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Unveil radiant skin: A guide on how to get clear skin

Skin is the body’s largest organ and serves as a protective barrier against external threats, aids in detoxification, and plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health. However, achieving and maintaining clear, healthy skin can be challenging, as various factors can disrupt its balance. From hormonal imbalances to poor digestion and genetics, understanding the root causes of skin issues may help you to find effective skincare. In this guide, we’ll delve into some of the factors that can disrupt skin health and explore strategies to support clear, healthy, radiant skin from the inside out.

What can disrupt skin?

Hormonal imbalances

Your skin is closely linked to the endocrine (hormone) system, and hormonal fluctuations can wreak havoc on skin health. Stress hormones like cortisol, along with the stress-related corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), can trigger inflammation. Skin cells can even produce their own stress hormones and immune signalling molecules which can further exacerbate the problem. This can affect various skin problems like psoriasis, dermatitis, urticaria, hair loss, HPV infections/warts, and acne, making them worse. But interestingly, psychological therapies for some mental health issues can sometimes help improve these skin conditions, showing how closely linked our minds and skin really are.

A 2021 review looking at mind body therapies as strategic treatments in dermatology found that stress management techniques, such as meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy or relaxation therapies (especially when used as additional treatments), can contribute to reduced itching and improved atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and skin barrier function.

Many may not be aware of how remarkable our skin’s ability to absorb substances is. Consider nicotine or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches, which effectively deliver chemicals and hormones into the bloodstream. Sounds beneficial, right? It can be! However, this property can also have negative consequences when undesirable substances make contact with the skin. Exposure to air pollution and hormone-disrupting chemicals, such as fragrances, cosmetics, and phthalates, can worsen imbalances and disturb the delicate equilibrium of the skin.

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If you would like to learn new ways of adding natural skin products into your routine, have a look at our article: Green beauty guide: Natural skincare tips.

Allergies/intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances are believed to be widespread and can lead to adverse skin responses. A case-control study revealed that out of 1537 participants, 20.8% reported having food allergies or intolerances. In the study, 73.1% of people with a known food-allergy experienced hives, atopic dermatitis, and especially hay fever, compared to only 3% of the control group. So, identifying and avoiding any allergens you could be reacting to could play a significant role in managing skin conditions and promoting clearer skin.

If you have, or suspect you have, an allergy, you may find the Evergreen Life guide on How to keep an accurate allergy record helpful.

Stress hormones and some immune messengers, as mentioned above, may also amplify allergic responses and increase symptoms like itching, sneezing, and congestion. Moreover, stress may indirectly influence allergies by affecting behaviours and lifestyle factors that can worsen allergic symptoms. For example, stress may lead to poorer sleep quality or unhealthy eating habits, both of which can impact skin ageing, dermatitis and oil production.

A table with a selection of different alcoholic beverages in different glasses: wine, beer and mixers.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption can affect our skin in various ways. As alcohol is metabolised (broken down) it forms acetone, together they can both stimulate the replication and growth of skin keratinocytes. This, in turn, can make skin more permeable, damaging its ability to act as a barrier. Alcohol can also alter the lipid (fat) composition of the skin influencing triglyceride and cholesterol metabolism. A cross-sectional study of over 3000 women indicated that the extent of facial ageing correlates with the duration and quantity of tobacco and alcohol exposure (the more you smoke and drink alcohol, the more facial skin seems to age). They found that frequent alcohol consumption (≥8 drinks per week) was linked with more upper prominent facial lines, puffiness under the eyes, downturned corners of the mouth, blood vessels and reduced midface volume.

Alcohol consumption is associated with acute and chronic systemic inflammation, triggering the release of inflammatory molecules that may worsen conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. Additionally, alcohol dilates blood vessels, resulting in facial redness and flushing, especially for individuals prone to rosacea.

Furthermore, the metabolism of alcohol produces a type of free radical called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can exacerbate skin inflammation and ageing. Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body that can cause damage to cells. Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are a type of free radical formed as a natural byproduct of metabolism. They can contribute to various health issues if not balanced by antioxidants.

Alcohol’s disruption of sleep patterns can also impact skin health, as inadequate restorative sleep can contribute to decreased skin barrier function, as well as lower satisfaction with one’s appearance.

Genetics

Genetics also play a significant role in determining skin health and susceptibility to certain skin conditions. While you can’t change your genetic makeup, understanding your genetic predispositions can help you make informed decisions about skincare and lifestyle choices to mitigate potential issues.

The Evergreen Life DNA Test offers a wealth of information about how your unique set of genetics could influence your skin health. From your risk of collagen degradation to reduced skin elasticity, the simple saliva test gives you a run down on 20 skin-specific reports from your genes. To learn more, visit our page to discover the inner you.

What supports healthy clear skin?

Nourish from within

A nutrient-rich diet is the foundation of healthy skin. Incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals helps to provide your skin with the essential building blocks it needs to thrive.

Vitamins and polyphenols (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds found in plants) mainly come from our food. What you eat can therefore significantly influence the skin’s antioxidant capacity and physiological functions. Oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between antioxidants and reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals, leading to cellular damage. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as cacao, black pepper, berries citrus, leafy greens, and nuts, can help combat oxidative stress and promote skin repair. By eating more foods that are high in antioxidants (plants), we can tip this balance in favour of health, mitigating oxidative stress and promoting clear, healthy skin and overall wellbeing.

Vitamin deficiency can also impact skin health, potentially leading to various disorders. For instance, insufficient vitamin C (a potent antioxidant) can result in fragile skin and impaired wound healing.

A table with brightly-coloured plant foods displayed: broccoli, blueberries, pomegranate, almonds, spinach, apple, turmeric, ginger, chia seeds, Brussel sprouts, oats, seeds, parsley, green chillis.

