Last week, I shared a #nofilter selfie on Instagram. I’ve been receiving compliments on my skin for some time now, including from strangers who speculate that I must use X skin product or Y supplement and that’s why it’s so nice. Having grown up with teasing for my skin problems (as well as my general weirdness and smartness, but I digress); having tried conventional OTC pharmaceutical products ranging from Cetaphil and Noxzema to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid; having tried prescription Differin gel, minocycline, and hormonal birth control… it’s been dumbfounding to me that what was once my bane is now my banner, displaying my own glowing health. Compliments gladly taken! Here I’ll share what I’m actually doing, so that you can get glowing too.
Get your greens.
Lots of different ones. Greens are generally high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and an array of other micronutrients. Crucifers (think kale, cauliflower, broccoli, etc), as well as herbs like milk thistle, dandelion, and nettle leaf, are all known for liver-supportive and anti-inflammatory properties. To make a long biochemical story short, showing your liver some TLC translates into healthy skin.
If you can’t fit lots of fresh vegetables or herbal teas into your day, try adding just one green smoothie, green juice, or simply a greens powder mixed with water to your day. I like to have my smoothie/juice/mix first thing in the morning, as part of breakfast. My favourite powders are Genuine Health Greens+O (acai-mango) and Botanica Greens (chocolate!).
Get your fats – especially GLA.
I have a not-so-secret love affair with avocados, chocolate, and coconut, usually having at least one, if not all three, in the course of a typical day. I also consume at least one 1oz. serving of omega-6-rich seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds; or I add 1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. seed oils such as black seed oil, evening primrose oil, or borage oil, all high in omega-6 GLA, to my smoothies.
Most other healthy fats have the benefit of being anti-inflammatory, making them great for skin in their own right. GLA (gamma linolenic acid) has been used to improve a variety of inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and more. So I definitely owe at least partial credit for my skin to my consistent intake of GLA and other fats.
Spice it up!
No, I don’t mean in the bedroom… though possible benefits of sex for prevention of aging have been studied. Okay, so not just in the bedroom. I also don’t mean taking sex outside the bedroom. But that can be good too. I’m going off topic… I mean add spices to your food!! Frequently in my meals you’ll find spices like turmeric, ginger, and cayenne. These spices are not only high in antioxidants, but they also show anti-inflammatory benefits, and can help improve blood flow too, meaning better-nourished cells throughout your body, including your skin (and coincidentally, your sex organs…).
Many people tell me they want to add turmeric to their diet, but don’t know how. Try sneaking it into unexpected places: add ground turmeric to brown rice or quinoa while it’s cooking, to stirfries and sauces (great for vegan mac & cheez, to add flavour and colour!), fresh turmeric to smoothies, juices, or curries, or dried turmeric to chai tea or other tea blends. You could also try my Invincible Golden Noggin Nog Latte.
Make room for mushrooms.
Mushrooms are just plain amazing. Not only do they feature a wealth of immune-building properties, including beta-glucans and vitamin D, some varieties such as reishi are great for cardiovascular function (see previous point about nourishing your cells), lion’s mane may stimulate nerve cell growth, and just about all of them provide collagen, the backbone of skin, hair, nails, and joints.
I love throwing mushrooms into soups, stews, chili, sauces, stirfries, rice, burgers… just about anywhere if I could have my way! More recently I’ve discovered chaga mushroom tea, and Four Sigmatic powder drink mixes, which I add to smoothies, coffee, or simply hot water and almond milk. Additionally, I’ll take a mushroom blend supplement for additional immune and energy support in the winter.
Make friends with ferments.
Fermented foods have garnered a lot of buzz in health-conscious circles. Kombucha, kimchi, coconut kefir, water kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, even fermented protein powders… these foods have an abundance of goodness, including naturally-occurring enzymes and probiotics, which serve to optimize digestion and thereby aid absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Take a look at your fingernails. Are they smooth, strong, and pink, or do they crack easily, have vertical ridges, or white spots? These are signs that your body may not be absorbing minerals, including zinc, silica, and magnesium, critical elements for healthy skin, hair, and nails. Boost your ability to absorb these nutrients by adding a serving of fermented food to your day.
Simplify your skin products.
I’m a firm believer in keeping skin care simple. I only use two products regularly to care for my skin: a gentle face wash and a light skin oil. Every once in a while I might use an eye cream at bedtime. I very rarely wear makeup (I think the last time was 2 years ago for a themed bachelorette party), which never really agreed with my skin. Additionally, I look for products with simple ingredients and avoid ones with sulfates, parabens, triclosan, preservatives, artificial fragrance, etc.
My current favourite skincare line is Skin Essence. I use their “Fresh” cleanser and “Light” face oil. Even oily skin can benefit from moisturizing, especially in cold weather, as tightness puts stress on the skin and clogs pores, leading to more breakouts. The Light oil, which is also infused with antiseptic tea tree and geranium oils, has been amazing for preventing that tight feeling when I head outside with a freshly-washed face.
It’s been said. So. Many. Times. But it bears repeating. Hydration is absolutely key to keeping your skin looking fresh and healthy.
If you find it hard to get your day’s recommended fluid intake, try adding fresh or frozen fruit to infuse it with flavour: strawberries and green apple slices, blackberries and mint, lime and basil, lemon and cucumber, etc. Herbal teas like hibiscus, peppermint, rooibos, and holy basil are flavourful and skin-boosting as well. Don’t discount soups, smoothies, and fresh-pressed juices for your intake, either. Whatever it takes to get it in you!
There are likely more factors involved in keeping my complexion clear and smooth, like hormonal balance, elimination of allergens, and my sleeping habits. These are my top 7 that I believe you can totally incorporate into your lifestyle today. Get glowing!
Updated summer 2018: I am not affiliated with any of the companies I have listed in this post. I just really like the products.
Further reading on herbs and omegas mentioned in this post that I found interesting:
Milk thistle: early seeds of potential, The Lancet Oncology. This review looks at studies using milk thistle for liver health, including those that discuss reducing effects of poisons (such as poisonous mushrooms, alcohol, and chemotherapy), as well its potential for UV protection of the skin for cancer prevention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116427/
The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This study is fascinating and actually discusses all parts of the dandelion plant and their potential for fighting melanoma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018636/
Stinging nettle, University of Maryland Medical Center. An overview of nettle and its various uses. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/stinging-nettle
Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health, Oregon State University. A collection of articles on omegas for skin health. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids
Gamma-linolenic acid, University of Maryland Medical Center. An overview of GLA and its various uses. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/gammalinolenic-acid