Photo of the naturally beautiful and radiant Mikaela South, Conscious Beauty Expert
Skin health is important to everyone one I know, particularly women. And it seems that women of all ages have concerns, from battling acne as a teen (or even as an adult), to discovering fine lines and wrinkles as we mature. I personally have battled my fair share of acne and inflamed skin rashes in the past. Since then I have been on a continuous quest to achieve and maintain a naturally clear and radiant complexion.
These days I feel blessed to be able to confidently show my bare face to the world, makeup and cover up free. I took the time and care to address the root cause of my skin issues (internal imbalances such as compromised GI health), and heal with a combination of high quality nutrition, supplements, and self-care, all of which I wish to share with you in this special and extensive blog post today.
FACT: Did you know that skin is actually the body’s largest organ! It acts like a crystal clear mirror that shows you very important information about the state of health of your internal body. If you lack sleep, drink lots of caffeine and / or alcohol, are constantly stressed and run down, eat poorly, have a toxic liver, an impaired digestive system, food sensitivities, lack hydration, have hormonal imbalances, or excess inflammation, it will likely reflect in the appearance of your skin.
Just like there is not one way of eating that suits everyone, there is not one perfect skin care regime for everyone either. “Skin type” is a unique quality of each person. There are different bacterial populations, pH levels, textures, tones, pores, elasticity, and moisture levels for each individual. For example, one person may be genetically blessed and have a naturally clear completion with ultra resilient skin that can tolerate any product they put on it or any sun they expose it to, whereas another person may have pale skin that is acne prone and super sensitive to both sun and commercial skin products.
Regardless of your skin type, it is crucial to note that it is an ultra absorbent organ, meaning it soaks up everything you lather on it just like a sponge. So, as much as possible, try to keep your skin products naturally derived, organic (free of toxic chemicals and synthetic additives) and super high quality from reputable brands. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website called Skin Deep for helpful product reviews.
Here’s what you can do:
*Be mindful excess sun exposure to prevent pre-mature aging and skin damage. We all need to produce enough Vitamin D via the sun for maintaining a strong immune system, so opt for gentle sun exposure on bare skin (free of SPF protection) in the earlier hours of the morning or later in the evening when the sun is lower and less intense. Unprotected or too much sun exposure during the hours of the strong mid-day summer sun can be dangerous.
*Symptoms such as rashes, constipation or chronic exhaustion are all messages from your body saying that there is an internal imbalance present that needs to be addressed. So do your research and try to fix the issue, hire a Health Coach like me to help nourish and rebalance the body, or seek support from a Naturopathic Doctor who can run specialized tests to get to the root cause of any issues that may be causing compromised skin health.
*As much as possible (or as you are willing), ditch the alcohol, caffeine, dairy (particularly for acne prone people), overly acidic foods such as refined sugars and carbs e.g. flour products and sweeteners of any kind (especially when it comes to acne and pre-mature aging), processed and packaged foods with additives or ingredients that don’t occur in nature, transfats or rancid vegetable oils, and foods you are sensitive to (such as gluten intolerance). Remove these foods for as little as 2 weeks to start noticing a difference.
Nutrition and supplemental support:
Most of these nutrients can be used both topically and internally (via food or supplementation), however my personal belief is true beauty starts from the inside out, so focus on consistently eating high quality, nutrient dense whole foods, the way nature intended.
*Enjoy a naturally detoxifying and alkalizing (the opposite of acidic) way of eating: incorporate fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley to any savory meal or freshly made veggie juice. Try to consume at least one serving of cruciferous veggies each day (ideally with each meal). Enjoy an abundance of colorful organic produce, especially dark leafy greens. And lastly, start your day with a tall glass of pure lemon water and continue to drink lots of still filtered or spring water throughout the day.
*High quality animal protein is important for skin health because that’s where we can find a rich supply of the amino acids gelatin and collagen. You can add these to your daily food intake via supplementation (in powdered form e.g. “Great Lakes Gelatin” or via “grass-fed” bone broth (my personal favorite). These specific nutrients support skin, hair and nail growth, tighten loose skin, and can help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
*“Healthy fats” are those delicious and nutrient dense fats that occur in nature, such as pasture-raised eggs, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, coconuts, grass-fed meat and wild fatty fish. They come perfectly packaged with a full set of fat-soluble vitamins including A and E, which are totally skin boosters. Examples of the types of fats that benefit your skin health are:
- Anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids that you get from wild salmon *Salmon is my personal secret weapon to amazingly healthy, clear and glowing skin! Omega-3s are great for preventing dry skin.
