As the forensic pathologist Dr. Maura Isles on TNT's hit show Rizzoli & Isles, actor Sasha Alexander spends her time examining dead bodies. But in real life, this Los Angeles-based mother of two, 40, knows a lot about living a healthy life. In fact, it's not her first time in a nail-biting crime-solving role -- for 2 years she played Secret Service special agent Caitlin Todd on NCIS. She's also been in films ranging from Mission: Impossible III to He's Just Not That Into You, and she stars next in the film The Girl From Nagasaki, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. A former dancer and ice skater, Alexander shares her best tips for keeping herself strong -- inside and out.
Face Time [or Hand Signals]
"I am fortunate that my aunt, Olga, is a facialist (she owns Kinara Skin Care Clinic & Spa in L.A.), so from a very young age I learned exactly how to take care of my skin. She also gave me one great piece of advice: "Don't touch your face." That one tip helped me avoid so many breakouts and damage."
"When I'm working, I have to wear so much makeup. So getting every speck of it off is a big priority for me. I swear by my Clarisonic device for this -- even after cleansing wipes and washing with soap, it still removes even more; it's like having a mini-facial every day. I also love this facial polish from dermatologist Howard Lancer -- rub it in for 90 seconds and you're as good as new."
"I believe in greasing myself up at night, to retain as much moisture in my skin as possible. I like to use emu oil all over my face, neck, and chest, and I also love this amazing cream called Egyptian Magic cream."
"I'm a total foodie -- so all the faddish cleanses and juices that involve not actually eating are NOT for me. For the last 10 years or so I have stuck to a 'Zone'-type diet. So, I eat something every 2 to 3 hours, and I try to make sure it's got a good dose of healthy protein, such as chicken or fish, and plenty of veggies. Snacks are usually things like apples, some cheese, or a handful of nuts. I found out a while ago that I am gluten intolerant, but I'm not insane about it. I just know that if I have that pasta or pizza -- and since my family is Italian, we eat a lot of pasta, for sure -- I may not feel so great afterward. So I won't do it twice in 1 week. It's a balance of not denying myself but also taking care of myself. Luckily, I simply am one of those people who CAN have one bite of something rich and then stop at that."
"Three things you'll always find in my 'fridge: olive oil, almond milk, and San Pellegrino. My kids call it 'Papa Aqua,' since their dad is always drinking it."
Off the Clock
"My perfect day would be blissfully unscheduled. I'd wake up whenever I wanted, without an alarm. Maybe I'd sit by the beach, since I love the ocean. I'd like a quiet day -- watching my kids hang out and play, being with my husband [director Edoardo Ponti]. We're so busy that I find it a luxury to be spontaneous these days."
"We live in such a go, go, go society that we really need to take the time to stop, rest, and relax. I try to meditate for 5 minutes in the morning. It might just be breathing -- taking careful deep breaths and slowly assessing how I feel, and entering my day. It's also a physical thing: Your brain needs all that oxygen to help stay alert and alive!"
"My makeup must-haves: LORAC Touch-Up concealer and foundation pen, La Mer cream for hydrating my skin, and creamy Chantecaille blush, which I put not just on my cheeks but also dab just above my eyes and around my brow bone, to give my whole face a healthy flush."
"Since I have a dance background, I love dance workouts like the Tracy Anderson ones, but I also am careful not to be too hard on my body, because I am sensitive to over-exercise and injury. I like hiking and walking, as well as taking the occasional [indoor cycling] class, which is fast but effective -- and I love the group aspect of it. But I also have a bunch of DVDs, as well as 15-minute routines, that I have learned so that when I am short on time or if I am at work and I can't really break a sweat I can still squeeze something in, such as stretches or light weights."
"I make a huge effort to drink enough water every day, and also have pretty much nixed added sugar from my life -- so no candy, and just one raw sugar in my coffee each day. I found that eating too many sweets seemed to lower my immune system."
"I've been lucky to travel a lot, but I have not been to China or Japan, and I'd love to have the chance to go, given how culturally different both can be from the U.S."
"If I have to shave off a few pounds for an event or something, I'll pretty much just cut out carbs for a few days and that does the trick. It was all much easier before I had my kids, of course. Even 2-and-a-half years since my son was born -- things aren't entirely back to where they were before. Things sort of ‘settle' in different ways after you have kids."
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