Dr Sarah Brewer’s, Eat Well Look Great, shows the amazing link between good nutrition and good looks, and how diet can affect the health of your hair, skin and nails. Her book covers 40 different beauty superfoods that can help you look your best – whether eaten or applied directly to the hair and skin.
These nutritional approaches can improve niggling beauty problems such as thread veins, acne, age spots and wrinkles through to cellulite, brittle or flaking nails, thinning hair and dark circles under the eyes.
How to get glowing skin
Carotenoid plant pigments can give your skin a healthy, slightly golden glow, and eating just two extra portions each day can make a positive difference to skin tone as well as providing some protection against sunburn. The foods that are most beneficial for healthy, glowing skin are carrots, pumpkins, papaya, mango, sweet potato, bell peppers and dark green leafy vegetables, especially spinach and kale. Plant isoflavones found in edamame beans and other soy products also help to improve skin tone.
Avocado for beauty
Avocado is a rich source of healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids, plus antioxidant carotenoids and vitamin E. Avocado oil also contains hormone-like phytosterols that have a regenerative effect on ageing skin. Avocado oil can improve dry, inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, damping down redness and inflammation. When applied as a cream containing vitamin B12 and avocado oil, psoriasis plaques improved significantly. Several studies suggest that the antioxidant pigments found in avocados (especially lutein and zeaxanthin) help to protect against premature cell ageing.
Tomatoes for beauty
The vibrant red colour of tomatoes comes from an antioxidant pigment, lycopene, which protects tomatoes from sun damage. Tomato lycopene can offer the same protection to human skin, reducing the adverse ageing effects of ultraviolet light. Researchers compared the skin of women eating five tablespoons (55g) tomato paste plus 10g olive oil every day, for 12 weeks, with a similar group taking just the olive oil as a supplement. The volunteers were exposed to UV rays at the beginning and end of the trial, and those eating tomato paste developed 33% less redness (erythema) suggesting this simple dietary step offered a sun protection factor (SPF) equivalent to 1.3. Skin biopsies also showed increased skin levels of procollagen, which improve elasticity, in those consuming tomato paste and less damage to skin mitochondrial DNA which is linked to skin ageing.
Cocoa solids contain more antioxidants than just about any other food – there are over 25,000 antioxidant units in a single spoonful of raw cocoa powder! – helping to combat the signs of premature ageing.
Just 40 g (11/2 oz) of dark chocolate provides more than 300 mg of super- protective polyphenols known as oligomer flavonoids. These have beneficial effects on the circulation, helping to dilate blood vessels and boost the supply of oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles, skin and nails. They also have anti-ageing effects that may protect against premature wrinkles. In addition, cocoa powder is a good source of minerals, including calcium, copper, magnesium and zinc, which are needed for healthy hair, skin and nails.
Dark chocolate improves skin thickness and hydration, important for healthier, younger-looking skin.
Cucumber is 96 per cent water, yet still provides an astonishing array of beauty benefits. Both as part of your diet and as a beauty treatment, this unassuming fruit should be a key component of your beauty regime.
Tone your skin
Blend half a chopped cucumber, 45 ml (11⁄2 fl oz) witch hazel and 30 ml (1 fl oz) filtered/mineral water until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or squeeze through cheesecloth to remove the solids (save the solids and use them for a 5-minute face mask). Pour the liquid into a clean screw- top bottle and apply with a cotton-wool pad as required. This brightens, refreshes and tones skin, as well as tightening enlarged pores.
Zap a blemish
Mix a small amount of cucumber juice (grate some cucumber and squeeze to obtain the juice) with an equal amount of lemon juice. Apply to spots for 15 minutes, then wash off. (If you have dry rather than oily skin, add a little manuka honey, too.) This will shrink spots and reduce inflammation and redness.
If your skin is parched and sore from too much sun, cucumber juice can cool and soothe the affected area. (Sunscreen and sensible sun-exposure times will prevent burning, so this remedy should only be used as a last resort!)
For a refreshing bath
Add a handful of Dead Sea salts, one sliced cucumber and a few drops of diluted essential oils (see note below) to a warm bath, and lie back and relax for 15–20 minutes, preferably in candlelight.
NOTE: Most essential oils should be diluted before coming in contact with your skin. Add 5 drops to a tablespoon of carrier oil (such as almond or avocado) and mix. Choose a single favourite oil, or a blend of up to three (for example, 1 drop rose, 2 drops lemon, 2 drops vanilla).