There are two types of people:
- Those who look radiant whatever they do. These folks can exist on a diet of junk food, soft drinks, alcohol and cigarettes, regularly party from dusk till dawn, hold down stressful jobs, fly long haul, jetset and hobnob to their heart’s content and still have perfect skin and look the fresh-faced picture of health; and
- The rest of us.
I’m one of those people whose every sin is reflected in the skin. Stress, a late night, too much sugar (in any form, even raw), too much fat (in any form, even raw), not enough fat, overeating, undereating…any of these soon shows on my face in the form of breakouts, black bags and other blemishes. And on top of this my skin has a natural tendency to default into a dull pallor. F.o.x.y.
At least, I thought of it as a “natural” tendency until I started to understand holistic health. Then I realised that this is not how my skin is naturally. It is how it responds to all things unnatural. My skin simply has high standards. Like the rest of me, it’s high maintenance. It won’t let me get away with bad habits, and I’ve come to realise that is actually a blessing.
For one thing, I would never have got as interested in holistic health as I did, as young as I did, without this kick-in-the-pants factor.
After all, I was only in my early teens when I set out on this path and I wasn’t worried about longevity or optimal health then. It was pure vanity that initially propelled me on my quest to investigate every aspect of physical and mental/emotional health.
Twenty-something years on, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never be one of those people who looks effortlessly radiant. But starting a few years ago, two decades of tireless investigation and experimentation began to really pay off. Friends started to compliment me on how great my skin looked and ask me what I was doing.
Then, at a party one Friday night a woman I’d never met approached me to say that I had amazing skin and to ask what my secret was. Since then I have had this compliment on several more occasions (I still automatically look over my shoulder every time).
If I can take my complexion from “cover up!” to “coveted”, anyone can.
So today I want to share with you my top 10 tips for doing this, to save you the decades it took me to figure it all out. But before I launch into that I have to tell you right upfront that despite all the glossy ads and magazine articles, there is nothing in a jar or bottle that will do this for you. Take it from someone who knows because she’s tried it all.
Radiance is a quality that comes from inside and shines through the skin and there is no cream nor pill that can make that happen, nor foundation that can fake it.
There are no short cuts but stick to this program faithfully and you will soon start to see your skin improve…and improve…and improve. Even if you can only do half of these items you will see a massive transformation. And the most fantastic thing about this program is that any improvement you see on the outside will be a direct result of your becoming healthier on the inside.
I recommend working through numbers 1 to 5 first. They’re the foundation on which beautiful skin is built. Add in items 6 and 7 as soon as you can, as they’re ultra important too. Numbers 8-10 are the icing on the complexion cake: they’re optional extras for those who want to take massive action for extreme radiance.
So here goes…
1. Get the diet basics right
Eat real, whole foods, and enjoy an abundance of the ultimate skin superstars: vegetables and fruits. And be sure to include carrots and other orange veggies: in a recent study, subjects were shown pictures of people with a tan, and of people who’d developed a more subtle glow from eating foods rich in beta carotene. The shock result: they consistently rated the antioxidant-induced glow as more attractive. Foods to avoid are:
- All junk foods and soft drinks – obviously.
- White flour (which is, remember, bleached). Few people above the age of 30 can go to town on the bread and pasta without the three p’s showing up on their skin — pale, pasty and puffy.
- Refined sugar – the excess insulin will cause hormonal imbalance which wreaks havoc with your skin. Sugar also ages your skin, partly because it contributes to the formation of Advanced Glycation End products, aptly known as “AGEs”.
- Trans fats and in fact all cooked fats. They clog pores and also contribute to free radical damage, which shows up on your skin as wrinkles and age spots.
When you exercise, oxygenated blood whooshes through your system, boosting delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells, while flushing away cellular wastes and toxins. This oxygenated blood also plumps up your skin and boosts collagen production. Exercise also counteracts the effects of stress by promoting hormonal balance. The very reason skin flares up under stress is that stress triggers excess production of the male hormones which trigger break-outs.
3. Get fresh air every day
If you work outside it’s much easier to get the glow. This is because outside air is cleaner and a better source of oxygen. If your skin does not receive enough oxygen, it will appear dull and aged, and be extra vulnerable to attack by free radicals, so make time every day to be outside in the most pristine environment you can access. And if you’re doing 2 (exercise) and 9 (deep breathing), the results you experience will increase tenfold if you can do them outside in fresh, clean, oxygen-rich air.
