This has been a question that’s been asked for years by clients as well as skin care professionals. I remember as a student, we were told that it’s an absolute myth that what you eat like for example junk food, dairy or sugar can affect your skin.

Well, luckily since then we have moved on and have been enlightened by new scientific research to answer the question that YES – what you put into your body every single day doesn’t only affect your body weight (which is the main concern for many of us), but also your general health and subsequently your skin condition too!

This is a very personal thing and something you will probably figure out through trial and error. I have known about the potential adverse effects of sugar and wheat on the skin – but I believe I haven’t experienced it first-hand until recently. In my previous blog I wrote about my recent skin care woes in the form of redness, dryness and swelling (eczema) and a bout of mild adult acne on my face. Short term oral and topical medication worked for a while, but like most short-term solutions, the problem didn’t go away. At the first glimpse of stress/some irritant/cold dry air – it came back. Now I feel ready and desperate enough to try to find a long-term solution. Unfortunately with many of these kind of medical issues – it is often up to you to do your own research and figure out the long-term solution that will work for YOU. This can be a frustrating but a necessary path in the pursuit of obtaining your optimum health and wellness.

I will look at 2 of the most common dietary villains: SUGAR & WHEAT – and the potential of causing and/or aggravating 3 common SKIN ISSUES: AGEING, ACNE & ECZEMA (Acne & Eczema: Part 2).


Let’s start by clarifying this substance called sugar. Table sugar (sucrose) is made up of glucose and fructose and some say that FRUCTOSE is the real enemy. So this will include ALL the thousands of products in our grocery stores containing sugar often disguised with over 55 different names:

sugarGenerally speaking, if the food (can you really call it food…?) comes in a wrapper/box etc. it is called processed food and all processed food contain heaps of hidden sugars. And I’m not only talking about your sweet foods, check out the labels on your savory items too.

Fruits contain natural fruit sugar called fructose. So now what…? Fruits used to be an occasional treat for our ancestors.  Try to see fruit as an occasional treat or even one a day if you need to. Eat the fruit that you enjoy, but remember that certain fruits like mangos, bananas and pineapples are the highest in fructose. I’m not going to even talk about fruit juice… I think most of us realize by now that fruit juice is everything but healthy containing as much sugar as sugar laden fizzy drinks.

What about CARBS like bread, pasta and rice?  All foods high in carbohydrates rapidly convert to glucose when eaten. This subsequently causes a spike in your blood sugar levels and an increase in the secretion of insulin by your pancreas into your blood stream. Insulin has been labeled the fat storing and inflammation causing hormone.


Wheat is EVERYWHERE.  Just start checking food labels on anything from sauces, soups, ready-made-meals, deserts and all your “obvious” CARBS (breads; breakfast cereals; crackers; biscuits; pastries; pasta; wraps etc.) – and you will notice wheat is very much THERE.

Dr. William Davis, MD – author of the international bestseller: Wheat Belly states the following:

Wheat, more than any other foodstuff is woven into the fabric of the Western food experience.

Modern commercial wheat production has been intent on delivering features such as increased yield, decreased production costs and large-scale production of a consistent commodity.  All the while, virtually no questions have been asked about whether these features are compatible with human health.

Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active endorphins, exaggerated blood sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with heightened appetite, the process of glycation that underlies disease and ageing, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses.



skin ageing

Sugars in your bloodstream can permanently attach to protein like collagen and elastin in our skin and rest of the body. This process is called GLYCATION and results in the formation of harmful advanced glycation end products (AGEs). says the following:  The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. “As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion,” explains Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami and New York City. Most vulnerable to damage: collagen and elastin, the protein fibres that keep skin firm and elastic. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Dr. Perricone also states that:  At the point of attachment between the protein (collagen) and sugar molecule, there is a small mechanism creating inflammation, which then becomes a source of inflammation in its own right. This inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen, resulting in wrinkled, sagging skin. In addition to inflammation, glycation also causes cross-linking in our collagen, making it stiff and inflexible where it was once soft and supple. Glycation creates “free radical” factories known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which also increase cellular inflammation.

