ISUN Meets… Fiona Lawson, Nutritionist and Creator of “The Happy Skin Roadmap”

ISUN Meets is a collective of conversations to serve you on your natural beauty journey. It is a space where minds alike meet to offer both shared and unique perspectives on nourishing your skin and soul respectively through accessible methods and approaches that support your ISUN beauty regime.

Fiona Lawson is a former UK national magazine editor turned registered nutritionist. She holds an MSc in Nutritional Medicine and a BANT-registered post-graduate qualification in Nutritional Therapy. Fiona’s skin challenges found her delving into a world of scientific literature and nutritional research, inspiring her to embark on further study in pursuit of answering the “why’s” and the “how’s”. She specialises in skin health, working with brands and individuals in her private nutrition consultancy. She is also the author of the acclaimed book, The Happy Skin Solution.

How to beat acne from the inside out

Fiona, before pursuing a career in nutrition, you had worked as a national journalist. How did this transition come about?

During my journalistic career, I enjoyed a brief spell as a beauty editor. I received endless products to try—which seemed like a dream come true… until I realised that few of these products delivered on their promises. I was in an unusual position in that I had access to some of the most expensive cosmetics and treatments in the world, but I felt that there may be further avenues to explore in pursuit of clear, glowing skin.

Having grown up in a health-conscious family, I’d always been interested in food and nutrition. I went along to an open evening for the College of Naturopathic Nutrition in London, purely out of curiosity and ended up signing up for their naturopathic nutrition course that night. It was an intense but fascinating three years of study—and it opened my eyes to some of the answers I’d been seeking.

Your specialism lies within skin health. Where has the inspiration behind this focus area drawn from?

From my skin challenges! I suffered from a form of acne for almost a decade. The conventional topical treatment kept this under control, but I arrived at a point where I was seeking a wider holistic approach to clear my skin.

I tweaked my diet based on what I learned, and that did help to an extent, but it still didn’t get rid of it entirely. I started delving into the scientific literature, reading research study after research study, and soon things began to click into place. The experience made me go back and study (again!), this time for a master’s degree in Nutritional Medicine. I knew that there were even more answers to be found if you knew how to interpret the research properly.

Now, I know exactly what to do to keep my skin clear. And, funnily enough, it involves doing less—not more. When you suffer from a skin condition, one of the most frustrating aspects is the lack of control. It’s very easy to live in a state of fear, concerned that what you eat or what you do will cause a flare. Learning how to address the root cause of the issue is empowering and wonderfully freeing.

You have created “The Happy Skin Roadmap” – a 4-week guide to help achieve the best skin yet. What can be expected from this uniquely curated plan?

The Happy Skin Roadmap is a step-by-step guide to the dietary, lifestyle and skincare habits that address acne from the inside out. It’s informed by thousands of hours of reviewing peer-reviewed research, along with my experience of working with clients.

We’re all unique with different skin needs, but some principles work for everyone. The Happy Skin Roadmap orders these principles into an easy-to-follow plan, showing you exactly what to do to take back control. It’s designed to recreate the experience of working with a private nutritionist at a fraction of the cost.

I’ve had some amazing feedback from customers. One woman had been taking the oral contraceptive pill for decades to keep her skin clear, and every time she tried to come off it, her skin would flare. After three months of following The Happy Skin Roadmap, she was able to come off the pill without a single breakout.

As a holistic skincare brand, we understand it is important to look at skin health with a 360-degree approach – can you share why nutrition is an essential key player in skincare?

Good nutrition is the foundation of skincare!

To illustrate this, I often refer to a study in which researchers showed the audience photos of people with a suntan, followed by photos of people who ate lots of colourful vegetables. The audience perceived the people who ate lots of colourful vegetables to be more attractive and have more of a ‘glow’ than the people with a suntan!

The food you eat builds your skin from the inside out. So, if you want calm, clear, radiant skin now and in the future, you need to think about what’s on your plate.

