Amy Tenney |

Your Guide to Better Skin through Plants

Your Guide to Better Skin through Plants

Today, we're going to talk about glowing skin from the inside out. Our skin is our body’s largest organ and serves as a protective barrier from the inside and outside of the body.

What we eat, our stress levels, what we put on our skin all influence what our skin looks like. A lot of our health and wellness comes back to our gut health and our microbiome. When we have a healthy gut, we are going to be able to breakdown the food we eat and pull the nutrients we need. Those nutrients then go throughout the body and perform functions.

Eating a variety of plants is incredibly beneficial for our skin. Plant foods are low on the glycemic index, which is one of the best things we can do for our skin. The fiber in plants helps regulate your blood sugar. When our glucose levels spike, the body produces more insulin. This in turn causes an increase of sebum or oil in the skin that clogs the pores.

Carb heavy foods, processed foods with processed sugar and low fat dairy are among the biggest offenders. Foods that spike blood sugar also produce other hormones in our body that cause our skin cells to grow rapidly, but then they don’t die off like they usually do. They're supposed to shed, but processed foods cause the skin cells to stay and then they clog the pores and lead to acne bumps.

Sugar spikes also damage collagen and make it more brittle where it breaks down. So lowering your sugar intake will be a great anti aging step you can take. Fiber-rich foods also help regulate blood sugar. Plant fiber foods help keep glucose levels at a steady state so it doesn’t have that dysregulation. If you go back and watch our gut health series we talk more on blood sugar regulation strategies. 

Plant foods are great for the skin because they have lots of vitamins and antioxidants which lower inflammation and support the body’s detoxification processes.

Leafy greens provide the body with:

  • Vitamin E, which lowers inflammation
  • Vitamin A that helps prevent dry flaky skin
  • Vitamin C which supports collagen and elastin

Leafy greens are full of antioxidants which lower inflammation in the body and the skin, and full of folate which helps with DNA repair. Leafy greens and vegetables, quinoa, beans, lentils, oats and chia seeds can all support clearer skin.

Plants also provide prebiotic and probiotic properties that help the skin. Prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria in your gut. Foods like dandelion greens, garlic and chives are good sources of inulin and sulfur compounds. They help your gut flora be in a healthy state. Breakouts are often caused by bacteria on our clogged pores. Probiotic foods help regulate the bacteria in our gut and on our skin and help keep things healthy and clear.

A main culprit for skin issues is closely linked to the food we eat. Dairy is a common trigger for breakouts, but not all dairy needs to be written off.  Full fat dairy, from grass-fed animals who have space to roam and are not pumped with antibiotics, is a better way to go.  Skim milk and foods like ice cream will cause the glucose spike that ends up clogging pores.  Blood sugar spikes increase inflammation and sebum production that clogs pores and leads to breakouts. Low glycemic index eating is extremely beneficial for your skin.

Other foods that support healthy glowing skin include turmeric, avocados, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil and salmon. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and full of skin nourishing nutrients. Fish like salmon and sardines are rich in essential fatty acids that help with collagen production and a dewy complexion. Avocados and olive oil are rich in nutrients like vitamin E, which helps with skin firming, and hydration and vitamin B12, which helps with skin healing and repair.

Hydrating well is a great way to support your body and skin. Starting your day with a glass of lemon water with mint in it would be a great way to hydrate, flush toxins and improve circulation. Turmeric milk is another great anti inflammatory drink. Warm up a concoction of coconut milk, turmeric, honey and black pepper. Chlorophyll water is a great cleansing, hydrating drink to incorporate daily or weekly.

Our skin’s surface also has a microbiome to protect. A lot of beauty products have harsh chemicals that breakdown the skin barrier and leave it more prone to bacteria building up. I love oil cleansing my face and using a warm microfiber cloth each night. A good topical oil will not clog your pores, it will actually help clear your skin and protect it. Avoid products with fragrances. From skin to laundry products. Fragrance can have over 3,000 chemicals in it and manufacturers don’t have to list them because they are “trade secrets.” Fragrances are huge endocrine disruptors and I’d look to swap out all your home products from skin care to cleaning to laundry to fragrance free.

Ok let’s talk about some particular plants and their properties that help the skin and how you can incorporate them more.

Chamomile is great for cleansing the skin. Growing up, my mom and sisters and I would do a DIY home spa. We’d get dried chamomile and steep it in pots of warm water over the stove. Then, we’d take the pots over to the table and get a towel. We’d put our face above the steaming chamomile water and put the towel over our heads for a facial steamer.  It feels glorious. Steam on the face helps open up the pores, and chamomile has calming and cleansing properties. You could also put mint leaves or lavender in your steam. Mint helps open the pores and increase circulation and lavender is calming and relaxing. I’m growing chamomile, lavender and mint all right now in my garden and am excited to make another home spa soon.

You can also add each of these to a tea. Mint, lavender and chamomile are all excellent in teas. You can add a bit of honey, which is also anti-bacterial. What’s great about herbs is they are so gentle yet powerful. You can use them on the skin and have them internally to glow from the inside out.

Basil is an herb with astringent properties. It helps regulate oil production, pulls impurities out of the skin and is antiseptic. Basil is anti-inflammatory when you eat it and when you apply it topically to the skin. If you’re having a breakout, it’s time to reach for more basil.

You can make your own home spa day with ingredients you have in your garden. Below I’ve included a couple recipes you can use to create a great self care moment in less than 30 minutes. I recommend starting by washing your face, then enjoy the Chamomile Facial Steamer, followed by the Basil Honey Yogurt Face Mask.  Put on some calming music, make an herb infused tea or lemon mint water, and you’ve set the stage. Taking the time to care for yourself helps establish a routine where you know and prioritize that you are worth nurturing. As you practice ways to relax and calm your stress response, eat nourishing low glycemic index foods and hydrate well you will glow from the inside out.

DIY Beauty for a Home Spa Day

Chamomile Facial Steamer

What you’ll need:

  • 1-3 tablespoons Chamomile
  • Stove top pot with 3 cups water
  • Bath towel
  • Optional: additional herbs up to 1 tablespoon mint and/or 1 teaspoon lavender


Boil 3 cups of water.  Take off heat and add herbs. Take the pot over to the table and place on a hot pad. Lean your face over the warm water--but not too close.  Take the towel and drape it over your head and the warm herb infused water. Breathe through the nose as you enjoy this relaxing ritual. Soften your muscles, your back, neck and shoulders. Steam for 5-10 minutes. 

Basil Honey Yogurt Face Mask (watch the video!)

What you’ll need:

  • 10-20 basil leaves
  • 1 T of plain greek full fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp raw honey

Wash basil leaves.  With a mortar and pestle, mashup basil leaves. You can add a couple drops of water if needed. Combine basil pulp with honey and yogurt. Apply to clean face and leave on for 5-20 minutes. Rinse.

Honey is antibacterial and a natural humectant that helps moisturize the skin. Plain greek yogurt has lactic acid and zinc which helps even skin tone, clear up blemishes and reduce fine lines. It's calcium and magnesium content helps soothe and heal wounds. Greek yogurt is also full of anti-aging and skin softening alpha hydroxy acids. Basil is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic which helps clear blemishes, prevent new breakouts, improve circulation and brighten skin. 

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