Wellness vs Skin Health

We caught up with Claire Williams, founder + CEO at WOW facial to find out why she believes wellness and skin health have a very clear connection.
My own skin journey started when I was just 13 years old and struggling with terrible acne. In hindsight, I understand that my body’s structure and muscle content probably led me to have higher testosterone and androgens than a female should, as I was an elite athlete and a competition gymnast. I believe this hormone imbalance was the root cause of my acne, as I was later diagnosed with polycystic ovaries too which is also strongly connected with hormone imbalance.
In fact, from the age of 15 I was convinced I had polycystic ovaries and repeatedly went to my doctor to be tested, however they refused to test me, simply concluding that I couldn’t have polycystic ovaries, as I would be overweight and have an overgrowth of body hair. Instead, my GP diagnosed me with teenage acne and prescribed a birth control pill called 'Dianette', which at the time I thought was wonderful because it did help my acne, but of course, never got to the root cause of the problem and instead flooded my body with more hormones.
Years later, when I was 32 I had a job that offered private medical cover, so I went to my GP and insisted on a referral to a private Dermatologist. When the Dermatologist saw me, he immediately said “You've got PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), I'm going to send you for gynecological scan.” Sure enough, when I went for the scan, they found over 70 cysts on my ovaries which were contributing to my poor skin health. Whilst this was a huge blow and highly frustrating after suspecting it for the last 17 years, it finally gave me the confirmation that I needed to research the condition and begin my healing journey.

The Research

I did a lot of research on how to heal the body from PCOS and eventually found a natural hormone solution called Insulite Health PCOS which is a complete program that helps you reverse the aggravating symptoms of PCOS. The program includes scientifically formulated supplements to balance hormones, increase energy, improve insulin resistance (because PCOS insulin resistance and diabetes are all very closely linked), and help your body heal.
“Simply put, you won’t have great skin unless your body and mind is well.”
– Claire Williams, WOW facial founder + CEO

What does healthy skin mean to you?

I was taught a whole new way of eating, to feed my body what it needed to balance my hormones naturally. I cut out carbs, sugars and alcohol, and began juicing daily too - which is where my journey of juicing began. It took me one year to completely clear my skin up, however after another gynaecological scan I still had 23 cysts across both ovaries which the gynecologist assured me was pretty normal for PCOS suffers, and I was no longer suffering with acne, although I still have the occasional pimple, my skin is far more manageable and I believe that this is purely down to the wellness journey I went on.

What made you connect the dots between wellness + skin health?

On my journey of combatting PCOS when cutting out refined sugar, refined carbs and alcohol, as it not only made a huge difference to my weight, but transformed my skin too which really began to connect the dots between wellness and skin health for me.

What difference has changing your diet had on your skin?

I notice now that when I am not eating foods rich in antioxidants or plenty of green vegetables and fresh fruit, that my skin really starts to appear lacklustre, so to me wellness and skin health are very much hand in hand. What you put into your body is what the body shows visibly on the outside. The difference changing my diet has had on my skin has been immeasurable over the years; I no longer suffer with acne and really do notice when I am not eating healthily that my skin suffers.
“Hormones play a very big role in how the skin behaves, and I am a firm believer that as you age, you should change your diet accordingly.”
– Claire Williams, WOW facial founder + CEO

Can you boost collagen production through diet?

Hormones play a very big role in how the skin behaves, and I am a firm believer that as you age, you should change your diet accordingly. So for women, as we're getting into peri-menopause era and our collagen starts depleting, we should be eating more collagen boosting foods and really considering amino acids and protein content in our diet, to boost collagen production naturally. Fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C are especially good for collagen production and drinking bone broth is also fantastic for collagen production and collagen content too. Then as we approach the menopausal era supplements with collagen can really boost your skin health.

You've previously stated that mental health affects your skin, can you elaborate?

