Achieving glowing skin in winter isn’t just about finding a good skincare routine and sticking to it. Your skin is your body’s largest organ – so it comes as no surprise that it can also be a reflection of what is going on INSIDE your body. Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and hives can all manifest externally due to underlying inflammation in the body.
So, how can we look after our skin from the INSIDE out, reduce inflammation and maintain our winter glow? I’ve compiled my top tips for looking after your skin this Winter.
Tip 1 – Eat to nourish your skin
Nutrients such as Vitamin A, Chromium, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin E, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin B5 all play a significant role in preserving and maintaining your skin’s epithelial layer. Deficiencies, inadequate intake or poor absorption of these key nutrients may, therefore, increase the possibility of certain skin conditions. It is interesting to note that Zinc (a key nutrient involved in wound healing) is abundant in a variety of foods. However, certain foods containing phytates (e.g. whole grain bread, cereals, legumes, etc.) bind to zinc and INHIBIT its absorption. Therefore, the bioavailability of zinc from a lot of grains and plant foods is relatively lower than animal foods. That said, you can still obtain zinc from a lot of plant foods, however, it is important to keep in mind that you may need to eat more of these foods to meet your daily intake. Heating, sprouting, fermenting or soaking plant-based sources of zinc may increase its bioavailability (3).
Top plant-based foods for healthy skin
Sweet potato, spinach, carrots, pumpkin and mangoes (good source of Vitamin A).
Broccoli, potatoes, garlic, apple (unpeeled) and bananas (good source of Chromium).
Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, dark chocolate, baked beans and legumes (good source of Zinc ).
Sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, hazelnuts and pine nuts (good source of Vitamin E).
Flaxseed oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds whole and walnuts (good source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids).
Shiitake mushrooms (cooked), sunflower seeds and avocado (good source of Vitamin B5).
Consuming foods containing these nutrients is always a first line approach by Nutritionists and Dietitians to ensure you meet your daily requirements. However, if you have been diagnosed with a deficiency (by your doctor), you may benefit from taking certain supplements to ensure you are meeting your daily requirements.
Tip 2 – Consume anti-inflammatory foods
Diet can definitely be a source of inflammation so if you are not eating the right foods, you may be compromising your skin’s ability to achieve its healthiest glow. To reduce and prevent inflammation in the body (from food), it is recommended that you consume anti-inflammatory foods.
Typically, the Western diet contains a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 6 is found in processed foods, dressings, spreads, cereals, sunflower oil and bread. Plant-based forms of Omega 3 are nuts, linseed oil, chia seeds and walnuts. The optimal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is between 2:1 and 4:1 but the average Western ratio is 20:1! Evidence suggests that a diet with higher amounts of Omega-6 may contribute to excess inflammation in the body which can present via the skin, as well as increase your risk of various diseases (3).
By increasing your intake of Omega-3 foods and reducing your intake of Omega-6 foods, you can help to normalise this ratio and reduce the risk of inflammation. Consuming a diet high in antioxidants (think bright coloured fruits and vegetables) can also help to reduce inflammation and is great for your skin.
Tip 3 – Preserve your skin’s microbiome
The definition of “Microbiome” is a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment, particularly the human body. Humans are home to approximately 100 trillion bacteria and microbes, collectively known as the “Microbiome”.
Emerging evidence suggests your skin has its very own microbiome and maintaining this topical bacterial community is vital for healthy skin. The skin is constantly exposed to environmental factors (e.g. ultraviolet light, pollution, topical medications, skin care products, etc.) which can alter the balance of bacteria on the surface of the skin. Disrupting this balance of bacteria may result in an increased risk of infections and chronic inflammatory skin disease (e.g. atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea and acne) (1).
Avoiding harsh cleansers or skin care ingredients, reducing your use of topical/oral antibiotics and ensuring you don’t over-wash your face are three ways to preserve your microbiome. From an internal perspective, ensuring your gut health is in optimum condition is our next tip.
Tip 4 – De-stress and improve the ratio of good: bad bacteria in your gut
A healthy functioning gut is essential for hormone production, immunity and mental health. Stress, sleep, food and your overall lifestyle may all be influencing your gut health.
Stress is not just a term for being busy. When our body is in a constant state of ‘stress’, it is in ‘fight or flight mode’ (sympathetic nervous system). In ancient times, this stress prepared us to run from a tiger or a potential threat. The modern-day tiger takes MANY forms and it is constant. It’s that email you forgot to respond to, the toxic relationship you can’t let go of; the office job you don’t enjoy and the social platforms that have you continuously glued to your phone. This constant state of stress (even at a seemingly low level) impacts our digestion.
Increased cortisol (stress hormone) takes the focus away from the digestive tract as it is not the body’s main priority. The result? Slowed digestion and motility, a down-regulation of digestive enzymes and a potential imbalance of normal microflora (1). Reducing daily stress in your life through diaphragmatic breathing, exercise, meditation and journaling can help to decrease cortisol levels, allowing your body to “rest and digest”.
Pre and probiotics also help to support a healthy gut. “Pro” biotics are foods or supplements (e.g. probiotics, yoghurt, sauerkraut and tempeh) that contain ‘good’ bacteria to help improve the ratio of good: bad bacteria. “Pre” biotics are essentially food for this ‘good bacteria’. Prebiotics include types of dietary fibre, such as whole grains, onions, garlic, asparagus and beans. Including more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet has been shown to increase the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut.
- Bowe, W.P. Logan, A.C (2011) Acne Vulgaris, Probiotics and the Gut-Skin-Brain axis – back to the future? https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-4749-3-1
- Gupta, R.K., Gangoliya, S.S., Singh, N.K. (2015) Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains. Journal of Food Science and Technology
- Simopoulos, A.P (2008). The importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and other chronic diseases. Sage Journals https://doi.org/10.3181/0711-MR-311