A great complexion starts below the surface and your skin really is a window into your overall health. It can reflect the state of your hormones, stress levels, how much younger you look (and feel) and underlying symptoms in your body. That’s why you may need to go beyond the surface to solve tricky skin puzzles, from brown spots to acne breakouts.

The Cortisol Connection

When the going gets tough your body pumps out the stress hormone cortisol. If it stays elevated (as it does with chronic stress) skin can react in all sorts of ways. Cortisol breaks down collagen, which is like the building block of your skin. This breakdown can cause wrinkles; promote inflammation, can trigger acne or rashes; and it can increase water loss in your skin, creating dryness and sensitivity.

Basic stress management can dial down cortisol levels and calm your skin. Try deep breathing, yoga, adding numbers, whatever works. And make sure that you can get enough sleep each night so that you’re waking up rested in the morning. Good sleep means that your cortisol levels are lower, so your skin has a chance to build collagen and repair itself.

Your Gut Connection

Everyone has a mix of good and bad bacteria in their gut – and these bacteria compete all the time for the best real estate. When the bad bugs win, they pump out an inflammatory substance that can affect your skin. Research has even linked a gut imbalance to acne and rosacea. And anecdotally, we know that when people have an unhealthy gut, their skin can look dehydrated and sallow. Eat some bad things for a few days in a row and all of a sudden your acne flares up? That’s your gut microflora being disrupted. Once your bacteria is back in balance, your skin can look clearer and brighter.

A good gut diet is key for healthy skin (and a happy tummy, too). Make friends with fermented foods because they contain prebiotics and probiotics – live bacteria or yeast that keeps your gut in balance (miso soup, sauerkraut, yoghurt with active cultures, kimchi and kefir all fit the bill). If you are lactose intolerant (or just hate sauerkraut), you could also consider taking a probiotic supplement.

The Inflammatory Component

For treating skin inflammation look for products with skin-soothing botanicals like rose extract, chamomile, green tea, aloe and cucumber. Rose also has antibacterial properties to fight acne, and its high level of vitamin C may help boost skin repair and boost your complexion. Topical probiotics are also gaining buzz for their anti-inflammatory effects on redness and acne-prone skin, though research is still in its early stages. To counter dry skin, moisturize it from the inside and out. Healthy oils (high combinations of EPA and DHA like the formula seen in the Bend Beauty lines) will keep your cell membranes intact and strong.

That being said, your skin takes about 3 months to turn over, so if something is deep from within, it’s going to take time to clear up, simply because your body needs time. So don’t give up if you’re not noticing choices in a week. Long lasting change is always more beneficial.

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