The day of cupids, chocolate, and love, love, love is almost here. Yes, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and for some of us, the designated day of love doesn’t always live up to our inner-teen expectations.
These expectations might be the work of one too many Jane Austen novels or even (surprise, surprise) the endless Hollywood portrayals of ‘love’, nevertheless, our version of Valentine’s Day never seems to look quite as rosy as theirs.
Don’t get us wrong, showering the people we care about with love and flowers is a favourite practice of ours. But this year, we’re focusing our energy towards rebuilding a relationship that hasn’t seen as much love in the past - That’s our relationship with ourselves, or more specifically, our insides.
We’re hoping this article will show you how to take control of our outer beauty by focusing on the health of your insides. It’s time to look at beauty, wellness and self-love as going hand in hand for an ultimately happier, healthier - and subsequently - more beautiful you!
Let’s delve in and discover what’s going on inside your body as well as the products you put on it. Fair warning, there’ll be no quick fixes or corner cutting, but you will get every tool you need to see the difference. Welcome to the wonderful world of wellness, let’s get healthy!
What is 'wellness' anyway?
The key to wellness is looking at health and beauty from a holistic perspective. The word 'holistic' is the belief in many small parts creating one whole, rather than simply existing separately. We don't talk about 'multiple leaves, a trunk, and branches', we use the word 'tree' instead. A holistic wellness approach addresses every aspect of health and beauty to form a thriving system, a little like a tree. Think about a doctor diagnosing a potential illness. Ideally, they'd look at lifestyle factors, age, medical history and scores of other things to prescribe the perfect treatment. No symptom ever exists in isolation.
When we start to think about health and beauty as one functioning system, that’s what wellness is. Although 'beauty' is also thought of as an abstract, subjective idea, human beings are biologically wired to gravitate towards what appears healthy. Just like the rest of the animal kingdom, humans instinctively consider visual indicators of peak physical health 'beautiful'. Clear skin, shiny hair and healthy nails are all things we associate with beauty because they're indicative of health.
Of course, everyone has their own unique preferences (maybe you prioritise killer brows over glossy hair), but generally speaking, healthy is beautiful. That's why looking inward at your own physical and chemical health is so incredibly important - you can't have one without the other.
But if I want to look good on the outside, why does the inside matter?
More often than not, imbalances in your body affect things like skin, hair and nails. Your skin, in particular, is extremely sensitive to internal health issues, acting as a reflection of toxin build-up or nutrient deficiency. It’s an idea that Aleph founder, Emma, has kept close to her heart while creating Aleph’s line of makeup - Especially, the Aleph Concealer/Foundation.
The skin is your body’s largest organ and so if you’re going to cover it with something, it makes sense that you would want that something to keep your skin healthy and beautiful in the long run as well as the short term.
Ben Warren, founder of holistic health and nutrition company BePure, also explains that a holistic approach to wellness is vital for external beauty too.
"I see skin as a window into the health of your body. If your skin is inflamed or you have acne, this is a sure sign that your organs and inner body systems are not working optimally."
"It’s important to understand that your body is all inter-connected. Just because the symptom is showing itself on your skin, doesn’t necessarily mean that this is where the cause is.”
It's not just those in the industry who think holistic beauty is important either, scores of academics also agree. Dr Ian Stephen et al. (220) assessed how uneven skin tone affected perceived human health in the International Journal of Primatology. They discovered that skin appearance and internal health were inextricably linked, listing numerous other studies proving similar holistic results.
So, how do we influence wellness?
There are several things that manifest within the body to cause changes in appearance and affect overall wellness. We all know that too much wine or chocolate - especially over the V-Day period - might mean a few pimples the next morning, but how deep does the rabbit hole really go?
External stressors and strains from a busy life can sometimes end up impacting your internal organs in real, damaging ways. Stress leads to higher hormone levels which means acne and skin issues for some people, as it prompts the body to produce more sebum. When this happens the skin becomes overly oily and far more prone to nasty breakouts.
Patrick Holford, nutritionist and author of The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, also explains how stress can manifest physically. High stress levels can tense muscles, thicken the blood and divert energy away from digestion, repair and rejuvenation. When this happens, toxin build-up in your body is reflected in your skin. It becomes sallow, less oxygenated and more likely to wrinkle - not ideal at all!
Holford also talks about how the body needs balanced nutrition for healthy skin, hair, nails and just about everything else. In some ways it's the oldest piece of advice in the holistic beauty book - eat well and good things will happen.
