I don’t know any woman who doesn’t strive for a healthy and clear complexion without having to resort to more drastic measures! But a lack of sleep, food allergies and sensitivities, a nutritionally deficient diet, pollution, stress, excess alcohol and caffeine, smoking and sun damage can all play havoc on our skin and add years to our faces. While face creams and cosmetics are an important part of maintaining youthful skin, I’m a strong believer that it’s even more important to focus on how your body’s internal environment directly affects the way skin looks and feels. I’m just as much a victim as many others to hormonal breakouts, tired skin, and a dull complexion, but I have learnt how to make the very most of what I have and what works best for my skin. It’s about progression rather than perfection!
So here are my favourite skin tips:
1. Hydrate: Drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water per day and more if you exercise. It’s so important to flush out toxins from the body and to keep skin clear and fresh. I begin every day with a large glass of warm water with a wedge of lemon to hydrate my body after sleeping and aid in detoxification. Herbal teas count too as part of your daily water intake!
2. Antioxidants, antioxidants, antioxidants! These are the chemical compounds found in various forms in an array of foods, most notably fresh fruit and vegetables. They are powerful in mopping up the free radicals from modern living, which lead to cellular damage and the accelerated ageing of our tissues and organs. Antioxidants are responsible for giving fruit and veg their vibrant colours, so we should all aim to eat as many differently coloured fruit and veggies every day. Aim for at least seven to nine servings per day. I base my whole diet on raw fruit and vegetables to ensure I get a huge range of antioxidants every single day. Freshly made fruit and vegetable smoothies are a brilliant way of getting a large serving into your body in one go! The high level of vitamin C in fruit and veg is also crucial in building the collagen which keeps skin supple. Great options include berries, apples, leafy greens, tomatoes and bell peppers. The beta-carotene that gives the orange colour to butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots can also give our skin a natural, healthy glow.
3. Omega-3 fats: These essential fatty acids cannot be produced in the body, so must be eaten regularly in the diet. Western diets are often heavy in vegetable oils, animal protein and processed and fried foods, which tend to be high in omega-6 and omega-9 fats (as well as unwanted saturated fats, cholesterol and trans-fats). While also important for health, a delicate balance must be maintained to reduce inflammation and accelerated ageing. It’s a really good idea to focus on eating omega-3 foods everyday as they’re crucial for smooth, firm skin and a healthy heart and brain. The membrane of each and every cell in our body consists of molecules of omega-3 fats, so without a proper supply in the correct amounts, your skin will start to look dry and wrinkled. Not ideal! Make sure you include raw walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds or flaxseed in your daily diet. A small handful of walnuts and about two tablespoons of the seeds are an ideal serving. If you choose to eat animal protein, oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines are also good sources of omega-3 fats, but it’s really important to choose wild, organic varieties to avoid consuming mercury, artificial colours and other pollutants. Atlantic salmon is the farmed variety and is best avoided.
4. Probiotics: The most significant change to my immunity, digestion and overall health came when I started adding probiotics to my diet. We have more bacteria than body cells, and it’s absolutely crucial to ensure that they are mainly of the friendly variety as they help to improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, synthesise certain vitamins in the gut, and maximise nutrient absorption amongst many other important roles in the body. If your nutrients from food are being properly absorbed, then they will better reach you skin via the blood to heal and nourish it. We are only as good as our digestion and absorption abilities! Modern lifestyles, antibiotics and medications, the contraceptive pill, high animal protein diets and many other factors can encourage the breeding of unhealthy bacteria in the gut which contribute to systemic toxicity, ill-health and accelerated ageing. I make and drink my own coconut water kefir at home but kefir grains can be purchased quite easily and I find it so much more powerful than any of the commercial probiotics that I’ve tried. I also make my own fermented veggies, such a sauerkraut, which is great to add to salads and really easy to make. If you would prefer to just purchase them, then I would recommend the Udo’s Choice Super 8 probiotic capsules, available from any good health food shops.
5. SPF: This goes without saying! Protect your skin from sun damage to slow down the signs of ageing and keep a youthful complexion. I wear La Roche-Posay SPF 50 every single day of the year on my face, neck, chest and hands.
6. Minimise caffeine and alcohol: Both have a diuretic effect on the body, causing us to lose fluid and water-soluble nutrients in the process. I’m all for enjoying coffee in moderation and a few glasses of wine with a nice meal, but to keep your skin fresh and plump, remember to hydrate well. Coconut water and bananas are both excellent for replacing any lost water, potassium, magnesium and B vitamins.
7. Skincare: I use a glycolic facial cleanser called MD Formulations to remove my makeup thoroughly every night. If I don’t take off my make-up at night, it’s not a pretty sight! Breakouts and blocked pores galore! I also love my Clarisonic Mia for a deep cleanse. I use an organic serum by Kinvara Skincare under my eye area every night. Coconut oil makes a great body moisturiser and leaves you smelling yummy too!
8. Regular Exercise: To oxygenate the body and brain. I really find that a sweaty workout leaves my skin bright and glowing, while sweating helps to remove toxins and boost the lymphatic system. One of the many wonderful benefits of exercise!
9. Eat your greens: Last but certainly not least! Green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, rocket, Romaine and broccoli should be eaten as regularly as possible for bright healthy skin. The chlorophyll in greens shares the exact molecular structure of human blood, meaning that green veg is a powerful blood builder and cleanser. Clean, healthy blood will deliver nutrients to skin much better and give you a healthy and bright complexion. Get those green smoothies and big salads into you daily!
10. Avoid Refined Sugar: Refined sugar contains zero nutrients and speeds up the ageing of our skin. When sugar enters our bloodstream, it attaches to proteins and forms damaging molecules through a process called glycation. Collagen and elastin, two vital proteins that form the skin’s structure, are particularly vulnerable to damage from glycation, resulting in lines and wrinkles. Safe sweeteners include Stevia and Xylitol, which are both plant-derived and non-toxic. Local raw honey, molasses and organic maple syrup are OK in smaller amounts, but agave syrup (high in ageing and fattening fructose), aspartame and other chemical sweeteners are better avoided!