For our latest series, Secrets of Doctors with Beautiful Skin, we spoke to dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams about the products and high-fat diet she swears by
Dr Stefanie Williams hasn’t always looked after her skin. In her university years, she spent time tanning on sunbeds and it wasn’t until she was in her 30s she decided to wise up. ‘When I think back to those days, I think oh God, what damage I must have done!’ Now, 46 the doctor is one of London’s hottest dermatologists leading the way with cutting-edge cosmetic treatments at her clinic, Eudelo Dermatology & Skin Wellbeing.
These days she can be found at her clinic treating her patients, with her nose in a pile of notes (she co-authors journal articles) or even lecturing in Cosmetic Science at the University of the Arts, London. As a derm it’s a given she’ll have stunning skin but we wanted to know exactly how she does it and more importantly exactly how WE can do it too.
My day-to-day skincare routine
‘Every morning I cleanse my skin with a glycolic acid cleanser by Jan Marini. It’s their Bioglycolic Facial Cleanser (£30.95 from Amazon) and it’s great for combination skin types. Next, I’ll apply an anti-oxidant serum containing a high dose of vitamin C. I love SkinCeuticals Prevent Phloretin CF (£87 from Amazon) I have quite an oily t zone so I use that there and then I use SkinCeuticals Prevent C E Ferulic (£90 from Amazon) on my cheeks which tend to be quite dry.’
Now that her indoor tanning days are behind her, Dr Williams makes sure that she slathers on the SPF. Skipping out on normal moisturiser as a base layer the doctor opts instead for instant protection. ‘I go straight to the sun protection moisturiser – the one I use is called Physical Protectant (£40 from Amazon) byJan Marini.’ Slapping on the SPF 30 keeps Dr Williams’ skin safe and then to gussy up she uses Exuviance’s CoverBlend Skin Caring Foundation (£24.50 from Amazon). ‘This makeup is anti-glycation makeup so it doesn’t just give you coverage but it’s beneficial to your skin as well.’ (Anti-glycation skincare is thought to ward off the unwanted ageing effects that sugar can have on our skin).
‘Then at the end of the day, I take my makeup off with La Roche Posay Micellar makeup remover (£11 from Boots). I cleanse and then do a second cleanse which is more of a deep pore cleanse.’ The product of choice? La Roche Posay’s Effaclar H (£15 from Boots).
It’s a pretty extensive (and expensive) routine but it doesn’t stop there. When she’s treating her skin with creams in the evening, Dr Williams tends to cycle between two different skincare routines. ‘My skin gets too dry if I use a prescription vitamin A cream every day so I alternate between a non-prescription vitamin A cream and a prescription tretinoin.’ Tretinoin is an extra strong dose of vitamin A which helps repair sun damage and prevent acne breakouts. ‘It’s really great if you’re in your mid 40s because you obviously want a product that will help you boost collagen production but most anti ageing creams are so rich that anybody with a tendency for breakouts would just flare up if they used them. It’s quite hard to find something that both has the anti ageing effects and collagen supporting mechanism.’
But if you can’t get your hands on the prescribed stuff, don’t fret. The non-prescription cream used by the doctor is by La Roche Posay – an accessible brand that seems to be a reoccurring theme among doctors with beautiful skin. The product is called Redermic R Anti-Wrinkle Treatment (£22.12 from Boots) and it’s safe to say the doctor is a fan.
La Roche Posay is an accessible brand that’s a reoccurring theme among doctors with beautiful skin
And for the ultimate in beautiful skin? A monthly regenerative treatment is essential. Dr Williams explained that the surface of your skin renews itself every four weeks and for that reason, a monthly treatment can feed well into this natural cycle.
‘In my clinic, we have a club called Skin Care Elite. It’s basically like a gym membership but you only come once a month for a regenerative treatment.’ These treatments are supposed to support your skin renewal, repair and regeneration, making you look younger in the process. Dr Williams switches up what treatment she’s having depending on what she’s done that month. ‘I like to have results-driven treatments rather than pampering facials. It might be medical needling with growth factors or a laser facial. My favourite is a carboxy facial. This is when we inject tiny amounts of medical grade Co2 gas into the skin very superficially.’
