Beauty, inside-out!

Sometimes applying the latest miracle moisturiser just doesn’t seem to be enough. We talked to nutritional therapist Matthew Reay about the basis for outer beauty – a healthy inside!

Cherwell: Is there a perfect diet for a clear complexion?

Matthew: A perfect diet? Well, l don’t really promote specific diets as such, but rather general sensible daily eating ideas which promote the benefits of blood sugar balance and sustained energy release. It’s important to understand what our bodies want instead of what we think we want, and hopefully this will put pay to overeating. Overeating can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels and the potential for too much fat; too much sugar, salt, alcohol or high energy foods can make the body overwork itself and leave digestion struggling to cope, whilst dehydration, extra stress or poor sleep all take their toll on the body. What’s going on in the inside will be reflected in how we look on the outside in the body’s biggest organ, the skin.


C: Can you recommend any ‘superfoods’ for fabulous skin?

M: One of mine would be cucumber. Cucumber contains phytonutrients such as caffeic acid which help reduce inflamed skin. Cucumber also contains the essential skin mineral, silica, the key component of collagen in the skin. I usually add mine to a smoothie with frozen berries, spinach and grape or beetroot juice. I would also choose avocado: they are great sources of vitamins C, B6 and K, as well as potassium, folate and copper. They provide large amounts of dietary fibre, which is good for digestion, and also contain biotin. Involved in the process of sugar and fat metabolism, biotin processes sugar into energy and acts as a precursor for fat production in the body, which is crucial for short-living skin cells which need to be replaced quickly and often for skin to replenish and restore itself. Finally, essential fatty acids contained in flax seed and nuts such as walnuts are important in our diets, the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) they contain playing an important role in the structure and function of skin cells. ALA enables and controls water permeability, important for strength and elasticity of the skin. The omega 3 fatty acids found in many nuts inhibit inflammation, whilst ALA helps reduce the visible manifestations of various skin conditions by keeping skin cells functioning normally. 

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C: Is taking a ‘Hair Skin and Nails’ supplement really worth it?

M: Personally, I don’t think so – l tend to stay clear of such supplements if l am getting lots of good vitamins and minerals in my diet, keeping well hydrated with fluids, getting the sleep l need and getting out to do some exercise. So many of these supplements contain fillers, binders and preservatives that a good diet doesn’t contain, so l make my diet work for me, as we all should. The key is to listen to your body, gain some insight and knowledge and then act accordingly.


C: Are there any natural beauty brands you would particularly recommend?

M: As someone who overcame eczema as a child and frequently deals with patients with skin complaints, l am a firm believer that what you put on your skin ends up in your body, so l avoid skin care products which include chemicals and toxins – watch out for parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate (SLS), DEET and aluminium, among others. These chemicals have been linked to harmful effects on the body and can be found in many of the products we use on a daily basis. I like the skin care range at Neal’s Yard Remedies, and would also recommend the eco-conscious German company Weleda, who do fantastic natural skin products at very good prices. Top tip: companies who specialise in natural skin care for babies and young children tend to offer high quality products containing nice essential oils and creams – check out Earth Friendly Babies or the Cardiff based company, Pur Babies.


C: Do you have any recipes for homemade beauty products which anyone can make with ingredients found in their kitchen?

M: Well, given that l sport a beard sometimes, I’m not one to often be found wearing a face mask with cucumbers on my eyes – it could get a bit messy! However, some friends of mine have had success with homemade face masks made from ingredients such as avocado or egg. I’ve also heard good things about James Wong’s book, Grow Your Own Drugs, which contains recipes such as a yogurt, lime and strawberry face pack, and a honey and yogurt face mask – so that might be something to look into, even for me, especially if l shave off my beard!

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C: Students have a reputation of being rather over-enthusiastic when it comes to alcohol. What natural solutions would you suggest for getting over a hangover?

M: Well, stick to your alcohol limit, know your numbers in terms of alcohol units to avoid long-term health issues, and the short-term embarrassment of missing an exam or finding yourself waking up with someone you never expected to! If you do end up feeling worse for wear, keeping well hydrated is important, so get plenty of water into the system. Herbal teas such as nettle, dandelion and milk thistle will help the liver do its job better after a ‘session or three’! I always like some banana to boost my potassium levels, so maybe include it in a reviving, healthy smoothie with frozen berries and cucumber to top up your body’s supply of valuable nutrients, vitamins and minerals which may have been affected by consumption of too much alcohol. If you can eat, stick to smaller, lighter meals after a heavy night; healthy snacking that helps with balancing those all-important blood sugar levels should be better than heavy meals. Eggs are a good option, as they contain the chemical cysteine, which may have an effect counteracting the damaging by-products left by alcohol. A boiled or poached egg with mushrooms and toast sounds like an ideal hangover cure to me! And when you get the chance, get back to bed and make up for any lost sleep!


Check out Matthew’s blog for loads more tips and information about all things nutrition!