My journey into the world of skin health started in early adolescence. Call it what you may, I was the typical ‘hormonal’ teenager. The severity of my acneic breakouts rivaled my fiery and explosive temperament. Despite all of my glaringly apparent signs and symptoms of internal dysfunction, I refused to take accountability for my health. Fueling the imbalances was a diet laden with processed foods, fried foods, refined sugar, and wheat products. The correlations between my internal health and external appearance wouldn’t dawn on me until nearly a decade later. In my youthful prime, I was stubbornly reluctant to listen to my mother, who first suggested I consider a natural approach to manage my skin health. I chose defiance instead and remained committed to my unhealthy habits. Not surprisingly, my acne grew rampant.
My first attempt to fix my so-called hormone balance issues started with a doctor’s appointment, where I requested the pill. I had read on the internet that this might yield some resolve when dealing with persistent acne. Not understanding the detrimental effect of hormonal contraceptives, I started the pill at 15 years old. To my utter delight, my skin looked bright and resilient in a matter of months. The tablet, I later found out, was merely a band-aid solution. When I finally opted to get off the pill in my early twenties, I developed painful eruptions all over my body.
By 23 years old, I was sick again with dealing with my problematic skin. My skin was in horrible condition showcasing pustular cysts on my face, neck, back, chest, thighs, and buttocks. I detested my appearance. A university undergrad at the time, I was chronically fatigued, lacked mental clarity, and carried a less than average zeal for life. My addiction to poor quality foods was ever-present, and I indulged in deep-fried pastries or baked goods up to three times a day. I gave into my every dietary whim. Looking back at this moment, I wish I knew then what I know about health now. At the time, however, I opted for another quick fix and headed back to the doctor for another prescription. On this visit, I requested Accutane. Without doing any research into the long-term consequences of Accutane, I took a full dose term of Accutane for four months. During my time on this potent drug, I maintained my unhealthy habits. Accutane did certainly clear my skin…temporarily. My acne was able to generate a powerful resurgence, due to the fact I never adequately addressed the underlying causes.
By the time I was 26, I was living the fast life working my sixth year as a casino waitress. In exchange for making decent coin, I subjected myself to an immense amount of toxicity in a building where smoking was legally permissible. The burden of environmental chemicals, a poor diet, and non-stop weekend debauchery pushed my body again to its limits. The acne rebuilt an unfathomable momentum again, overtaking my momentarily clear skin. I finally reached my breaking point. It was time to learn to take full accountability for my internal health and appearance of my skin.
I still attest to this day that I’m one of the lucky ones to hit what could be described as non-other than rock bottom so early in life. In those more delicate moments, I was able to reach epiphanies that ushered me along to where I am today. And where I am now is in a mentally, physically, and physiologically balanced state that allows me to guide others who feel lost in their journeys. Oh, and did I mention? My skin is clear from head to toe.
It took me 13 years to realize mom was right. Natural and holistic measures have now become my new gold standard for addressing the appearance of my skin.
What I’m about to tell you now is a culmination of close to twenty years of self-experimentation. This following information, should you choose to implement it, will hopefully serve to rescue you from seeking out potentially damaging skin remedies as I had.
In my explorations, I believe these are some of the critical variables that manage clear and glowing skin:
The moment someone asks me for skin advice they have unknowingly walked into an all-out H20 interrogation.
After subjecting a myriad of unsuspecting individuals to a Q&A of their water consumption, I realized there is a grave disconnect in what we the masses define as water.
So, let’s cover water first and foremost.
Is coffee considered water? No, coffee is coffee
Is juice considered water? No, juice is juice.
Is milk or non-dairy milk considered water? No, they are milk.
Is diet pop or regular pop considered water? No, that’s junk. Discard them.
For full clarification, I repeat, only water is water. Pure filtered water. Period.
Believe it or not, pure water is also the holy grail of good skin health.
Again, for more clarification, I am not saying you cannot drink anything else other than water. What I’m saying is that you need to track your pure water intake separately from everything else.
As soon as we add anything to our water, whether it be water sweeteners like Mio (which I’m heavily opposed to btw), protein, sports supplements, electrolytes, I personally no longer consider it water. In a weird parallel, these substances can be part of your daily hydration, but only water is water, so count it separately.
Since these are my rules on skin health, you can take them or leave them. I might not be able to provide any scientific literature that validates this other than my personal experiences and happy clients who have made drastic changes to their skin health.
Here is your pure water intake calculator:
0.66 x your weight in lbs = Optimal H20 in ounces (non-exercise day)
Optimal H20/32 = Optimal H20 in liters (non-exercise day)
Add 0.5-1.0L of pure filtered water on exercise days, depending on how sweaty you get.
Now it’s time to promise me you will hit your PURE water intake every day for at least six months before deciding whether this measure makes any impact on your appearance.
If you make no other changes to your routine and only this, you should see a jaw-dropping shift in your skin.
Water is quite possibly the most overlooked yet rudimentary skin-clearing variable out there. Water is the conduit that ensures every other skincare strategy you commit to works the way it should. Mark my words.
