While ads and beauty gurus suggest otherwise, all you really need to do is get back to basics. From looking after your body, inside out, to enjoying a good night’s sleep, I have outlined in this article simple ways to create the foundation to healthy, beautiful skin.
Dietary tips to make your skin glow
So firstly, let’s explore what we should be putting into our bodies for clear and healthy skin. After all, they do say that ‘we are what we eat’.
What you should consume more of:
- Keep hydrated. Aim for at least 2L of water every day. This may sound like a large amount, however did you know that our skin cells consist mostly of water? If you are dehydrated your skin will look and feel parched too.
- Additional tip to increase your water intake: fruits and veggies also contain H2O so you can count these towards your daily water intake.
- Eat an abundance of antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables. Collectively, antioxidants pull together like an army to protect your skin from free radicals and damaging agents like UV rays and pollution. (More information about free radicals is later on).
- Eat a protein rich food source in every meal. You would have always associated the word collagen with the skin, but did you know it is a protein? That’s right. Collagen makes up 75-80% of your skin and its responsibility is warding off those inevitable wrinkles and lines that come with age.
- Consume fish regularly. Fish is bursting with omega-3 fatty acids which is required for healthy cell membranes. Fish also contains DMAE, this ingredient is an antioxidant that helps stabilise cells and reduce sagging skin.
What you should consume less of:
- Avoid foods containing sugar and processed carbohydrates. If your skin has a nemesis, it could be the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Known to be inflammatory because they cause your insulin levels to spike, these foods produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, which we know can result in dark circles under the eyes, loss of skin tone, puffiness, acne, fine lines, wrinkles, loss of facial contours and increased pore size.
- Avoid coffee. While it might be one of life’s necessities when you are tired, things can get a little murky when it comes to coffee and your skin. Known to be a diuretic, coffee can cause your skin to dehydrate.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption. We have known for a long time that alcohol is no health elixir but how does it affect your skin? Firstly, it dehydrates it resulting in wrinkles. Secondly, it inflames the small blood vessels, causing your skin to flush and redden. This might not sound like a big deal but do this over a number years and the skin on your face will have prominent redness known as rosacea. Dehydration and facial redness will contribute to dullness, enlarged pores, discolouration, sagging and dehydrated skin.
Supplements for skin care
We have touched on antioxidants, but what are these magical little compounds that effectively ward our skin against free radicals? There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of different nutrients that can act as antioxidants. We will take a look at these below.
- Zinc: Think of your skin like a brick wall. An essential building block for healthy skin, zinc would be part of those bricks, boosting your immune system and aiding in healing. If you lack zinc your skin will be prone to rashes and lesions.
- Vitamin C: Helping your body repair damaged skin cells, vitamin C aids the natural regeneration process and production of collagen.
- Vitamin E: Supporting cell function and skin health, vitamin E combats the effects of free radicals and may assist in reducing UV damage and inhibit peroxide formation, a form of free radical damage.
- CoQ10: Found naturally in the engine of cells known as the mitochondria, this antioxidant protects your skin’s elastin and collagen against free radical damage and assists in cellular metabolism.
- Alpha lipoic acid: A powerful antioxidant, it helps protect against sun damage.
- Proanthocyanidin: Found in pine bark or grape seeds proanthocyanidin help protect the skin against damage from UV radiation.
- Glutathione: Not only beneficial for the skin, this antioxidant neutralises free radicals, detoxifies the body and boosts the immune system.
Now let’s take a glance at how oils help lubricate the skin and reduce wrinkle forming inflammation. Back to the skin as a brick wall analogy, oils would be the mortar between the bricks. Good sources include:
- Fish oil: Containing omega-3, fish oil regulates oil production to enhance hydration and delays the ageing process.
- Alpha EFA (essential fatty acids): (Sea Buckthorn – vegetarian omega 3) EFAs help skin cells stay flexible and fluid and aid in guarding against dryness and premature ageing.
