Trish Deseine canvasses glowy French friends for their favourite skingredients …
Baby, it’s (still) cold outside. And we all know how the lack of sunshine over the winter months affects mood, body and skin. This year, doubtlessly thanks to all the extra helpings of stress we’ve all been given, my skin is drier and more sensitive than usual.
“Beauty comes from the inside too,” I can still hear my most judgmental French girlfriend say, back in the late 1980s, as she watched me devour my macaron or chocolate eclair or whatever pâtisserie it was that day, while she was lighting her third cigarette. Thirty years on, I wonder how that nicotine and suntan-loving friend’s skin has fared as, funnily enough, we haven’t kept in touch.
But even if my dress size has increased thanks to many, many delicious eclairs, my complexion is looking reasonably good for my age. My diet is healthy. It’s varied, veg rich and low in processed foods, but right now my poor, sun-starved, 50-something skin definitely needs a little love. What might it look like if I started adjusting my shopping and cooking to feed it better? I called a few of my glowiest French girlfriends for their expert tips.
Their worst enemies are the ones we all know too well: coffee, alcohol and dairy. Coffees are short, black and kept to one or two, always with a glass of water and before 11am, never after dinner unless there’s a long drive back home. None of my French girlfriends drink the way I/we tend to in Ireland. Spirits are a no-no unless in a very rare cocktail and the rule of just one glass applies as it does to wine and champagne, even if the arrival of natural and sulphite-free wines is a boon for skin care – so seek them out!
The jury is out on red wine, as it makes mature skins flush more than white or champagne, cancelling the benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol it contains. Cutting out dairy allowed the biggest improvement: most of my little survey sample now consume only plant-based milks, preferring oat to almond because of taste and sustainability value.
Sugar was the next greatest culprit in messing with fragile skin, and cutting it out, even in its supposedly healthy forms – root vegetables, rice, fruit etc – has become an almost obsessive quest. When they really want sweetness, they stay away from chemical, fake sugars and swear by low-GI chicory root syrup, which tastes good and has the added bonus of containing a lot of soluble fibre.
Their worst enemies are the ones we all know too well: coffee, alcohol and dairy.
As for what they like to eat more of, there were a multitude of suggestions. The one obvious thing they do religiously is drink lots of water, and they all said they felt it was what helped their complexions most. It seems that the usual French breakfasts of nothing, or a yoghurt and buttered baguette, are long gone, and the first meal of the day is the moment to ingest a maximum of goodness. Morning smoothies have become health potions, and in their green form, antioxidant nettles and dandelion leaves are winning over tamer spinach as additions to the usual apples and cucumbers. One friend swears by her “Irish Moss” in her morning mush, which upon further questioning, turns out to be dried kelp. A new leaf on the block for another is moringa, an Indian plant ambitiously known as The Miracle Tree. Extremely rich in anti-ageing vitamin C, it can be infused for a herbal drink, or crumbled over morning cereals with flax and hemp seed and a dash of linseed oil.
Glowy friend Julie has become a kefir fiend, making a delicious water and ginger concoction which she brings as a gift wherever she goes, complete with instructions for the lucky recipient to keep the kefir alive. Anything that is good for our gut is good for our skin, she says, glowingly. And I for one have become quite addicted to my shot of morning kefir, even if looking after it is as much of a responsibility as nurturing a sourdough starter.
As well as the usual vitamins and antioxidants in fruit and vegetables, omega 3s are seen as vitally important for skin and general health. Using krill or fish oil supplements, consuming them in oysters and raw fish – particularly fresh salmon and mackerel with added pomegranate seeds in a fish tartare or a freshly shucked oyster – is considered doubly beneficial. Omega 6s and 9s help hydrate and protect the skin and are found abundantly in cold pressed corn, argan, hemp, walnut, and grape and blackcurrant seed oils. Everyone I asked makes sure they consume plenty of one or more of these oils and this roast potato lover was delighted to learn that goose fat also contains omega 9! @TrishDeseine @trishdeseineencore
This mask makes the most of chocolate’s antioxidant and anti-ageing properties, feels pleasant on your skin and tastes pretty good too!
Mix 2 tbsp cocoa with 1 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt and 2 tbsp runny honey.
Apply the mixture to your face with your fingers for 20 minutes before rinsing.
SWEET POTATO WAFFLES AND ROASTED VEGETABLES
Dairy and wheat free and vegan, every ingredient in this recipe ticks a benefits box for your skin.
25 minutes preparation
45 minutes cooking
For the roasted vegetables:
1 small parsnip
1 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp of salt
For the sweet potato waffles:
250g sweet potato
50ml plant based milk
70g plain plant-based yoghurt
25g margarine or vegetable oil
70g chickpea flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
2. Peel and chop the carrot, parsnip and onion and toss with the olive oil, maple syrup, cumin and salt to coat well. Arrange them on the baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and caramelised.
3. Peel the sweet potato, cut it into cubes then steam or boil for 20 minutes until tender. Drain and mash into a purée.
4. In a large bowl, combine the milk, yoghurt, margarine and mashed sweet potato. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cumin, turmeric and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet preparation and mix with a whisk until you obtain a thick paste.
5. Grease and heat the waffle maker.
6. Place 2 ladles of batter in the waffle iron and cook for about 7 minutes, until the waffles are golden brown. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
7. Serve with the roasted vegetables, fresh chives, and a spoonful of vegetable yoghurt.
Main featured image via Jason Lloyd Evans.
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