Our skin is the ultimate lie detector for what is going on deep within our cellular matrix.
Our skin will reflect the presence of free radical damage, toxicity, cellular DNA repair capacity, telomere shortening, microRNA Regulation, inflammation, the presence of advanced glycation end (AGE) products, and collagen breakdown or lack of collagen synthesis.
With this information, we can extract one key takeaway:
What you apply topically to your skin is only partially responsible for your skin’s feel and appearance.
In an article published in 2012 by Dermato Endocrinology, researchers confirm the inextricable links between the health of our skin and the intake of vitamins, minerals, plant compounds, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids.
Maintaining a youthful complexion will require a committed investment with your daily dietary routine. Only in the presence of a nutrient-dense diet can we allow our skin to express itself to its fullest potential.
So, how do you organize a complexion supportive diet?
Diets are going to differ based on individual needs, but the fundamental principles still apply.
Here are my favorite dietary suggestions to optimize skin integrity:
These are the items we should keep to a minimum or eliminate in a healthy skin diet:
In this section, I will outline the essential supplements that I have found to be a complete game-changer in my skin’s appearance.
The following information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. None of the following information is paid or endorsed by these companies and supplied at my own free will. Please consult your health care professional to determine if the following recommendations are right for you. The following supplements might affect the metabolism of pharmaceutical drugs and should be avoided by those on medication.
Glutathione’s street name is ‘master antioxidant’ and, in supplement form, comes as a savior for those in need. You can read more about this product here.
I have noticed a massive shift in my skin’s appearance thanks to this product.
Glutathione offers support via quenching free radical damage and mobilizing toxicity and heavy metals. As aforementioned, these are two parameters which are a contributing factor to the aging of our skin1. Need I say more?
Brand/Dosing: Designs for Health Liposomal Glutathione. I notice the best benefit at ten pumps per day taken away from food and held under the tongue for up to 5 minutes. Administer daily for 3-6 months for full benefit.
Used historically in TCM for its ‘youthening’ ability, these magical berries optimize organ function and skin health simultaneously.
According to examine.com, a compound in Schisandra named Schisandrin B, “is being investigated as a hormetic anti-aging molecule. Studies in rats suggest that a low dose Schisandrin B content (0.012% w/w of the diet) can ameliorate the aging process and improve relative functional capacity of the organs that are usually deemed to be a target of Schisandra Chinensis; the brain, heart, kidney, and liver.”
This little berry isn’t messing around. I notice results in as little as one week when consistent with this supplement.
Brand/Dosing: Harmonic Arts Schisandra Berry Tincture. 3-6 dropperful per night up to 3 months before cycling off for a break. May cause relaxation.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae with numerous health benefits. Of particular significance for skin health is its free radical scavenging and anti-inflammatory properties.
Spirulina is an acquired taste. If you have sensitive taste buds, you might prefer settling for capsules, although capsules are significantly more expensive when factoring in an effective dosage.
I notice a tonifying effect with my skin typically within the first seven days of using it regularly.
Brand/Dosing: I prefer the taste of the Incan Spirulina from Harmonic Arts, but that one is a bit more costly. A high quality and economically priced spirulina brand is Pure Hawaiian Spirulina. It doesn’t taste as pleasant as the Incan spirulina. Consume 1-5 tbsp per day on an empty stomach. Titrate upwards slowly. It can be taken continuously as a food product.
If you have a long history of eating poorly, there is a chance you did a number on your microbiome.
To put it simply, we can harbor beneficial species and non-beneficial species of bacteria in our digestive tract. The healthier we eat, the more we support the growth of beneficial species. If we tend towards poor dietary choices, we encourage the growth of non-beneficial species.
Not surprisingly, we are now starting to encounter an expanding body of research that is investigating the gut microbiome’s relationship to the etiology of acne.
Anecdotally speaking, probiotics have made a significant impact on the clarity of my skin.
Brand/Dosing: Designs for Health Probiomed 100. 1 Capsule after dinner. One should cycle probiotic strains to introduce bacterial variety.
Sulfur deficiency is one of the most commonly under-addressed nutrient deficiencies I have encountered in my professional career. The emphasis on dietary sulfur pales in comparison to other nutrients like vitamin c, vitamin a, iodine, iron, magnesium, etc. Sulfur encourages the skin’s natural exfoliation process revealing a smoother, more radiant complexion. A lack of dietary sulfur in the form of sulfur-containing amino acids and sulfur-containing plant compounds leads the way to the crux of our deficiencies.
Sulfur is depleted heavily by women who take birth control bills due to the role of sulfur in the removal of excess estrogens. In essence, the pill is partially responsible for women looking older than their biological age if sulfur is lacking.
When a long-standing deficiency has been established, trying to turn it all around with food alone often is too little too late. I repeatedly emphasize the importance of using reinforcements like methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) or isothiocyanates like sulforaphane.
