It still feels strange to me when I get compliments on my skin.
You see, up until a few years ago, I used to have the worst skin – DRY all the time, even in the summer months. I would slather myself with lotion multiple times a day and not just any kind would cut it – I needed a buttery thick, heavy-duty kind. Applying large amounts of this lotion after showering was a must or else the dryness that followed would feel almost unbearable. Little did I know that all this pricey lotion wasn’t doing anything to address the root cause of my dry skin.
Fast forward a few years through nutrition school and beyond.
Most days I use NO lotion now. And that sentence still has me in disbelief. Aside from the use of hand lotion occasionally, I’ve found that my body no longer needs anything else. The girl with the chronically dry skin no longer needs moisturizer even in the winter with below-freezing temps! How is that possible?
It turns out that the secret to soft, radiant skin comes down to what you put IN your body, NOT on it. Our skin is the body’s largest organ and a true mirror reflecting our inner health. If we are experiencing dryness, dull skin, pimples, rashes, spots, etc, these are signs that our insides are in need of some cleansing and care.
The tips below have personally worked wonders for me, completely changing around my skin for the better. Keep in mind that these tips are NOT quick fixes — they absolutely all work but it does take a few weeks for results to show up in your skin.
Ditch the expensive lotions & skin products and put that money towards nourishing your skin from the inside out!
My 5 tips for beautiful, smooth, soft, clear skin:
1. Eat Healthy Fats
Contrary to what so many of us are taught, fats are healthy for us. In fact, eating no fat can actually contribute to more dry skin, aging and wrinkles. The key is to choose your fats wisely, as the type of fat you eat is very important.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) abound in foods these days (safflower, sunflower, canola, soy, corn, cottonseed oils) — you can literally find one or more of these vegetable oils in just about every packaged food out there — but these are the very fats you want to be eating the least of for beautiful skin. Why is that? Because PUFAs are chemically unstable – prone to becoming rancid as a result of oxidation in the presence of light, heat, or oxygen. The processing of these heavily unstable oils (which requires light, heat & oxygen to process!) creates free radicals in the body. And yup, these free radicals are responsible for not only damaging skin and causing wrinkles, but they also create excess inflammation in the body, leading to tons of other health issues!
Simply put, eliminating these veggie oils in your diet is probably the number one step you can take towards better skin and overall better health.
PUFAs are unfortunately the restaurant and food industry’s cooking oils of choice and avoiding these in your diet means cooking a lot more at home. This was a MAJOR struggle for me when I was first starting out in healing my body — I relied heavily on take-away foods and packaged snacks; moreover, I hated cooking. A big part of healing my body has been me coming to terms with the fact that I need to make some lifestyle changes in the way I eat and source foods… it’s been challenging at times but it is so worth it!
Ok, so out with the PUFAs. What are some great healthy fats to eat for glowy, radiant skin?
In nutrition school we studied the diets of many traditional people around the world and it was fascinating to see how robust and healthy all of them were from eating an abundance of saturated & monosaturated fats. Yes, the fats that have been villified for so long by the media – it turns out these fats are the ones that create healthy, gorgeous skin!
– coconut oil
– pastured egg yolks
– olive oil (best not to cook with this though, as the oil can oxidize when exposed to high heat)
– grass-fed dairy products (cream, full-fat yoghurt) – if you can find these raw, even better!
I watched my skin and hair completely transform over a few months of incorporating the above fats into my diet. Plus they make your food taste even more delicious
Don’t be afraid to eat some healthy fats – these natural fats are SO nutrient-rich and good for you. Your skin thrives on healthy fats and I believe that the body only craves as much as it needs.
2. Omega 3s
This is one of two types of essential fatty acids (the other being omega 6) that are needed by the body. These fatty acids help the skin hold moisture, keeping it soft and supple. Before we relied so much on processed foods, our ancestors consumed an ideal ratio of 1:1 omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Nowadays though, this ratio has been thrown waayy off, resulting in wide-spread inflammation in the skin and body — for many, the ratio has become 20:1 omega-6 to omega-3 or more! (All those PUFA veggie oils we just talked about? LOADED in omega-6!)
