Five minutes with: Karen Fischer

Karen Fischer is a nutritionist who specialises in skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and premature ageing.

Her book, The Healthy Skin Diet, has specific programmes showing you how to get beautiful looking skin within eight weeks.

What does it mean to have healthy skin?

A healthy complexion is one of the best assets you can have. It’s not overly oily or tight and uncomfortably dry. Your skin tone is even, with minimal rosiness, and it complements every outfit you wear.

Skin problems can prevent people from fully enjoy their lives as they’re more likely to feel self conscious. Healthy skin can enhance self esteem and life enjoyment.

How does the function of the body effect the outward appearance of skin?

When water in a river flows freely, it looks clean and healthy. When water lacks a good filtration system, such as water left in a bucket, bacteria proliferates and debris builds up.

It is a similar story with your skin. A healthy complexion is a sign that your bloodstream is healthy and efficiently supplying oxygen and nutrients to your outer layer, and that your lymphatic system is adequately removing dead cells and other wastes.

What are the most common skin disorders seen in adults?

Age spots and skin inflammation called dermatitis is most common. We’re also seeing a surge in adults with acne.

And in babies?

In developed countries, more than one in ten children suffers from atopic eczema.

Are these caused by an unhealthy diet?

People can have a genetic predisposition to getting eczema. However, this means a healthy diet is even more essential for them because it can prevent their eczema from reoccurring.

It’s important that they avoid overly processed foods such as margarine, pastries and foods containing artificial additives, and dairy products need to be temporarily taken out of the diet.

In people who are prone to getting pimples, diets rich in sugar, saturated fats, high GI foods – think burger, fries, soft drink and ice-cream – cause the skin’s sebaceous glands to produce too much oil and this can lead to breakouts.

Stress can also cause random breakouts to occur. Age spots can be reduced if you have a diet rich in antioxidants such as selenium and vitamin E.

What are three foods (or food groups) that can transform the skin?

The top one is vegetables, especially dark leafy greens such as baby spinach, as they thin the blood and as I mentioned before, healthy blood transports oxygen and nutrients quickly to the body’s outermost layer – the skin – and gives your complexion a healthy glow.

You also need to moisturise your skin from the inside out with omega-3 rich foods like fish (and linseeds/flaxseeds if you’re vegetarian). And I love soy lecithin granules as they aid fat digestion and supply inositol for healthy skin cells.

What would you suggest to someone who was worried about premature ageing?

Become a hat person and wear sunscreen. Taking an omega-3 supplement also works wonders for dry and wrinkle-prone skin (however, before taking omega-3 consult a doctor if you are on any medications).

What is your daily mantra?

Look for beauty not faults. This is my mantra to reduce self criticism. Another mantra of mine is healthy food at home. So when I go out with friends, once or twice a week, I can indulge in unhealthy food if I feel like it. It prevents me from being Nancy-no-fun.

What do you eat or drink upon waking?

I have a glass of water with liquid chlorophyll (low strength) as it’s alkalising and keeps my food sensitivities at bay. Then I usually have my favourite beauty breakfast which is porridge with flaxseeds, lecithin granules, soy milk, honey and banana or frozen raspberries.

What is your favourite meal?

Baked salmon with my tasty antioxidant salad, plus frozen mango for dessert.

What is one ingredient you would hate to live without?

Rocket. I can’t believe I’m saying this as I used to hate salad, but now I crave it. I love a good rocket side salad with any (and every) savoury meal. It gives my skin a healthy glow.

Does what you put inside your body have more effect than what you put on your skin, such as lotions, creams etc?

Yes, definitely! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good quality skin cream that contains no harsh ingredients, as moisturiser can make the skin feel extra soft, however, a healthy diet does so much more.

It gives you energy and creates a strong body from the inside out. You don’t need to be born with the “good’ skin gene: beautiful skin can be created with a healthy diet and that’s good news for the rest of us.

Laser offers solution for sun-damaged skin

A procedure using a topical solution and laser treatment stimulates collagen production and helps rejuvenate sun-damaged skin, US researchers say.

Their study confirmed the value of a procedure already being performed by some doctors to improve the appearance of skin with wrinkles, fine lines and “sun spots”, and helps explain how it works.

University of Michigan researchers tested photodynamic therapy that combines a clear solution, made by DUSA Pharmaceuticals and called Levulan, which is dabbed onto the skin to increase its sensitivity to light, and so-called pulsed dye laser treatment using brief flashes of a single wavelength of light.

In a group of 15 women and 10 men aged 54 to 83 with sun-damaged skin, the researchers found that the therapy increased production of collagen – a protein that helps provide skin its texture and elasticity – and promoted the thickening of the top layer of the skin.

“We do believe that the treatment would, in fact, improve the appearance of patients’ skin,” Dr Jeffrey Orringer, director of the University of Michigan’s Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center, said.

“It lends molecular or scientific credibility to a procedure that’s being done out there, and it’s also the first step in understanding how to make this treatment more effective,” Orringer said.

No industry money was used to fund the study published in the journal Archives of Dermatology, Orringer said.

The researchers performed the procedure on sun-damaged forearm skin of the 25 volunteers and took tissue samples to examine the changes in the skin.

Many people are eager to improve the appearance of skin damaged by years of sunbathing or other exposure to the sun.

Photodynamic therapy currently being performed, often on the face, can cost hundreds of dollars, Orringer said.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved Levulan in 1999 to treat precancerous skin lesions of the face or scalp called actinic keratoses. It is also used “off-label” in photodynamic therapy to make sun-damaged skin look better.

Collagen production was twice as great with Levulan plus laser treatment compared to laser treatment alone, he said.

The laser treatment feels like a rubber band snapping on the skin, but is less painful than laser tattoo removal, Orringer said.