Among many other micronutrients, vitamins A, D and zinc are intricately linked to skin health. A review looking into the relationship between diet and acne found some interesting associations between specific nutrients and improvements in acne.

A 2022 meta-analysis of 34 studies also looking at acne and diet found some associations between different food elements and acne but decided that relationships between diet and acne are likely to be dependent on your sex and ethnicity. They noted that, within the studies included in their analysis, there was not an even number of men and women. This poses a challenge because hormones differ between sexes and diets likely affect hormone levels differently for males and females.

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While vitamin and mineral supplements can be beneficial in certain cases, it’s important to note that they are not a substitute for a well-planned, balanced diet. Consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods provides a wide range of essential nutrients in their natural forms, which may be safer and more effective than isolated supplements. Before starting any new supplements, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a GP or a qualified nutritionist/dietician, to ensure they are appropriate for your individual needs and health status.

Proteins play a vital role in building and repairing body tissues and organs, facilitating physiological functions, and providing energy. Continuous renewal of tissue cells, including skin, relies on adequate protein intake to maintain normal renewal and repair cycles, typically occurring every 28 days. Imbalances in protein intake, whether deficient or excessive, can disrupt metabolism and affect physical health.

The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) in the UK for protein is 0.75g per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person weighing 70kg (11 stone) should aim for around 52.5g of protein per day. However, this number is a guide: the amount of protein needed can vary person to person depending on their life stage, health status and activity level.

Collagen is a protein and is vital for maintaining healthy skin, providing a supportive structure that preserves firmness and elasticity. Type I collagen, comprising 80%-90% of skin collagen, is produced by fibroblast cells in the dermis (deeper skin layers). The production of collagen happens in stages and various nutrients are needed, including certain amino acids (building blocks the body needs to make various proteins), iron, vitamin C.

Our article on keeping your skin healthy inside and out has more details on how different nutrients contribute to healthy skin, complete with a convenient table listing their food sources.

Hydration

Water is an essential component for all bodily functions. It regulates blood volume, temperature, and carries nutrients and waste around the body. While individual needs can vary due to factors like diet, physical activity, and climate, the importance of getting enough water is universally well-recognised.

The level of water in the skin (cutaneous water content) is important for its various functions, particularly maintaining the water barrier. A lack of sufficient water in the skin is linked to various dermatological issues. One small study suggested that more water as part of your regular diet may have positive impacts on normal skin physiology.

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To find out more about water in the diet, check out our in-depth article on how to stay hydrated.

Pre- and probiotics

Around 100 trillion microorganisms call the human body home and make up what is known at the microbiome, influencing health and disease through diverse mechanisms. This community can be found on/in a surprising number of sites including the gastrointestinal tract, oral/nasal cavities, vagina, mammary glands, lungs, eyes and skin (to name a few!). Prebiotics are compounds that promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut (like certain types of fibre), while probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Nutritional supplements containing prebiotics and/or probiotics have been found to exert a beneficial impact on the skin by regulating the immune system and offering therapeutic advantages for conditions like atopic diseases.

One randomised controlled trial found that consuming probiotics (a strain of Lactobacillus) was shown to help to reduce skin sensitivity and improve skin barrier function. Topical prebiotics can also support the growth of beneficial skin bacteria, while probiotics have been shown to help protect against pathogens and bolster immune responses.

Alongside reported potential benefits like anti-ageing and moisturising, probiotics may also offer a host of other effects, including body odour reduction and protection against wrinkles.

Warning in a circle with a green border

It’s important to consult your GP or a qualified nutritionist/dietician before considering the use of prebiotics or probiotics. Both can have varying effects on individuals depending on their health conditions, medications, and dietary habits. Self-administration without professional advice may lead to unintended consequences or interactions. Always seek personalised guidance from a healthcare provider or a nutrition expert before starting any new supplement regimen.

Work up a sweat

Both aerobic exercise and strength training can reduce inflammation. Interestingly, exercise’s anti-inflammatory effects develop over time, whereas short-term changes from exercise trigger pro-inflammatory processes. It is regular exercise that leads to anti-inflammatory effects over the long term, highlighting that a consistent exercise regime is much better than an intense but sporadic training session.

Exercise can increase blood flow to the skin up to 8-fold, and widen blood vessels by about 1.5 times. A narrative review found that regular exercise can help keep skin healthy and mitigate age-related skin changes by making more mitochondria. A word of caution though, the review concluded that not all exercise is beneficial for skin; for example, swimming in pools with chlorine can damage the skin’s protective barrier. So although swimming is a great low impact way to exercise, it may be important to think about where you exercise and how it might affect your skin.

One study found that those engaging in regular exercise (more than four hours per week of intense aerobic activity), showed decreased thinning of the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum) compared to sedentary controls, who engaged in less than one hour per week of high-intensity aerobic exercise.

Exercise can also be also a great tool for stress management.

An older black woman with short grey hair is smiling and she is working out on a treadmill.

To learn more about the benefits from exercise, the Fitness section of the Evergreen Life’s Health and Wellbeing library is full of insightful articles.

For more health and wellbeing tips to support you on your wellness journey, download the free Evergreen Life app today.

Reviewed by:

Anna Keeble MA BA Head of Content and Wellbeing Expert

Dr Claire Marie Thomas MRCGP DFSRH DTMH DipNLP MBChB BMedSci Medical Expert

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Picture of Lois Leclerc

Lois Leclerc

Lois is a Content Writer at Evergreen Life. She trained in Nutritional Therapy at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is currently completing her MSc in Clinical Nutrition. She is passionate about the influence diet and lifestyle choices can have on health, wellbeing and longevity.

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