Carla Oates shares her skincare tips for the change in season
As summer comes to an end and cooler weather begins to descend, it’s an opportunity to reset your health and beauty routine and give your skin a little extra.
In Australia, skin cancer capital of the world, we’re conditioned to be conscious of sun exposure but, despite our best efforts to cover up, after weeks of sunshine, ocean swims and too much alcohol, sugary or processed foods over the holidays, the skin’s delicate barrier can be in desperate need of nourishment and repair.
A nutrient-dense and diverse diet can do much to support skin health, combating the effects of environmental or oxidative stress and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles due to sun exposure.
So, how can you best feed your skin from within?
Feast on healthy fats
Fats are essential for keeping skin hydrated and smooth. Omega-3 fats in particular, found in oily fish (salmon, krill oil, sardines and mackerel) as well as in flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts, are also packed with vitamins and antioxidants, making them anti-inflammatory powerhouses that protect collagen against degradation. As the primary protein in the skin, collagen helps keep skin plump, full and line-free. Healthy fats are also incredibly hydrating, a huge benefit at this time of year when skin may feel a little drier than normal.
Increase your intake of antioxidants
Antioxidants are the ultimate skincare saviours. Found in colourful fruits and vegetables like dark leafy greens, they fight free radicals that cause oxidative stress and inflammation, helping cross-link collagen and elastin. While free radicals are created by the body’s natural metabolic processes, environmental stress, pollution and sun damage can exacerbate the damage they cause and contribute to a breakdown of collagen in the skin as well as premature ageing.
During the process of fermentation, the food becomes more easily digested and nutrients become more bioavailable for the body to use. A healthy gut equals healthy, radiant skin.
The best way to consume antioxidants is in nutrient-dense wholefoods. Different antioxidants target different free radicals, so a diverse diet is ideal. Key antioxidants to look out for include those found in leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach, which contain phytochemicals as well as quercetin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps promote radiant skin. Dark-coloured berries such as strawberries, blueberries and dark cherries also boast an abundance of antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins.
Studies also show that vitamin A — namely retinol and some carotenoids (which convert to vitamin A in the body) — as well as selenium may prove beneficial in protecting the skin against UV-related damage. Dietary sources of vitamin A include dairy, eggs and liver (retinol) and colourful vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots and sweet potato (carotenoids). Good sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, organ meats and dairy.
Include quality protein
One macronutrient often overlooked for skin health is protein. Given that protein — and collagen — provides the building blocks of skin tissue, it’s important to include an adequate portion of this essential nutrient in each meal to encourage healthy, plump skin. Protein contains amino acids including glycine, proline and lysine that are integral to collagen production. Although we naturally produce collagen, this function decreases with age and free-radical damage can further expedite the process. Foods rich in amino acids include bone broth, oily fish, free-range eggs, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.
Add fermented foods
Lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi contain a broad range of beneficial bacteria that not only help populate the gut with probiotic bacteria but also help reduce systemic inflammation and, subsequently, skin inflammation too. In fact, research shows that to further increase the benefits of antioxidant-rich foods, ferment them! With fermentation, food becomes more easily digested and nutrients more bioavailable for the body to use. This is great news for the skin as a healthy gut equals healthy, radiant skin.
While there are countless fermented foods available, making your own at home is simple and fun. Recipe below:
- 1 small–medium green cabbage
- 2 tbsp Himalayan salt
- 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, halved & cored, fronds reserved
- 2 large tart green apples, quartered & cored
- 3 stems kale, de-veined & finely shredded
- 1 large handful dill leaves, coarsely chopped
- Remove and reserve outer leaves of cabbage. Cut cabbage in half, remove and discard core. Thinly shred, wash thoroughly and drain. Place shredded cabbage in large glass or ceramic bowl. Massage salt into cabbage for 2–3 mins until it softens and releases liquid to make a brine.
- Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice fennel and apple. Coarsely chop fennel fronds. Add fennel and fennel fronds, apple, kale and dill to cabbage. Toss to combine.
- Tightly pack vegetable mixture into a sterilised 6-cup glass or ceramic jar or specialised fermentation jar with an airlock lid. Pour brine over the top. Firmly press down vegetables to submerge in liquid. Cover with reserved cabbage leaves. If using an ordinary jar, weigh down with a specialised ceramic weight or smaller jar filled with water. Ensure there’s a 5cm gap between cabbage leaves and top of the jar to allow for extra liquid released during fermentation process. Cover with a double layer of muslin (cheesecloth) and secure with rubber band. If using a Mason, preserving or specialised fermenting jar, secure the lid.
- Let stand at room temperature, out of direct sunlight and in a well-ventilated place for 1–2 weeks (the length of time will vary according to the temperature of your kitchen). During this time, if using a jar covered with muslin, check daily to ensure vegetables are completely submerged in brine. If using a Mason or preserving jar, open slightly every day to release gases (known as burping) to prevent pressure building up that could result in explosion. If desired, transfer into smaller sterilised jars, packing tightly to submerge in brine and seal with a lid. Sauerkraut can be used immediately or stored in refrigerator for a week or so to age before use, and up to 3 months.