Cold winter weather, lack of sunlight, less exercise, comfort eating and dehydrating central heating can all play havoc with your skin. If it feels like last year's healthy summer glow has gone into permanent hibernation, don't despair. Firmer, healthier, more radiant skin is still possible if you choose the right 'skinfood'.
The connection between what you eat and the health of your skin is profound. Without a strong foundation of the right foods and clean water, no amount of creams and potions will alter the look and feel of your skin to any great degree. I believe that to achieve healthy skin, 80% is nutrition and 20% is using natural and organic skincare. Reducing your intake of undesirable chemicals and removing toxins from the body is the most powerful way to beautify your skin, turn back the clock and find energy you never knew you had. If you incorporate the following foods into your diet you will see a difference in three weeks.
Essential Fatty Acids
We are unable to manufacture essential fatty acids (EFAs) and so we need to consume them daily to stay youthful and for our cell membranes to stay supple. EFAs reduce inflammation, protect the skin's natural oil barrier, maintain hydration, balance sebum levels and prevent congestion and spots. Refined vegetables oils (found in nearly all processed foods) inhibit absorption and should be avoided.
Sources: cold pressed and organic olive and canola oils, flax, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, non-farmed cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), avocados and green, leafy vegetables.
Supplements: evening primrose, krill oil and borage oil.
This is a trace mineral essential at every stage of life. It is involved in the production of over 80 hormones, and metabolises EFAs. Coffee, wheat and alcohol inhibit absorption of zinc, however citrus fruits increase assimilation.
Sources: nuts, seeds, lean dark meat (so the leg of chicken in preference to breast meat), shellfish, pulses, beans, onions, garlic.
An essential antioxidant mineral that scavenges free radicals and enhances the body's ability to self heal. Research indicates it is lacking in the British diet. It can slow down the ageing process, increases membrane elasticity and reduces pigmentation from sun damage.
Sources: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, organic eggs, button mushrooms, shrimp, lamb, fish (snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, oysters, sardines, crab), beef, light turkey meat and whole wheat pasta.
Assists against cell oxidation and premature ageing. Also prevents loss of natural moisture from the skin and supports follicles, preventing hair loss. Excellent for sufferers of dry skin and acne.
Sources: oranges, carrots, cantaloupe, leafy greens, eggs, raw and organic dairy – especially butter (select New Zealand butter as it originates from grass fed and not grain fed cows)
These prevent cell oxidation, reduce cellular inflammation and support hair growth and follicle strength. B3 strengthens skin cells, regulating the turnover of healthy new cells. If you suffer with dry skin or greasy hair then you need B vitamins.
Sources: kelp, greens, cruciferous vegetables, pulses, organic eggs, organic and raw milk, brown rice and buckwheat.
Supplements: B complex.
A powerful antioxidant which mops up the free radicals that wage war on the health and longevity of our cells. It is also essential for building and maintaining collagen. Collagen helps to 'glue' cells together, protecting skin from damage and creating a barrier against foreign invaders.
Sources: red bell peppers, citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, blackcurrants, broccoli, greens and Brussels sprouts.
Recent research indicates that increasing vitamin D intake will reduce the effects that cold, dry weather has on the skin, preventing the onset of dry, tight and flaky skin by helping the skin to retain its own moisture levels. We obtain 90% of our vitamin D3 from the sun. Therefore in winter, supplementation can help. Our levels may be lower than they should be after the UK experienced one of the wettest years since records began.
Sources: Non-farmed oily fish, organic egg yolks, liver and wild mushrooms.
This master antioxidant protects against harmful environmental effects, and supports the health of membranes. It also protects the walls of veins and arteries and increases cellular repair and regeneration, reviving dull complexions. Research indicates it helps to protect the skin from UV damage.
Sources: seed oils (sesame, pumpkin etc), pulses, organic eggs, nuts, seeds, olives, spinach, asparagus, leafy greens. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids, antioxidants which the body converts to Vitamin E and that nourish the layers of skin under the surface.
Not classified as a vitamin as we can manufacture it in the body, CoQ10 is a master antioxidant, protecting cells from oxidation and free radical damage. It works by controlling the flow of oxygen during cells' production of energy, making the process more efficient and reducing the level of oxidants formed during the process.
Sources: fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), poultry, organ meats (such as liver), spinach, broccoli, alfalfa, buckwheat and millet.
Eating a fibre-rich diet helps your digestive system to work well to help eliminate waste products and toxins from the body, via the organs of elimination. As the skin is also an organ of elimination, good bowel function has a knock on effect on skin health, clarifying the complexion.
Sources: organic porridge oats, wholegrains, fruits, raw vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Remember to drink plenty of water to help keep skin hydrated, I can see a client's hydration levels in the look and feel of their skin. For a truly hydrating drink squeeze half an unwaxed lemon into filtered water and add a pinch of Pink Himalayan salt for an instant electrolyte pick me up, for skin and body. Being hydrated plumps your skin, increases circulation and blood flow to the skin, removes toxins and assists in the metabolism of fats.
And one to avoid …. Sugar!
Sugar (in my opinion) is the number one skin enemy. Try to think about the type of sugar you are eating and avoid processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners of all varieties, as they contribute towards premature ageing. Sugar slows down blood flow, leading to dull tired, and inflamed skin. It also over-stimulates the sebaceous glands leading to congestion and spots. Processed sugars stimulate the production of the male hormone androgen, which can cause acne in women. Also, sugar is proven to accelerate collagen and elastin damage, so avoid it if you want your skin to retain its structural integrity and survive the winter.
See www.bareskin-beauty.co.uk for more information on Juliette Scarfe's Bare Skin Beauty products, based on the concept of 'skinfood' – feeding the skin with raw, bio-active, nutrient-rich superfoods.
First published January 2013
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