Have you ever had science rise up and back up some of your folk wisdom? That moment when the weird thing you’ve been doing for ages turns out to be totally legit?
It feels. So. Good.
Some things just make good, common sense. Washing your face with alcohol and tanning--both practices that were once considered healthy," genuinely lack any sort of logic. Why would frying your skin make you look thinner or younger? Does anyone even know who is in charge here?
But I have certain ideas about health and beauty that I have never strayed from. Drinking just water, all the time, is the key to everything. I’ve moisturized, every day, since I was 17 because it helps keep wrinkles at bay. And I’ve always believed that how well I ate was directly reflected in my skin.
What’s the skin food I think of before green juices, plump cherry tomatoes, rainbow chard and apples? Oily fish.
It’s like a supplement for resilient, healthy skin. We’re talking salmon, ahi, tins of sardines, oysters or clams, packed in olive oil. Kind of like wet cat food, but a little more expensive. And oh-so-delicious. It might be a life-long obsession with anything marine-related, but I always just FELT like oysters and sardines were health food.
It’s a habit I picked up from my mother, and her gross British affinity for tinned sea-meats. She and I would frequently split tins of smoked baby clams or oysters when I was a kid. It was a weird, silent bond that we had. Kind of the way people that enjoy kimchi feel when they’re together.
Certain seafoods contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as selenium, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. This is exciting because most people have a hard time getting enough of these fats, vitamins and minerals, and they are all linked to skin conditions and skin regeneration.
Alaska is great for the pescatarian, but I know that not everyone has the option of going and scooping big, fat beautiful salmon out of a river, and seafood prices seem to be climbing upward for eternity. That’s why I still love the tinned fish and shellfish so hard. Tinned seafood is convenient, cheap, and actually some of the more sustainable seafoods you can buy. And science says you can get the skin-boosting benefits from a tin!
I get it, fish in a can is a hard sell. Even worse--cheap fish. But trust me on this, tinned fish can be as snooty as caviar or as rank as Surströmming.
Start out with simple sardines, before wading into the good stuff, like anchovies and oysters. Try some bristling sardines mashed up with some lemon and garlic on good crusty bread with some brie and a good Malbec. Or maybe smoked baby clams with Sriracha and shoyu. My personal favourite: sardines chopped up atop some spring greens, dried figs, feta, olives, fresh garlic, lemon juice and capers.
Most people’s diets are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, so we compensate by taking processed supplements, even though recent studies have suggested that the benefits of taking micronutrients in pill form are few. Another problem with supplementing instead of eating your vitamins and minerals: it’s easy to overdose, causing serious health problems.
Omega-3, zinc, selenium, B12, and iron are all found in very high concentrations in shellfish and oily fish, and they might be the key to youthful-looking skin. Here's the breakdown:
B12: Vitamin B12 is responsible for carbohydrate conversion and cell regeneration--it’s absolutely essential, yet it’s one vitamin that we’re epidemically deficient in. Low B12 intake can be directly correlated to chronic fatigue, prolonged illnesses and slow healing time for cutaneous injuries like acne, sunburn and dry skin. Vegans and vegetarians are especially at-risk for deficiency, which is why they generally love nutritional yeast with burning passion. Seriously, I dare you: ask a vegan about nutritional yeast.
Selenium: A trace mineral, selenium protects your skin from sun damage, and works as a powerful antioxidant. Even though you only need a small amount of selenium in your diet, deficiency has been linked to skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Selenium is also found in Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, so rest easy, those with food allergies and aversions.
Iron: Did you know that iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of hair loss? Or that iron supplements are oft prescribed for poor circulation? Iron is key to maintaining your immune system and metabolism, and therefore key for growing out your hair and nails. Unless you’re an avid meat-eater, you’re probably low on iron, just because it can be tough to eat enough: 2 cups of sun-dried tomatoes have just 9mg of iron, while ⅓ cup of smoked baby clams have 24mg. It should also be noted that 1 cup of dark chocolate contains 23 mg of iron--clearly a health food.
Omega-3: Everything is omega-3-fortified these days, and while that’s awesome, there’s nothing like getting it from the source. Salmon, mackerel and herring have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which both help keep your body hydrated, and have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Several studies have shown that eating a diet high in Omega-3 can help alleviate adult acne and seborrheic dermatitis. A common marker of omega-3 deficiency is keratosis pilaris.
Zinc: If you have any kind of scarring or acne issues, you need to be getting enough zinc! Zinc not only speeds up healing of blemishes, but also reduces inflammatory response, and in effect, scarring.
Would you eat tiny tinned fish in the name of beauty? Have you been successful in either supplementing or eating well for better skin and hair? Do you eat anything weird in the name of beauty? I feel like my skin starts going south immediately if I’m not eating enough greasy fish or raw vegetables.