- GLA (Gamma linolenic acid): Essential for the body in so many ways, such as maintaining brain function and skeletal health, GLA also stimulates skin and hair growth.
Pay close attention to your lifestyle
Quit smoking! It comes as no surprise that smoking adversely affects your skin. Smokers have paler skin, more lines and wrinkles than non smokers. This is partially due to reduced circulation caused by the nicotine. This results in fewer nutrients getting to the skin and a decreased ability of the skin to release its toxic waste products of normal cell metabolism.
Avoid sun damage. UV radiation from the sun causes the skin to lose its resilience and elasticity, therefore becoming thinner, wrinkling, dry and pigmented. It also damages blood vessels in the skin, causes decreased blood flow to the skin and can be partially responsible for dilated blood vessels on the cheeks and nose.
Manage your stress levels. Heightened stress triggers the hormone cortisol to be released into the bloodstream and this in turn can cause our skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, commonly known as oil. And while some oils are beneficial, too much oil production can clog your pores and lead to acne. Excess prolonged cortisol also causes the skin to thin, wrinkle and make your blood vessels more visible under the skin.
Enjoy a good night’s sleep. It is hardly surprising that a good night’s sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and radiant too. It's also needed to avoid eye puffiness. But most importantly it's during sleep that the body including the skin cells repair and recover.
Take regular exercise. Research has shown people who maintain their activity levels have thicker skin with increased collagen fibres due to increased blood flow. Collagen gives the skin its strength and flexibility.
8 things you didn’t know about your skin
- Menopause - Skin health can dramatically be affected by menopause. This is because the skin contains receptor sites for hormones. When your hormone levels start dropping, oestrogen is no longer available to protect your skin’s collagen and elastin fibres, resulting in saggy thinning skin.
- Decreased progesterone - Progesterone levels also drop during menopause. This can cause midlife acne, dry skin and age spots.
- Neuroectoderm - The skin evolves from the embryonic layer, neuroectoderm. This is the same layer that becomes the brain and peripheral nervous system. Skin has been called the external brain as it gathers information about our external environment through its ability to sense pressure, temperature, pleasure and pain.
- Third kidney - The skin has been called the third kidney because it removes almost as much waste material from the body each day as the kidneys themselves. Of course, you don’t see debris dropping off your body as you go about your daily routines, that’s why it is important to remove makeup everyday and have a good cleansing regime, utilising good quality skin care products. I recommend Gernetic
- Like a brick wall - Like a brick wall, skin is the boundary between us and the environment making it our first line of defence. It protects us against infections (bacteria and viruses) and the environment (sun, wind, air pollution).
- Reflects our insides - Skin reflects our internal environment. Not only does nutrition play a part but emotional factors do too. Psoriasis, hair loss and eczema are all skin conditions that have an emotional component and need to be addressed for better skin results.
- Three layers - The skin consists of three layers. The top layer the epidermis, is a protective layer of dead skin that holds moisture and oil. It is constantly shedding but as we age this process slows down causing dryer, dull looking skin. The middle layer, the dermis, is where the nerve receptors, blood vessels, sweat glands and sebaceous glands are located. The sweat and oil secreted from this layer protect the skin by creating the acid mantle (pH level). Oil production decreases with age resulting in increased dryness and a reduction in the skin’s ability to protect itself. Collagen and elastin give the skin its elasticity and flexibility and are located in the dermal layer. Collagen production reduces with age starting as early as your 20s, resulting in the production of fine lines and wrinkles. The final layer is a fat layer.
- Premature ageing - Premature ageing of the skin is primarily caused by free radical damage. This form of damage is also called oxidative stress. Free radicals are produced by excessive sunlight exposure, poor nutrition (sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption) and toxin exposure like cigarettes. Free radical damage to the collagen causes the skin to become stiff, discoloured, wrinkly and saggy. Free radical damage can be minimised by ingesting antioxidants, avoiding toxins and maintaining good emotional health.
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