By the time you reach the age of 40 the oxygen supply to your skin has halved
Injecting Co2 into your skin sounds like madness but the science behind it makes sense. ‘By the time you reach the age of 40 the oxygen supply to your skin has halved and this contributes towards your skin not looking as youthful. When you infuse Co2 gas into the skin it tricks it into thinking it needs oxygen so more oxygen is released and with that come more nutrients.’
Plus a little extra help
And then to supplement this intensive skincare routine, Dr Williams has routine botox and other corrective treatments to keep her skin looking extra youthful. ”Every four to six months I will have ‘meso-botox’ done – I always have a very, very low dose, as I wouldn’t want to freeze the movement in my face. Then maybe once a year I have a facial contouring treatment.’
To soften the dark circles under her eyes the doctor has corrective fillers, ‘I have some soft filler in the tear troughs under my eyes and I also have a little bit of facial contouring. This is when you put a little bit of filler into the area of the cheekbones to give your face balance and accentuate your cheekbones. I also have a little put in my chin because I don’t have a very strong chin so I like to give that some support as well.’
What she eats for beautiful skin
When it comes to healthy eating, Dr Stefanie Williams has a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to nutrition. The number one rule to eat your skin beautiful? Eat lots and lots of vegetables and avoid low-fat diets, as our skin needs fat to stay healthy long-term. ‘To keep your skin in the best condition, it also needs high quality, complete protein such as organic meat, wild fish or eggs, on a daily basis. A vegan diet is not ideal for our skin, although I do appreciate that people might have other reasons to become vegan.’
my meat doesn’t have to be lean. In fact, saturated fat has been shown to help improve skin elasticity and lines
And when I asked about her favourite source of protein? ‘Any meat. I stick to organic meat and I like poultry but I do eat red meat, although I’d limit it to maybe twice a week.’
Making sure that she avoids a low-fat diet is crucial for Dr Williams who explained that eating a low-fat diet is ageing for the skin. She warned that our fear of fat is undeserved. ‘I make sure I eat good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and nuts. You want to avoid any processed polyunsaturated fats so that means vegetable oil and seed oils like sunflower or corn or soya oil. They can be pro-inflammatory so I don’t have any of those.’ And when it comes to meat the full-fat rule stands. ‘I’m also not obsessed with eating low-fat meat – my meat doesn’t have to be lean. In fact, saturated fat can be anti-ageing. Studies have shown that if you eat more saturated fat you have fewer wrinkles,’ she revealed.
‘For breakfast some days I make a smoothie. I wouldn’t have a fruit smoothie because they’re so high in fruit sugar and sugar is very ageing. The smoothie will be purely based on vegetables. I make my own kefir at home which I add to the smoothie because probiotics are good for skin health. So, for example, I’ll have kefir, spinach, avocado, chia seeds, maybe courgette or cucumber or anything that I have at home.’
The sound of this smoothie doesn’t exactly have us running to the kitchen to get cooking, I asked Dr Williams if she enjoys it. She laughed ‘No, it’s not for the taste. They’re not nasty but… they’re alright… you can always put some cinnamon or ginger in, depending on the smoothie.’
But it doesn’t mean that all fruit is out, ‘occasionally I’ll add blueberries, they’re the only fruit I do put in because they’re very high in antioxidants and very low in sugar. In fact, a spinach, blueberry, kefir smoothie is actually quite nice and tasty.’
Some people love cooking, I’m not one of those people
And if the doctor isn’t slurping up nutritional smoothies? ‘Sometimes I also have a good organic full-fat sheep’s yoghurt for breakfast with some nuts and berries.’
Despite explaining that she is not the biggest fan of cooking, Dr Williams always makes sure she pre-packs her lunches and takes them to work. ‘Some people love cooking, I’m not one of those people, I hate cooking. But despite that, I know its just one of those things you have to do to completely avoid processed food.’ So what’s the lucky cuisine?
‘For lunch, I usually have some form of substantial salad. So not just leaves because that doesn’t really fill you up – it has to be really substantial.’
Protein with every meal is an order from the doctor, ‘I make sure I have some protein – meat, eggs or fish with every meal.’ But what about the rest of the dish? Dr Williams revealed that she’s not a big fan of high carb foods or even eating grains.
