How to nourish your skin from the inside out (and also the outside in)
I'VE HAD PROBLEM SKIN MY ENTIRE LIFE. I battled acne and oily skin through most of high-school, and was referred to as 'pizza face' by my arch nemesis (who, in retaliation, I referred to as 'mushroom head' due to her Kim Jong Il haircut).
By my twenties, I would get into such a state that I would cry before work, begging my boyfriend not to make me go out into public with a fresh new breakout of pimples on my chin. I tried all of the mainstream acne products, antibiotics, the contraceptive pill - but nothing really made enough of a difference. It wasn't until later in life when I started to get really interested in holistic health and naturopathy that I discovered the important role our diet, lifestyle and mindset play in the integrity of our skin.
I set out to learn everything I could to try and fix my skin issues, and, many years later I have settled on a regime that works for me. This visage is by no means a 10, but it no longer gets me down, it's proudly void of botox and fillers, and I feel it's representative of a self-loving early-thirties gal who occasionally loves to shame eat four Scotch Fingers or spend her Sunday in activewear and an unwashed face. Day to day, I wear little more than a natural tinted moisturiser or BB cream, a little concealer, and I own the fact that my skin looks like actual skin. I wear my blemishes as a badge of honour of being human and enjoying french fries.
It is absolutely true that we achieve optimal skin by nourishing ourselves from the inside out; through nutrition, supplements, breathing, regular exercise and a healthy mindset, and without further faffing about, here are some of my top tips for glowy, happy skin:
Eat skin-loving, nourishing food
One of my favourite mantras is that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world, and when speaking of skin, it makes sense that the first route you want to go down on the quest for a clear complexion is through your nutrition, and eating foods that make your body thrive. Common foods that can cause skin issues are fatty, fried, refined, and processed foods, as well as salt, sugar, seafood, and red meat—so avoid them if they are in your diet. Some people easily breakout from eating dairy or chocolate, but that seems to be an individual thing. Instead, go crazy on the following foods: salmon, walnuts, almonds, ground linseeds, avocado, eggs, bone broth, tomatoes, strawberries, dark chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, whole-grains, and green leafy veg. And it goes without saying, a shit ton of water.
l have been doing a lot of work on my gut health recently - adding collagen protein to my morning bulletproof coffee, chicken bone broth 4-5 times per week, sauerkraut, kombucha and probiotic supplements, and I can really notice a difference in my skin - it's a lot smoother and I have less breakouts. A few people have commented on my 'glow' or that I look quite tan - which, in the depths of winter, is what you wanna hear, right?
Some other great supplements to look at are vitamin D3 (or just good old fashioned sunshine), vitamin c to boost collagen production, zinc to reduce clogged pores, milk thistle for detoxifying if it's dietary acne, and chlorella to diminish the stress response that can cause acne. As with everything, it's best to figure out what works best for you through trial and error. Most importantly, have faith that problem skin is temporary; it's just your body sending a message that something isn't quite right, so do the due diligence and explore what's going on!
Practice quality breathing
One of the most overlooked factors in the appearance of our skin is the quality of our breathing. For so many of us who are constantly in a state of stress, or feeling rushed, we neglect to take proper deep, 'belly breaths', and this has a negative impact on both our state of mind, and the oxygen's ability to flush the toxins from our skin. This ones a simple fix and it costs nothing - not even time. Whether through yoga or traditional pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), any activity that helps circulate the lymph and blood, and helps you connect to your breath, is going to do wonders for both your skins' appearance and your state of mind, which brings me to my next point.
Adopt a healthy mindset
Be kind to yourself. Your boyfriend won't dump you because you had a break-out. Your colleagues aren't going to be gossiping about your pale, lacklustre complexion. Most people are too busy worrying about themselves, to give a moments notice about what you look like. For a lot of people, their skin issues are exacerbated by stress, so switch your focus to activities that boost your endorphins like exercise and laughter (and sex, if that's, you know, available to you). Recognise that - as with everything in life - you have a choice, and you are choosing to nourish your body in a way that will elevate your health and your appearance. Consider it as an investment, rather than deprivation.
Sweat it out
Whether through cardiovascular exercise, hot yoga or a sauna, a regular sweat session is a great way to eliminate toxins from the body, increase circulation and calm the mind. When I started going to hot yoga a few months back, I really noticed a massive boost in the texture and overall appearance of my skin. Hot tip: apply a natural face oil before a hot yoga class or sauna to boost the glow.
Keep your hormones happy
Fluctuating hormones in women can result in rampant acne outbreaks, particularly along the chin and jaw line. This is a beast I am currently dealing with after going off the contraceptive pill a few months ago. My naturopath has put me on chasteberry, which is a powerful natural remedy for balancing out hormones, preventing PMS, and reducing hormonal acne. It's still early days so I'll have to check back in in a couple of months to let you know how I got on.
Aside from the effects that starting or stopping the contraceptive pill can have on your hormones, I would recommend ditching any mainstream non-organic and toxin free skincare and beauty products which are typically laden with endocrine-disrupting synthetic ingredients. A few months back, after learning about the effects that non-natural products have on the body (and the environment), I began transitioning all of my skincare and make-up to natural alternatives. I'll be writing about this topic very soon as it's a massive love of mine and a large part of my self-care routine. If you need any tips or product recs in the meantime, just email me. It's one of my favourite topics to chat about.
As a quick teaser, here are some of my favourite natural skincare products for keeping my skin happy:
MAKE-UP REMOVER: I use any brand of organic virgin coconut oil found at my local Huckleberry store. Smoosh it into your face, apply a hot facecloth for 20 seconds, wipe away excess and then cleanse with a natural cleanser. People are scared to use oils on oily, acne-prone skin but I am all about it.
CLEANSER: Mukti Organics Balancing Foaming Cleanser - the bottle has lasted me about 4 months, it's only very lightly scented and is a great second cleanse after the coconut oil. If I want a deeper clean, I can't go past the Black Chicken complexion polish which is a powder that can be mixed into your cleanser.
MOISTURISER: I use the Country Kitchen Rose and Chamomile face serum firstly because Hannah, the girl who makes it, is an absolute goddess, but secondly because it's made in Auckland and I love the story behind the company. I have just ordered the Rose and Marshmallow face cream which is sure to be another winner.
EYE CREAM: Old faithful, Prickly Pear Under Eye Elixir by Country Kitchen. It gives you that dreamy af under eye glow that says "has she been crying?" "is she using an expensive under eye illuminator?" --it just keeps people guessing, ya know?
I'd love to hear about any of your top tips for dream-worthy skin. Hit me in the comments below.