Wouldn’t we all love to have soft, velvety skin? The desire to possess a perfect, smooth, peachy complexion has been with us (in particular us females) for as long as we have existed, and has helped the cosmetics industry reach the gigantic proportions it has. However, the secret to beautiful skin lies less in costly cosmetics and more in internal nourishment. If you treat your body kindly and nourish it healthily, it will pay you back handsomely with lovely skin.
We do not often think of the skin as an organ, yet it is the largest organ in the body. It forms the outer layer that protects our internal organs from the environment. Its pores allow it to excrete unwanted toxins and absorb desired matter efficiently. Most importantly, however, your skin is a hologram of your body. As the outer layer of the body it reflects with amazing precision the state of your innards. This is why healthy nutrition, which nourishes the internal organs, is reflected on the outside as glowing skin. Here are some tips for achieving nourishment from within that will save you many pounds spent on expensive creams.
The very first ingredient the skin requires is water. Since it is the largest organ in the body, it is also the biggest reserve of water should the body become dehydrated. Most of us spend a lifetime consuming dehydrating foods and drinks (such as tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar and bread), all of which require plenty of water to break down and wash out. If we don’t provide our body with the tool with which to do it, namely water, then the first port of call would be the water reserves of the skin. If you want glowing skin, drink at least 4 pints of non-sparkling water daily and reduce substantially the amount of dehydrating foods and drinks you consume.
The natural cosmetics motto: if you can’t eat it, don’t smear it on your skin
Choose beneficial oils
Oils and fats play a huge if somewhat neglected role in our health, and particularly that of our skin. Just as you would oil (rather than wash) a saddle to keep it in good shape, so your skin requires oil to keep it supple and wrinkle-free. As always, internal feeding takes precedence. For the sake of our body in general and our skin in particular the best fats to consume are the polyunsaturated fats of the Omega 3 series, found in oily fish and in cold pressed, untreated oils such as linseed (also known as flaxseed), hemp, walnut and pumpkin seed. Linseed oil is usually taken therapeutically as its flavour is not very pleasant whereas hemp, walnut and pumpkin seed oils can be used freely in salads. Heating these oils spoils them and should therefore be avoided. If you like fish, have fatty fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel 3-4 times a week.
Make sure that other oils you use are cold pressed (extra virgin in the case of olive oil) and preferably organic. Use olive oil for cooking as it is less prone to spoilage, and avoid margarine as its unhealthy fats are unlikely to benefit your skin. Avoid food containing hydrogenated fat (most convenience foods). Not only is such fat of nil nutritional value, it is equivalent to introducing pure toxicity into the body, and through it, straight onto the skin (think cellulite!).
To ensure the beneficial effect of unsaturated fats, cut down on saturated fat, especially from animal origin (e.g. fatty meats, cheese, ham and bacon). These saturated fats act like tar in the body and are difficult to get rid of. Any imbalance in the kinds of fat you consume will quickly show up on your skin in the form of oily complexion, black spots, acne and cellulite.
Eat moisturising foods
Since water is so crucial to the health and appearance of the skin, the next best thing to consume is foods rich in water. Raw fruit and vegetables are the leaders of this category with fresh, lightly cooked vegetables coming shortly behind. Not only do these foods provide plenty of water but also a variety of minerals, vitamins and trace elements essential to the nourishment of the skin. These minerals and vitamins are largely lost in food processing, so a diet high in convenience and ready-made foods will be lacking in these essential nutrients, and the consequences will need to be masked with layers of makeup. Minerals, vitamins and other nutrients work best as part of a whole, so are invariably more effective when taken an part of a fruit or a vegetable than when added as an isolated, synthetic ingredient to a skin cream.
Eat foods rich in anti-oxidants
Oxidised substances create free radicals, similar to sparks coming off a fire. Free radicals damage your cells and tissues and lead to premature aging, both internally and externally. Refined and processed food, damaged fats and oils, additives, pesticides, stress, pollution and drugs of all sorts create a plethora of free radicals. It is wise to avoid these as far as possible whilst at the same time increasing the consumption of foods rich in the ACE vitamins (literally, vitamins A, C and E). These vitamins are known as anti-oxidants and are able to protect your body – and your skin – from the negative effects of free radicals. The ACE vitamins can be found in all fresh fruit and vegetables, in nuts, seeds, sprouts, some cold-pressed oils and fatty fish .
If your diet is healthy and hydrating and you are drinking plenty of water, consider supplementing with some natural skin aides. Linseed oil must be the first on the list of skin supplements (try Cytoplan’s organic linseed oil) – take 1-2 tablespoons a day. Vitamin E, a natural oxidant, is another good supplement to consider, especially in combination with the oil.
Be kind to your skin and don’t smother it with chemical-laden potions and lotions, however tempting the packaging may look. Use pure oils such as almond or jojoba as your body lotion and face cream (a few drops on cotton wool will do). Dry brush the skin before taking a bath, avoid washing excessively, use natural, gentle soaps and deodorants whenever possible expose your skin to the air so it can breathe. Exercising and sweating are also good to wash out impurities. And do remember – no expensive toiletries will ever achieve what your own gentle, loving nourishment can.
© Vardit Kohn, February 2005. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without prior written consent.