Brand/Dosing: Purica MSM. 1 teaspoon daily for up to a year before cycling off.
I used to believe my skin was dirty, as an explanation for why I was always breaking out. In the past, I opted for the most potent skincare products out there. Alcohol-based toners, powerful surfactants like sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate, benzoyl peroxide, chemical peels, etc. You name it I was on it. I figured if I could just keep the surface layer clean enough, I would have smooth skin. To my dismay, all I had was a red face that would flake or blotch and often both. To top it off were the pustular lesions that covered my body. I was indeed a mess.
I experimented with the full spectrum of available products: natural ones, synthetic ones, budget brands, upscale brands, and fancy laser facials. While all these products or procedures gave me various forms of benefit, they never wholly eradicated the army of breakouts that would surge again and again.
When I finally started improving my dietary structure, I noticed my skin was a lot clearer. It was during this time I noticed I was more reluctant to use those harsh products and started to focus on natural skincare lines. My skin looked even better in the absence of the caustic ingredients I once used obsessively.
Here are my top 4 product or ingredient recommendations for radiant skin:
Living Libations Vanilla Best Skin Ever is a beautiful multi-purpose oil. I use it nightly as an oil cleanser. It dissolves grime, makeup, and sweat while creating a fantastic aromatherapy experience. As soon as this oil glides over my face, I feel calmer and more Zen. Oil cleansers are one of the gentlest cleansing options which don’t strip and leaves the skin happy.
Application: 2-3 pumps gently massaged over face 1-2x/day. Wring out a warm washcloth and drape over the face to release essential oils. Gently wipe the face of daily grime and makeup.
Living Libations Best Skin Ever lineup of oils is an investment I have made again and again. Worth every penny.
Honorary Mention: Living Libations Ensorcell Serum – 1-3 drops a night. Apply after cleansing and toning and 10 minutes before applying the remainder of your nighttime skin routine. I don’t know what else to say other than this product is liquid gold.
b) Glycolic Acid + Salicylic Acid
The skin has a natural shedding cycle whereby old cells shed and new ones grow. If we fail to exfoliate the dead surface layer, we will encourage a build-up of old and stale cells. This build-up can make our faces look dull. To facilitate our natural exfoliation process, I like having a glycolic acid/salicylic acid product either on rotation in lotion form or a gentle daily toner.
Product Recommendations: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner or Reversa 10% Body Lotion (which I use on my face). I have not found a holy grail salicylic acid product yet.
c) Vitamin C
A topical vitamin c product is beneficial for those with a predisposition to hyperpigmentation or signs of photoaging. The issue with vitamin C is that it tends to be somewhat unstable and can oxidize quickly, reducing its effectiveness. Purchase small quantities of vitamin C and use them up as soon as possible.
Product Recommendations: The Ordinary has a comprehensive line of various vitamin c gels and serums. Select them based on the sensitivity level of your skin. The higher the concentration, the higher the chance you might have a sensitivity reaction. I prefer using vitamin c products at night underneath an essential face lotion and on alternate days with glycolic acids.
The downside to revealing a constant supply of new cells is that your skin becomes more sun-sensitive. A daily sunscreen becomes a must to reduce the damage from ultraviolet radiation.
I have experimented with both natural sunscreens (zinc/titanium dioxide) and non-natural sunscreens. Although the chemicalized sunscreens might have their downsides, I find them lighter and more comfortable to wear than the naturally derived sunscreens which feel more substantial on my skin. When it comes to skin health, sometimes, you have to settle for what works rather than what is considered ideal.
Product Recommendations: SPF 30-60 using brands that are “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic.” Still haven’t found my holy grail here.
The most significant shifts in my skin occurred when I started investing in my nutritional wellbeing. Only then did all the extras in the form of supplements and skincare products seem to start “working.” Taking the time to learn to care for my body from the inside out proved to me the incredible impact an honest self-care routine can have.
Wishing you all the radiance,
Naomi Sachs, B.Sc., A.C.H.N., PFT
 Zhang, Shoubing et al. “Fighting against Skin Aging” Cell Transplant, 27(5), 2018 May, 729-738.
 Schagen, Sikle K. et al. “Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging” Dermato Endocrinology, 4(3), 2012 July 1, 298-307
 Patel, Kamal, Schisandra Chinensis, Examine.com, Aug 14, 2019, https://examine.com/supplements/schisandra-chinensis/research/#pharmacology_phase-i-enzymatic-interactions
 Karkos, P.D. et al. “Spirulina in Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications” Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Volume 2011, 2010 Oct 19, 1-4.
 Lee, Young Bok, “Potential Role of the Microbiome in Acne: A Comprehensive Review” Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(7), 2019 Jul, 1-25.
 “SULFUR” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1527/sulfur
Contributed by Naomi Sachs, B.Sc., A.C.H.N., PFT
Fully-certified since 2015, Naomi has been successfully coaching clients throughout North America and facilitating their self-growth in the nutrition and fitness realm. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the myriad of health strategies available, her services aim to introduce clarity and self-motivation.