Natural health and beauty expert Juliette Scarfe walks you through nutrition and skincare tips to help you reclaim your radiance this winter.
Cold weather, lack of sunlight, lower exercise levels, comfort eating and dehydrating central heating can all play havoc with your skin.
If it feels like your healthy summer glow has gone into permanent hibernation, don’t despair. If you want firmer, healthier, more radiant skin then read on.
The connection between what you eat and the health of your skin is a profound one. Without a strong foundation of eating the right foods and drinking clean water, no amount of creams or potions will alter the look and feel of your skin to any great degree.
I believe that when it comes to healthy skin, 80% is nutrition and 20% is using natural and organic skincare. Reducing your intake of chemicals and removing toxins from the body is the most powerful way to beautify your skin, turn back the clock and find energy you never knew you had.
If you load up on the following nutrients you will see a difference in your skin in just three weeks:
Essential fatty acids
We are unable to manufacture essential fatty acids (EFAs) so we need to consume essential fats daily to stay blissfully youthful and for our cell membranes to stay flexible and supple.
EFAs reduce inflammation, protect the skin’s natural oil barrier, maintain hydration and balance sebum levels to prevent congestion and spots.
Refined vegetables oils (found in nearly all processed foods) inhibit the body’s absorption of EFAs and therefore should be avoided.
SOURCES: Non-farmed cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, avocados and leafy greens.
SUPPLEMENTS: Evening primrose oil, krill oil and borage oil.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, mopping up damaging free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron and that wage war on the health and longevity of our cells.
Also essential for building and maintaining collagen and maintaining the health of skin, blood vessels, bones and teeth. Collagen helps to ‘glue’ skin cells together, protecting skin from damage and creating a barrier against foreign invaders.
SOURCES: Red bell peppers, citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, blackcurrants, broccoli, greens, and Brussels sprouts.
This trace element, essential at every stage of life from the cradle to the grave, is involved in the production of over 80 hormones, metabolises essential fatty acids and is involved in the production of insulin.
Coffee, wheat and alcohol inhibit absorption of zinc, while citrus fruits increase it.
SOURCES: Lean red meat, shellfish, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans, onions, garlic.
Selenium is an essential antioxidant mineral that scavenges free radicals and enhances the body’s ability to self-heal. Research indicates it’s severely lacking in the British diet, and that is has potent anti-cancer properties and slows down the ageing process.
Selenium helps protect skin cells from free radical damage, increases membrane elasticity and reduces pigmentation from sun damage. Research also confirms that adequate intake of selenium plays a role in skin cancer prevention.
SOURCES: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, button mushrooms, shrimp, fish (snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, oysters, sardines, crab), beef
Not classified as a vitamin as we can manufacture it in the body, Coenzyme Q10 is a master antioxidant, protecting cells from oxidation and free radical damage. It works by controlling the flow of oxygen during the cells’ production of energy, making the process more efficient and reducing the level of oxidants formed during the process.
SOURCES: Fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), poultry, organ meats, spinach, broccoli, alfalfa, buckwheat and millet.
Assists against cell oxidation and premature ageing and promotes the health and longevity of ocular cells.
Also prevents loss of natural moisture from the skin and supports follicles, preventing hair loss. Excellent for sufferers of dry skin and acne, research indicates it has anti-cancer properties.
SOURCES: Oranges, carrots, cantaloupe, leafy greens, eggs, raw and organic dairy, especially butter (select New Zealand butter as it originates from grass-fed, not grain-fed, cows).
Prevent cell oxidation, reduces cellular inflammation and supports hair growth and follicle strength.
B3 supports fat and carbohydrate metabolism, lowers blood cholesterol and strengthens skin cells, regulating the turnover of healthy new cells. If you suffer with dry skin or greasy hair then you need B vitamins.
SOURCES: Kelp, greens, cruciferous vegetables, pulses, brown rice and buckwheat, organic eggs, raw and organic milk.
SUPPLEMENTS: B complex
Recent research indicates that increasing your vitamin D intake will reduce the effects of cold weather on the skin, preventing the onset of dry, tight and flaky skin by helping the skin to retain its own moisture levels.
We obtain 90% of our overall vitamin D3 via the action of sunlight hitting our bare skin. Therefore in the winter, supplementation is necessary to support your immune system and your skin.
Our levels are lower than they should be after the UK experienced one of the wettest years since records began. Vitamin D3 is critical for overall health, if you feel ‘blue’ at this time of year, its an excellent indicator that you are deficient in this vital nutrient.
SOURCES: Sunshine, non-farmed oily fish, organic egg yolks, liver, wild mushrooms.
Vitamin E efficiently protects against harmful environmental effects, and as a master antioxidant it supports the health of blood cells and membranes.
It also protects the walls of veins and arteries and increases cellular repair and regeneration, reviving dull complexions. Research indicates it has potent anti-skin cancer properties and helps to protect the skin from UV damage.
SOURCES: Seed oils (sesame, pumpkin, etc), pulses, nuts, seeds, organic eggs, olives, spinach, asparagus, leafy greens. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables all contain carotenoids – antioxidants that the body converts to Vitamin E and that nourish the layers of skin under the surface.
