Your skin in the biggest organ in your body. It deals with both inner and outer stresses – what you feed your body, anxiety & stress, pollution, harsh weather conditions, central heating and air con…. the list is endless. Its also your immune systems first defence against bacteria, viruses, and other germs. In this post I will break down What your breakouts tell you about your skin as simply as possible, as well as some things you can do to help your skin health. If you have ever had a breakout, and lets face it who hasn’t ( if you haven’t you’re either not human, or I want your secrets!!), you will probably, at some point, have looked up what a spot means e.g. ‘what does spots on my chin mean’…. and know the basic ares of the face and what they relate to: Chin = hormones. Forehead = Digestion… but did you know your skin can tell you SO much more than that!
What your breakouts tell you about your skinThe ancient practice of Chinese medicine also includes ‘face mapping’. Similar to acupuncture Chinese medicine relates an area of the face to different areas in your body, so in the same way that you know spots on your chin will mostly be due to hormones they can tell you that spots on your upper lip are related to your heart, or spots at the top of your nose are liver related. Of course this is not an exact science, and there are many contributing factors. Most prominently the foods that you are eating! Gluten, dairy, alcohol, and sugar are all big culprits when it comes to breakouts. Breakouts aren’t the only problem you can encounter with your skin when your body is struggling. Rough, dry, and flaky skin, red irritations and skin conditions such as acne, eczema, & psoriasis can also all be signs that your skin needs help. Having spots and breakouts, problems skin areas, and other skin conditions can be related to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals in your body too. So you see there are many areas to look at. But I don’t want to confuse you, I want to help clear this up (no pun intended), and make it easy for you to find and eliminate or fix what is irritating your skin. So let’s break it down.
Your skin & foodTo know if your breakouts are related to food sensitivities, which include gluten and sugar, you need to watch how your skin reacts. If you, for example, eat something sugary see what your skin does for the next two days. For me personally, within 24 hours or less I know that I’ve eaten something with refined sugar in because I will have a break out and spots on my forehead! Sugar spots will not just appear on your forehead though, they can occur anywhere on your face, but will usually be accompanied by some redness too. Alcohol can also cause the same reaction. It is the sugar in alcohol that can cause a breakout, if it is alcohol that you are intolerant to. The other main cause of information in your body, and therefore breakouts, is dairy! With dairy you are likely to suffer from white bumpy spots around your chin, puffy cheeks, and acne type spots on the rest of your face.
Breakout AreasTo summarise the breakout areas for these 4 main offenders are: Gluten: swollen red cheeks, spots on cheeks, forehead and your chin & also acne Dairy: acne all over your face often localised to your chin area, as well as puffiness around eyelids and bags under your eyes. Sugar: spots all over the face, in particular pustular acne type spots, & sallow, dull skin tone. Alcohol: general skin dehydration, spots between your eyes, enlarged pores & red skin tone. N.B. with all of the above they must first pass through your digestive system, so it is likely that you will have had some sort of digestive response too. These kinds of intolerance’s will appear as symptoms such as bloating, gas, indigestion, and feeling sick after eating.
…The problem is that unfortunately the sports do not disappear overnight as quickly as they appeared. So if you keep eating dairy, sugar, or whatever it is that is causing the slots, then you will just keep getting more spots. If you suspect that one of these culprits is causing your breakouts the only thing to do is to cut it out of your diet completely for a month or so to be sure. If your skin dramatically clears up within those few months, then you may want to look at cutting that thing out of your diet completely.
Your skin & nutrientsYour body needs certain things to keep your skin healthy and insure your skin is working properly. Namely vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins and Omegas, and a healthy balanced diet.. Your skin also works to keep your whole body in homeostasis, controlling temperature, releasing toxins, and protecting you. If this delicate balance is upset in any way it is often your skin that will show the first signs of problems. This is where the face mapping can come in useful. If you have eliminated foods as the trigger to your breakout, you can then look at more internal problems and your diet as a whole.
A healthy skin dietTo keep your skin healthy you want to be eating lots of leafy greens, vegetables and fruits. Stay away from refined sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and packaged foods that contain any ingredients you can’t pronounce – these are generally the man made ingredients which are those your body cannot digest. The specific nutrients that you need to make sure you are eating enough of are omega-3, B vitamins, vitamins A, E & C, Antioxidants, fatty acids, zinc, & selenium. The foods you can eat to get all those nutrients and that your skin will love are as follows:
AvocadoFull of good fats that help keep your skin flexible, supple, and moisturised. Avocados are also full of Vitamins C and E. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that your skin needs to repair oxidative damage, and your body needs vitamin C to be able to absorb and use the Vitamin E. But vitamin C is also vital for your skin health in its own right, your skin needs vitamin C to create collagen. A structural protein that keeps your skin healthy and strong.
