As much as I love skincare and beauty products, it's vital to nourish our skin through what we eat and our lifestyle choices. That slightly puffy, dark-eyed look we sometimes wake up with after a few too many drinks or indulging in takeaways? Yeah - that's what I'm talking about; no amount of expensive serum can help rectify that!
Catherine's approach to nutrition is extremely accessible and sustainable - she encourages small, achievable changes that make big differences.
I first worked with Catherine in 2018 as I needed help with my own nutrition, and I still follow her ethos to this day. Optimising my nutrition has been the single most beneficial element on my health journey, and it really does show in my skin.
I asked Catherine to talk us through her top tips on how to support our skin health from the inside out, particularly focussing on people who, like me, eat a plant based/vegan diet.
As a nutritional therapist, I’m often asked by my clients to help them with their skin health. There’s so much you can do to support your skin from the inside out. Often skin care tends to focus primarily on what we put on our skin, with not enough emphasis on the factors driving skin problems in the first place. You can do a lot to help your skin with the food you eat, reducing the toxins you’re exposed to, helping your body detoxify more efficiently and making sure your precious nutrients aren’t being used up by too many unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Here are some of my top tips for helping you achieve more glowing skin.
Increase the variety in your diet. How many different foods do you eat in a day? So many of us stick to the same foods, day in day out. And often it’s all a bit too beige! It’s really important to get more variety in your diet, because then you’re getting more nutrients your body needs for optimal skin health. Can you get a rainbow of plant foods on your plate? All these different colours provide nutrients for your skin, but also for your liver and digestive system to function optimally. These organs are vital for helping us to detoxify unwanted chemicals and waste from our bodies. Every time you cook, think about how much extra colour you could add? For example – a bright purple aubergine, a zingy orange butternut squash, a bunch of deep green broccoli. See if you can eat every single colour of the rainbow, every single day!
Ramp up your Vitamin A: the delicate layers of your skin need Vitamin A to stay healthy and this essential vitamin may also help to prevent sun damage. Your skin also cannot heal without enough Vitamin A. As a vegan, you can get plant based vitamin A in the form of carotene from many different vegetables and fruits. Orange coloured ones are especially high in beta carotene, including carrots, sweet potato, squash and cantaloupe melon. You’ll also find plenty of carotene in greens like Kale, chard and spinach.
Are you getting enough healthy fats? Not enough healthy fat in your diet can make your skin feel dry, unlubricated and in need of a bit of a plump up. Signs of healthy fat deficiency can also show as red bumps on the back of your arms. Every cell in our body needs fat and it’s about getting the right kinds of fat in our diet. If you’re a vegan or veggie, you won’t be getting any omega 3 from oily fish, so do make sure you have some flaxseed (linseed) or chia seeds every day, as these are the best plant based source of omega 3. You can use these to make delicious puddings or sprinkle them onto your porridge, cereal or add into baking. Aim to get in a tablespoon per day. Other nuts and seeds, plus dark green leafy veg, also contain some omega 3 fats. You might also consider taking a supplement of Echiomega or Sea Buckthorn to support healthy, glowing skin. Plus include some monounsaturated fats, from extra virgin olive oil and avocados.
Vitamin C for collagen. Collagen is the twisted matrix of protein that holds your skin together and keeps it looking plump and healthy. We can’t make collagen without enough vitamin C, so if you want to take care of your skin, increase your Vitamin C intake. Our best sources are raw fruit and veg, as Vitamin C is dramatically reduced by cooking. Those highest in Vitamin C include red and yellow peppers, kiwis, berries and cherries, papayas, persimmons, citrus fruit, spinach, kale and fresh parsley.
Another key nutrient for the skin is Selenium, because it’s such a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help to protect our cells from free radical damage caused by pollutants and toxins. Most of us don’t get enough selenium because it’s highly depleted in our soil, so you need to ensure you’re topping up your diet with good sources of selenium. One of the best ways to get it into your diet is from brazil nuts – just 4 per day can give you your daily requirement. A great energy boosting snack!
Stay hydrated! As a nutritionist I couldn’t write an article about the skin without mentioning water. We all know we need to drink enough water, but sometimes we can fall out of good habits. Dehydrated cells are not plump and vibrant, which can affect the glow of our skin. Plus without enough water, our body cannot transport our essential vitamins and minerals to the cells where they are needed. Keep a large glass or bottle of water on your desk and sip throughout the day. Swap caffeine drinks for more herbal teas. Plus you can start your day with a glass of water to rehydrate after you’ve slept.
Is stress affecting your skin? Sometimes stress isn’t really addressed when it comes to skin health, but if we’re not balancing our stress levels with relaxation time and gentle movement, this can also affect our skin quality. Why? Because stress depletes us of essential nutrients. It also can affect our digestion, meaning we’re not absorbing so much essential goodness from our food. Plus we often make poorer food choices when we’re stressed. If you’re mega busy or overwhelmed, try to prioritise some relaxation time when you can. Get to bed a bit earlier. Have a warm bath with Epsom salts. Go for a walk and spend time in nature. Do some yoga. Whatever you need to achieve that sense of calm on a regular basis. Your skin will thank you for it!
Thank you, Catherine, for your fantastic professional advice!
Be sure to follow Catherine on Instagram here, and check out her website here.