I see a lot of problematic skin in various clients – from acne to eczema and everything in between. Each person will have a unique presentation and health story which has got them to where they are. Most often, on investigation and testing, the driver is either hormonal (stress hormones or sex hormones e.g. testosterone) or digestive – a toxic bowel, overloaded liver, gut infection, etc. In these instances the treatment is very specific to the individual. Drugs which are used to manage acne such as Accutane and the oral contraceptive pill disrupt gut bacteria (which can cause problematic skin) and deplete the body of many vital nutrients – many of which are required for skin health. Natural is best – treat the underlying cause. Testing can be invaluable when trying to identify the root cause of problematic skin. Speak to your healthcare professional about the appropriate testing for your skin.
Until then, some of my favourite nutrients to support general skin health include:
1. Vitamin C – acting as a free radical scavenger, which is basically fancy talk for an antioxidant, vitamin C reduces the damage done to our skin from sun exposure, chemicals, sugar, environmental pollutants, coffee, alcohol, stress and, well, life. It’s also an important component of collagen, which is the main structural protein found in our skin that keeps it looking firm and youthful. Vitamin C is found in foods such as kiwi fruit, citrus fruits*, capsicums, broccoli, strawberries and green leafy vegetables. *Be sure to eat the pith of citrus, as this is where other skin loving antioxidants called bioflavonoids live, which also help with the absorption of Vitamin C.
2. Hyaluronic acid – this guy is found in pretty much every serum new to the market at the moment and has gained huge popularity in skincare over the past year or so. It is a type of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) which keeps our skin looking hydrated, plump and fabulous. Dietary sources of hyaluronic acid include beans, citrus fruits, organic soy products and root vegetables (think pumpkin, beetroot, swedes, turnips and my favourite food in the whole world: sweet potato).
3. Proanthocyanidins – these are a class of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, found in colourful fruits and vegetables. Proanthocyanidins (PACs) are the phytochemicals responsible for giving foods and flowers their red, blue and purple colours. Helping to fight off free radicals, control sebum and oil production and reduce pigmentation to keep our skin tone even and bright, they are a superhero of the skin nutrient world. Great sources of PACs include deeply coloured fruits such as blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries and red wine (by the glass that is, not the bottle).
4. Fish oil – to reduce inflammation within the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and to keep all of our cell membranes thriving. Fish oil is a great intervention if you suffer from dermatitis, psoriasis or acne thanks to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Be very careful with your choice of fish oil, there are only a handful of 3 or 4 fish oil supplements that I would ever use or recommend. Be sure to choose a fish oil supplement made from small fish (such as anchovies or sardines), from Scandinavian waters and choose a company which have really strict heavy metal screening processes. Preferably with added vitamin E to prevent the oils from oxidising, and sometimes vitamin C too, which helps metabolise the vitamin E. Cheap fish oil supplements are just that – cheap, oxidised, inflammatory. Avoid like the plague. When it comes to fish oil supplements, you really do get what you pay for. Speak to your naturopath or contact me here if you need some help choosing a good quality fish oil supplement.
5. Calendula tea – not a nutrient, but Calendula is one of my favourite herbal medicines to mix into a skin tea. I like making teas from scratch; it gives me the ability to create individualised formulas depending on taste and medicinal requirements. Loose leaf tea is almost always better quality than store bought teabags and also means you save plastic lined teabags from going into landfill #zerowaste. Calendula mixes really well with other herbs such as echinacea, poke root, burdock and cleavers. These herbs are classed as “depuratives” meaning they clean our blood, resulting in sparkly clear skin. The efficacy of a well made, good quality and high potency skin tea should not be underestimated.