Remember to drink plenty of water to help keep skin hydrated. I can see a client’s hydration levels in the look and feel of their skin.
Tea and coffee are diuretics, meaning they leach water from the cells, reducing hydration levels. For a truly hydrating drink squeeze half an unwaxed lemon into filtered water and add a pinch of pink Himalayan salt for an instant electrolyte pick-me-up, for skin and body.
Being hydrated plumps your skin, increases circulation and blood flow to the skin, removes toxins and assists in the metabolism of fats.
Eating a fibre-rich diet helps your digestive system to work well to eliminate waste products and toxins from the body.
As the skin is an organ of elimination, good bowel function has a knock on effect on skin health, clarifying the complexion.
SOURCES: Organic porridge oats, whole grains, fruits, raw vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.
What to avoid
Sugar, in my opinion, is the number one skin enemy, and yet it is as addictive as cocaine, meaning it is very difficult to exclude completely from your diet without considerable effort.
Try to think about the type of sugar you are eating and avoid processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners of all varieties, unless you want to age prematurely and experience poor health.
Sugar slows down blood flow, leading to dull, tired and inflamed skin. It also overstimulates the sebaceous glands leading to congestion and spots.
Processed sugars stimulate the production of the male hormone androgen, which can cause acne in women.
Also, sugar is proven to accelerate collagen and elastin damage, so avoid it if you want your skin to retain its structural integrity.
Vitality skin tips
Our skin never sleeps. It works tirelessly around the clock to excrete toxins and waste: up to one pound each and every day.
If the rate of elimination slows down then, then pores become blocked, interfering with the nourishment and oxidation of cells. This leads to dull, congested and tired skin, slows cell regeneration and accelerates premature ageing.
For soft, healthy skin this winter, I recommend:
Dry Skin Brushing – a pleasurable way to remove dead skin cells and stimulate the formation of new, supple, healthy skin cells. Massage in circular motions, always towards the heart.
Dry brushing is beneficial for the body as it:
- Stimulates the circulation of blood and oxygen around the body (similar to when we exercise) leaving you with a radiant glow.
- Breaks down adipose tissue that causes cellulite.
- Tones and tightens the muscles and skin.
- Softens the skin and stimulates the body’s own production of natural sebum, increasing hydration levels and elasticity.
Spa Bathing – luxurious and beneficial for the skin while calming and soothing both the body and mind.
Experiment with adding a tub of organic (and ideally raw) cream to your bath to experience cashmere soft skin that feels silky to the touch. Cream is rich in essential fats, vitamins and enzymes.
For a tingly, mineralising soak, use 200g of pink Himalayan salt or 200g of Epsom salts for an instant pick-me-up for weathered winter skin.
Natural salt has a chelating action, releasing toxins from the body, while relaxing the muscles and grounding you. The abundance of trace minerals in the salts will be absorbed by the skin, leaving you feeling energized and well.
Facial Steaming – Steam is an ancient healing modality, opening the pores and softening the epidermis to allow the healing qualities of the plant materials used to penetrate the lower layers of the skin.
While you steam you promote the flow of fresh, oxygenated blood to the surface, tone muscles that support the skin, eliminate toxins, and tighten the pores and the skin overall.
For added luxury and vitamins, smooth natural honey over your face and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the honey with a natural cloth to reveal super soft, super supple skin that radiates with health.
Finally, here are my top tips for your daily winter skincare routine:
- Use a 100% natural serum in the morning. This will penetrate the deeper layers of skin, nourishing and giving environmental and elemental protection while serving as an excellent make-up primer.
- At night, use a rich moisturising cream that uses pure plant extracts to nourish, but that allows your skin to breathe. If the skin cannot breathe it cannot repair and regenerate while you sleep.
- If you experience dry or cracked lips, use a 100% natural lip balm made from only plant fats and beeswax to nourish and provide a protective waterproof layer, and prevent further moisture loss. To exfoliate your lips and remove dead cells, take a soft toothbrush add your favourite lip balm and rotate the brush over your lips until all the dead skin is removed, revealing plumped, hydrated lips. Licking your lips will only make them drier and more sore.
- Avoid products that contain any form of alcohol in them, including ‘alcohol denat’. Alcohol is extremely drying to the skin, stripping its natural sebum and interfering with its pH balance.
- Avoid any products with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Most commonly found in “wash-off” products like body washes and shampoos, this chemical ravages the skin (particularly the scalp) causing inflammation and irritation.
- If you are skiing, use a natural sunscreen as snow reflects 80% of sunlight compared to sand that reflects only 17%.
- Avoid overly hot showers or baths. They may feel comforting but they are harsh and drying to your skin.
- After bathing, pat skin dry and apply a natural body butter or plant oil to trap in moisture. My favourite plant oil is coconut oil. However, it must be virgin and organic for it to benefit the skin via its medium chain fatty acids and essential enzymes. It’s rich in lauric acid, which is bio-identical to your skin’s natural oils.
Juliette Scarfe is founder of the unique and gorgeous Bare Skin Beauty range. Bare Skin Beauty’s products are 80% organic, 100% natural, and rich in bioactive vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and antioxidants to repair and regenerate your skin. Find out more here.