Turn back the clock with Mother Nature
Anti-ageing doesn't necessarily mean expensive creams and non-surgical treatments. Katie Byrne talks to the women harnessing nature's potential to fight the ageing process
Remember the health shops of the 80s and 90s? They were minimally stocked, pungently scented and almost always serviced by a dour-looking sales assistant.
The shift has been nothing short of radical. Nowadays there's a health shop on every high street with a cure for almost every ache and ailment.
It's an industry that has moved from the fringes to the mainstream, partly because many women are now taking the all-natural approach to both their well-being and beauty regimes.
Today's health shops have entire sections dedicated to beauty, with an array of products we hadn't even heard of 10 years ago.
Rosehip oil and argan oil have become key components in many women's beauty arsenals, while green tea extract and lycopene (a phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits) are often the active ingredients in the all-natural products that are fast gaining market share.
'Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't eat' is the philosophy expounded by many of these new organic beauty brands. In fact, some brands advocate taking an oral supplement over applying a topical cream.
Nutriceuticals, as they are known, are supplements that nourish hair, skin and nails from the inside and many women now use them as part of their beauty routine.
Best-selling nutriceuticals include Imedeen and Perfectil, while Ubiquinol (the reduced form of coenzyme 10 that is said to slow down ageing) has become, well, ubiquitous.
Elsewhere, collagen (the substance that keeps skin resilient) supplements are also becoming popular. In most cases, the collagen molecules found in topical creams are too large to penetrate the skin so an oral supplement may be the more sensible option.
It's an inside-out approach to beauty and it has a number of proponents.
Actress Caroline Morahan adds two tablespoons of Udo's Oil to her juice or smoothie each morning. Her mother, who has "amazing skin", gave her the tip.
Colleen Harte, the founder of Lucy Annabella Organics, adds Beauty Food by Clean & Lean to her smoothie every morning. The key ingredients are marine collagen peptides and MSMs (an essential mineral for collagen formation).
Both women have the coveted 'glow' that comes from rude health, but they are quick to add that supplements are only a complement to an already nutritious diet.
Raw food advocate and author Bernadette Bohan agrees: "Mother Nature has the answer to fresh healthy glowing skin," she says "and you don't need to spend your hard-earned money on the latest synthetic, chemical-laden lotions and potions."
Bernadette, who looks incredible at 61, believes that juicing has the power to fight the ageing process.
"A fantastic way to slow down the ageing clock is to juice fresh veggies each day," she says. "I cannot recommend these therapeutic juices enough. Juices will give you a new lease of life.
"Two juices each day will give you a flood of nutrients that will heal and repair your cells," she continues. "It's also a great way to stay hydrated, which is of major importance if you want healthy glowing skin."
Food writer and cook Áine Carlin, also a vegan, is of a similar opinion, and complexion. She swears by nuts and seeds to keep the skin supple.
"Calorie dense, yes, but in moderation nuts and seeds are slowly helping me win the anti-ageing battle," she says.
"In particular, I'm a fan of walnuts (full of omega-3 essential fatty acids) as well as almonds, which can help protect your skin from sun damage by boosting melanin."
Oily fish is another ally against visible signs of ageing. Dermatologist Nicholas Perricone considers salmon to be one of the key anti-ageing superfoods. In fact, it's one of the main ingredients in the three-day Facelift Diet that features in his 2001 book, The Wrinkle Cure.
"For ideal effect, you must eat salmon twice a day as part of your three-day anti-inflammatory routine," he writes.
"The DMAE, astaxanthin and essential fatty acids in the salmon will help eliminate puffiness, re-contour and firm your jawline and increase youthful radiance."
All the experts agree that good fats are an essential part of any diet, especially ones that keep skin looking plump and youthful.
"Good fats are beneficial for keeping your hair shiny, your nails strong and your skin young-looking and blemish-free," says Bernadette Bohan.
Good fats include salmon (Perricone prefers wild Alaskan), seeds and the superfood du-jour: avocado.
"Avocados are rich in two essential fatty acids," explains Bernadette. "They also contain calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron and tons of vitamins to revitalise the skin."
Bernadette even uses them as part of her beauty ritual. "Avocados make a great mask for dry, chapped skin," she adds.
Susan Jane White, author of The Extra Virgin Kitchen, is also a fan of using pantry staples in her beauty regime.
"Vitamin C is amazing for clear skin," she says. "When I'm tired or stressed, my skin can show it. I sprinkle vitamin C crystals by Solgar into water and knock it back a few times a day. It visibly helps speed up the recovery process of slow-to-heal zits and tired skin."
She also uses coconut oil to remove mascara and make-up. "There's no need to moisturise at night after using coconut oil to clean your skin. It's so soft and supple." And if she needs a quick fix, she mixes up honey and oats to use as a "magical" face mask.
As for shop-bought products, Susan Jane plumps for Elave "an amazing Irish brand of cosmetics that are unperfumed and as natural as possible".
Bernadette likes Sukin. "It's very inexpensive," she says. "And it highlights all the ingredients so you can see at a glance that there are no parabens, no harsh detergents and no hidden surprises - which saves a lot of time on checking labels."
We can easily get swept away by the latest anti-wrinkle cream claims while underestimating nature's potential to do the same job.
Whatever your approach to beauty - natural, synthetic, invasive or otherwise - just remember that a nutritious diet, plenty of water and adequate sleep should always be the first line of defence in the fight against ageing.
Health & Living