words by Zoe Louise Cronk
In today’s beauty and youth-craving society, science in skincare has seen rapid development; empowering face creams and eye serums with proven-to-work ingredients that are often accompanied by hefty price tags. Look closely however, and it seems we could be reaping similar (if not better) benefits without forking out a load of cash, but instead loading our forks with delicious nutrient-rich foods.
According to Facialist & Skincare Specialist Julia Hart, it’s thanks to the “strong link between a healthy gut and healthy skin,” that “skin problems such as acne, eczema and skin-ageing can be triggered by inflammation in the body.” While it’s obviously advisable to take care of your skin with suitable cosmetics, it’s good to remember (and is helpful to our bank balances) that keeping your body healthy on the inside will show on the outside too, giving you the radiant glow and clear complexion we all so desperately crave.
Many brands promote vitamin C-enhanced skincare in terms of antioxidants and reducing free radicals, but in fact, eating foods rich in vitamin C can have comparable effects. As well as gaining the same anti-ageing antioxidants, you’re also providing your immune system with a vitamin C-induced boost. This increase in immunity is an obvious plus for maintaining nourished skin, as illness often coincides with a dull, lifeless complexion. Hence, avoid sickness; avoid sallow skin!
As for what foods to consume, Julia advocates green juices (kale, spinach, cucumber, apple and/or banana) in particular, as they contain an abundance of vitamins A, C and E; all of which are powerful antioxidants and protect skin against environmental stressors. Made up of nutrients and enzymes that help to repair tissue damage, antioxidants slow the effect of free radicals that cause cell dysfunction and ultimately, ageing. The protecting nature of antioxidants, paired with their ability to promote the growth and natural self-healing of cells, is what gives skin its healthy glow. Furthermore, kale contains a wealth of vitamin K, which Julia says, “strengthens blood vessels and increases circulation.” A daily green juice it is, then!
Similarly, vitamin D has been hailed as a miracle for reducing fine lines and inflammation. Our Skincare Specialist believes, “A lack of sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiency, so try to expose skin in the morning or at dusk; avoid the damaging midday sun.” She reveals that without vitamin D, “Skin can look dull, breakout and age prematurely.” It’s important to remember though that while your bronzed tan might look good today, excess sun exposure ages the skin, so be sure to stock up on those all-important UVA and UVB-protecting sunscreens, and eat foods rich in vitamin D, like fish, eggs, cow’s milk and mushrooms.
Moving onto the irresistible, beauty-ruining sweetener known to cause detrimental biochemical changes in our cells, Julia explains, “Problems arise when we have excess sugar in our body.” She lists negative effects such as stiff joints (as a result of glycation), loss of skin elasticity and the birth of deep wrinkles and saggy skin – none of which sound mild enough to warrant that extra slice of cake after dinner. She continues, “It also impacts circulation, leading to dry, dehydrated skin and lack of glow.”
But before you panic about the choco-biscuit in your hand and images of decrepit, sugar-induced skin scare you into starvation, Julia advises, “I generally just try to avoid processed foods that contain added hidden sugars, like cakes or ready meals.” She proposes enjoying an occasional treat and admits, “It’s impossible to avoid sugar altogether.” Phew!
It’s also good to note that alcohol is very high in sugar, and is notorious for dehydrating the body, causing dull, flaky skin – not to mention a thumping headache! If you must drink, opt for distilled spirits with low-sugar mixers.
We have long since been advised to drink two litres of water per day, but are its benefits real? Oh yes, indeed.
Think of water as a moisturiser that nourishes your skin from the inside out. Just as you wouldn’t scrimp on your daily face cream, we mustn’t neglect our water intake or we run the risk of dehydration, which shows up on our face as dry skin and deeper-looking wrinkles. Water also helps to flush out acne-inducing toxins, too.
Julia cautions, “Never let yourself feel thirsty as that is a sign you are already dehydrated.” As for the amount, she explains, “Two litres is about what we lose throughout the day,” hence the suggestion to replenish what we naturally excrete.
You can also gain extra water-points by consuming foods that have a naturally high water content, particularly fruits such as watermelon (92% water), grapefruit (90% water and rich in fat-burning enzymes) and pineapple (85% water).
Omegas and Fish Oils
As well as improving heart health and lowering cholesterol, taking fish oil supplements and/or consuming a multitude of different fish means that our bodies receive a wealth of Omega 3 fatty acids that slow the ageing process by regulating skin’s oil production and boosting hydration. Omega 3’s have also been shown to reduce skin redness and inflammation, improve acne, ease the symptoms of sunburn and maintain skin permeability; all of which are important for a clear, youthful complexion and good skin health.
Julia adds, “I also love salmon for its skin firming ability, as it contains DMAE that actually helps lift muscles.” – Who knew?!