“Great skin is not just about good skincare,” states Dr. Barbara Sturm, whose eponymous skincare line is always on every beauty aficionado’s most-wanted list. “I see patients with a complexion that’s lifeless, dull, with stress outbreaks, red patches or bags under their eyes, and it’s all the same cause – inflammation.” While some inflammatory triggers, such as sun and sugar, are well known, others, like what and when to eat, can be equally damaging but less obvious. From the importance of our mindset to the power of saunas, here are Dr. Sturm’s smart rules for good health and great skin.
Your mindset matters
“It’s not just what we eat or how much sleep we get: the emotions we feel can trigger stress so that the body releases cortisol, which creates inflammation. If you watch something on TV that triggers stress, you are re-routed into an inflammatory response; however, if you are surrounded by nature, or beautiful art in a museum, then the opposite can happen. It’s so important to have some degree of disconnect from the news and social media. It’s why I like LED red light, as it’s as good for our mental health as it is for skin regeneration and repair.”
Be aware of self-inflicted skin sensitivity and inflammation
“You really can have too much of a good thing. I see women who have caused tremendous trauma [from excess peeling or microneedling, for example] to their own skin – causing redness and flaking – and they think nothing of it. Healthy skin cells should be nurtured rather than destroyed, and I’ve been saying this to my aesthetic patients for 20 years. Therefore, I advise against an approach that deploys aggressive acids or retinol. A gentle, healing approach is what’s needed to promote healthy, youthful, glowing skin.”
It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat
“You might be eating a clean, vegan diet, but if you eat a salad at 8pm, for example, then your food will be laying undigested in your stomach – and that creates acidity, which triggers inflammation. So, while you may think you’re healthy by eating only plants and vegetables, the result can be the opposite. The answer is not to eat raw food at night, because the body can’t digest it. Intermittent fasting is good, too. We tend to fast in the mornings, but why not think about ‘dinner-canceling’ sometimes instead? We already know most of the obvious inflammatory foods, including processed or fried foods, alcohol, sugar and salt, but there are also plenty of great anti-inflammatory foods out there, too, such as ginger, turmeric, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, green leafy vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts, olive oil and tomatoes. Foods rich in glutathione [a potent antioxidant], such as asparagus, peppers, carrots, broccoli, avocados, squash and spinach, are also excellent – as is fatty fish, like salmon.
“More specifically, there are some particularly interesting studies surrounding one of my hero ingredients: purslane [wild parsley]. In one clinical trial, 83% of patients saw partial-to-complete clinical improvement from a chronic skin-inflammation disease after six weeks of oral purslane supplements. Purslane is also one of the richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids, and, in clinical trials, it was found to have dramatic anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, wound-healing and anti-fungal properties.”
Balance your exercise
“Moving is one of the most powerful anti-aging devices of all. I like to mix it up – walking, biking, Pilates, yoga, tennis – and I have the same approach to fitness as I do with skin: nothing should hurt. Feeling a little sore or fatigued is normal when you’re exercising, but avoid anything that leaves your body in pain – because that can be a sign of inflammation.”
Good heat versus bad heat
“While artificial heat in your home, as well as heat from the sun, can both cause inflammation, heat in the form of a sauna can have wonderful effects on the body and skin. Sauna use has been clinically studied for its tremendous skin, cardiovascular and other benefits, as it brings additional oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface. As a result, you benefit from healthier-looking skin through skin-cell rejuvenation. Just make sure to apply a hyaluronic-acid serum and a moisturizer immediately after your sauna, to seal in moisture and avoid dehydration – hydration is everything!”