Beauty Blog

Our skin is the outer manifestation of what's going on inside.

By guest writer, Sara Barthel, MS, CNS, LDN

"Love Your Skin From Within" isn't just a catchy phrase, it's a reminder of the profound connection between what we put on or into our bodies and the radiance that shines outward.

Now that we're in February, a time often associated with love and self-care, I want to invite you on a journey to nourish one of your body's most visible reflections of your health: your skin.

Let's dive into the top nutrients and lifestyle factors for glowing skin as we gracefully age:

1. Hydration: The Foundation of Radiant Skin

It's not just how much water you're drinking, but also the quality of water AND how much is actually crossing over the cell membrane to hydrate you at the cellular level.

  • Be sure you have a high quality water filter that removes chemicals, toxins, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and heavy metals. 
  • Drink plenty of pure water, herbal tea, and hydrating foods like cucumbers, citrus and leafy greens.
  • Electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) carry hydration across the cell membrane instead of going right through you. Look for an electrolyte that contains no junky ingredients like BodyBio E-Lyte or add a pinch of Celtic or Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lemon.

2. Essential Fatty Acids: Nourish from Within

Our cells, hormones, skin and brain are built from fat, so this nutrient helps determine the structure, elasticity and suppleness of our skin.

  • Quality is key! Our body uses what it's given to build new cells as they turn over.
  • Focus on high-quality fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut, MCT oil and cold water fatty fish rich in anti-inflammatory EPA/DHA (wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines).
  • These healthy fats help strengthen the skin barrier, lock in moisture and reduce inflammation, resulting in a more smooth and supple complexion.

3. Antioxidants: Your Skin's Defense Squad

  • Combat the oxidative stressors that contribute to premature aging by loading up on antioxidant-rich foods. Vibrantly colored produce like berries, citrus, pomegranates and fresh herbs along with colorful veggies like bell peppers and leafy greens are bursting with skin-loving vitamins like Vitamins A, C and E.
  • Oxidative damage comes from the combined onslaught of chemicals in our air, water, and home cleaning products.
  • Start looking for ways to reduce toxins and swap them for more natural ingredients. A great resource is's Skin Deep® database or annual "Dirty Dozen" produce list. 

4. Gut Health: You Are What You Digest, Absorb & Assimilate

  • A healthy, unprocessed diet filled with a wide variety of colorful plants plus healthy fats and plenty of protein provide the building blocks of healthy skin cells.
  • A few signs that you're not absorbing the nutrients you eat include: hair thinning or falling out, acne or oily skin, brittle nails, dry skin and wrinkles.
  • These colorful phytonutrents (antioxidants) each contain different fibers that feed different strains of gut bacteria. The health of these bacteria largely control how we age, our blood sugar, mood, inflammation, immune function and much more.
  • The goal is 30-50 different veggies, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds and low-glycemic fruits each week. Aim to hit every color of the rainbow.
  • As we age it's common to have less stomach acid and a sluggish gallbladder, leading to issues breaking down fats and proteins. So, less of what we eat is able to be utilized by our body for 'nonessential' survival functions like our skin, hair and nails.
  • Many of my clients benefit from taking a digestive enzyme or a few drops of bitters with meals to stimulate their digestive juices to break down nutrition and supplements into a usable form. And don't forget to slow down and chew thoroughly!

5 Collagen Boosters & Estrogen: Building Blocks of Youthful Skin

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is used to make connective tissue. It requires that we eat sufficient protein AND that our stomach acid can break it down into amino acids.
  • Estrogen increases blood supply to skin resulting in thicker more supple skin. Hormonal imbalances and natural loss of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause also lead to decreased collagen.
  • In our 20s and 30s, estrogen signals our body to make type 3 collagen which is quite elastic. With the gradual loss of estrogen that begins in our 40s, we produce less elastic type 3 collagen and more rigid type 1 collagen (leading to less elastic skin and more injury-prone joints/connective tissue).
  • In addition to increasing protein intake, bone broth is a great source of natural collagen. Eating foods rich in vitamin C such as broccoli, bell peppers and citrus also helps to support clearer skin and healthy collagen production.

6. Stress Management: Inner Peace, Outer Glow

  • Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our skin, speeding the aging process and exacerbating issues like eczema and psoriasis.
  • As women age, and hormones wind down into retirement, our adrenal glands begin to release more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol steals essential minerals and drives up blood sugar, causing inflammation in our organs and skin, and making it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
  • This means that over age 35-40, it becomes increasingly more critical to implement a regular stress management practice. This is in addition to supporting your adrenal glands with electrolytes and adaptogens: herbs that blunt our stress response such as ashwagandha, astragalus root and cordyceps.
  • Regular exercise also supports balanced mood, reduced stress, detoxification, and oxygen and nutrient circulation. Yoga, meditation, deep belly breathing, walking, prayer and gratitude are some of my favorite ways to calm my nervous system. Do it outdoors to double the benefits or with friends to boost oxytocin!

7. Beauty Sleep: Your Skin's Overnight Repair Crew

  • There's a reason it's called beauty sleep. During sleep, your body undergoes repair and renewal processes crucial for skin health. We need at least 7-8 hours to turn on these processes, so establish a calming bedtime routine and consistent sleep/wake time to optimize your skin's overnight rejuvenation. 

As we celebrate love this month, let's remember to extend that love to ourselves, nurturing our skin with the nourishment it craves. Incorporate these nutrient-rich foods and lifestyle practices into your daily routine and watch yourself radiate vitality at every age.

Harvard Medical School
Phone: 830.488.7389

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