By Charlotte Jolly; Photography by Freepik
Prepare to be shocked…
A survey by Benenden Healthcare Society in the UK found that almost half of women admit to caring more about their looks than about their health. But they’re far more interlinked than we imagined. “Changes in your appearance often indicate an underlying health issue,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. The following easy-to-follow tests, based on telltale symptoms, could help you diagnose an underlying issue and sommer upgrade your looks too.
The test: Find a mirror, then smile like a Miss SA finalist and check your gums; they should be a healthy pink. Dark red or purple patches may be a sign of inflammation.
The reason: When your gums are inflamed, blood surges to that area, causing discolouration, even if it’s not painful. “Although it’s out of sight, the surface area of your gum tissue is equal to that of your hand. A bacterial infection in your mouth stresses your entire immune system,” says dentist Dr Dana Vieru York. And it doesn’t do much for your breath.
The solution: As well as brushing and flossing, York says to rub bee propolis liquid over your gums before bed. “It’s antibacterial, so it fights gum disease,” she says. Try Bee Natural Liquid Propolis (R280) at Faithful-To-Nature.co.za. Get rubbing.
The test: Pluck a strand from behind your ear (avoid top layers, they’re likely weakened by UV light, styling products and chemical colouring). Hold it at both ends and pull apart. If it snaps less than 3cm from the root, you’ve got stressed strands.
The reason: As cortisol levels spike, your body needs more vitamin B12 to counteract it. The problem? B12 helps form red blood cells to oxygenate hair. “If B12 is diverted elsewhere, the hair follicle weakens and starts to fray,” says trichologist Iain Sallis. We have loose ends to deal with…
The solution: Step one: control your cortisol. Avoid caffeine and schedule three strength-training sessions a week. Step two: give your follicles a B12 boost with a protein-rich hair strengthener, such as Hask Keratin Protein Smoothing Shine Oil (R55).
The test: Paint your thumb nail, applying polish close to the cuticle, says OPI’s head technician Bryony McMillan. Do a good job – you’ll be sporting this for a month to establish how fast your nails grow. “Our nails grow about 3.5mm a month.” For a foolproof test, wait a month then compare with the figure below. Slow grower?
The reason: It could be poor circulation – this leads to nutrient depletion and stunted nail growth, says McMillan. Bad weather, air con and smoking are common culprits of shoddy blood flow as they stop keratin (which makes up your nail) from forming.
The solution: Magnesium is king for cell production; it relaxes blood vessels and triggers protein synthesis. Get a magnesium supplement if you work in an air-con-loving office.
The test: A UK study proved that whiter teeth can take five years off your face. Focus on the colour of your canine tooth to test your perceived age.
The reason: Your teeth should be a natural, off-white colour. Any brighter and you’re ODing on bleach (don’t because it weakens your enamel). But any darker and it’s time to take heed. Those with yellowing teeth are 10 percent less employable, the study found. “Foods with hidden colours – such as tomato sauce – contribute to the yellowing of teeth,” says dentist Dr Sameer Patel.
The solution: Gentle measures: use a toothpaste with calcium sodium phosphosilicate, like Sensodyne Repair & Protect Toothpaste, R42, to rebuild enamel. For instant gratification, try a blue-toned red lipstick to brighten, like L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Collection Exclusive Red Lipcolour in Liya’s Red, R180.
The test: Wash your face in the morning, then after an hour, press a piece of paper between your brows. Repeat an hour before bedtime with a clean face too. This area has the highest concentration of sebaceous glands – if oil shows up on the page, you could have a problem.
The reason: This super-quick rate of oil production could be due to a hormonal imbalance. Oily skin (plus facial and thinning hair) is typically blamed on testosterone, which both sexes produce. But an excess of the hormone progesterone can also increase inflammation, triggering sebum. The result? Your skin is oilier than Chris Brown.
The solution: If you have other issues like a dodgy menstrual cycle or a sprouting upper lip, see your doctor to check your hormone levels. Use a blotting powder, like Palladio Rice Powder (R70), to mattify and absorb sebum and a weekly clay mask, such as all-rounder Dior Hydra LIFE Pink Clay Mask (R965) – the minerals in it help rebalance skin and nix shine. Be a not-so-shiny happy person.
Quick health tests
Check your eyes: A white ring around your iris may mean you have high cholesterol, says Specsavers optometrist Dr Nigel Best. Put down the KFC; see your doc.
Part your hair: Make a zigzag parting. See greasy flakes? “It could be a dairy allergy,” says trichologist Glenn Lyons. Yellowing flakes are a result of inflammation.
Wipe your forehead: “A sweaty forehead is a sign of vitamin D deficiency,” says Dr Michael Holick, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics. See your doctor. Or grow a fringe.