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Before I set out on my journey to China, I had lived in Canada my whole life. I had skin issues here and there, but nothing too severe that I couldn’t handle myself. For instance, dry skin in the winter is a norm, and it’s easy to solve with a simple moisturiser.

In China, however, your skin takes a real beating if not nourished appropriately. Summers here are hot and humid, and in the winter it’s wet, cold, and humid. The pollution in China is also a concern, as your skin is constantly exposed to high levels of free radicals.

The double whammy of pollution and the weather took a toll on my complexion. Add to that the dehydrating effects of continued internal heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer and boom! My skin became dry, flaky, and I was breaking out more than ever.

As the adage goes, ‘you are what you eat’. Besides topical treatments and beauty products, the skin needs internal nourishment to thrive. Luckily for me, China has an abundance of vegetable and fruit sources. Healthy food works on a cellular level to keep the skin smooth and supple while foods high in salt content or preservatives will make the skin puffy and dry.

For an all-around healthier complexion, ensure your diet is filled with these nutrient-rich foods:

1. Fish

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Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids. Omega-3 is known to reduce inflammation in the skin that may have been caused by UV exposure, pollution, internal heating, or foods rich in saturated fat.

2. Avocado

Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, and contain and promote carotenoid absorption. This increases the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A, important in stimulating fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are skin cells that help develop tissue, keeping the skin firm and healthy. Monounsaturated fats also maintain the skin’s hydration and structural integrity by supplying it with ceramides. This prevents the skin from feeling dry and itchy.

3. Nuts

Nuts offer a variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. The former helps lower the risk of chronic oxidative stress that can cause wrinkles and premature ageing while the latter helps lower the risk of chronic inflammation. This is perfect for individuals suffering from acne or rosacea. Nuts also have a high vitamin E content, and that promotes young, smooth, and vibrant skin.

4. Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes come in two colour variants – orange or purple fleshed. Anthocyanin pigments are responsible for the purple variant’s rich tones and provides the root with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Besides this, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene and vitamin C. By supporting the liver’s detoxifying action, acne and flare-ups on the skin are reduced. Vitamin C is also responsible for creating strong collagen bonds between cells, keeping the skin firm and young.

5. Cucumber

The way we eat cucumbers in general – without removing the seeds – is what makes them good for us. Cucumber seeds contain a variety of phytonutrients, including both carotenoids and flavonoids, and reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. This promotes the proper elimination of toxins that harm the skin. It also reduces skin puffiness, hence placing cucumber slices over puffy eyes.

6. Olive oil

Olive oil is available in a variety of grades, reflecting the degree it has been processed. Extra virgin olive oil is derived from the first pressing of olives and is believed to possess the most health benefits. Researchers have found that as little as one tablespoon per day can lower inflammatory signals in our body. Inflammatory factors can cause a wide variety of health effects such as skin cancers, flare-ups, and premature ageing. Olive oil can also be used topically, delivering quick moisture, and reducing ageing signs or flaky skin.

7. Hot water

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For this point, you are what you drink. It’s commonplace to be served warm or hot water when in a restaurant in China. A healthy habit, hot water helps to cleanse the digestive system, thus promoting detoxification and clearing the skin.

There you have it. All the natural tricks to attaining and maintaining healthy, hydrated, and smooth skin living in a humid and polluted urban environment such as the ones in China or any other major city.

*All photos are courtesy of WritersWork unless otherwise stated

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