- Monounsaturated fats from avocados and extra virgin olive oil. Be sure to load up on these ladies.
- Polyunsaturated fats from delicate nut and seed oils such as flaxseed, hempseed and walnut oil, which are all good sources of plant-based anti-inflammatory omega-3s (be sure to store them in the refrigerator and use within 3 months after opening to prevent them from going rancid and becoming “broken fats”).
- Saturated fats from coconut products (my personal favorite oil to cook with at high heat is the ultra stable raw coconut oil), organic nuts, and grass-fed animal proteins. This type of fat is essential for creating healthier cell membranes and assisting in sex hormone balance. *Caution: don’t use coconut oil on acne prone skin as it clogs pores big time (I learned the hard way).
*Antioxidants: eat a plant-based diet full of fresh organic produce that covers all colors of the rainbow. Antioxidants are essential for clearing up excess free radicals in your system (caused by many factors including chronic stress, poor diet, toxin exposure and overly strenuous exercise). If we have large amounts of free radicals floating around in our bodies, they can damage the cells of our tissues, including our delicate skin. Antioxidants also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and one of my favorite skin supplements to take and cook with is turmeric. As my idol Michael Pollan simply yet profoundly states: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
*Vitamin C (one of those epic antioxidants): is great for preventing pre-mature again because of the way if brightens and tightens the appearance of your skin. Again, think of powerful plant foods that fuel your life force: all your favorite fruits and veggies contain varying amounts of Vitamin C. Those with particularly high levels include: bell peppers (capsicum), super dark leafy greens, kiwifruit, broccoli, blissful berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and tropical papayas. I love this DIY recipe for Vitamin C Serum by Wellness Mama.
*Vitamin E (another super star antioxidant): Rich sources include avocados, nuts and seeds, and dark leafy greens.
*Zinc (powerful mineral): great for skin repair and faster healing capabilities, as well as assisting in the proper structure of cell membranes, having anti-inflammatory effects, and protecting against UV radiation. Zinc may also reduce acne as effectively as antibiotics (wish I knew this back in the day). Best sources are found in all animal proteins (quality is key: grass-fed/grass-finished, pasture-raised and organic). However, you can still get a good dose of Zinc from plant foods such as pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and nuts.
*Vitamin A, or retinol: promotes cell turnover to prevent conditions like acne. It also helps to improve rough, dry and bumpy skin, so topical or internal use of Vit A / retinol can help to clear up conditions such as eczema and psoriasis (again it is important to look inside and get to the root cause). Animal proteins are your best source of Vitamin A in the form of retinol, whereas plant foods including dark leafy greens and bright orange produce are a fantastic source of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (still very beneficial for glowing skin health).
An additional note to my fellow acne sufferers: Be sure to detox your liver, cut out trigger foods (particularly overly acidic and pro-inflammatory foods such as refined or excess sugar, flour products, and dairy), use non-clogging products (use this list as a guide), address your gut and hormonal health with a Certified Health Coach like me, and / or a Naturopathic Doctor (especially before taking medications including antibiotics prescribed by MDs or dermatologists… I took way too many of these trusting these practitioners in the past, and now I have a compromised gastrointestinal tract that I have to diligently look after).
Realize, skin has its own microbiome too, so topical antibiotics can be a short-term fix but are not a long term solution. Also, be mindful of birth control pills too… instead try to balance your hormones naturally by working with a knowledgeable Naturopathic Doctor.
Lastly, see a trusted aesthetician that can help you to clean out your pores via gentle facials and extractions that are skin trauma free. I love the girls at Purevana in Mill Valley and 100% trust the owner Valerie with the health and appearance of my face!
For fellow eczema sufferers: address digestive issues including any intestinal permeability that may be present. You must work with a Naturopath to heal the lining of your GI tract using targeted supplements like L-glutamine and probiotics. Be sure to address food intolerances or allergies too (these must be avoided).
