Is good gut health the secret to radiant skin?
Posted by Hannah McManus, 4th October 2021
Hanna Sillitoe is 42 and lives in Derbyshire, UK. In 2019 she pitched her natural skincare range on the TV show Dragons Den, which saw investment offers from all five dragons. Hanna’s passion for skincare comes from her own battles with chronic skin disease. Her books Radiant and Skin Healing Expert document that journey and Hanna’s realisation that clear skin begins from within.
Tell us a little more about your background and how you became so passionate about all things skincare
My motivation for helping people to improve their skin definitely comes from a very personal battle. I struggled with acne, psoriasis and eczema for over twenty years. I spent a great deal of that time working out how to soothe, mask and manage my itchy, flaking skin - without much success.
Eight years ago my doctor offered me a chemotherapy drug to suppress my overactive immune system. It was the wake up call I needed to really look into what was causing me so much discomfort. I realised then that I’d been going about things the wrong way.
It was only when I switched from soothing the symptoms to targeting the root cause of my skin flare ups that I finally began to achieve results. I made significant changes to my diet and lifestyle. Through doing so I was thrilled to finally be clear of these conditions that had plagued me since being a teenager, I wrote a book about my experience sharing everything I’d learned. Radiant is now a best-seller having sold over 40,000 copies!
You talk about the importance of internal health to heal skin, what advice would you have for somebody with a skin problem wanting to make improvements?
I spend a great deal of time chatting to people with extremely sensitive or problem skin. Often, one of the first questions I get asked is along the lines of “which cream can I apply to make this go away”.
I believe that applying medicated creams is a very antiquated form of Western medicine. When it comes to psoriasis, eczema, acne and other longterm chronic skin conditions, it’s actually more important to begin looking a little deeper than what we see on the surface. The thing my dermatologist never really took the time to explain to me is that our skin is a reflection of our internal health. The symptoms we’re seeing on the surface are due to an underlying cause. Sure, we can soothe those symptoms topically and work on alleviating the discomfort they create with various lotions and potions, but it’s only when we begin to really focus on the root cause of the problem that longterm, sustainable healing becomes possible.
You mention internal health, but what is it we need to change to begin seeing improvements in our skin?
I usually begin with the gut. Scientists are highlighting the connection between our gut and our skin in much greater detail than ever before. The gut is our digestive tract - everything internally from our mouth down to our bottom! Seventy percent of our immune system is housed in the gut, so it stands to reason that it might have an active role to play in autoimmune skin conditions such as psoriasis. Research is also revealing the close correlation between gut health and acne, and further studies even highlight the link between a mothers microbiome and instances of children’s eczema. It’s a complex but fascinating insight into how our internal health impacts what we see occurring on the skins surface.
How can we change our gut health to see noticeable results?
Many different factors play a role in the health of our gut bacteria. Diet is the obvious one, but our lifestyles, stress levels, sleep patterns and more, can all work towards depleting or replenishing the gut microbiome.
What we’re wanting to achieve is promoting much more of the good bacteria that live in our gut, so that they can drown out the bad bacteria. We can do that through a number of simple, lifestyle changes:
Eating a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes and wholegrains
Minimising any use of unnecessary antibiotics - these are great for killing infection, but equally
kill the good bacteria we need more of
Incorporating more fermented foods into our diet such as sauerkraut, miso and kombucha
Steering clear of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin, since these can disrupt
the metabolism of microbes and reduce gut bacteria diversity
Taking a good quality probiotic
Is it really worth taking a probiotic supplement and how do you decide which one?
Taking a good quality probiotic supplement can certainly help boost our gut microbiome. Whilst yoghurt manufacturers might want us to believe a small shot of dairy at breakfast with a single strain of active culture can make all the difference, in reality the positive impact of these sugary drinks could be considered negligible.
When it comes to the science of how probiotics work, specific strains of bacteria are highlighted to offer targeted benefits. For example, in studying acne, scientists have highlighted Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria for their ability to reduce the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and
increase the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to help modulate the immune system, which is helpful for autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis.
I developed my Multi Strain Probiotic with proven science very much in mind. Not only does our formula contain fifteen bio live cultures centred on helping to naturally support clear skin, we’ve also incorporated zinc, co-enzyme Q10, vitamin E and a whole range of herbs and botanicals to further promote skin healing. Our probiotic is also dairy free, gluten free, vegan and contains no added refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.
If what goes on on the inside is so vital, does it really matter what we apply to our skin?
Absolutely it matters! Anybody battling with a chronic skin complaint or extremely sensitive skin will know the difference between finding skincare products that support a calm, comfortable feeling on the skins surface, or unwittingly using something that simply aggravates redness and irritation even further.
Getting back to basics by concentrating on massaging in gentle carrier oils such as argan, almond, jojoba and apricot can be an inexpensive way to step back from using thick, petroleum- based aqueous creams, which only serve to block pores and dehydrate skin further in the long run.
We all love bubbles and foams, but the chemicals included in commercial bath products and shampoos to create those rich lathers are often counter productive for sensitive skin. Using natural, paraben and sulfate free formulas can make a huge difference to sensitive skin and scalps.
In addition, I believe choosing cruelty free brands with a focus on sustainability and UK manufacturing places added emphasis on our investment in self-care .. and that’s something we definitely all deserve more of right now.
MORE ABOUT HANNA
Hanna’s books Radiant and Skin Healing Expert are available on Amazon Hanna’s Instagram can be found at @MyGoodnessRecipes
To read more about Hanna’s journey or to check out her skincare range visit www.HannaSillitoe.com