Beauty is more than skin deep!

We blush when we’re embarrassed. Turn pale when we’re fearful. Glow when we’re delighted. The skin is our interface with the world. It is also a reflection of our health inside.  

Most people want healthy, attractive skin. We feel better and more confident, better able to “face the world” when we feel good about the condition of our complexions. But the skin is a tattletale: It truly is a mirror of our overall physical condition. All of our bad habits, negative emotions and problems are mirrored in our skin. On the flip side, the skin also can reflect a healthy diet, consistent exercise and a life filled with love.  

Would you like to improve your skin’s appearance? Here are a few places to begin. 

Feed your face. To improve skin quality, choose dark orange colored, beta-carotene rich foods such as apricots, cantaloupe, peaches, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato. Include high-quality oils in your diet including avocado, raw (not roasted!) nuts and seeds, coconut and extra-virgin olive oil. Eat a big salad every day and include some bitter greens, cucumbers, radishes and beets. Make your own fresh salad dressing. 

Go skinny-sipping. Drinking sufficient water is essential for a healthy complexion. Water helps to eliminate substances that would clog the pores. Fresh vegetable juices are fabulous for skin health and contribute to the “glow” that many healthy people have. Choose juices made from beet, carrot, celery, parsley, cucumber and spinach for extra good measure. Be aware that alcoholic and caffeine-containing beverages can dehydrate the skin and increase the appearance of wrinkles.  

Do an about-face. Foods to avoid for healthier skin include fried foods, refined carbohydrates, wheat products and fats that have been heated (this includes baked goods and bottled salad dressings). Reduce or eliminate sugar, which contributes to breakouts. Finally, avoid overeating: The process of digestion diverts blood to the stomach, at the expense of the skin.  

Skin allies 

Since good skin health begins from within, there are a variety of herbs and vitamins that can help preserve the skin’s elasticity, stimulate collagen formation and help bring skin into balance. While these are a good starting point, this list is far from exhaustive!  

Aloe vera. Anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal; helps new cell growth. 

Calendula. Increases circulation. Promotes healing. Useful in skin first-aid. 

Chamomile. Promotes skin repair. Relaxes facial muscles and helps with dry skin. 

Horsetail. High in minerals, it can improve acne, eczema and overall weak skin. 

Marshmallow root. Moisturizing for dry skin, it helps relieve sunburn, wounds, eczema and psoriasis. 

Plantain leaf. Soothes inflammation and helps clear infection. Topically is helpful for insect bites, boils and poison ivy treatment. 

Witch hazel bark. Used topically for blemishes, acne, poison ivy and sunburn. 

Vitamin A. Helps protect against infection, promotes elasticity. A deficiency may result in dry, itchy skin. 

B-complex vitamins. Helps with managing stress-induced skin issues. B vitamins are depleted by alcohol consumption. 

Vitamin C. Promotes healing. Stimulates the production of collagen. 

Vitamin E. Helps the body better utilize oxygen, helps with hormone balancing and preserves skin elasticity. 

Other vitamins and minerals that affect skin health include bioflavonoids, vitamins D and F, selenium, zinc and iron. Additional herbs to consider include those that support liver and blood detoxification such as nettle, red clover blossom, yarrow leaves and yellow dock. 

Sun safety 

Excessive sun exposure has been linked to premature aging and wrinkles. Repeated tanning, and especially burning, increases the risk of cancer. Substances that can increase photo-sensitivity and the likelihood of burning include antibiotics, antidepressants, artificial sweeteners, birth control pills, carbonated beverages, certain essential oils (such as angelica, lemon, lime, neroli), hormones, Retin-A, St. John’s Wort. 

The type of fats we eat can also affect how our bodies react to the sun. Consumption of refined oils such as corn, canola, soy and safflower are believed to increase skin cancer risk.  

Some of the chemicals in sunscreens might be a contributing factor in skin cancers, even though they give protection against burning. If you choose to use sunscreen, visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website to compare brand recommendations.  

Lifestyle choices and other factors that affect the skin 

A major environmental contributor to skin health is the cumulative exposure to chemicals, including those found in cleaning products, dry-cleaning solutions, lotions and cosmetics. Personal care products and cosmetics are absorbed directly through the pores, which is why those who use makeup on a daily basis can absorb up to five pounds of toxic chemicals into their bodies each year. Other things to think about and manage include: 

Cigarette smoke
Chlorinated water for swimming
Exposure to sun
Quality of drinking water
Quantity of drinking water