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Getting healthy, glowing skin is more of a 360-degree approach than you might think. What you put in your body, the environment you’re in and how you feel have as much impact upon skin as the cleanser you use. But it is a minefield so we spoke to Dr Howard Murad, founder of eponymous clinical skincare line Murad Skincare (as well as trained pharmacist and dermatologist who founded his Los Angeles-based clinic in 1989 #skincredentials) to find out exactly what it takes to get healthy skin.
The science of healthy skin
Like all titans of science, Dr Murad has a makes-sense theory of what it takes to look and feel good. “Every cell in your body is connected,” he says. “For example, if you get sunburnt, not only will your skin go red but you might succumb to a headache, too.” Our cell’s hydration levels are key to healthy skin. When these cells are young, they are strong and resistant to damage but as they get older, they lose their shape, their ability to defend themselves and, most notably, their hydration levels plummet dramatically.
So how do we get the best skin possible?
Defend your skin
First thing’s first; we’ve got to ward off environmental aggressors any way we can: “Our skin is our first line of defence against free radicals,” says Murad. Free radicals - the unstable, cell-damaging molecules that are the result of everything from stress and bad diet to air pollution - cause fine lines, pigmentation and uneven skin tone.
“Wind, UV and blue light from computer screens are some of the most common environmental aggressors,” he says. To ward these terrors off we need the right kind of skincare to help maintain and improve our skin’s barrier function. He recommends using products that contain structural lipids, like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin, like the Murad Hydro Dynamic Ultimate Moisture, which also fortuitously replenishes moisture and keeps it there all day. To combat free radicals, apply a topical antioxidant like the Murad Advanced Active Radiance serum which contains the potent antioxidant, Vitamin C. For a great, skin-defending all-rounder, we love Murad’s City Skin SPF50, which protects skin from every damaging thing that comes its way.
You already know that what you eat has a very real effect on your skin; we’ve spoken about skin diets before. Free radicals affect your internal health, which causes cell damage and eventually upsets your external health, resulting in a skin reaction. Bolster your inner defence system by eating antioxidant-rich foods like beans, berries and nuts and/or take a good Vitamin C supplement (no more than 2000 milligrams per day and a slow release capsule is best).
To keep cell membranes in good shape – shape that will see them into their older years - we need to consume lots of good omega fats and proteins as that’s what they’re made of. Murad recommends adding cold water fish like mackerel and salmon, as well as walnuts, chia seeds and your go-to, caviar, to your shopping list. And, of course his Hydro Glow Food Supplements that boost cellular hydration thanks to the Glucosamine they contain which creates a moisture ‘reservoir’ within cells. Cue plumped up, healthy skin.
Eat your water
You might already drink your 8 glasses of water a day – proud of you – but Dr Murad points out that the more water we can consume, the better state our cells will be in. “I like structured water that comes from raw fruits and vegetables,” he says. Think watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, celery, melons, spinach and raspberries “Many of these are at least 80 per cent water, so you’re not only feeding your body, but you’re feeding your skin too.”
But do eat well. “Too much sugar, too much salt and too many animal fats are not healthy for you,” Murad says, recommending the 80/20 rule as a good rule of thumb. That means eating healthily 80 per cent of the time and allowing yourself a nice little treat the other 20 per cent of the time – this is one that Gisele and Miranda Kerr do this so it clearly works. Diets, on the other hand, don’t: “Whatever you limit, you’ll end up eating ten times more,” says Murad.
Sweat it out
If you hate the gym and would rather be anywhere but, think about this: “When you exercise, you build muscle and that muscle is more than 70 per cent water,” says Murad, which helps explain why exercise has as much an effect on our skin as it does our mood. So the more we can exercise, the better hydrated our cells are and the plumper and healthier skin will be. “Do the things you enjoy and you’ll do them more often,” says Murad, pointing out that it’s more the frequency of exercise that has a positive impact upon the skin rather than the exercise itself.
Be kind to your mind
“Nowadays we’re all far too stressed,” he says. Cultural stress is down to our digital dependencies (insta addiction anyone?), strict rules in all areas of our lives and even just living in busy cities. “This causes damage to our genetic makeup – our cells – so we need to learn how to deal with it.” Exercise can help but you might also try following a meditation practice, which could mean focusing on the breath for ten minutes each day or going to a yoga class (Triyoga’s yin is great) a couple of times a week.
There are apps that can help too. Calm is one of the best we’ve found for beginners as it offers a gentle introduction to meditation. Combine it with having a long, relaxing bath or applying aromatherapy oils and you can help lift the evil curse of stress.