Many individuals might start by addressing their skin concern topically before exploring other avenues. Do you believe that skincare industry messaging could hold more space to encourage consumers to approach their concerns holistically?

I absolutely do. There is a place for both internal and external approaches.

Things are shifting, though: whereas ten years ago you could only get generic ‘Hair, Skin & Nails’ supplement formulas, now there are countless brands offering nutrient formulations to address skin concerns internally. Many skincare brands have their supplement ranges too.

Beyond supplements, what I would like to see is a greater awareness of the importance of basic dietary principles. We all know that diet can affect our heart health—so why aren’t we talking about how it can affect our skin health? Learning how to balance your blood sugar, for example, can have a transformative effect on your complexion. The industry certainly has a role in getting this messaging out there.

If you could give just one piece of skincare advice, what would it be?

Buy good-quality products—with ingredients you recognise. A “less is more” skincare approach works well for me. 

What are your must-have ingredients in the pantry to support skin health and gently encourage a natural glow?

A skin-friendly diet has four key components: healthy fat, fibre, protein and colour. My pantry and fridge are never without nuts, seeds (especially ground flaxseed), oily fish, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, pulses and legumes (I especially love lentils and chickpeas), fermented foods, some goat’s milk dairy and a range of colourful, in-season fruits and vegetables. Plus, a little dark chocolate!

Supplements can support our health and wellbeing alongside a balanced diet. Which ones could our skin benefit from?

I think most people (and their skin) can benefit from a high-quality omega-3 supplement and a broad-spectrum probiotic. Beyond that, specific nutrients and other compounds can be powerful, but it’s best to work with a qualified practitioner to dial down on what’s best for you. Your supplement needs are individual. The clue is in the name too: supplements should only ever supplement good dietary and lifestyle habits.

Collagen supplements are a huge trend in the wellness industry at the moment. What is your take on them?

Collagen supplements are an interesting topic. The research on them is surprisingly conflicting, but I have several clients who swear by them for reducing signs of ageing and giving their skin an extra boost.

If you do want to try collagen supplements, I’d recommend exploring type-1 marine collagen peptides. Research shows us that these peptides are absorbed most effectively, and they do manage to reach the skin.

Can you share a personal favourite skin-food recipe you keep returning to?

I often find myself making huge salads that combine the four skin-friendly components. So, I’ll take a base of mixed salad leaves, pepper and tomato (colour), a heaped handful of lentils or chickpeas (fibre), a good serving of smoked salmon or pre-cooked chicken (protein) and some chopped avocado (healthy fat). Then I’ll drizzle it in apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. It takes minutes to prepare, it keeps me full for hours and it makes my skin happy.

What does your skincare regime include?

My personal skin regime is deliberately simple. In the morning, I splash my face with lukewarm water, then use a preservative-free moisturiser and a drop or two of squalane oil. I’ll then apply a mineral sunscreen. In the evening, I’ll wash with a gentle, SLS-free cleanser, and then use the same moisturiser and a few more drops of squalane oil.

That’s it! I may add in another product or two depending on the season—such as a richer face oil in winter—but this baseline regime (along with targeted diet and lifestyle habits) keeps my skin calm and happy.

Finally, what is your ultimate ISUN Skincare hero product?

I use ISUN Skincare’s Golden Lip Balm every day. I love that it has natural, recognisable ingredients (which I’d be happy to eat!), and it leaves my lips feeling moisturised and plump. I always have one in my bag and one on my desk!

We thank Fiona for her valuable insights into nutrition for the skin. Following the aforementioned principles can help the skin to flourish and glow from the inside out, whilst supporting the body to function optimally.

Discover Fiona’s ISUN hero product, Golden Lip Balm.

To delve deeper into Fiona’s philosophy and explore her offerings, visit: Fiona Lawson Nutrition

March 06, 2023 — Tracey Drabloes