How Your Diet And Lifestyle Are Affecting Your Skin


Women approach a new diet or fitness routine to meet several goals, but far too often we overlook an important consideration – our skin.

While skin care such as lotions, potions, serums, masks, professional peels, facials, plastic surgery is all intended to enhance your outer beauty, you also need to keep the inside of your body and skin healthy. And, Nutrition and exercise play a far bigger role thank you may think. Your skin is the largest and most important organ in your body.

The skin’s primary job is to keep the bad things out and the good things in, as well as, keeping the other organs safe. When you bring disease inside your body, it makes it more difficult for the skin to do its’ job.

J. Nicole with her skincare product. Photo Courtesy of Shawn Record.

As a “beauty chemist,” I’ve dedicated my career to approaching skincare like a scientist, and I guide my clients to do the same. Not only do we need to understand what makes our skin unique, we need to know every factor that affects its health. The last decade has seen a record rise in health awareness, and 2017 is a great year for women hoping to diversify their diet and fitness habits. But, some of the year’s most popular trends play a direct role (both good and bad) in our skincare:

The Gluten-Free Diet

This diet is so popular, it has its own aisle in the grocery store! Like all diets, you should consult a health professional before becoming a devotee. But, staying gluten-free is probably one of the safer options, and has great applications for our skin, especially those suffering from psoriasis. A common skin condition that’s often passed down through family, psoriasis is chronic and hard to manage. However, the swelling that’s associated with the disorder has been connected to gluten, and studies are backing up the trend. In fact, according to the National Gluten Psoriasis Foundation, up to 25% of sufferers have a gluten sensitivity.

Statistically, that’s pretty significant, and even doctors are on board in recommending the diet to their patients. Outside of the disease, gluten has also been linked to numerous skin problems like red cheeks and general inflammation. Wheat – especially processed bread – can even advance aging effects like wrinkles and sagging skin.


Juicing is one of the more complicated diets to discuss. On the one hand, a healthily-prepared juice can be a great snack. I tend to have a juice or organic smoothie on mornings when I know I’ll be busy throughout the day. That way, I’m not compromising my nutrient-intake in the face of a crazy work schedule. The key ingredients in the most popular juice recipes can be fantastic for the skin – they’re packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants that contribute to smooth and strong skin. When implemented into a healthy diet, juicing becomes a very beneficial part of the day. However, for many women, juicing has become more than a healthy indulgence – it’s become a lifestyle – and that’s when the dangers kick in. When juicing becomes a regular food replacement, you run the risk of absorbing too many vitamins and not enough calories. Excessive vitamin intake can cause various skin problems. One of them is carotenemia, an embarrassing condition resulting from consuming too many veggies with carotene as an ingredient. Your skin literally turns orange, and I’m not talking about a good tan! Carrots are the most common vegetable associated with this disorder, but many veggies and fruits contain carotene. And juicing is also not a good source of important nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamin D, and essential fats. Take these away and you’re facing everything from hair loss to cracked, dry and wrinkled skin. Don’t worry about making juicing a part of your diet routine, but be careful and don’t be afraid of real food.

Photo Courtesy of Fitness Magazine

HIIT/High Intensity Interval Training

Trending especially among professionals who don’t have much time for the gym, HIIT advocates short bursts of extreme movement – an ideal session lasting less than 10 minutes. There are many exercises that fit into the HIIT category, but when it comes to our skin, they all have their benefits. HIIT workouts can get our heart and lungs pumping faster than long gym sessions, which can increase oxygen flow, and boost our capacity to produce our own antioxidants, providing the necessary nutrients to our skin more quickly. Studies have shown that positive metabolic activity can be maintained for even two days after exercising. Nutrient-rich skin is the bane of most everyday disorders and breakouts. Another benefit to HIIT is natural sweating (not like hot yoga where sweating is conventional and overheats like an oven). As mentioned, sweat is a great natural skin defense, and HIIT can promote the balanced amount.

Photo Courtesy of Groupon

Hot Yoga

As a committed yoga enthusiast, I praise the benefits that yoga offers. But, hot yoga is a recent trend that makes me “hot under the collar” for its often unsafe approach. Taking place in studios heated up to 90 degrees or more, the idea is that performing yoga in high temperatures will increase flexibility and aid in weight loss. In normal conditions, working up a sweat can be a great aid in maintaining healthy skin. For example, sweat produces “Dermicide,” (a natural antibiotic is produced by your sweat) that can kill harmful bacteria, or reduce the effects of impurities and chemicals on your face. However, the extreme heat that’s maintained in many hot yoga studios can take the body’s natural mechanisms to their breaking point.

When temperatures get really hot, the heat flows from the environment into the body instead of exiting into the air to keep the body cool. Humidity in hot Yoga also prevents the sweat from evaporating from our body (our bodies second level of defense) Sweat does not evaporate in humid conditions. Harmful heat levels can not only make your skin more prone to breakouts but can cause heat rashes that make your skin swell, flush and itch in pain, waking up melanin cells which cause brown spots. Heat rashes can also lead to serious medical conditions including swollen lymph nodes, high fevers and the combination of heat and humidity can be deadly. So, unless you’re working with a trusted yoga instructor, don’t quit your regular routine to experiment with “hot yoga.”

Healthy skin is not only a core segment of our health but a reflection of who we are as individuals—and it’s the first thing we present to the world. Do your research, and stay educated – and as you look to enhance your diet and fitness lifestyle, don’t always jump out of your skin to get onboard the latest trend.

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Record

7min read

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.

A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization ( publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.