4. In with bliss, out with stress
Have you ever had a fantastic night out, or a great day with someone (or a group of people) you love and done a double take at your reflection in the mirror – that shiny, glowy version of you? But what about the “boat race” staring back at you after a stressful day in the office or an argument with your spouse? Not so purdy, huh? Have you ever wondered why your emotions have such a profound effect on your skin? Being happy and relaxed promotes a state of internal “flow” where everything happens just as it should. But when you’re stressed, cells throughout your body contract. Spend enough time in this state and it’s a recipe for a sluggish system where nutrients and oxygen can’t get into your cells and wastes can’t get out.
5. Drink a large glass of raw juice a day
This will give your skin a glow you can’t get any other way, and will also make the amazing natural colour of your eyes shine out extra luminously. Make your juice with a base of cucumber and celery, then add some darker greens, be sure to include 3-4 carrots for the “better than a tan” effect (see 1, above), and if you want your complexion cocktail to taste like a luscious lemonade (and who wouldn’t?) add a peeled lemon to the cocktail.
6. Cleanse your colon
According to traditional Chinese medicine the skin and the colon are intimately linked, and enlightened Western holistic practitioners have long known this to be true. What does this mean to you? It means you need to get out the gunk, gorgeous. An hour on the colonic hydrotherapist’s table may not be everyone’s “cup of tea” but consider that it will not only do a lot more for your health than a facial; you will also leave looking as if you’ve had one.
It’s hard to glow when your skin is covered with a layer of dead cells. For maximum radiance you need to give your skin a helping hand in ditching this debris. But go easy – many exfoliating scrubs on the market are basically razor-sharp abrasive shards in a paste of nasty manmade chemicals. If you’re going to use a scrub, choose one that is natural and gentle, and for best results experiment with using a brush (see 9, below).
8. Deep cleanse
A good face mask will draw toxins out of your skin and leave it both tingling and visibly brighter and tighter. With an endless array of products on the market, let me share two insider tips. Heard of those oxygen facials exclusive spas are offering? They are amazing in their ability to make you look younger, fresher and more radiant, but they tend to involve manmade chemicals, and to cost £60-£80 a time. Enjoy the same benefits with a DIY oxygen facial using Paul Penders Intensive Clarifying Therapy. It’s just £54.95 for 12 treatments, it contains no nasties whatsoever, and the herbs and other plant-based ingredients are cold-processed, i.e. raw. Yum! I recommend using this once a week. Do this and as long as you’re following the earlier tips, too, you will soon be amazed at how radiant you’re looking!
9. Deep breathe
So essential are oxygen and circulation for beautiful skin that I had to include one other action that will support these, and that is deep breathing. Always practise it in a clean outside environment when possible. Do this and you will reap the benefits of both 2 and 3 above (do them too, though!) while also making 4 decidedly easier to achieve. Here’s how. Stand, lie or sit in a comfortable position and:
- Breathe in for a count of 4
- Hold your breath for a count of 16 (allowing oxygenated blood to flood your system)
- Breathe out slowly, taking 8 counts to push out every last bit of air in your lungs (it will take carbon dioxide and cellular wastes with it)
- Hold your breath for a count of 4, then repeat
You may find this challenging the first few times you try, but persevere and it will quickly increase the elasticity of your lungs, making it a breeze. Perform this breath 30 times a day, and whenever feeling stressed, and it will not only change how your skin looks, but also recalibrate your nervous system.
10. Sweat, baby, sweat
“Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies merely glow” – or so the old saying goes. Well, ladies, I’m here to tell you that you won’t really glow unless you regularly make like a horse and sweat. Vigorous exercise is one way to achieve this, but for a real purge through the pores you’ll want to sit in a sauna or better still do a full-on workout in a sauna. If that last one sounds crazy, welcome to the world of Bikram yoga. In this profoundly detoxing 90-minute class you’ll pretzel yourself into 26 poses in a room heated to 105 degrees. You’ll squeeze toxins out of your organs while sending oxygenated blood whooshing round your system and as the sweat drips off you, it will carry the released cellular wastes with it. Just remember to complete the cleanse by showering as soon as you finish this or any other activity that makes you sweat.
In summary, beautiful skin is created by healthy, nourished, oxygenated cells, and this requires not only a clean lifestyle but also a bodymind system in a state of easy “flow”.
You know when you’re in this state and when you’re not.
Bad skin is the outer reflection of a system that is in a state of stress and sluggishness, with cells undernourished and overloaded with toxicity.
Following these top 10 tips will get you back in that beautiful state of flow…and that’s why they give you the glow!