Healthy Skin from the Inside Out

Did you know that your skin is actually an organ? That’s right. It is the largest organ in the body, and it is intimately connected to the environment that lies beneath. This complex layer is a mirror of the world within. If we are not healthy on the inside, it is often reflected on the outside and issues such acne, eczema, rashes, redness and wrinkling may manifest.

We all know that excess ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can wreak havoc and lead to premature aging. Environmental toxins can also upset the delicate chemical balance of the skin. In addition, digestive problems, food sensitivities and increased intestinal permeability (called leaky gut), can send waste products through the body, reaching the surface.

To keep your epidermis in tip-top shape, my first recommendation is to begin paying attention to what you put into your body. Optimizing your diet can certainly address and repair a leaky gut. Staying hydrated can assist in removing toxins that build up over time. And adding antioxidant-rich foods and herbs can help prevent excess sun damage. Here are some of my favorite tips for keeping your skin healthy from the inside out:

1.) Adopt a healthy diet

An organic diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruits will provide the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that keep both your inside and outside environments in working order. Chemicals called polyphenols, which are present in most plants, help protect against the damaging UV rays from the sun. These substances absorb harmful radiation and act as antioxidants, preventing oxidative damage which may result in skin disorders and premature aging of the skin.1 Good dietary choices are grapes, blueberries, strawberries, pomegranates, citrus fruits, artichokes, onions and dark chocolate. 

Green and yellow vegetables have been shown to be associated with reduced skin wrinkling.2 Choose dark green leafy varieties like such as arugula and kale, as well as green and yellow squashes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, pineapple and lemons. Hot peppers, like chili, cayenne and jalapeño not only have vitamins A and C, but they also contain a compound called capsaicin which acts as a shield against sun damage. Mix it up by rotating your foods on a weekly basis to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients.

High-quality fats are also necessary for good skin tone. Studies show that the elasticity of skin is greater in those who include an adequate amount of healthy fats in their diet.2 Organic ghee, butter, avocados, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are great selections to help keep skin supple and young-looking. A good way to obtain sufficient fat and protein is by enjoying hearty meat stocks, stews and bone broths. These are chock-full of collagen, gelatin, and amino acids like glycine and proline, which heal the gut and provide nutrients for glowing skin.

2.) Stay hydrated

Water flushes out waste products that are produced from daily metabolic processes, and also helps to remove environmental toxins from your system. If you are dehydrated, your blood will pull water from skin cells to supply to the water-deficient organs. This tends to make your skin less resilient and elastic, which leads to wrinkling. In addition, your eyes may appear darker or sunken. With time, dehydration can cause you to age you faster. 

How much water should you drink? Many health professionals recommend at least six to eight glasses per day. A rule of thumb that some practitioners use is to take your body weight and divide it in half, and then drink that amount in ounces of water each day. Daily requirements may vary due to your exercise and activity level. Water is an under-appreciated tool for keeping your skin healthy, so drink up!

3.) Include botanicals in your routine

For thousands of years, women in ancient cultures relied on herbs to keep their face and body glowing. Countless Eastern herbal remedies have made their way to the West, and are used both externally and internally for skin care. Two of my favorites are green tea and turmeric.

Green tea is shown to improve the elasticity of skin,3 and it has a moisturizing effect on the deeper epidermal layers. Studies indicate this herb can actually increase the cell renewal process.4 Add these qualities to green tea’s well-known benefits of antioxidant and anticancer properties, and you have a wonder herb for the skin.3,5 Sip green tea hot, cold or in a green smoothie!

Turmeric is an herbal powerhouse and its use is steeped in history. It has strong anti-inflammatory benefits, and research shows the active ingredient, curcumin, fights melanoma by inhibiting the growth of tumor cells.6 Add the fresh or dried herb to soups, stews, chili or vegetable dishes. Turmeric also pairs nicely with ginger, another anti-inflammatory herb, and together they can be served as a delicious hot tea. Turmeric milk, an ancient recipe that combines the herb with coconut (or animal) milk and black peppercorns, is enjoying attention these days. Savor a cup during your bedtime routine.

There are many topical products that are wonderful for your skin. However, remember “you are what you eat”. All the cells in your body, including skin cells, require a multitude of nourishing building blocks to keep them healthy. So, set a goal to maintain a clean diet filled with fresh vegetables and fruits. Work to add beneficial herbs into your routine, and always remember to stay hydrated. Healing your inside will ensure radiance on the outside!

1. Nichols JA, Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms. Archives of dermatological research. 2010;302(2):71. doi:10.1007/s00403-009-1001-3.
2. Nagata C, Nakamura K, Wada K, et al. Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. Br J Nutr. 2010 May;103(10):1493-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509993461
3. Chiu AE, Chan JL, Kern DG, et al. Double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of green tea extracts in the clinical and histologic appearance of photoaging skin. Dermatol Surg. 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 2):855-60; discussion 860.
4.Campos PM, Gianeti MD, Mercurio DG, et al. Synergistic Effects of Green Tea and Ginkgo Biloba Extracts on the Improvement of Skin Barrier Function and Elasticity. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Sep;13(9):1092-7.
5. Meeran SM, Mantena SK, Elmets CA, et al. (−)-Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Prevents Photocarcinogenesis in Mice through Interleukin-12–Dependent DNA Repair. Cancer Res May 15 2006 (66) (10) 5512-5520; DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-06-0218
6. Korać RR, Khambholja KM. Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2011;5(10):164-173. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.91114.