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Skincare Sunday: Great skin starts in your gut

Recently, I noticed a change in the faces of several of my friends. They’d all previously had good skin but, suddenly, each had fast-tracked to incredible skin. The one unifying factor was that they had all started taking oral probiotics. So, does good digestive health really give you a clearer complexion? By NEWBY HANDS


Think inside and out

“In my clinic, I see a 100% correlation between the health of the gut and the state of the skin,” says naturopathic doctor Nigma Talib, who works between Los Angeles and London. So much so, that when launching her eponymous skincare range, Talib’s products comprised “the essentials that we know work; a serum, a cream and a probiotic supplement.”

While good skincare is certainly essential (working from the outside to protect and repair), simultaneously working from the inside – where the cells are actually formed – also makes good sense. Probiotics ensure a healthier gut, meaning nutrients from your diet are more readily absorbed, ultimately ensuring skin gets the ‘building blocks’ needed for healthy cells. If your gut is in good shape, you are guaranteeing better skin from the get-go.

How your gut affects your face

“The general health of the gut has both a direct and indirect impact on how our skin looks,” says nutritionist Eve Kalinik, author of Be Good to Your Gut. “It has much to do with the balance of the trillions of microbiomes (or bacteria) that live in the gut. An overgrowth of the bad bacteria compromises our ability to absorb nutrients, which has a knock-on effect on the skin. They say, ‘we are what we eat’, but, really, we are what we absorb.”

We know that 80% of our immune-system tissue is found in the gut, so when it triggers an internal inflammatory reaction (part of the body’s natural protection and repair response), this is bound to manifest in the body’s biggest organ: the skin. An unhealthy gut, however, can also trigger inflammation: “When bacteria and food particles leak out of the gut, it creates havoc with the immune system,” explains Kalinik, all of which can appear in the skin as dryness, redness, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema and even acne. “Anxiety and stress both contribute to gut problems. While you can never have a totally ‘probiotic gut’, what you want is a robust, healthy one.”

Good diet = great gut

Taking a course of probiotics will give you a healthier digestive system, but it’s not as simple as popping a pill every day. “It works well in the short term,” says Jeannette Hyde, author of The Gut Makeover. “You can do it for three months – and I’ve seen great results – but I do find that they can stop working in the long term.” So, although taking intermittent courses of supplements will help, as will alternating the brands you take to introduce different probiotic strains, for ongoing good gut health Hyde recommends adding pre- and probiotics to your diet by adding a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi to your salad. “Or add a handful of blueberries to your yoghurt or kefir a fermented milk drink, to give you a good mix of pre- and probiotics – prebiotics provide a healthy environment for the probiotics to thrive in. Add in a few walnuts, a great antioxidant, and then whatever else you eat that day, you already have everything you need to support a good gut.”

Maximize your probiotics

For the first step to a good gut/great skin regime, taking a course of supplements can be an easy way to start. “It takes up to 12 weeks to make a real difference,” says Kalinik. “Look for those probiotic supplements that have legitimate independent research behind them. And read the labels – depending on the probiotic strain used, some are taken on an empty stomach, others not. Some should be taken first thing, others later in the day, and it does make a difference to their efficacy.”

After years of treating her complexion from the outside only, leading aesthetician Nichola Joss now has a new three-step skin routine: “Step one is protection, with antioxidants and SPF I use each morning; step two is the nourishing and repairing cream I use at night; and step three is what’s happening inside, and keeping my gut healthy.”

  • Dr Nigma Talib
    Healthy Flora (30 capsules)
  • The Nue Co.
    Prebiotic + Probiotic capsules, 100g
  • The Beauty Chef
    Cleanse Inner Beauty Powder, 150g
  • The Nue Co.
    Plant Protein + Gut Food, 200g