Why great skin starts in your gut

Dairy, sugar, bacteria, stress… Beauty Director NEWBY HANDS has a strong gut feeling about the cause of your skin issues, from acne to flaky patches


Recently, I noticed a change in the faces of several of my friends. They had all previously had good skin, but suddenly they had incredible skin. The one unifying factor? They had all started taking oral probiotics. “It’s not your skin type that matters,” says aesthetician Marie Reynolds. “It’s the nutrition and hydration of the skin that really counts.” She doesn’t mean the wardrobe of nourishing serums and hydrating sheet masks that fill our bathroom cabinets; Reynolds is talking about what we eat and drink, because truly great skin starts from within.

Find the true cause of flare-ups

If we get reoccurring outbreaks on our chin, flaky patches on our cheeks, or find that a favorite cream suddenly makes our face flare-up, we are more likely to blame our skincare or a random ingredient than look any deeper within ourselves. “But what I see on someone’s skin is an echo of what’s happening to them internally,” says Reynolds. In the same way that a good physician will look at our eyes, skin and nails when diagnosing illness, skin experts are now increasingly using our skin to ‘read’ the state of our gut.

How your gut affects your face

Think less of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria and more about an imbalance of bacteria (it’s personal to each of our systems, as my ‘bad’ may be your ‘good’), explains Dr Nigma Talib. When out of balance, it “causes changes to the immune system, making it over-reactive, and this leads to inflammation which presents as rashes, skin sensitivity and even acne. It’s also often the reason why a product you’ve used perfectly happily for years suddenly ‘goes rogue’.” Talib’s gut ‘prescription’ for a healthy skin includes daily probiotics and digestive enzymes, plus Swedish bitters (a herbal tincture) to stimulate the gall bladder. “I also often prescribe Ashwagandha (a plant), L-theanine (the calming element in green tea) and Siberian ginseng to reduce inflammation by lowering your stress levels.”

Issues such as red, sensitive skin around the nose, cracking around the lips and red bumps in the skin, especially around the chin, are all signs of inflammation, says Marie Reynolds: “I read them as issues with the intestine and it could also be a leaky gut.” She recommends taking skin supplements of collagen and silica, a tissue salt, which “both help seal the gut wall and ensure it’s in a healthier condition.”

For Dr Talib, inflammation can also be seen in puffiness, “plus it can cause pigmentation around the chin and mouth. An excess of sugar can show in the skin as acne, and in particular a very dull toned, gray, pasty skin,” she says. For some on-going skin problems, dairy is now widely held as the culprit, even by some dermatologists. “It’s very hard to digest and can cause inflammation, plus [it can create] hormonal changes, bloating and gas,” says Dr Talib. “If you want to get rid of acne, then get rid of dairy in your diet – it’s as simple as that.”

So, if you have chronic, niggling skin issues that don’t seem to respond to changes in your skincare regime, it could be time to see a nutritionist rather than just a dermatologist.

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.