In short, healthy skin requires a near equal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
Many nutrition experts recommend supplementing with fish or flax oil as a way to restore your omega-3 balance. I’ve taken both of these in the past and don’t really recommend them to my clients for a few reasons. There’s also some debate over whether your body actually needs omega-3 supplementation. If you are eating a mostly home-cooked diet low in PUFAs, then you are probably getting enough omega 3’s from diet alone. You only need a little and whole foods will provide it in a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
However, I also learned in nutrition school that it can take up to 7 full years (!!) to restore the balance of essential fatty acids in our bodies after having a long-term diet high in omega-6. As someone who spent most of her life eating packaged and fast foods, I know my fatty acid balance is still off and so I take a krill oil supplement for the omega-3s. I may not need this later on but for now my body tests well for the supplement and thrives on it. This is one reason why it’s important to work one-on-one with a health coach or naturopath instead of following a general recommended protocol for these things, as everyone’s needs will be different.
3. Let your skin breathe
A few years ago I was constantly putting stuff on my skin. I had a day lotion for my face, a body lotion, a night-time face lotion, an eye cream, a cleanser & exfoliator… I was using some products that contained great ingredients but I think it was all just too much. The only real time I let my skin breathe was probably in the shower.
These days my beauty cabinet is pretty sparse and I don’t buy any of that stuff. I’ve found that less is truly more. For a body wash, I use Dr. Bronners Liquid Soaps – the ingredient list is short and it’s made up of natural oils which don’t dry out your skin.
I actually don’t wash my face at all, except for some splashes of water in the shower occasionally. I know that’s pretty controversial but there’s good reasoning behind it – the more we leave our skin alone, the more our body’s natural skin oils even out and provide the right amount of moisture for us. All the soaps, cleansers, harsh exfoliants, and chemicals that we are constantly putting on our face often do more damage than good, irritating our skin and stripping the skin of its protective layer.
It’s all about getting out of the way and allowing your skin to breathe, heal, and detoxify.
When I leave my face alone and don’t scrub, pick, wash or generally mess with it, my skin looks its absolute best. Pretty incredible, right? In order to follow this no-wash method for your face, it requires not wearing much make-up though… definitely not any face powder, lotion or cream, since you will be unable to wash it off!
4. Drink water – stay hydrated!
Interestingly enough, drinking water doesn’t actually moisturize our skin from the inside out. It hydrates our cells but does little for curing dry skin. However, staying hydrated does help flush toxins from our system, which definitely helps our skin heal and look clear.
A basic rule of thumb is to drink about half your body’s weight in water. So, for example, someone weighing 130 pounds would drink about 65 oz of water a day. Keep in mind if you drink any diuretics (coffee, caffeinated teas, soda, alcohol), your water requirement for the day will be much higher.
5. Address Gut Health
“A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And, just as a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of your body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system.” – Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Your gut is responsible for 80-85% of your health and immunity. I’ll just let that sentence sink in a bit… 80-85%. Holy crap. It comes as no surprise then that clear, glowing skin is a result of excellent digestive health. When our beneficial gut flora becomes damaged, this can cause the digestive wall to become leaky, allowing in a stream of invaders and undigested food into the gut.
What can damage gut flora?
– a diet of too many processed carbs and/or sugary foods
– antibiotics, pain killers, steroids, birth control pills, many other drugs
– long-term stress!
I can’t even begin to tell you all the incredible health issues that cleared up after fixing my gut. It requires a whole separate blog post! In 2012, I spent half a year on an intensive gut-healing diet – it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever kept up with to date but it healed so many of my life-long digestive issues. If you have skin problems like eczema, acne, psoriasis, or digestive issues like constipation, IBS, bloating, etc, I highly recommend a focus on healing the gut! Amazing things will happen! When working with clients, even if there are no obvious digestive symptoms, I usually still work on supporting the gut as good digestion is the foundation for everything else.
So there you have it, my recipe and top tips for gorgeous skin. If you liked this post, stay tuned, as next week I’ll be running a series of winter smoothie recipes for healthy, glowy skin! It starts this Monday February 9th and will run for 10 days straight!
Super excited about this… see you there for some wintery detox love!