How to Eat Your Way to Clearer Skin and Longer Hair

I’ve tried more supplements and detox teas than you can spot in an aisle of Whole Foods, but I’ve finally found two products that actually work, along with my antioxidant-rich smoothie.
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Courtney Brunson
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I’ve tried more supplements and detox teas than you can spot in an aisle of Whole Foods, but I’ve finally found two products that actually work, along with my antioxidant-rich smoothie.

As much as I enjoy junk food binges and late-night hunts to Duane Reade for gummy worms, I always feel refreshed after a week of exercise and clean eating. My skin feels refreshed too — pimples shrivel up, my oil balance is in check, and I glow again. I’m passionately devoted to my medicine cabinet of skin-care products, but still believe that a healthy lifestyle is more effective than the most expensive face cream.

In order to back up my own claims, and to learn a couple of things, I consulted professionals: dermatologists Dr. Jennifer Chwalek of Union Square Laser Dermatology and Dr. Jeanine Downie of Image Dermatology. I also asked Carla Oates, a naturalist author and self-proclaimed “Beauty Chef,” for tips.

After reading about the Chinese practice of face mapping, the idea that different zones of the face correspond to different internal organs, I was sold on the idea that skin is a reflection of health. 

“There are really no western medical studies confirming face mapping works, but” Chwalek explained, “it is known and accepted that certain skin conditions are manifestations of underlying disease or health issues. For instance, hormonal acne tends to occur along the lower face/jawline and can be associated with hormonal imbalances. Rosacea has been linked to inflammatory gastrointestinal/digestive disorders.”

So, I needed to know, is it possible to maintain clear skin with a diet of pizza, gummy worms, and carbonated syrup? Honestly yes, if you’re blessed by genetics. However, Chwalek warned me, “an unhealthy diet will eventually have effects on how the skin heals and ages.” If overall health does not provide enough initiative to become conscious of what you ingest, vanity will, as is the case with me because I want to be a hot old lady.

I’ve tried more supplements and detox teas than you can spot in an aisle of Whole Foods, but I’ve finally found two products that actually work and maintain my clear skin when paired with an antioxidant-rich breakfast smoothie.

One tub can last about a month, but I’ve managed to make mine last longer. The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder, $59.95.

One tub can last about a month, but I’ve managed to make mine last longer. The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder, $59.95.

Glow Powder is a tasty drinkable tonic with naturally fermented ingredients including antioxidant-dense Maqui berry (which protects against the five primary free radicals), dunaliella salina (a micro-algae rich in vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, and chlorophyll), the skin-protective superfruit queen garnet plum, green tea powder (for a morning kick), probiotics, and prebiotics. I had a preexisting vague understanding that yogurt contained probiotics for healthy gut flora, but still could not distinguish the difference between probiotics and prebiotics.

So I consulted the Beauty Chef, Carla Oates — my homie — for a definitive answer. She confirmed that yes, “probiotics are live bacteria in yogurt and other dairy products, but do not have the same power prebiotics do. Prebiotics are a specialized plant fiber the body uses as a fertilizer to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut — for good health, the gut requires a proliferation of good bacteria.” Got all of that?

I add about a teaspoon of Glow Powder into my morning smoothies, but it can also be sprinkled over cereal or yogurt. The scent is identical to an Odwalla Superfood Bar or fruity lip balm, and is sweet enough to dip your finger in and eat (it’s sweetened by Stevia, in case you were wondering).

Hair Skin Nails Vitamins, $33.

Hair Skin Nails Vitamins, $33.

I’ve mentioned before that my hair is relaxed, and that the chemical damage causes it to break easily and frequently. I need a lot of extra help wherever I can get it — especially in the vitamin department. My sister turned me on to an all-natural Hair Skin Nails vitamin from the brand It Works!, which contains large helpings of biotin (a well-known hair savior).

The average hair-growth rate is ½ inch per month (which is unheard of for me because I rarely retain any growth — it breaks off instantly). After four weeks of taking these vitamins, my hair grew two inches (which I tracked on a T-shirt with measured dashes), and I kept all of the length. No more weaves for me — my chicken-head days were over.

In addition, my nails finally made it past the stubs of my fingertips, and even my eyelashes grew to be abnormally long. At one point last year I tried a cheaper biotin supplement from Whole Foods just to experiment, and I couldn't detect any visible results. Now, I’m back to It Works! for good.

I swallow two vitamins per day, one with breakfast and one with dinner. Remember that biotin can be very dehydrating, so drink a lot of water throughout the day. Eight glasses can feel like gulping down the Atlantic Ocean, but it pays off.

Smoothie Time!

Here’s Dr. Downie’s advice on foods to chomp on: “Naturally, it is better to eat a healthy diet full of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. I tell my patients and my family to try to eat whole foods and not foods out of a box. Healthy eating, exercising at least four days a week, drinking tons of water, and limiting your coffee intake are all critical for healthy skin, healthy hair, and healthier living.”

If you’re easing your way into the second level of the food pyramid, prefer your spinach in a can like Popeye, or both, smoothies are for you. Personally, I’m only capable of drinking my salads, and prefer to mask the taste of greens with plenty of fruit. Here’s my favorite breakfast smoothie recipe that gets me started every day, courtesy of my handy NutriBullet (Thanks mom!).

You’ll need: 

  • Kale or baby spinach (If you’re using fresh kale, remove leaves from the stalk.)
  • 1 Medjool date
  • Almond butter
  • Glow Inner Beauty Powder
  • ½ Banana
  • Frozen berry mix — I get a mix of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries from Whole Foods
  • More blueberries! (Berries are a great source of antioxidants, ultimately helping with your skin’s collagen retention.)
  • Water
Pre-blended goodness (minus water).

Pre-blended goodness (minus water).

*Note: I base my amount of ingredients on the size of cup I use that day. I also store my fruit in the freezer.

1. Fill your cup (or blender) halfway with your choice of kale or baby spinach

2. Remove the pit of a Medjool date and add it to the mix for sweetness

3. Add 1 Tbsp of almond butter for creaminess

4. Add 1 Tsp of Glow Powder for glowy-ness

5. Add the ½ banana

6. Dump frozen berries into the mix, matching the quantity of greens (Sometimes I include fresh blackberries to give my smoothie a dark purple hue.)

7. Fill the container halfway with water

8. Blend

9. Check Instagram

10. Drink up!

finished smoothie.JPG

Last night I drank one of these smoothies as dessert (after my dinner of Teriyaki salmon and quinoa drenched in olive oil), but still experienced a lapse in strength and ate a bag of candy. Oops. I guess I’m not completely reformed yet, but I’m getting there ….

Do any of you turn to supplements for clear skin and nails? Out of curiosity, has anyone tried Viviscal?

Follow Courtney on Twitter and Instagram @courtneypizza