“Slip, slop, slap” with truly safe sunscreen: The EWG’s “Skin Deep” website can give you a list of hormone disrupting ingredients and toxins to avoid as the FDA doesn’t regulate US ingredients very well. Avoid oxybenzone in sunscreens as it is one of those hormone disruptive chemicals and instead use SPF protection that contains zinc oxide. Avoid sprays because you can inhale ingredients and get them stuck in your lungs, especially children. Fragrance is a label for a broad range of chemicals, so opt for pure essential oils to smell naturally lovely.
A few wise words from inspiring women on aging and the new craze of botox:
At this point in my life as a young woman I feel that botox is unnecessary, especially in a woman’s 20s and 30s. There simply isn’t enough research or evidence to guarantee the safety of use, quality of results or potential side effects (both internally and externally). As a modern society, we don’t have to fight aging. It’s completely natural and in almost all cultures it is accepted, celebrated, and respected (except for our own). Aging and lines on our faces are a reflection of life’s journey, experiences, and emotions. I hope I can be a strong role model to take the social pressure of women of all ages, and stand up for something I truly believe in: natural beauty from the inside out, acceptance of and confidence in ones self. Some of my naturally sexy, empowered and confident girlfriends feel the same:
"Why try to go against nature when we talk about aging? Embrace getting older, cherish the way you look, be happy in your own body, don't compare yourself to others, and SMILE! The best and only "remedy" to feel and look beautiful!" - Patricia, 48 years old! (“But feels like 38 haha”)
“I'll never forget what an inspiring man told me once when I was quite young and its stayed with me since... Our bodies are purely just vehicles transporting our souls around this earth. It's so true, the beauty of our souls are what truly matters not the beauty of the transportation. In the end our souls are what connect us to our purpose in life, to our greatest loves and best memories. The soul never dies, our bodies will. Nurture and nourish the soul.” - Brianna, 29 years old (a natural beauty with a very wise soul)
Insight from a woman on “turning 60”…
“I always find 41, 51 and 61 easier than 40, 50, and 60. When I look back I shouldn’t have felt old at 40, as it is now 20 years on now at 60. At 40 I was really still young. Our society seems to be "young” focused yet we all get older. I found at 50 and 60 it felt a milestone of a reminder I was getting older. I think one can get a bit down approaching 50 or 60 as one reflects on where they are. In some ways, 50 and 60 is like a hurdle with sole searching of who I am, what I have achieved, and where I want to be or what else to I want to achieve. There is more a sense that one does not live forever. 51 and 61 is great, as one then seems to come to terms with what it means to be 50 or 60. At 60 it was a strange sense of change, family all grown up, not as much hands on mothering, and refection on the fun of past family life e.g. taking kids to sport and play dates with their friends etc. 60 for me also had a lot of change at work, like a sense of loss, as many staff who I had known for 12 years or so departed. A few months after my 60th birthday, I developed a renewed sense of self, contentment and happiness. 60 is about being at peace with who you are... enjoying family, pursuing interests, continuing to work if you wish, and exercising. A very strong message from society, TV, friends, the media, and actresses seems to be “can I look like I’m 30 at 60”. Botox and the pressure not to have lines on our faces can be overwhelming, yet at 60, one has life experience and likely a family with 20 to 30 year old children, so I feel my achievement is to celebrate that I look older now, finally acknowledge the age I am and be proud of it. Prior to 60, I wanted people to think I was younger, I am now more comfortable and reassured that we all do age, that is OK and to feel proud of being 60.”
“What's all this talk about "anti-aging?" I say flip it around to look at skin care in terms of "pro-aging." Embrace life through clean living, exercise and food and your skin will glow as you embrace your age!” - Donna R. 50+ (“and embracing it”)
"Beauty and wellness are interconnected. Women are increasingly becoming aware that beauty is more than skin deep - that what we put onto our body gets absorbed into our bloodstream. I encourage a 360-approach to achieve your ultimate beauty. It's more holistic and it's rooted in making mindful decisions about your body that align with YOUR goals and lifestyle. For you, maybe that's going all green with your routine, or maybe not! And, that's ok. I see clients all the time who are all about prevention and green juices, but who are also curious about botox. There's a balance to it all and I'm here to help women find it. I call it, Conscious Beauty." - Mikaela South, smart and conscious Beauty Expert
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post coming next week where I will share with you my personal natural beauty regime and my favorite products for acne-prone and sensitive skin. Contact me for personalized nutrition and health coaching sessions that will enhance your natural beauty and skin health from the inside out.