What some people may not know is that I used to really battle with my skin when I was younger; this is one of the main reasons I actually became interested in nutrition; I wanted to help myself naturally and take care of my own body properly from the inside out. Topical lotions didn’t work for me (or at least have any lasting effects) and taking pills wasn’t something I was prepared to do for the sake of my appearance (as self-conscious as I was about it). After making some changes to my diet I dramatically changed my skin. I was amazed at how something so simple as what we put in our mouths could make such a difference, which continually leads me to be fascinated at the power of nutrition across many aspects of the human body. Below you can see the condition of my skin before (left) to now; not perfect but a massive improvement (both no makeup).
When I was 16/17 my hormones went whacky, I believe it may have been triggered by the OCP but my diet, although not bad, was lacking consistency and I didn’t really have any knowledge about food groups or the benefits certain nutrients can have.
After finally getting fed up with acne, uneven texture/tone and seemingly a hormonal imbalance, I did my own research with a lot of trial and error, finding certain things which helped a little, a lot, and some none at all. From my experience, here’s a few tips for getting your skin back to a happy balance again. I know what it’s like to want to cover up and hide, I thought my skin was ‘just that way’ but you CAN seriously help it through your diet, it just takes a little time and effort which I’ve been working on, (which is why I want to share!) *Please note, everyone is of course individual – this is what worked a great deal for ME after struggling for a long time… so if this helps you even a little bit, I’d be thrilled.
- Increase your plant intake (a lot). This is a huge factor. Veggies and fruits contain SO many benefits as we know, but in particular the antioxidant property which helps combat oxidative cell damage and inflammation which can present visibly in our skin. Start giving your body tons of colours and it’ll thank you for it in more ways than one. Sweet potatoes and butternut quash (beta-carotene containing foods) are great options as our body converts this red/orange colour pigment into Vitman A (active retinol); an important vitamin for skin health. Whole foods really will help nourish your body with the goodness it needs to heal. Zinc is a mineral beneficial for the skin as it aids in wound healing and control of sebum production which can help ward off the congestion of pores. Zinc rich foods include whole grains such as oats and also pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and oysters!
- Water. This may be an obvious one, but so many people overlook the importance of hydration and make do with just a couple of glasses daily. 2L is a good bench mark and if you’re particularly active/exercising regularly, more! It keeps our cells doing all their complex jobs properly and will help assist detoxification pathways for a glowy, plump complexion. You may need to take regular visits to the bathroom initially… but your body will soon get used to it, ha.
- Limit processed foods and added sugars. This is another biggie. Added sugars and highly processed foods are really not your skins best pal. High GI/GL foods can lead to a steep insulin spike in certain individuals, increasing inflammation in the body and the production of certain enzymes that can bind to collagen (a type of protein found in skin) and start to break it down – a process call ‘Glycation’. This can be a tough one to conquer as sugar can be addictive and is often hidden in foods, but try and make the swap to more natural sugars or have a little now and then with a combination of fat, protein or fibre to help slow the glucose absorption into the blood. Just be mindful that certain sugars contain slightly different properties to others, so some can be slightly more favourable than others. Small changes that build and progress are much better than going all out and giving up after a week; that way you can see how your skin reacts and work with it to find a good balance. *Remember our skin re-generates every 27-30 days so give it some time! Example; Swap your cadbury sweety bar or ‘low fat’ yoghurt (normally pumped with added sugars to boost flavour), for a juicy piece of vitamin-filled fruit (mango? Hello beta-carotene!), a handful of nuts or a protein rich snack like a boiled egg. Guaranteed you’ll have lasting energy aside from seeing the benefit in your skin too.
- Incorporate healthy fats into your diet. Your omega 3 intake is crucial in the maintenance of healthy skin. Oily fish like mackerel and salmon, chia seeds and walnuts are great options. Extra virgin olive oil and avocados are also excellent fat sources to include in your diet. Fats are the building blocks for healthy cell membranes, formed in two layers (phospholipid bi-layer) and help absorb certain fat soluble vitamins. We need fats for every function in our body!
- What about dairy? It’s common for people to find dairy a trigger with skin conditions (generally from the GH the cow produces or processing techniques), so it could be worth cutting back on to see if it helps you. I personally can’t have milk, but can tolerate certain natural yoghurts and cheeses, I believe this is due to the lower concentration of lactose and protein ratios – plus the addition of pro-biotics/live cultures in yoghurt assists the digestion process with some additional nutrition benefits. I think an important aspect to note, is to source your diary produce carefully to enable maximum nutrient bioavailability and also welfare of the animal. Cutting out entire food groups can often do more damage than good, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies so test with caution or seek advice from a specialist to help you. Plant-based milks like cashew/oat/almond milk are a great alternative if you’re vegan or would like a dairy-free option but I’d opt for the unsweetened versions to keep sugar down and strongly consider vitamin-enriched varieties.
In terms of skin products… I will happily write another blog post leading on from this regarding the types of products I use and my general skin-care routine for anyone who is interested from a beauty perspective, too. Stay tuned!