A study was done demonstrating the ageing effects of sugar:

Scientists from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Unilever in the UK measured the blood sugar levels of 600 men and women aged between 50 and 70. Photographs of these people were presented to a board of 60 independent evaluators. What these evaluators perceived in this study was that those with higher blood sugar levels looked older than those with lower blood sugar levels. The researchers also discovered that with every 1mm/liter increase in blood sugar, the perceived age of that person rose by five months!

 Dr. William Davis states in his book that: Wheat can exert age-advancing skin effects, such as wrinkles and lost elasticity, through the formation of advanced glycation end products.


Look out for products containing anti-oxidants; retinoids and AGEs fighting ingredients.

Some of my personal favourite anti-oxidant skin care products:

2015-05-26 16.53.56 Skinceuticals Phloretin CF:

I love this anti-oxidant serum.  It has a super light, liquid texture and a few drops are applied onto clean skin in the morning before your moisturizer and sunblock.  This is perfect for my oily and hyper-pigmented skin.

2015-05-26 16.51.56SkinMedica Vitamin C+E Complex:

This amazing anti-oxidant has a velvety/silky texture making it more suitable for more normal to dry skin types.  It is also applied only in the morning under your moisturizer and sunblock.

F30030X-w1000Neostrata’s Skin Active Anti-oxidant Defense Serum

This affordable anti-oxidant serum has a liquid clear gel consistency and glides onto your clean skin every morning before your moisturizer and sunblock.  Oily skin types could find that they do not need an additional moisturizer.  Personal tip:  Don’t apply too much, if you do and then try to rub it in it can form little “bits” on the skin’s surface.

All products available online at and at all Skin Renewal branches nationwide as well as other medical aesthetic practises.

But you can’t get away from starting on the INSIDE.

Here, five steps to eat right and keep your skin looking its youngest.

I hope this blog has given you some useful information on how SUGAR AND WHEAT can cause havoc on your skin in the form of AGEING, ACNE AND ECZEMA (Look out for Part 2 where I will discuss Acne & Eczema!).

I will be writing about my efforts to eliminate sugar & wheat in the next couple of weeks!

Helene x x x

STRESS and your skin

My skin has never given me any serious issues.  I’ve always been of the opinion that I kind of like my oily skin type, oil tends to keep the skin looking younger and wrinkle free for longer! I have also made peace with my skin’s hormonal hyper-pigmentation that’s been around for the past 8 years as well as the oily skin & breakouts well into my 30’s. At least it has motivated me to know about everything there is to know re the treatment of hyperpigmentation and to have loads of sympathy and advise for friends and clients suffering from the same skin issues.

Recently my skin has started acting out – almost like a toddler throwing a tantrum – totally out of control and all over the place.

It all started with a innocent general increase in oily skin, then a bout of acne type breakouts and the final straw was yet to come…Eczema like patches around my eyes, upper cheeks and along my hairline appeared out of nowhere!  A couple of days ago these patches got hot and swollen and I am sure people thought either 1. I had some hectic treatment done to my face 2. I had a heavy night of indulging in wine or 3. I have been crying all night.

Well, none of the above applied to me and the state that my skin was in…  This led me to seriously consider how my internal emotional state as well as my eating habits (for a future blog) during the past couple of months could have potentially caused all of this.  I will share some of my thoughts and discoveries…

How your emotional state can wreak havoc on your skin…

One of the best books that I have read on understanding the mind-body-spirit connection is: “Deadly emotions” by Dr Don Colbert, MD.


Bottom line:

“Medical research is showing more and more that there may be a mind-body connection to MOST diseases and ailments; not just a few.”

I loved what he says about emotions and the skin…

“I will never forget the words of one psychiatry professor in medical school.  He had previously been a dermatologist for a number of years and had treated countless psoriasis sufferers.  On one particular occasion I approached him and asked why he left the field of dermatology to study psychiatry.  He told me that his work as a dermatologist had led him to conclude that many individuals who were suffering with psoriasis and eczema were actually “weeping through their skin.” In other words, these people for one reason or another were unable to weep openly, even though they had experienced events that warranted a good cry.  They were releasing their sorrow through their skin, where it manifested itself in painful or irritating rashes.