Collagen, for example, makes up about 80% of our skin and keeps it plumped and elastic, but it needs adequate Vitamin C and antioxidants to work properly. If you're deficient in any of these areas (or even lacking collagen itself), your skin may sag, become loose, and look generally less healthy. Stretch marks or slow-healing spots, however, could mean a lack of zinc or essential fats.
“What we eat is the most important factor when it comes to our health. The food that we eat literally becomes our cells, We rely on food for energy and nutrients - if we’re not giving ourselves a nourishing diet, we’re in trouble.” says Ben Warren.
A lack of exercise
Less exercise means sluggish circulation, and slower circulation of blood means oxygen travels around the body at a far slower rate.
Herbalist and homeopath Stephen Langley told the British Daily Mail that a robust circulatory system is one of the best ways to stay on top of holistic beauty and health.
"The skin needs oxygen and nutrients, and toxins need to be washed away. But if circulation is poor, blood moves slowly. Oxygen levels go down, and the skin can't be fed. You get a dull complexion, and you may break out in blemishes as a way of the body trying to detoxify itself," Langley says.
Exercise also means perspiration, which is another effective way of clearing clogged pores and flushing away toxins. When the body is less able to do this, nasties build up and can lead to breakouts or illness.
That's right, our bodies actually need bacteria to function properly and keep things running smoothly. It might seem like a strange concept, but millions upon billions of healthy bacteria grow and thrive in our gut from the day we're born.
Pharmacist and nutritional scientist Grace Liu told Women's Health that gut microbes play a bigger part in holistic care than most people realise.
“More than 80 per cent of the body’s immunity is located in the gut, so it’s hardly surprising that what’s living in there is going to have a big impact on our overall health," she says.
Good bacteria strengthens the lining of the gut, whereas bad bacteria, yeasts and viruses increase gut permeability and enlarge microscopic gaps in the gut wall. This means tiny microbial toxins can pass through into the body. When the body's immune system detects these, it reacts and causes inflammations like acne, puffiness, discolouration or joint pain.
A toxic environment
When you get into a routine, it can be difficult to look around and notice which everyday things you could improve to enhance your health. It’s certainly worth the look though, because a lot of environmental factors contribute to wellness as a whole.
These are in virtually every conventional household product from soaps and detergents to air fresheners and laundry powder - they’re bad news all around. In New Zealand, manufacturers aren’t legally required to list what goes into their ‘fragrances’, meaning it could be almost anything.
Over 95% of chemicals found in ‘fragrance’ derive from petrochemicals like benzene derivatives, aldehydes and phthalates. They’re all highly toxic and they’re all potential carcinogens too.
Non-stick coatings on kitchenware can also damage your health, as they’re made up of what EWG labels ‘likely carcinogens’. These are made up of perflorooctanoic acid and when heated to high temperatures can give off fumes that are highly toxic to birds. According to the EWG, these have been found in nearly all American citizens and we’re sure the sats for New Zealanders would be similar too. Chemicals from this family are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune defense against disease.
These do more than just pollute the environment, they can pollute your body as well. Plastic contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. If you’re storing any food or drink in plastic bottles or containers, these chemicals can easily leach into your food and water and subsequently affect your health.
It’s important to remember that even if your drink bottles and Tupperware are ‘BPA-free’, if they’re made from plastic there’s a good chance it’ll still have just as many hormone-disrupting chemical nasties hidden inside.
Artificial sweeteners, flavours and fats
They’re often presented to us as a quick fix for weight gain and sugar cravings, but unfortunately, anything made with artificial sweeteners in it is pretty bad news.
Artificial sweeteners trick your body into thinking the food or drink you’re having contains more sugar to burn than it actually does, stimulating your digestive system and actually making you more hungry in the long run - thus promoting weight gain.
Sweeteners also promote insulin sensitivity and can lead to increased risk for other health problems like heart attacks or strokes.
Of course, sweeteners aren’t the only artificial additives to steer clear of - MSG and anything hydrolyzed are good ones to avoid too.
How can I embrace wellness and beauty from the inside out?
True wellness isn't a process that you master overnight, it takes a lot of small steps and determination. The good news is that focusing on a few, simple things can make a massive difference to how you look and feel. Jumping on board with holistic beauty is a decision that keeps paying off, no matter your age or specific situation. Why not embrace with this self-loving lifestyle on Valentine’s Day?
