Kefir: the surprising skin solution
Ever found yourself Googling for ‘natural eczema remedies’, ‘psoriasis cures’, or ‘at-home acne treatments’? Well, a clear complexion is something of a feminist issue, according to natural healer and author of The Good Skin Solution: Natural Healing For Eczema, Psoriasis And Acne (Hay House, £10.99). ‘The average woman hosts 515 unique chemicals by the time she leaves the bathroom in the morning,’ she explains.
‘These chemicals leach into your DNA and trigger your cells to start fighting each other,’ she continues, ‘which is the definition of an autoimmune condition. So we are creating conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne with our overuse of chemicals in our personal care products. There are far more women who suffer from autoimmune conditions than men and that’s because we’re the ones who tend to use more make-up, beauty products and household cleaners – we are harming ourselves every day.’
You may remember Nix Jones as the Chuckling Goat woman – we featured her in healthy back in 2015 detailing how she discovered the life-changing power of kefir, a fermented drink originally from Russia, made from goat’s milk and a culture known as kefir grains. While kefir is still a relatively niche product here, it is widely used in other parts of the world. As long ago as 1908, zoologist Élie Metchnikoff won the Nobel Prize for his work on kefir – based on his observations of the super-healthy, kefir-drinking peasants of Bulgaria.
Jones had already been making and selling kefir, and kefir-based skin products from the goats on her Welsh farm, after discovering it cured her son’s bronchial problems and eczema. However, in 2014, her husband went into hospital for a major operation – where he caught MRSA. In desperation, with antibiotics powerless to help, and with the infection spreading, Jones tried applying the kefir to his skin along with a potent essential oil mix – and within two weeks, amazingly, he was given the all-clear.
This, not surprisingly, attracted the attention of the Welsh government, and Aberystwyth University, who conducted tests on Jones’ kefir and oil mix, which she calls Chuckling Goat Oil – concluding they were ‘both safe and effective’. This has grown into an ongoing working relationship and indeed, since then, science has caught up with Jones – particularly in its understanding of how certain skin problems are actually autoimmune ones that start with a gut imbalance.
‘In January 2015, scientists discovered that eczema is not a skin condition – it’s an autoimmune condition,’ explains Jones. ‘That’s the reason serum creams don’t work as eczema remedies; you can put creams on there all day long, but until you heal the gut you are not going to heal your skin. Your skin and your gut are both barrier sites of your immune system. So, logically enough, your body locates areas where the outside meets the inside – that’s your skin, your gut, your sinuses and your lungs. These are the places where your body needs to protect itself from outside pathogens so those are the places where your immune system sits.’
Eczema isn’t the only skin condition that’s linked to our gut health – rosacea and psoriasis are also immune disorders, says Jones, and acne is increasingly considered an autoimmune spectrum disorder. Autoimmune disorders sit in the gut and result from damage to the microbiome – the vast ecosystem of microorganisms that live inside us. So logically, the simplest way to treat eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea is by treating the gut itself. This means feeding the microbiome the right stuff to keep it healthy and balanced – probiotics, in other words.
While probiotic skincare has been gathering a growing buzz recently, with a few different products available, Nix Jones firmly believes that the best source is kefir: ‘The BBC show Trust Me I’m A Doctor did a study showing that kefir is the most effective probiotic you can have. We make it on the farm and we drink it and use it in soaps and lotions, so you’re putting the good bacteria into the biome in your gut and on to your skin biome. Although your skin looks like a membrane, there is a load of living bacteria on it and they need to be nourished. Our Good Skin Solution is a combination of drinking kefir, putting it on your skin and making dietary changes to support its action in your system. Nature has the answer to the problems we have created.’
Try this easy Greek yoghurt face mask
Greek yoghurt is another good source of probiotics, and it can work when applied directly to your face as well as to your gut via a delicious breakfast or dessert. For an easy, soothing mask, just mix together 250g Greek yoghurt, 1 tbsp honey and 3 tbsp porridge oats (these will help lock in the moisture). Apply to an immaculately cleaned face and leave on for 15 minutes, then gently remove with warm water and a flannel.