Let’s Talk Seasonal Skincare
As the summer holidays end, our thoughts inevitably turn to the months ahead. For some, this means a scramble to equip off-spring not only with new uniforms but to also stock up with everything from the now obligatory, disinfecting hand sanitiser to arnica cream for playground and sports field bumps and bruises.
However careful we have been with sun creams and hats and staying in the shade in the mid-day sun, the increase in exposure to ultraviolet rays over the summer, even on dull days, can increase damage to collagen in the middle layer of skin. This leaves it prone to the formation of premature fine lines and wrinkles as well as uneven pigmentation.
Now, as much as ever, this means that including antioxidant rich foods is vital for skin health. Daily inclusion of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains are the starting point. Green, orange, and red fruits and vegetables are especially good at supplying carotenes and polyphenols along with vitamin C, which help to counter, attack by the suns, free radical forming UV rays, while nuts, seeds and wholegrains top up vitamin E. This vital vitamin works with vitamin C in its crucial antioxidant role.
It is a good time too, to include foods that give us the trace mineral silica, needed to make the cells that sit between collagen fibres, helping to give our skin a plump and hydrated appearance, along with foods rich in essential fatty acids, which help both skin texture and hydration. Oats, melon, and green beans along with oily fish, walnuts, and omega 3 supplements all help to fulfil these roles.
Nutritious meals and snacks can be given a helping hand by carefully selecting skin care to complement the work nutrients can do from the inside. Cleaning our skin thoroughly with a deep, antioxidant packed cleanser is a great starting point. This can be followed by exfoliation with a gentle mask, to help to gently remove dead skin cells. Applying serums and masks containing hyaluronic acid can help to drive this crucial beauty aid into the middle layers of our skin where it helps hydration while vitamin C rich serum, and those containing bilberry and rosehip extracts may help fine lines and to even out skin pigmentation. Finally, a rich and moisturising cream, completes this post-summer, restorative skin routine. Look for key ingredients including rose extracts, which are naturally rich in antioxidants to help calm skin. Geranium extracts, aloe, and squalene, sourced from olives meanwhile, provide wonderful natural emollient and soothing effects to help rescue 'end of summer' skin.
While summertime can be full of fun, changes in routines, bedtimes, responsibilities and even time zones, can be stressful. If you have found your sleep patterns have been disturbed, then turning to some time-honoured favourites of medical herbalists can be helpful. Valerian, chamomile, and oats can all herbalists' favourites, while thinking about increasing the nutrients magnesium and calcium found naturally in milk and yoghurt may be useful as well.
These last two minerals may help too with soothing nerves, while medical herbalists will look to extracts of holy basil, ashwagandha and again, oats to give a helping hand. If summer stress has triggered mouth ulcers, they will recommend natural remedies including calendula, propolis, St John’s Wort and myrrh and if you have fallen prey to cold sores, then it is to extracts of Melissa, to which they turn.
Autumn brings with it many benefits and awe-inspiring moments with the beautiful changes in natures' colours for instance, signalling a new season ahead. Inevitably it brings too, a sleuth of potential infections from coughs, colds, and flu to the still present concern of further Covid-19 infections.
This means that it is ideal timing to support our immune systems by nurturing our bodies with nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, while edging out processed foods and drinks that can trigger inflammation and make it harder for our immune cells to do their job.
In practice this means tucking into options such as Bircher muesli and porridges with fruits, nuts, and seeds for breakfast to start your day. You can use dairy or fortified dairy alternatives to make either. Or you may prefer eggs or avocado on wholegrain toast with fresh or grilled tomatoes on the side. Lunches can be salads with quinoa and beans, tofu, tuna, or salmon while dinners could range from pesto pasta or lentil stuffed aubergines to baked fish and ratatouille.
Medical herbalists also have suggestions to provide extra support to our immune reactions by adding in tonics containing for example, cat’s claw, golden seal, echinacea and olive leaf. Elderberry, plantain, and thyme are other well-known herbal extracts, to which they frequently turn to support immune cells.
Protection From The Outside In
As well as nurturing our immunity from the inside, diligent and regular use of disinfecting sprays and hand washes remain an important tool in our bug-fighting plan for the months to come. Concerns over the effects of hormone disrupting chemicals in mainstream anti-bacterial handwashes and gels mean that preparations containing natural ingredients have found a welcome place in bathroom cabinets and handbags over the last eighteen months. Look for ingredients such as tea tree with its natural antibacterial effects in handwashes along with St John’s Wort, marigold and propolis.
With the extra handwashing comes inevitably drier hands, which will need more care and attention. Deeply moisturising creams free from chemical preservatives and perfumes are important for regular, daily use. Look for nourishing and calming ingredients favoured by medical herbalists for damaged hands including sunflower oil, chickweed, neem, aloe, and chamomile.
Scratches, Bumps and Growing Pains
If it is scratches, bumps, and even growing pains you are concerned with, particularly with children returning to school and teenagers experiencing rapid growth spurts, then turning to age-old remedies containing tea tree, manuka and again, neem is a natural way forward. All are useful for dealing with scratches while arnica is a time-honoured healer for bumps and can help to soothe the aches and pains of rapid growth spurts.
Registered Nutritionist AFN
PG Dip Dietetics,
Associateship King's College (AKC)