Dr. Nigma Talib has sparkling eyes, glowing skin, and lustrous hair—a testament to the beauty-highlighting benefits of her holistic approach to health. She’s a leading naturopathic doctor based in Los Angeles, where she’s known for her inside-out approach to skin care. (Penelope Cruz, Kate Bosworth, and Rosie are among her many fans.) “People are focusing too much on using products on the outside when really, whatever you're doing on the inside is going to affect the outside,” she says. Here, she outlines four ways to create visibly healthier skin in as little as 30 days.
1. Sleep like your looks depend on it.
Because they do. “We're not getting enough quality sleep,” Dr. Talib says. “That causes an imbalance in the hormone cortisol, which then causes full-on hormonal issues,” she says. And “issues” is a polite way to put it. Elevated cortisol levels are associated with stress, not to mention an increase in breakouts. (Those deep, stubborn pimples that pop up when you’re extremely stressed? Blame a spike in cortisol.)
So before applying all the topical acne treatments, try making sleep a priority. Around eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night is a good goal, Dr. Talib says. “Go to sleep at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning,” she advises. “That helps set your body’s internal clock much better.” Wise advice to remember the next time you’re considering a late-night Netflix binge.
2. Eat less sugar, dairy, gluten and alcohol.
“What people eat is going to be a huge part of how their skin changes,” Dr. Talib says. And as it turns out, cakes and candies are terrific for your skin. Just kidding, it’s the opposite. (But come on… you suspected as much, right?) “Every time you have sugar, inflammation happens in your skin,” Dr. Talib says. “That causes sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles.”
The root cause begins in your digestive system, where sugar interferes with the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut. “It’s kind of like Gremlins eating after midnight,” she says. “Sugar makes the bacteria go crazy and have a massive party at your expense. That overgrowth of bacteria causes an imbalance of your skin microbiome.” So the next time you crave something sweet, opt for low-glycemic fruits such as grapefruit, pears, cherries, or blueberries.
If you’re prone to acne, Dr. Talib recommends looking at your dairy consumption. “Cow's milk contains some hormones that contribute to acne and inflammation,” she says. (Indeed, recent research indicates that teenagers who consumed low-fat milk experienced more acne than their peers who did not.) “If you really want to get rid of the acne, you need to cut dairy out—at least for a bit,” she says. If you choose to replace dairy milk with a plant-based milk, choose unsweetened versions to avoid an unintentional sugar rush.
Gluten, too, can trigger skin problems. “It can cause dermatitis, increase the risk of pigmentation, and cause sensitivity to things you never used to be sensitive to,” Dr. Talib says. So pass on the croissant—and the wine, too, while you’re at it. Dr. Talib notes that even one glass can simultaneously trigger hormonal changes and dehydrate skin. Ideally, Dr. Talib says, you’ll swap out these foods for a diet that’s richer in vegetables—for about a month, at least. “It’s just about seeing how you feel for 30 days, and seeing how your skin looks,” she notes.
People are using way too many products
3. Consider the power of probiotics
Researchers are only beginning to understand the full scope and power of the human body’s microbiome, but emerging research suggests that if you balance your belly bacteria, your skin benefits as well. For instance, rosacea patients tend to have an overgrowth of bacteria in their intestines, and oral probiotics are beginning to be used as part of acne treatment therapy. In her practice, Dr. Talib typically starts patients on Healthy Flora probiotics. “It has lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, two good forms of good bacteria,” she says.
4. Simplify your skin care.
“People are using way too many products,” Dr. Talib says. “They’re dabbling and mixing three different serums and five different creams.” Here’s what your skin actually needs, she says. A gentle, non-stripping cleanser is essential. “Look for something that’s going to hydrate and brighten,” she says. (Her own cleanser just launched.) “Then, get a good hyaluronic acid serum and seal it in with an oil-free cream.” Finally, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen is non-negotiable; Dr. Talib likes formulas by Heliocare. Bonus: more shelf space in your medicine cabinet.
For most of us, healthy skin doesn’t happen by accident—it’s maintained with attention and care. But a future of soft, radiant skin (not to mention the benefits of eating well and sleeping soundly!) is worth a little effort.