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Skincare superfoods

If the skin is our largest organ, it stands to reason that when something is amiss in the body, it shows on the skin. It also means that certain foods can have an effect on the skin, whether negative or positive. We are what we eat, essentially.

Mississauga, Ontario-based Orly Wachter is a registered dietitian who has made a career of counselling people about what to eat in order to support healthy skin. Wachter started her career working at a cancer centre caring for patients who were going through chemotherapy. She spent a lot of time advising her patients about safe products and ingredients they could use on their skin, which was very sensitive and dry as a result of their cancer treatment. That experience, coupled with her personal journey to solve her own skin issues through diet, led Wachter to connect her two passions.

“All health starts with gut health,” Wachter says. Certain foods, like dairy, that are rich in hormones, can create imbalances in the body and cause inflammation, she says. And while some people may have food sensitivities or allergies they might not even be aware of, there are skin conditions that are associated with food sensitivities, like dermatitis herpetiformis, which is associated with celiac disease, Wachter says. “That’s just even more proof that a digestive issue can manifest itself on our skin.”

When it comes to eating foods that promote beautiful skin, Wachter recommends a lot of fruits and vegetables, colourful foods, and limiting processed foods. Here are her top five skin care superfood favourites:

Avocadoes. They are incredibly popular right now and with good reason. Avocadoes are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. The good news is that not only will eating avocadoes benefit skin health by contributing to the structure of cell membranes in the body and keeping skin plump and hydrated, they can also be used externally as a face mask. “Avocado oil is one of the oils that can penetrate deeper into the skin, compared with some of the other oils out there,” Wachter says. “They’re kind of a multipurpose beauty food.”

Berries. With their rich, dark colouring and juicy interiors, this family of fruits is rich in antioxidants that prevent free radicals from doing cellular damage in the body. Wachter recommends buying organic berries, because some, especially strawberries, may be contaminated by farming methods.

Wild Salmon. This delicious fish is rich in omega-3 fats and is an anti-inflammatory, Wachter says. » 

Nuts and Seeds. Wachter especially recommends Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds. “Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which is an important nutrient for skin, and then Brazil nuts are a really good source of selenium, which is hard to find in your diet from other places,” she says. Cruciferous Vegetables. This includes broccoli, cauliflower and kale, Wachter says. “That whole family is really important for helping with the natural liver detoxification pathways.”

That takes care of what to put in the body to get beautiful, healthy skin, but what about what to put on skin? Wachter says a lot depends on skin type. For example, coconut oil is an ingredient that comes up a lot in the natural beauty world, but the RD cautions against it. “For people who have acne-prone skin, it’s not a great one because it’s quite comedogenic,” Wachter says. She adds, some natural products use coconut oil in a different form or in low amounts, and it can be harmless in blends, but using 100 per cent coconut oil from the grocery store can be a problem. “It’s only really good for people who have really dry, mature skin who don’t break out ever.”

For acne-prone skin, Wachter says some of her favourites include rosehip seed oil, jojoba oil and hemp seed oil. Foods like oatmeal, which is very calming, or ground lentils and chickpea flour, which are used in some cultures as exfoliants, can be quite effective in natural skin care, she says. 

Wachter has a couple of rules of thumb to keep in mind when it comes to eating to support skin health: chewing and hydrating. The latter seems like a given – drinking lots of water and eating foods like cucumbers and watermelon is important for keeping skin hydrated – but chewing? “Chewing is the most important thing you can do for digestion because digestion starts in your mouth,” she says. “It’s the mechanical process of breaking down the food. I always tell people to be mindful when they’re eating and take the time to chew, because it puts a lot less strain on the rest of your digestive system.” 


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Hermione Wilson

Hermione has a background in lifestyle and entertainment journalism. After graduating from Humber College’s journalism program, where she wrote for the school’s newspaper and various magazines, Hermione interned at TV Guide Canada, writing television reviews, and at Canadian Living, where she sampled goodies from the Test Kitchen.

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