Fatty FishFatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are where you get the essential omega 3’s that your body needs to keep your skin healthy. (Or, if you are vegetarian/vegan then flax seeds are a good source of omega 3’s). Fatty fish is also a source of protein, vitamin E, and zinc. The omega 3 fatty acids are essential for keeping your skin thick, supple and moisturised. It is a lack of fatty acids that can make your skin dry. Omega 3’s also work to Reduce information that can cause redness and acne. As well as reducing your skins sensitivity to harmful UV rays. Zinc also works to regulate inflammation as well as help your skins production of new cells and overall health.
WalnutsWalnuts are an excellent food for healthy skin. They are higher than most other nuts in omega-3. As well as other nutrients that that your skin needs to function properly & stay healthy. Zinc for wound healing, vitamin E for antioxidants, Vitamin C, selenium, as well as a good source of protein.
Sunflower seedsSunflower seeds are packed full of selenium, vitamin E, zinc, potassium, vitamin B-6, iron and magnesium. Your body needs B6 to produce energy to carry out all the other things it does for you each day including unlocking the nutrients from the food you eat. It’s easy for you to run out of b6 so it’s something you need to consume daily. Vitamin E and zinc we’ve already covered. Selenium is an essential trace mineral that’s involved in many of the bodies processes and works as an antioxidant in your body, and I’m sure you already know that Iron is needed to produce red blood cells which are needed to carry oxygen round your body, including to your skin.
BroccoliBroccoli is full of many vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Including zinc, vitamin A and Vitamin C that are important for skin health. Broccoli also contains substances called lutein – which protects your skin from oxidative damage, and therefore prevent wrinkles and dry skin, and sulforaphane – a powerful protective against sun damage that neutralises free radicals and switches on other protective systems in your body to protect your cells from UV light and getting sunburnt. It may also help maintain collagen levels in your skin. Your skin needs collagen to keep it plump and firm.
Green teaGreen tea is a super powerful antioxidant that helps your body cleanse and remove toxins. These antioxidants can also protect your skin against sun damage and help reduce redness and inflammation. Green tea also contains some powerful compounds called catechins which can help to improve the moisture, roughness, thickness, and elasticity of your skin.
Dark chocolateThis isn’t just any chocolate, it needs to be a good quality pure cocao with a high %, of at least 70-80%, which means it has a high level of antioxidants. It is also preferable to choose a dark chocolate that has no added refined sugar or milk. The antioxidants found in cocoa can help improve the thickness and hydration levels of your skin, as well as increasing blood flow which in turn brings more nutrients to the skin, reducing sensitivity to sunburn, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Face mappingFace mapping may help to to identify problem areas to look at when it comes to your internal health and if something going on inside your body could be causing a reaction on your skin. Personally I have found that when my immune system is struggling, or I have a lot of pain, my body reacts by giving me some nasty, sometimes boil-like spots. It is like my body is trying to get the toxins out of my system as quickly as possible, and in my case that is always through the skin. Although I am by no means an expert when it comes to face mapping I find it very interesting to see the correlation between internal and external, and how clever our bodies are at detoxifying and keeping everything working in balance. You can use the diagram below as a starting point and rough guide to face mapping. But if you would like to take it further, or think there is something going on, I would recommend seeking the aid of a professional naturopath or Chinese medicine Dr.
Your skin & your wellbeingYour mental and physical wellbeing all play a role in the health of your skin. Things like stress, not getting enough sleep or self care, and spending too much time indoors can all contribute to causing breakouts and unhealthy skin. As well as lots of different external environmental factors. There is a close relationship between the skin and the nervous system, and so skin problems and diseases may often be a physical manifestation of an internal problem. But pollution, bacteria from your hands and the environment around you, and things like air con and central heating can also cause breakouts, dryness and other skin problems. Of course you cant always do anything to prevent or stop these situations entirely. But if you know one or more of them are contributing to your skin problems you can definitely take steps to minimise their impact on your skin.
Simple steps to wellbeing & Skin Health– Simple things like cleaning your work desk & phone. Your mobile phone screen, and making sure to frequently wash your hands or not touch your face throughout the day. They can make a huge difference. Especially if you’re handling money or paper frequently. – If you know air-con and pollution effect your skins condition then start a routine of cleansing and removing make up and dirt as soon as you get home, and add additional moisturiser into your daily skin care. – Make sure you are taking time during the week to look after yourself and your mental health. Ensure you are exercising regularly and including some sort of emotional care in your routine. Such as meditation or journaling. I have a full post on this here and here if you need more guidance. – If stress and anxiety are triggers for your skin then meditation is a wonderful tool. Take time out in your day to spend time in nature and get out of your immediate work environment. Maybe look at taking some natural supplements that can help calm your and support your nervous system. You can find some examples on this post on calming remedies. – Find out what foods are causing your issues. If you suspect that a food you are eating is triggering your skin problems and breakouts. Or you have noticed that you tend to get spotty/flakey skin after eating one particular food. Try using the elimination diet method to calm your skin down. You can download an in-depth explanation & ‘How To’ pdf below. – Maybe most importantly; make sure you are getting enough Sleep! Sleep is the time when your body does most of its healing. Such as cell renewal which benefits your whole system, not just your skin. If you would like to know more about how to look after your skin naturally then check out the Mind & Body category of the blog.