An Unpretentious Breakdown of Holistic Wellness, Beginning with Food Sensitivity
Holistic wellness sounds like a term for a time and/or capital-intensive self-care regimen, but it doesn't need to feel so pretentious. Holistic simply means that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. When we look at skincare, beauty, and grooming through the lens of self-care, we usually get to a conclusion that ends in a product or service you assume will finally be the absolute game changer for your aesthetic aspirations.
Not to take the wind out of your sails (or mine tbh), but there are no miracle products, and most, if not all, of the serotonin shopping sprees I've had in my lifetime, have inevitably fallen very flat. Yes, there are products I absolutely love and champion regularly. I love the art of grooming and have been a beauty hobbyist since watching my mom apply her makeup as a child. All this to say, self-care that only focuses on the exterior does not get the job done.
I feel my best when I balance the right skincare products with mindful nutrition, moving my body, attention to my mental health, and spiritual sustenance. In this series on holistic wellness, I'm going to break down the components I've found to be helpful in my approach to taking very good care of myself while being realistic to maintain.
Today, I'm tackling food sensitivity with the big ole disclaimer that I am not a nutritionist and the unsolicited advice of similarly unqualified but very opinionated people on the internet is plentiful (and annoying). I'm merely offering a snippet of what has worked for me thanks to the recommendation of my esthetician.
What you don't eat?
It took me a long time to realize that what I eat affects the overall health of my skin. Tackling skincare issues, whether it's oil production, acne, or dryness, without addressing your nutrition is essentially addressing the symptoms without ever scratching the surface of the root cause. If you want a diet that promotes you being the glowiest, most vibrant, feeling good version of yourself, break it down into two factions: what you don't eat, and what you do eat.
Dairy, soy, sugar, processed carbs, and alcohol are notorious for inflaming skincare issues in certain folks. I've never done any formal food allergy tests, but I have played around with trial periods that omit these food groups, and the result is a more intuitive me that listens to my body's sensitivities. Groundbreaking. I know.
I love all of the above food groups and am by no means advocating for a totalitarian abstinence approach to them. However, I've found as a cheese and tofu-loving vegetarian, when I consciously limit the amount of those two food groups, I'm much less prone to breakouts. The same goes for alcohol. These omissions are good for me and my skin. Your body may or may not share in these sensitivities, but I recommend slowly trying out an elimination diet to fine-tune your eating habits to your body's needs.
Whey and casein are proteins found in milk. When we digest dairy our bodies produce something called IGF-1 an insulin-like hormone that can cause breakouts and inflammation.
On top of that, we've got lactose, y'all. Lactose is a form of sugar naturally produced in milk. When we grow beyond baby-dom, lots of folks develop sensitivity and/or allergy to lactose. In traditional cases of lactose intolerance, you get the triple threat of diarrhea, gas, and bloating — but unbeknownst to me, you can have a mild sensitivity that contributes to breakouts (which I do). The more you know.
I'm a vegetarian, and I love me some tofu. Tofu, and many other products, are made of soybeans. When you consume soy, there is a possibility of increased androgen production in your body. Androgen is a male sex hormone present in both men and women — the most infamous androgen is testosterone. When your body has increases production of androgen, it changes your hormonal balance which can increase your likelihood of breakouts.
Most of the information I found regarding soy and acne was anecdotal with contrasting opinions on whether soy increases or decreases acne. The common thread is that soy affects acne. For me, when I chill on the tofu, veggie meats, and soy lattes, my deep hormonal acne is much less severe.
Sugar and processed carbs
Refined sugar and processed carbohydrates have a high glycemic index which increases the amount of blood sugar your body produces resulting in an increased release of insulin. When there's more insulin in your body this can cause your body to produce more sebum (oil, of which I have a lot of) and acne.
I'm not insinuating you should eliminate sugar, pasta, bread, and the smorgasbord of other processed carbs (pasta! bread! petit fours!) from your diet (because that would be both annoying and insane). However, if you can make some micro-adjustments to reduce refined sugars in your daily intake, you'll likely see a decrease in breakouts and inflammation.
Pro tip: if you have an insatiable sweet tooth like me, try swapping that ice cream for fresh fruit to satiate the sugar cravings 80% of the time, allowing yourself the sweet revelry of Rocky Road ice cream the other 20%.
Alcohol consumption does two things to our bodies: dehydrates and inflames. Water is the fountain of youth imo, so when you're dehydrated you develop more wrinkles and your body reacts by retaining water (say hello to post-bender bloat face). Additionally, the inflammation can cause rosacea flare-ups, redness, and broken blood vessels on your face.
J Lo doesn't drink alcohol because of how it affects her skin. J Lo is 52 and looks like this. Need I say more?