Beyond skin-deep beauty and health

2006-04-17

Erica Angyal
Erica Angyal

Beauty may be only skin-deep. But the skin can be a benchmark for how fit everything else is underneath. Just as eating right is key to good health it's also the secret to radiant skin. That's what Erica Angyal practices - and preaches - to the beauty and health-conscious alike. She should know.

"I've always been really passionate about nutrition," says the Sidney-born nutritionists, health consultant and author of "Gorgeous Skin in 30 Days." "Being a woman I guess, I'm particularly interested in natural ways to keep my skin looking as good as possible for as long as possible."

Before penning her 2005 book, which outlines a holistic plan for healthy skin through detoxifying, dieting and more, Angyal, 36, did her homework. She earned a Bachelor of Health Science, a diploma in nutrition and studied acupuncture. She is the official nutritionist to Miss Universe Japan, founded Elixa brand herbal teas and has written extensively on health and nutrition for magazines and newspapers.

Angyal says she noticed early in her career that clients following a nutritious diet often saw improvements to their skin: "It didn't matter whether I was treating high cholesterol levels or getting them to lose a few kilos. After a few weeks on a healthy diet, which often included supplements and exercise as well, there was often a noticeable difference in the way their skin looked. It often looked brighter, smoother, clearer, and more hydrated. Some people also noticed a softening of lines."

Research later convinced her that an inside-out approach to skincare was the real secret to that radiant luster, not products Angyal calls "hope sold in a jar." So, she developed what she says is a long overdue program. "Few women place much importance on the role that a healthy lifestyle plays in their skin's appearance," she says. "Even fewer realize that the condition of their skin is a direct reflection of the quality of their diets and lifestyles."

Angyal's Gorgeous Skin in 30 Days program is not just for women (she says its popular among many men in Australia) and it goes beyond mere dieting for beauty. It advocates a holistic approach to skincare as an overall plan for health. She also has a fresh take on costly skin creams, concoctions and surgeries.

"We tend to forget that our skin is an organ, like say your liver or your heart," she says. "So whatever you are doing to your skin will have a great effect on the health of every single organ in your body." The same goes for how what goes into the body effects the skin. And Angyal is a wellspring of advice on the subject.

Eating advice for health and heavenly skin

Whether skin is too dry or oily a healthy balanced diet is essential. She says high-sugar foods with refined carbohydrates such as white bread, biscuits and cakes should be avoided. The same goes for so-called bad fats such as margarine and other hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats in most packaged, fried and artificial-ingredient foods. "They will lead to toxins building up within the body," Angyal says, "and the body naturally eliminates these through the skin.

"The best diet for both skin and health is balanced meals of carbs, proteins and essential fatty acids which consist of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables - organic when possible," she says. "Whole grains, legumes, lots of fish - particularly deep-sea fish like salmon - mackerel and sardines, raw nuts like almonds and walnuts and olive oil are also important. Try to get as much variety in your diet as possible."

If breakouts and acne are a problem Angyal recommends nixing simple-carb foods such as white bread, pasta, sweets, cakes, biscuits, and even white rice from your diet: "These carbs send our blood sugar and insulin levels soaring, and this is believed to set off a series of reactions that leads to breakouts. Milk is another no-no if you have breakouts, as research shows those who drink lots of milk, particularly skim milk, have the highest rates of acne."

She adds that in small amounts the complex carbs found in whole-grain bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, "digest more slowly and don't lead to that skin-sabotaging insulin spike." Dry skin can be countered with foods rich in "good fats," or essential fatty acids (EFAs). They include fish, flaxseeds and the monounsaturated fats in olive oil, raw nuts, fish, and avocadoes. "They're crucial for maintaining skin hydration and suppleness," she adds.

After more than a decade living off and on in Tokyo, Angyal also has some valuable skincare tips specific to Japan. She says one of the biggest epidermal challenges here is the climate. While summer humidity may help quench particularly dry skin, she adds, others may not be so lucky.

"The hot humid summer months seem to cause a host of problems for women's skin, including increased oily patches and breakouts," she says. "On the other hand, the lack of humidity and indoor heating in winter can really sap moisture levels in skin. Both extremes interfere with the natural balance of the skin's functions."

According to Angyal, the high humidity can spur the growth of molds and bacteria that can aggravate acne and other illnesses. And the increased sweating it cause can wreak havoc on eczema, bringing prickly heat-like episodes and flare-ups. She also warns Tokyoites about the ill effects of excessive air pollutants, adding that even cigarette smoke can clog the pores and irritate the skin. That's not all.

"Tokyo tap water is quite high in chlorine, which can dry and deplete the skin," she says. "And the high-stress life that a lot of people tend to live in Tokyo can affect our hormones levels. This directly affects our skin as well. Physical and psychological stress alters body chemistry, especially the type and mix of hormones circulated in the blood stream. Too much negative stress causes the body to produce stress hormones that can result in skin allergies, blemishes, poor skin tone, dark circles under the eyes and even premature aging over the long-term."

Learn more about Erica Angyal and "Gorgeous Skin in 30 Days" at: http://www.gorgeous-skin.com. Info on her Elixa products is at: http://www.elixa.net.

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