The cosmetics industry (of which I’ve been a part for the past decade) has built a global business based on the promise that products you put on your skin will make you beautiful.
To an extent, they deliver on this — you can have darker, thicker-looking eyelashes, tint your cheeks for a healthier glow, cover up that spot, give yourself a tan, get rid of dry skin and smooth out the appearance of fine lines.
But if you’re serious about having younger skin, don’t just rifle through the products in your bathroom cabinet, look at what’s in your kitchen cupboard, too.
Yes, you’ve read the headlines about how terrible sugar is for your skin when you eat it, but did you know it has the most wonderful anti-ageing properties when you use it on your skin?
I love it when I can tell clients about a great anti-ageing food they may not have considered that really makes a difference.
Take sugar, for example. Yes, you’ve read the headlines about how terrible it is for your skin when you eat it, but did you know it has the most wonderful anti-ageing properties when you use it on your skin?
Knowing why certain foods help (and why some are to be avoided) really helps slow down the ageing process. Here are my top foods to turn back time. They may sound weird, but they’re also wonderful …
Did you know papaya has particularly high concentrations of vitamin C? For decades we’ve known this vitamin plays a crucial role in the regulation of collagen production, but it also has benefits for skin healing and the health of hair and nails.
As a potent antioxidant, increasing the amount of vitamin C in your diet can contribute to slowing the damage from free radicals, postponing the signs of ageing and protecting against UV damage.
It is destroyed by smoke, pollution and UV exposure, so vitamin C is important to replenish topically as well as internally.
How to eat it: As with all anti-ageing foods, the less you do to the raw form, the more benefits you will get from it.
Never heard of it? That’s because it isn’t a specific vitamin, but instead a term used to refer collectively to flavonoids.
Did you know papaya has particularly high concentrations of vitamin C? This vitamin plays a crucial role in the regulation of collagen production, but it also has benefits for skin healing and the health of hair and nails
These compounds produce the yellow or red-blue colouring in plants, and for skin they strengthen blood vessel walls, reducing the appearance of thread veins and dark circles, which are pronounced as we age.
They also increase microcirculation in the skin and help deliver nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s upper layers.
How to eat it: Find vitamin P in berries (especially black or dark kinds), buckwheat, rosehips — in fact, pretty much all fruit and veg!
Not when you eat it, though! As you will have read, eating sugar ages you as it promotes a natural process called glycation in which it leads to the development of compounds that destroy proteins like collagen and elastin — vital for youthful skin.
Sugar has a natural humectant or moisturising factor, which helps to draw moisture into the cells (think how plump your skin feels after a honey mask)
However, when you put it on the skin, it is beneficial. Sugar has a natural humectant or moisturising factor, which helps to draw moisture into the cells (think how plump your skin feels after a honey mask).
This makes sugar useful for keeping skin hydrated during these colder winter months and is perfect if you suffer from dry skin.
Sugar is also a natural source of glycolic acid, used to improve the skin’s appearance and texture, keeping it bright and radiant.
How to use it: Make a sugar mask at home by buying raw sugar then grinding it to a fine powder in a blender or coffee grinder. Mix with olive oil and 1 tsp raw honey, and apply.
Consumed probiotics (that is foods that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut) have been shown to reduce inflammatory responses, one of the main causes of ageing (increasing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, puffiness and redness).
Probiotics can be applied directly to the skin. The theory is that, as we have become obsessed with being clean, we have upset the delicate balance of good bacteria on the surface of the skin with detergents.
If you want to consume probiotics, you don’t need to take pills. Try fermented foods such as kombucha (a fermented, lightly effervescent black or green tea drink), sauerkraut or live yoghurts.
How to eat it: Kombucha is sold as a drink and has a naturally sweet taste so carry a chilled bottle with you and sip throughout the day.
Eat it, massage it into the skin — or do both! This is a skin superhero because it is comprised of twice the vitamin E of olive oil
Eat it, massage it into the skin — or do both! This is a skin superhero because it is comprised of twice the vitamin E of olive oil.
Vitamin E is a key component of the skin’s antioxidant defences. It can absorb the energy from UV light and plays a role in photo-protection (preventing ageing UV damage).
It also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin in addition to maintaining moisture levels and helping to heal scars. Expect to see skin tone restored, more elasticity and a reduction in fine lines.
How to eat it: Culinary argan oil is what you’re looking for if you’re going to consume it. Use in place of olive oil and don’t heat it otherwise you risk destroying the vitamin E. It has a lovely nutty flavour so is perfect as a dressing on salads.
Chlorella — a blue-green algae — is rich in amino acids and anti-oxidants, including vitamins B and C, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and fibre.
So whether you consume it as a supplement or apply it topically (it’s sometimes added to skincare products), it is known to improve skin firmness and fight against glycation (the destruction of collagen and elastic).
How to eat it: Chlorella doesn’t have a nice taste so I’d recommend taking this as a tablet or using a spoonful of the powdered variety in a home-made smoothie.
Just as seaweed is able to protect itself from becoming discoloured by exposure to the sun, the highly antioxidant bioactive compounds they contain help protect the skin.
Japanese wakame in particular is packed with anti-ageing vitamins A, C and E to delay wrinkles. The Japanese have known about its power for centuries.
How to eat it: Buy as a powder or flakes and use in place of salt.
All the food mentioned is available at supermarkets or amazon.co.uk
Adapted by Anna Pursglove from The Nature Of Beauty by Imelda Burke, published by Ebury Press on December 1, £20. To order a copy for £16 (offer valid until December 5; P&P free), visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640.