Research has shown that outbreaks of psoriasis and eczema increase when a person is under stress.  Eczema has actually been called a “boiling” of the skin.  Stress worsens eczema.

If your body could talk, it no doubt would tell you through a skin disorder, “I can’t take any more of these stress-producing emotions”!”

I am not saying that skin conditions such as these can be attributed to only one’s emotional state – it is purely a contributing factor which also varies from person to person. But do ask yourself when you suffer from a bout of eczema, whether your stress levels have been higher than normal and/or whether you have experienced emotional trauma.  You might just find that they coincide.

THAT’S JUST GREAT – now I am stressed out and my skin is in a mess!!

Short term solution: Try and get to your dermatologist for a short term solution in the form of medication (internal or topical). STOP using any active cosmetics e.g. products containing VIT A/FRUIT ACIDS/High concentrations of anti-oxidants etc. Rather get yourself a cleanser and moisturiser for very sensitive skin conditions. I like Bioderma’s Sensibio range. Uriage also has products for sensitive and irritated skin.

I have tried these products…

Bioderma (Available at Dischem):

Soothing, Purifying Cleansing Gel R189.95

2015-05-16 15.53.26I like the fact that this cleansing gel foams up and gently and effectively removes all my make-up (including eye make-up). I can highly recommend it to anyone with sensitivity and combination to oily skin.

Water Cleanser R179.95

h2o_250This is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITES.  The best eye make-up remover around and a great way to remove heavy make-up before your second cleanse.  I can highly recommend this product to anyone!

Cream R189.95


This day/night cream has a light cream/gel consistency.  I have an oily skin and still found it a bit too light for me.  It felt as if my skin being so irritated and flaky needed something with more moisture.  I will recommend this to anyone with sensitive and very oily skin or men who prefer a very light texture.

SkinMedica (available at Skin Renewal branches and other medical practises nationwide):

Redness Relief CalmPlex

skinmedica-redness-relief-calmplexThis is a product I thought I would personally never have to use.  Well, in skincare emergencies like I’m having you will try anything.  The cream has a rich texture and causes tingling upon application due to the active ingredients.  Although it has a heavy texture, it didn’t make my oily skin more oily and I actually enjoyed the comfort of cream.  This is a pricy product, but I can recommend this to anyone with red and sensitive skin conditions.

Long term solution:  Dr Colbert writes that we can actually get addicted to stress hormones like adrenaline and the “high” that it creates. Those addicted to stress hormones will constantly push themselves and chase different things to get that temporary emotional high. Being in an almost constant stressed state, reaks havoc on your body and can result in burnout. His advice is to stop and think for a moment what it is that you really desire in life and to start focusing on these things like: Peace of mind; joyful, simple pleasures; time with friends and loving family relationships and good health.

I am not a qualified life coach or psychologist, I do know that I do not want to wait until it’s too late in more ways than just the condition of my skin. I try to make time for things that I know (through trial and error) help me to de-stress like exercising, doing Pilates or just going out for a quick coffee. I also need to take the time to just focus on breathing properly when I feel my stomach goes into a knot or I get close to a panic attack. Even a glass of wine helps… But to be honest, once you start realising that having that glass of wine is not for the pure enjoyment of it but rather to relax (every night), then you might want to think about it again…

Dr Colbert further says about psoriasis, adult acne & stress:

“Many different studies have shown that stress, as well as other psychological factors, is associated with the onset and worsening of symptoms in patients with psoriasis. Psoriasis is like a volcano erupting from the pressure of unseen forces just below the surface of a person’s life. The body is releasing fear, frustration, anger, and other toxic emotions. The painful, itchy psoriasis flare-up is a strong signal of rebellion against the level of stress the person is experiencing.

The link between acne and stress is also well documented. Stress acne occurs more often in middle-aged women climbing the corporate ladder than in any other age and social-strata group. It also occurs commonly among those who are taking final exams, those who have high-stress jobs, and those who are rushing to meet a deadline.

Next time I will chat to you about your eating habits and the effect it has on YOUR SKIN!

Helene x x x