Exercise in general is good for our overall health, including the skin. Yoga and meditation can be particularly helpful with skin health. Dry, irritated, red, flaky, and breakout-prone skin can be caused by mental strain, so managing your stress levels is an important factor in improving your skin health. A great way to manage stress is through practicing breathing exercises as a form of active meditation. Learning to breathe correctly improves mental health and in turn skin health as well; this is because slower, deeper breath helps the nervous system to relax. In the current climate, we are always in a rush, everything is fast, so naturally, we tend to breathe fast too, but what most people don’t know is that shallow (fast) breathing tells the body to go into a fight or flight mode i.e. the body believes it’s in danger, and this causes a natural spike in cortisol which is known to affect our skin (read more about cortisol here).

If you would like to try a free, breathing class with an incredible breathwork teacher call Sandra VOZ who is based in Ibiza, click here.

Anguish and depression also show on the skin in that the expressions held on the face when you feel sad if often enough, will show on the face and become permanent expression lines. In fact, there are studies that look at the brain-to-skin connection, which have found that the human epidermis (the skin) is especially reactive to changes in emotion, for example when we become red, sweat, or itch - these can all have a negative impact on the appearance of the skin and its overall health. Therefore, it’s important to manage any mental health problems if you are seeking better skin quality.

As a CEO, you are always on the go, how do you keep stress at bay?

Running two businesses as a CEO, I am always on the go, but I make it an absolute priority to set time aside time for some self-care. I may not always have time to have my nails or hair done, but no matter what, I make sure that I have time to exercise. I have a dog, and honestly, he helps me a lot with stress, and of course, I walk him a lot as well. I've recently been on a retreat in Portugal, the Jason Vale Juicy Oasis, which is a juice retreat where you have a smoothie, two juices, and a soup a day, paired with lots of physical exercises, saunas steam rooms, massages, and treatments well. The experience has really revived me mentally, I feel full of energy and ready to face the last quarter of the year at work

How has meditation played a part in your own skin health journey?

During the retreat, we also did a lot of yoga, which is very good to keep the body flexible and reduce stress, and there was daily morning meditation too. I actually meditate regularly, particularly if I can't sleep or if I've got a lot going on, using an app or a YouTube video to help me. I meditate most mornings before I do a little yoga, so it's vitally important in my routine. It's been clinically proven that meditation has a dramatic effect on reducing stress levels, and as I mentioned earlier, reducing stress levels can have a real positive impact on your skin health.
“Cleansing the skin with a cleanser that is suitable for your specific skin condition will make a big difference to your overall skin health.”
– Claire Williams, WOW facial founder + CEO

For someone suffering from their skin, what are the first steps to healing?

I guess it depends on the condition that they're suffering with, but majority of skin conditions such as Psoriasis, Eczema, Rosacea and Acne can all be exacerbated by stress so I would look to eliminate or at least try to minimise any stressors. Diet also has a huge impact, so I would always recommend boosting natural vitamins A + C intake by adding more citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables to their diet and reducing dairy and sugar intake.
Cleansing the skin with a cleanser that is suitable for your specific skin condition will make a big difference to your overall skin health. For Acne, a cleanser with Salicylic Acid such as the WOW facial Salicylic Acid Wash, or for Rosacea or dry skin, I would recommend a wash with Lactic Acid or Glycolic Acid, such as the WOW facial Lactic Acid Wash. It's super important that you protect broken or delicate skin from the UVA and UVB rays, so using a multi-purpose SPF such as Synergy6 SPF50 by Intradermology which is specifically designed to suit suffers of Rosacea, can really help in the healing process. There are a number of active ingredients in it that can soothe sensitive skin to build skin barrier function and really start the skin on that healing journey.

What are 5 simple ways you can improve your skin health?

  1. Regular exercise
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Incorporate plenty of leafy green vegetables and fruits in your diet
  4. Dramatically reduce your refined sugar intake
  5. Making sure that you clean your skin effectively
“My number one skin advice is be careful what you're putting into your body because it will show on your skin”
– Claire Williams, WOW facial founder + CEO

What's your #1 skin secret for clearer skin?

My number one skin secret for better skin health is always wash your face and wear SPF every. single. day., but I think for the nature of this conversation my number one skin advice is to be careful what you're putting into your body because it will show on your skin!