As a teenager, I wondered why my parents always insisted I take laxatives whenever I broke out in pimples or suffered a headache. They then explained that in order to keep one's blood pure and healthy, one needed to eliminate harmful waste matter from the body – and that one of the benefits of this for girls was a glowing, radiant complexion!

A healthy skin is often genetically determined. However, few of us are lucky enough to have inherited a flawless complexion – instead, we have to work hard to achieve it.

The air we breathe and the food we consume leave poisonous substances within our bodies, and eventually leave the skin dull and flaky. Other factors like ill-health, stress, exhaustion and hormonal changes – (particularly during adolescence and pregnancy, as well as during the menstrual cycle) – can also play havoc with our toxin levels.

The liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, thyroid, lymph and skin are the primary organs responsible for keeping our bodies pure and eliminating impurities in the blood. However, if these organs aren't functioning properly, it's necessary to rid our systems of the unfriendly substances we've deposited in them.

Today, however, it's no longer necessary (or advisable!) to take laxatives to do this. Instead, we go through a carefully controlled process of detoxing. It's a relatively simple, painless procedure, provided you stick to a few basic guidelines and exercise caution.

How to detox
There are many ways of detoxing. If you can afford a stay at a spa, you can treat yourself to a supervised detox which has been carefully worked out by medical, nutritional and beauty experts. This can include new age treatments such as colon irrigation.

However, if your budget doesn't stretch that far, you can create your own programme that's particularly suitable for your unique lifestyle and needs. The main ways of doing this are by adjusting your food and liquid intake.

Daily routine
External pollutants (such as smoke, grime and fog) deposit toxins into our pores. At the same time, our internal organs attempt to eliminate these toxins through the same pores: the result is a build-up of dead skin cells, leading to tired, clogged, lacklustre skin.

A daily exfoliation routine with a gentle, creamy, herbal scrub accelerates new cell production while decreasing the build-up of dead surface skin cells. It also stimulates blood flow to the skin, which is essential for thorough toxin elimination.

Care should be taken to use an exfoliant gentle enough for daily rather than weekly use.

Natural products
Products containing natural ingredients such as aloe vera are most beneficial to the skin. Aloe biogens have the unique ability to help skin renew itself.

Working with the skin's metabolism, they increase nutrient absorption and oxygen exchange.

Natural foodstuffs
What you get out of your system depends on what you put into it. A beautiful skin depends on more than using the right cleansers, toners and moisturisers: what you eat and drink is also essential.

Too many high-fat, greasy substances are bound to lead to break-outs, as are lifestyle factors like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, late nights and careless cleansing.

Skin-wise foods are basically the same ones you eat to keep all your other vital organs healthy. Try to include regular helpings of the following:

  • Almonds, which contain Omega 3 and 6 fats. They also contain Vitamin E, calcium and zinc ­ all nutrients that keep skin healthy.
  • Beets and greens are greatly beneficial for dry skins, since they contain nutrients such as Vitamins A and C, as well as biotin.
  • Garlic protects the skin from fungal infections. It's even more beneficial if eaten raw.
  • Kiwi fruit is a powerhouse skin food, preventing cell damage and building up collagen, the protein that keeps skin elastic and youthful-looking. What's more, one kiwi fruit contains more than double your recommended daily Vitamin C intake!
  • Lentils are a rich source of protein and also contain fibre, iron, Vitamin B and minerals.
  • Salmon keeps skin resilient and may reduce inflammation.
  • Water, water and more water is essential for keeping skin sufficiently moisturised and flushing toxins out of your system. Get into the habit of drinking at least six to eight glasses a day, and you'll soon notice the benefits in your weight control too!

    Any detox should include high intakes of these foods. If you're planning to fast for a day and only consume liquids, ensure you include fruit juice (without added sugar), carrot juice or Rooibos tea. It's also important to remember that regular exercise, sufficient sleep and correct protection against environmental factors such as wind, sun and rain are all part of achieving and maintaining a healthy skin.

    While using good-quality cosmetics is essential, they can't ward off the effects of neglecting your skin's health. It's also a good idea to have regular facials, if you can afford them, since these help open up pores, eliminate toxins and deep-cleanse the skin. They're also deeply relaxing and leave your skin feeling revitalised and purified.

    What the skin reveals
    Your complexion is a good indication of your state of health. Radiant skin usually indicates good health, and is also associated with sexuality, fertility and beauty.

    Skin radiance comes from a complexion that's both lustrous and glowing. Lustre depends on the light reflectivity of the skin, while glow depends on an adequate circulation of blood and oxygen to tiny blood vessels under the skin (a system called "micro-circulation").

    By following the steps described above, you'll be well on the way to achieving the skin you want. Remember, investing the time and trouble each day and night to exercise proper skincare pays off huge dividends, both now and as you age.