Many of us heard or even noticed on themselves that what they eat has an effect on their outer beauty, especially when suffering from a skin condition. Again, we’re all different and there are many other factors affecting the state of our skin; but some people simply notice that consuming a certain type of food can exacerbate a condition such as acne or dermatitis or worsen an ongoing condition related to their skin. As one of the current trends in beauty is flawless glowing skin, this can negatively affect our self-esteem related to our perception of beauty.
What we forget is that nutrients are not just absorbed by what we eat, but by our skin and what we put on it. Part of a holistic approach to balance our outer beauty needs related to avoiding food affecting our skin is to weigh the benefits and negatives of the consumption (bear in mind that this does not apply to food intolerances or allergies).
As a Nutritionist, I often get asked questions related to food exclusion or supplements supporting the skin. Depending on the nature of the condition, seeing a dermatologist along with tuning into your body is the best way how to improve your skin health. Seeing a Nutritionist can definitely help you with identifying whether your skin condition is related to a nutrient deficiency or even a food intolerance, but make sure your Nutritional advisor is qualified enough to give you such advice (read about Choosing the right Nutrition Specialist). Seeking an unqualified professional can result in prescribing you supplements you don’t necessarily need and falsely diagnosing you with food intolerances and allergies, which can further negatively affect the variety of nutrients intake.
Whet we often don’t realise when it comes to nutrition, that your biggest organ of the body is actually your skin, which is there primarily to protect you from the outside environment but also absorb the benefits such as the sunlight to produce vitamin D, and therefore shouldn’t be forgotten when it comes self-care including nutrition.
Even though our ancestors were already taking advantage of the absorbent function of our skin, transdermal nutrition is recently being rediscovered and considered as a part of various condition treatments. There are ways how to nourish and feed our skin and taking advantage of what nature offers us based on both growing scientific evidence and roots of time-proven traditional remedies can benefit us in many ways.
Popular in old traditional spa rituals, our ancestors favourited magnesium salts in their bathing rituals to wind down and relax. Literally, relax; as the magnesium present in many bath salt mixtures also known as Epsom salts gets absorbed by your skin and enters your circulation. The secret of the relaxing magnesium soaks is its effect on the muscular system, as magnesium is vital for muscular contraction function and therefore magnesium absorbed by skin improves muscle aching, spasms, and cramps.
If you are magnesium deficient, having magnesium baths or using gels containing magnesium can slightly improve your deficiency, but it is limited by the parts of your skin being able to fully absorb the magnesium therefore not the ideal substitute of oral magnesium (Vormann et al. 2017).
In many cultures including ancient Rome, Aloe Vera, despite the fact that it grows in hot temperatures, is well-known for its cooling effect. The tradition of applying aloe to a burnt skin has carried on and is sworn by even now. Aloe Vera is often used in cosmetics with cooling effect however, an aloe plant is very low maintenance, often a stylish touch to your interior and its leaves can be used as a part of first aid of burns, wounds and skin irritation (Chaiyakunapruk et al., 2007).
Having a cup of camomile tea is a great way how to relax and ground yourself after a long day, but did you ever think of popping a teabag into your bath? You may need more than one but know that camomile is not only having a calming effect on your mind but also your skin. Camomile consists of substances that penetrate the layers in your skin as well as inducing skin cells contractions. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and healing properties, bathing in a camomile infusion can improve skin conditions from acne, eczema, rashes, ulcers or even support wound healing and reduce pain in rheumatism (Gupta et al., 2011).
Facial oils have regained their popularity to moisturise the body and the face. Using a natural single ingredient oil makes moisturising easy when It comes to allergies to different substances in the modern face creams, but do not forget they also don’t include SPF. To get the most out of the oils, apply them on clean wet skin by massaging and therefore getting the moisture in.
Rosehips are naturally high in vitamin C, which is also present in your skin due to the circulation of plasma (Carr et al., 2017). Vitamin C from the rosehip oil improves collagen formation and therefore improves skin elasticity. Antioxidants present in Rosehip oil are beneficial in terms of skin ageing prevention caused by the UV radiation, along with moisturising the skin. Rosehip oil has also anti-inflammatory properties and therefore is beneficial in atopic dermatitis treatment and other skin conditions caused by inflammation (Ancín-Azpilicueta et al., 2017).