Here are just a few points to help you kick off a more holistic life from the inside out.
Remember you really are what you eat
Like we've already mentioned, your eating habits are a huge factor when it comes to health and beauty. It's easy to fall into a rut and miss out nutrients, so conscious eating should be at the top of your to-do list.
One way to combat missing nutrients is with natural supplements like collagen or multivitamins. The Beauty Chef is one of the best brands for nourishing your beauty from the inside out. Of their range, a favourite of ours is the Collagen Inner Beauty Boost which contains a delicious mix of natural ingredients like papaya, blueberry, grapeseed extract and more, to help increase the skin’s natural production of collagen.
Omega 3 supplements have strong anti-inflammatory properties that help with skin health, and zinc helps the body create helpful enzymes. Be Pure's Ben Warren recommends selenium along with collagen for skin firmness and elasticity too - the list really is endless!
Eating clean and reducing synthetic additives is also a fantastic way to get rid of bodily toxins and keep the skin looking clear.
"We are constantly exposing ourselves to toxins in our food and skincare products. These toxins interfere with our hormone balance and load our liver," says Ben.
"The best way to choose food is to go for the item with the least amount of ingredients. This goes the same for skin care. It’s best to go for organic and natural based products. If we can choose the right products by looking at the label, we can reduce the toxic load in the body.”
Get to know your own body
Have you ever had anyone tell you to "stay true to yourself"? When it comes to holistic beauty, this is one of the most important points to keep in the back of your mind. Not all bodies are created equal, and what might work amazingly for one person could be ineffective for another.
Take some time to sit down and be mindful of how your body reacts to certain lifestyle factors. If you're convinced your skin looks puffy and bloated after eating dairy products, odds are you aren't imagining things.
"We know that a large proportion of the people we work with in the BePure Clinic react to gluten and dairy. This immune reaction can result in skin blemishes and inflammation, whether it’s eczema, spots or acne," Ben explains.
Luckily, working out what your body needs more or less of doesn't have to be tricky. If you're unsure, pop into your local naturopath or nutritionist for a few ideas about what could be affecting you.
Stay hydrated and happy
One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to have a bottle of water on you at all times. It's free, and if it's filtered correctly it's incredible for your bodily systems too. The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation recommends between 1.5 - 2 litres of fluids per day for adults, so get drinking!
"The best detox agent is actually water. If your body is dehydrated, your body's detox systems will not be able to perform optimally. Water is responsible for keeping the digestive system flowing and for the efficient filtration processes in the liver and kidneys." Ben says.
The Beauty Chef makes a fantastic Hydration Beauty Supplement to help with better water absorption.
Detox your home
It might sound daunting at first, but taking a second look at the space you live in and freeing it of harmful toxins is easier than it sounds.
There are so many incredible brands out there making incredible products without using synthetic fragrances - Abel Odor, Sans [ceuticals] and Eco Tan to name just a few. Switch to fragrance-free products in the bathroom, kitchen and on your body whenever anything needs replacing. If your home is smelling musty, open a few windows! Chemical air fresheners don’t fix the problem, they simply cover it up.
If you can, use glass products where you’ve previously used plastics, your body and your whole household will thank you for it. What’s more, using glass to store and cool down hot food in the fridge makes a world of difference because the heat won’t cause harmful chemicals to creep into your food. You can save empty glass jars and bottles for food storage too - cost effective and savvy recycling? Yes, please!
Look for inspiration
There are so many amazing holistic health role models out there, and it pays to always be on the lookout for new ideas. Take Wim 'Iceman' Hof, for example, the Dutch expeditionary who uses his self-created 'cold therapy' and conscious breathing to control his circulation.
Hof managed to scale Everest shirtless with no adverse health effects, using a technique he'd been developing for years. 'Cold therapy' involves increasing daily exposure to freezing cold water to build tolerance. This helps kick off an array of health benefits, including improved circulation and endorphin production. Of course, we're not going to scale mountains naked in a hurry, but having a 30-second cold shower every morning, has been extremely beneficial for the health of the whole family.
He's not the only creative, holistic superstar out there doing awesome stuff either, so start researching and get inspired.
Beauty from the inside out really does matter, and by looking after our bodies we can positively affect our appearance and wellbeing too. Of course, holistic beauty means care from every angle, and what goes on your skin has a significant impact on how your body works too. Let’s make this Valentine’s Day about giving some love back to your body!