In high school, I was that sweaty, greasy, insecure girl who wouldn’t let people too close to her face out of fear they’d be grossed out. I didn’t even like it when my mom or dad kissed me on my face. I tried all different types of makeup, cleansers, acne treatments (including accutane!), long-term antibiotics, and topical natural remedies to clear my skin, but nothing worked to cure my acne for good. I had deep cysts on the lower half of my face and had many little bumps–they made my skin look rough like sandpaper–all over my forehead…and all that was glazed over with a seemingly permanent layer of grease. With all those hormones, sports, teenage emotions, and stress, no wonder my face (and my chest and back) was a mess. Thankfully, this sad state of my skin changed for the better.
Something I have learned over the years is that good skin starts on the inside. This lesson really started when my husband and I first met and I prioritized our health. We went vegan, I got pregnant right after we got married, and much to my surprise, my skin cleared up! This probably happened because of a perfect combination of hormones and less processed foods in our diets. But, as I’ve discussed in earlier posts, veganism took its toll and ended up causing many more problems than I anticipated. So, after switching to a Weston A. Price-based diet, our health has greatly improved and my skin is not only clear, but supple, moisturized without being greasy, and more youthful-looking than when I was a vegan.
We all know those people who can eat whatever they want and look fantastic, but I’m not one of them. For me at least, my skin is an accurate reflection of the state of my internal health. It always tells me when I need to eat more or less of something. Here is what I have learned: there are two steps one must take to improve health. 1. Remove the bad stuff, and 2. Add in the good stuff. It’s true that you can never out-supplement/medicate a bad diet. Both steps must be addressed for healing, internal and external, to occur.
So, what have I removed from my diet to improve my skin?
- Excess sugar: Obviously, candy is a BIG no-no if you want healthy and clear skin! Sugar consumption, especially in excessive amounts, creates oxidative stress and that reveals itself in your complexion. Fruit juices, fake maple syrup, sodas and energy drinks, and even high-fruit diets can lead to breakouts, wrinkles, greasy, or flaky dried-out skin. Always read labels and stick with natural sugars if you can (dates, coconut sugar, real maple syrup, raw honey…), or try to reduce the intake of natural sugars if you’re extra sensitive.
- Omega 6 oils: These fellows are not something you want to eat in high amounts. In the form of isolated oils, they’re terrible for your health and your skin will likely demonstrate this fact. The ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats can easily be thrown out of proportion, which is where the high consumption of omega 6 leads to deadly problems. In our modern day SAD diet, it is easy to have too many omega 6 fats in proportion to omega 3 fats. These fats occur naturally in some foods, such as sunflower seeds and walnuts (that’s fine! 🙂 ), but it’s much better to eat nuts/seeds than to ingest so many processed seed and vegetable oils, such as: corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed et cetera. Avoid them as much as possible and prioritize getting fats from less-processed sources.
- Processed/fake foods: how many times has mankind changed part of nature in order to make it “better”? Since when is enriched flour, high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, aspartame, et cetera beneficial? The answer is: it is not and has never been beneficial. Look at our population: the vast majority of people (children included) have multiple cavities, are constantly sick or terminally ill, are suffering from chronic pain, insomnia, inflammation, and of course…unhealthy skin. The Standard American Diet is bound to lower the quality and length of every life that doesn’t deviate from it. It’s both frightening and sad. But, who doesn’t love homemade food from scratch? Healthy food tastes delicious and has the side effect of a stronger body better able to cope with the stresses of daily life. Your skin will thank you if you stick to real food.
And, what have I added to my diet to achieve healthy skin, even during pregnancy?
- Beef liver: well, folks, this really is nature’s accutane. If you want beautiful skin without paying the physical and financial price of accutane or synthetic retinol skin treatments, just eat some beef liver. It’s not just great for your skin, but supports most other bodily functions, as it is loaded with b vitamins, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins necessary to all organs. Really, the nice skin is just a side effect. 🙂
- Bone broth or gelatin: Soups! Rice or beans made with bone broth! Gummy snacks! Everything delicious! These superfoods support your body as it ages, including your aging skin. It will probably help with any joint pain you have, too. Give it a shot!
