Updated: Aug 30
Your skin health is a reflection of your overall health and well-being. If you want to achieve radiant skin, embracing a whole health approach to skincare sets the foundations not only for skin health but for life. In a world of hacks and quick fixes, the most powerful and effective practices are based around simple, healthy living. Something that everyone can achieve!
Let's explore the essential elements of skin health: what to include, to exclude, and the steps that can make a difference.
What to Include
Hydration is Key. Start with the simplest and most crucial step – staying hydrated. Drink sufficient water throughout the day to maintain skin's moisture balance and support your body’s natural processes.
Colourful Fruits and Vegetables. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables provides a spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients protect against oxidative stress, which contributes to premature aging and skin damage.
Healthy Fats. Incorporate sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. These fats fortify the skin's natural barrier, keeping it supple and locking in moisture.
Lean Proteins. Include lean protein such as poultry, fish, beans and tofu. Proteins are essential for collagen production, promoting skin's elasticity and reducing the appearance of fine lines.
Whole Grains. Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats (not quick oats) and barley. Nutrient dense, minimally processed complex carbs provide sustained energy and support stable blood sugar levels, which can help prevent breakouts.
Do not think about dietary health in terms of denial. Reframe your relationship with food by thinking about supporting your lifestyle with good food, to provide the right nutrition to achieve health.
Probiotic-Rich Foods. Yogurt, kefir, tepache, sauerkraut and kimchi introduce beneficial bacteria to your gut. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to improved skin conditions, as it influences inflammation and immune responses. Beware of yogurts with added sugar or bottled probiotic drinks that don’t have ‘live’ cultures.
Herbs, Spices and Teas. Enjoy meals rich with herbs and spices. Sip on green tea or herbal teas like chamomile and rooibos. Aromatic plants and herbs contain polyphenols and antioxidants that combat inflammation and protect skin cells from damage caused by UV rays, pollution and the stresses of an active lifestyle.
Movement and Exercise. Get moving in a way that you enjoy. Dance, run, swim, walk or cycle. Yoga, calisthenics or weights. Physical activity and exercise – cardiovascular and for strength - is vital for health.
Sleep. A good night’s sleep – beauty sleep - is essential for skin health. Sleep is when the body rebuilds itself, and feeling exhausted is not conducive to health, looking or feeling your best.
Mindful Practices. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and breathwork. Be aware of the things in your life that cause stress. Keep a health journal as a way of tracking your health and supporting the decisions that you make.
What to Exclude
Dairy Consumption is a common cause of skin problems; two thirds of people are lactose intolerant. If you suspect dairy affects your skin and causes breakouts, consider reducing your intake or opting for dairy alternatives.
Excess Sugar and Processed Foods. High sugar intake and processed foods can lead to inflammation and break down collagen, contributing to premature aging and acne. Limit sugary treats and opt for whole foods instead.
Many of us enjoy chocolate, but it can lead to breakouts for some. Perhaps from the cacao, the sugar or the fats. If you are prone to skin conditions - track what might cause a flare up. Keep a health journal to understand what affects your skin and overall wellbeing.
Excess Sun. While we know that sun exposure is healthy, to make Vitamin D, too much sun is problematic. Avoid midday sun, avoid getting burnt. Cover up if you need to be out during the hottest, sunniest hours.
Unhealthy Fats and Fried Foods: Saturated and trans fats found in fast food and many packaged snacks harm the skin by promoting inflammation. Choose gentle cooking methods like braising or steaming rather than frying and grilling.
Alcohol Overindulgence. Excessive alcohol consumption can dehydrate the skin and dilate blood vessels, leading to redness and inflammation. Moderation is key. And no cigarettes.
Skipping Meals. Irregular eating patterns can disrupt blood sugar levels, leading to breakouts. Aim for balanced meals and snacks throughout the day with a focus on whole, not processed, foods.
Supplements and ‘super doses’. Many marketing claims in the supplement industry are not supported by solid evidence, sometimes (sadly) there is even risk involved when taking high doses of seemingly healthy supplements. Be wary of products that state they contain extracts with many times the power of the natural remedy. Before focusing on supplements, invest in the basics of diet and lifestyle. Your skin - and health - will be rewarded.
Long-term skin problems may be due to deeper health issues, this can be related to environmental toxins or imbalances in the gut microbiome.
Which of these steps can you focus on to improve your skin health? Choose a couple and see how you can implement changes over the course of a week or two. As health is a dynamic process, when making change for the better you may briefly feel slightly worse, your skin condition may temporarily worsen for a few days before improving. See what works for you and fits into your lifestyle.
Remember that consistency is key. A holistic approach that includes nourishing foods, exercise, mindful practices and risk avoidance can make a substantial difference in your skin's appearance and your overall well-being. Listen to your body, practise self-care, adapt your diet and lifestyle to suit your individual needs and see your skin flourish.
Eczema is a condition that affects many. Understanding and managing flare-ups requires patience, education and experience.
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