Gorgeous Una Brennan is one the most accomplished facialists and skincare specialists in the UK. With more than 15 years experience, she has a true passion for skin health and an in-depth knowledge of ingredients and their benefits. She shared her secrets on what to eat and what to juice for radiant skin health, and the products she can't live without.
What is your no.1 recommendation for improving our skin?
I believe that we should focus as much what we put in our bodies as we put on our skin. There is little point investing in the best skin care whilst surviving on a very poor diet. 20% of our skin is epidermis or the outer layers of the skin and 80% makes up the dermis, or the lower layers of the skin. What we put on our skin in terms of skin care goes into the epidermis; and what we put into our bodies goes to the dermis, which will in time go on to form the epidermis. So topical skin care, whilst very important, is all about nourishing and protecting the outer layer of the skin - the part that protects us from our environment, keeps the bad out and the good in. Therefore how we take care of our skin on the outside can really only make up 20% of how our skin appears. The other 80% is genetics and how we nourish our skin from the inside.
How is skin health related to nutrition?
How our skin looks is directly related to our health and wellness. When the body is poorly nourished, fatigued or stressed, it shows in the skin and contributes to how our skin ages. We must think of our skin as connected to the rest of our body so by making your body healthy, you will be making your skin healthier. Eating well means eating a lot more fresh, raw or lightly cooked foods - raw vegetables, whole grains, good proteins. Eggs are good to include too because they contain lecithin which makes our cells stronger.
What is the importance of sun protection?
Skin needs help by nourishing it from the inside as described above, but also cared for from the outside with a smart morning-night regime, good skin care and protection with a full spectrum sunscreen. By the time we reach 50, if we haven't been a loyal wearer of sun protection by now, we'll be wishing we had been! This is when the true extent of previous damage from the sun's rays becomes apparent in the form of wrinkles, age spots and spider veins. It seems now that those in their twenties and younger are so much more sun saavy than the older generations have ever been and most that i come across wouldn't dream of leaving the house without sun protection all year round. This will bode very well for them in the future for the health of their skin, but if you are a sun protection virgin, over 50, and reading this it is never too late to start.
What do you eat with your skin health in mind?
As a general rule, I try to aim for at least half of what is on my plate, or half of what I eat in any given day, fresh raw fruit and vegetables. Luckily I love vegetables and tend to either eat them raw or steamed. I love juicing or blending various combinations of vegetables daily as a wonderful healthy shot of nutrients. I also try to get all of my vitamins and minerals from my actual food intake and avoid supplements unless I am run down or tired.
For all of us the most important commodity in the body is water. Bearing in mind that our bodies are made up of about 50% water, and that at a very basic level healthy skin needs water in the cells and to be able to breathe, it makes sense to me to give the body from food everything that helps get water into the cells, like amino acids, B vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants. Eating food most rich in water are the most hydrating - again raw vegetables and fruits. They contain structured water that can penetrate our cells better, as opposed to water outside the cells - in other words waste water (oedema, puffiness, water retention). Fresh raw fruit and vegetables contain everything we need: water, antioxidants, antiinflammatories, B vitamins, roughage and trace minerals! Overall, I eat more vegetables than fruit due to the sugar content of fruit.
Gaining hydration from the food we eat is much more beneficial than drinking gallons of water, which the body can use efficiently only when we are thirsty and need water immediately. Too much drinking water just ends up as waste water in or out of the body. Skin that has been allowed to stay dehydrated for long periods of time will effectively be drying out like a prune - this can be irreversible just like pumping water into a prune will not give you back your plum.
Eating with skin in mind, I love my green leaves like spinach and kale, lots of fish either raw or cooked, tomatoes, fennel, cucumber, and blueberries.
What are the top 3 skincare products you can't live without?
Superfacialist Neroli night cream, Skinceuticals CE ferulic and Caraderm carrageen moss serum.
How do you balance your hectic work schedule and stay healthy?
Sometimes it is very difficult to get a balance, but I one thing I try not to compromise on when I am very busy is the food that I eat. I could do with getting out and exercising a bit more though!
Beyond skin care products, what advice would you give people wanting to improve the health of their skin?
As a general rule, try to aim for at least half of what is on your plate, or half of what you eat in any given day, fresh, brightly coloured raw or lightly steamed vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables are an easy addition to every meal, even throw some in your soup at the last minute! Experiment with juicing or making smoothies with your fruit and vegetables - there is a whole world of delicious recipes out there, and it is wonderful to see that it is becoming more and more popular in the UK.
What should we avoid, to benefit our skin?
Healthy body, and therefore healthy skin, is more about what you don't eat than what you do in terms of how hard the body has to work to get rid of toxins. So stay away from processed foods and keep your food as close to the ground as possible. The easier your body has to work to get rid of toxins, the fresher you will look as you grow older. Avoid sugar. Sugar is skin's enemy. Whether from glucose or fructose it should be avoided as much as possible. Those with a sweet tooth can choose face friendly low fructose fruit like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and oranges. Greek yoghurt is a great choice for pudding for its anti inflammatory and anti aging effect.