of each session that I have no choice other than to keep going back, not to mention the savings associated with becoming a Heyday member that really make it worthwhile. While in between monthly facials, I splurged on two other masks that I will swear by moving forward. Renee Rouleau’s Berry Smoothing Peel brings the intense exfoliation and skin resurfacing that led me to reduce it from weekly to biweekly use, and Augustinus Bader’s The Face Cream Mask is my go-to for overnight smoothing and hydration.