- Cod liver oil and fish: Omega 3 fatty acids are a must if you want healthy skin. The especially-beneficial cod liver oil, high in naturally-occuring vitamin A for skin health and vitamin D for mental health and immunity (vitamin A probably helps these things, too!), is a great way to kill 3 birds with one stone. Just make sure it hasn’t been fortified with any additional synthetic vitamins, especially synthetic vitamin A. As a side note, I just made these crispy salmon burgers for our family and they were a hit!
- Probiotics in the form of fermented foods: I mention these in most posts I write. The benefits we have experienced from consuming them continue to accumulate. A healthy gut supports a healthy body, and this shows in your skin. The fermented food that has provided us with the most benefits is homemade milk kefir.
- Potassium-rich foods: it is extremely difficult to meet the RDA of potassium. Make sure you’re getting enough! Here is a list of potassium-rich foods. My babies and I LOVE coconut water for an extra boost of potassium.
- Magnesium: Stress. It’s not good for you if it’s chronic or extreme. Magnesium to the rescue! Magnesium is wonderful for relieving stress, and beyond that, it’ll help you get stronger bones (especially when coupled with boron!), nicer teeth, deeper sleep, relaxed muscles, and better health in general. Most of the population is deficient in magnesium. Eat magnesium-rich foods and make sure to add an epsom salt bath (or 3) every week.
- Hydration with filtered water and electrolytes: You won’t have nice-looking skin if your body is dried out like an expired raisin. However, we don’t just drink water for the water…we also drink it for its minerals. I used to have constant thirst that was difficult to quench, but that all stopped when I started drinking my water with a pinch of sea salt and lemon. Try it out!
- Healthy fats: fats from healthy animals (butter, ghee, lard, tallow, et cetera) and from specific plants (coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for cold foods only) are high in antioxidants and naturally low in omega 6 fatty acids. Stick with these and you’ll be healthier and feel more satiated after meals. 🙂
It seems that all types of healing processes are related to good gut health. A person who has many sensitivities or intolerances to foods, experiences a lot of bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, and more would probably benefit from gut healing. More information can be found in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book and the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, but the very basics of gut-healing practices and internal skincare are all listed above. Put very simply: remove the things that hurt you and add in the things that help you. Your body will help you figure out what your unique biochemistry prefers in terms of healing and toxic ingredients.
If you’re struggling with getting or keeping good skin, there are lots of remedies out there. I can say that I’ve tried most of them and they don’t work in the long run, if at all. Our skin is really just a mirror of our internal health. I hope this post can help you focus on the root cause of problem-skin—our diets and the state of our internal health!
On a side note, caring for your skin from the outside doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming, or harsh. In fact, it’s better to be gentle with your skin…no need to scrub it, pour chemicals onto it all the time, suffocate it with makeup, and constantly strip it of its natural oils. This, too, I’ve learned through the years. For now, my skincare routine consists of this: every morning, I gently wipe my face and neck with a warm washcloth. Then, I put some homemade tallow balm on it, let that soak in for a minute or two, and gently blot off any excess oil. Sometimes, I use castor oil to moisturize, oil-cleanse, or boost eyelash and eyebrow growth, but my skin loves tallow best. It doesn’t look greasy and keeps my skin supple for 24 hours.
Have you discovered a key ingredient for good skin? What is your skincare routine like?
Disclaimer: All information on this blog is for informational purposes only. I am not a licensed medical professional. Please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes, supplements, or medical questions with your doctor.
Diane Stanislowski is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public.
She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and two children and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.
- Skin is a reflection of our internal health
- For good skin, remove the damaging parts of your diet and add in healing foods
- Focus on healing your gut
- My minimal skincare routine