‘I just replace the starch in most dish with another vegetable. Instead of spaghetti, I might have courgette spaghetti or instead of rice I might have cauliflower rice or something vegetable based… we’re brainwashed into thinking that high-grain diets are really healthy, but I disagree with that.’ The skin doctor doesn’t avoid carbs altogether, she explained that she just makes sure she gets the most out of them. ‘I’m not on a low carb diet like Atkins, I just eat my carbohydrates in their most nutritious form which is vegetables.’
As well as eating all of that high-fat food and nutritious veggies, Dr Williams will sometimes supplement her diet. ‘I use a bovine supplement, I much prefer it to marine collagen because it’s more similar to human collagen. The brand I’m using at the moment is Dermacoll Collagen Drink (£20 from Amazon).’
When you eat or drink a collagen supplement, the collagen that you’re ingesting doesn’t end up going into your skin because it’s a huge molecule and your body just digests it. But what does happen is that it tricks your body into thinking there has been a collagen breakdown in your body, ‘all of these collagen building blocks floating around in your blood and what it does is trick your skin into building more of its own collagen,’ Dr Williams explained.
But it’s not all protein packed plates and vegetables. Skin doctors are human too (we think) and they like to indulge a little every now and then too. When I first asked Dr Williams about her guilty pleasures she brought up something that most of us binge on daily – coffee, ‘an almond milk cafe latte is definitely one of my guilty pleasures,’ she revealed. But I’d drink an almond milk latte on a good day – it was time to get to the nitty gritty.
‘I do really love cakes I have to say… if I wasn’t looking at the health reasons, I could literally live on cake.’ And it’s not just cake that gets the reluctant thumbs up from the doc. ‘I do definitely love red wine. I think it’s all about moderating your guilty pleasures and really enjoying them when you have them but not beating yourself up if you’re not 100 percent compliant with your diet all the time.’
it’s all about moderating your guilty pleasures and really enjoying them when you have them
When I asked what Dr Williams liked to snack on she revealed that snacking is a big no-go. ‘Basically, I don’t snack. It’s really important for skin health not to have a constantly high blood sugar level so I have a very strict three meals a day.’
And another top tip from the skin doctor? Intermittent fasting which she likes to do once or twice a week. Celebs from Miranda Kerr to Hugh Jackman have been hailed as fans of this trend but what exactly does it involve? As I chatted away to Dr Williams in the early afternoon, she admitted that she hadn’t eaten a single thing since dinnertime the evening before! ‘Intermittent fasting means you don’t eat anything for between 16 and 24 hours… my next meal will be my evening meal tonight.’ While it sounds crazy, going without food for a prolonged period of time is supposed to work wonders for your body and, you guessed it, skin.
I completely avoid a generally low-fat diet, I believe it really is one of the worst things you can do for your skin
‘Intermittent fasting is a really good way of tidying your cells up from the inside and help getting rid of broken substances in your cell that aren’t functioning. If you’re constantly eating there’s no need for your cell to recycle cell parts when renewing itself, but if you fast then you’re forcing your cells to recycle unused or broken parts that are inside them in order to get the building blocks that they need to survive … it can increase longevity and you might actually live longer if you do it,’ she advised.
What not to eat for beautiful skin
So we know that fat is our friend and that intermittent fasting can help us live longer. But what should we be avoiding if we want to look after our bodies and our skin?
‘I avoid processed foods and I avoid sugary and starchy foods. I completely avoid a low-fat diet, because I believe it really is one of the worst things you can do for your skin, your skin needs fat. All your sex hormones require some fat, everything in your body needs healthy fats. I believe it’s not biologically healthy to be on a low-fat diet at all,’ Dr Williams revealed.
‘You really want to avoid sugar as much as you can. But most people don’t realise that as soon as you eat starch when it is still in your mouth your body cuts it down into sugar molecules. So starch is essentially nature’s storage form of sugar – it’s one string of long sugar molecules and as soon as you eat it it’s digested into sugar.’ This means that Dr Williams moderates her intake of sugary fruits and snacks but also any food that is high in starchy carbohydrates including potatoes, pasta and even rice and grains.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.