This medicinal herb growing well even in the UK weather conditions can be also used as a part of cleansing rituals thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Rosemary in its oil form has its use in improving sensitive skin prone to irritation, dermatitis or even ulcers (Hamdani and Tabassum, 2014). Combined with fat as a carrier (e.g. creams and gels), rosemary oil properties are even more enhanced and can be used as a part of skin ageing prevention and hydration loss and improving skin elasticity (Chiechio et al., 2017).
For its beneficial properties in terms of skincare, I favourited products containing rosemary oil and tend to use them as part of my daily skincare cleansing rituals. I personally found that beginning with a morning face mask to freshen my face after a night’s sleep improved my skin hydration, elasticity, circulation in my face and if used regularly, I noticed an improvement in my cycle-related breakouts. This is, however, personal experience and I would always recommend trying what works for you by paying attention to your immediate and long-term skin reactions.
Tea tree oil is another popular remedy full of antioxidants used in skin cleansing, skin conditions prevention and treatment. Related to inflammation or skin conditions caused by the immune system, applying tea tree to flares and wheals reduces swelling, even the one induced by histamine as a part of an allergic reaction (Finlay-Jones et al., 2004).
In terms of acne and spots, its antibacterial activity is praised to improve the conditions and preventing infection. In serious cases of acne when antibiotics are involved, tea tree oil is a popular alternative that doesn't cause antibiotic resistance. For those with a chronic virus infection, the antivirotics resistance can be also targeted by using tea tree as a part of treatment.
In more serious viral conditions such as recurring herpes virus (Ashton et al., 2001) or hands warts caused by the HPV (Millar and Moore, 2008), tea tree oil in a is an effective part of treatment, as well as in skin conditions caused by fungi such as candida and general wound healing (Bagherani et al., 2012).
Remember, to use tea tree, rosemary or any essential oil as a part of treatment, it should be diluted in a carrier form such as gels or carrier oil or in a bath due to being powerful on its own. Essential oils diluted in bath tend to get absorbed into the bloodstream within 10-30 minutes (Halm, 2008).
Ancín-Azpilicueta, C., Jiménez-Moreno, N., Mármol, I., Rodríguez-Yoldi, M. and Sánchez-de-Diego, C. (2017). Therapeutic Applications of Rose Hips from Different Rosa Species. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(6), p.1137.
Ashton, L., Carson, C., Dry, L., Riley, T. and Smith, D. (2001). Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil gel (6%) for the treatment of recurrent herpes labialis. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 48(3), pp.450-451.
Bagherani, N., Kazerouni, A., Pazyar, N. and Yaghoobi, R. (2012). A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. International Journal of Dermatology, 52(7), pp.784-790.
Carr, A., Pullar, J. and Vissers, M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients, 9(8), p.866.
Chaiyakunapruk, N., Kongkaew, C., Maenthaisong, R. and Niruntraporn, S. (2007). The efficacy of aloe vera used for burn wound healing: A systematic review. Burns, 33(6), pp.713-718.
Chiechio, S., Montenegro, C., Parenti, C., Pasquinucci, L., Turnaturi, R. and Zappalà, A. (2017). Rosemary Essential Oil-Loaded Lipid Nanoparticles: In Vivo Topical Activity from Gel Vehicles. Pharmaceutics, 9(4), p.48.
Finlay-Jones, Hart, P J., Khalil, Z., Pearce, A., Satkunanathan, N. and Storer, E. (2004). Regulation of Wheal and Flare by Tea Tree Oil: Complementary Human and Rodent Studies. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 123(4), pp.683-90.
Gupta, S., Shankar, E. and Srivastava, J. (2011). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future (Review). Molecular Medicine Reports, 3(6).
Halm, M. (2008) Essential oils for management of symptoms in critically ill patients. Am J Crit Care, 17, pp. 160-3
Hamdani, M. and Tabassum, N. (2014). Plants used to treat skin diseases. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 8(15), p.52.
Millar, B. and Moore, J. (2008). Successful topical treatment of hand warts in a paediatric patient with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 14(4), pp.225-227.
Vormann, J., Weidner, M. and Werner, T. (2017). Transdermal magnesium – myth or reality?. Trace Elements and Electrolytes, 34(04), pp.45-48.