Ok, so I have a confession. Until now, my skincare routine has consisted of nothing more than a damp face cloth and maybe some rose-hip oil here and there. No cleanser, no toner, and certainly no exfoliant. Terrible, I know. To my defence I am fortunate enough to have always had pretty clear skin, which I like to think is due to the amount of water I drink, but to be honest I think my genes might play a pretty big role in it too. My skin rarely breaks out but when it does I can always pin point it to something (lack of sleep, too much sugar (gin and tonic is my vice, but you didn’t hear that here) and unmanaged stress are usually the main culprits), and so I’ve never really thought that I needed these products. Recently though I’ve started taking a little more notice of my skin and I’ve decided to give it the attention and love it deserves. I figure it’s been pretty good to me for all these years, so it’s probably about time I paid it back with some TLC. Oh and also I might have noticed some tiny wrinkles (we shall call these “smile lines” from here on in) forming the other day, which is fine, because “older and wiser” and all that jazz, but also, I like my smooth subtle skin and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible. So, skin care regime it is.
I kicked off this promise to myself the other night by exfoliating for the first time EVER (I know, so gross, so many dead skin cells). I am actually shocked at how soft my skin feels as a result. Like a babies bum. But really… Why hasn’t anyone told me about this earlier? Skin exfoliant: truly amazing and magical stuff.
Of course there is never any of the “treating the outside” without also “treating the inside”. If you come to me as a naturopathic client with complaints of dry skin, acne, dermatitis, eczema and the like… and you want a cream, right? A natural alternative to the steroidal cortisone creams. This I can provide, but not without a (small and friendly) lecture in how your insides affect your outsides, and how your outsides reflect your insides. And how, for example, if your Th1 and your Th2 immune cells are out of balance then this immune dysregulation can cause an inflammatory response which can result in psoriasis and how there are so many natural, safe, effective and scientifically validated remedies to rectify this… but, that is a (small and friendly) lecture for another day. Back to my exfoliant.
So to match my new found, very mature and grown up skin care routine, these are my inside tips for sparkly, healthy, clean as a whistle skin:
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. 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 is incredible!