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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Ratcliffe

Love the skin you're in!

Skin – it’s the biggest organ in the body and in the average person covers an area of 2 square metres. It’s a clever organ too! Renewing itself every 28 days!

Everyone wants softer, smoother skin and a clear, youthful complexion. We would also like naturally healthy and shiny hair and strong pliable nails. If you are genetically fortunate you will have all this and more, but for the rest of us mortals, it is vital that we take great care in our diet and lifestyle choices. Can we delay skin ageing and maintain our youthful looks? Let’s take a look.

You are what you eat! FACT!

The foods that we eat can have a direct effect on skin integrity, health and even beauty with well documented studies showing that dietary changes can improve skin structure, reverse symptoms and improve appearance. Increasing our intake of fruit and vegetables is a great way to start ringing in the changes.

In 2012 a study by Whitehead et al concluded that increased fruit and vegetable consumption confers measurable and perceptibly beneficial effects on Caucasian skin appearance within six weeks. Introduce a ‘rainbow’ of coloured foods to maximise intake of beneficial skin nutrients. Green leafy vegetables and herbs are a few good examples whilst other nutrient dense foods such as berries, rich in proanthocyanidins support skin health and boost a youthful appearance, and Avocados contain the highest fruit source of Vitamin E, a fat soluble nutrient known to protect against cell damage by neutralising free radicals which cause the skin to age. Proanthocyanidins also protect the skins collagen structure in a number of ways. Reinforcing the collagen matrix of connective tissue and inhibiting collagen damage caused by inflammation and infection. Believe it or not, onions and garlic are also items for your shopping list too! Both contain Sulphur an essential dietary component that has a critical role in maintaining the integrity of connective tissue.

So that’s your shopping trolley piled high with brightly coloured fruit and vegetables (organic where possible) but what other foods can help maintain healthy skin and a youthful appearance? Be sure to add legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and linseeds rich in omega 3 along with sustainably sourced oily fish, an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids important for cell membrane structure and fluidity aiding the skins appearance. These beneficial fats have also been shown to have anti inflammatory properties and are particularly beneficial in inflammatory conditions such as Eczema and Psoriasis. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is another source of beneficial dietary fat to include but save this for salad dressings, it’s not one for frying with! The findings of a 2012 study support the beneficial effect of dietary olive oil or healthy diet habits associated with olive oil consumption on the severity of facial photoaging indicating that a higher intake of olive oil was significantly associated with a lower risk of severe facial photoaging in women and men.

Contrary to popular belief, fats are not the enemies we once thought. Not all are bad. In fact, good fats, such as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential to our diets and required in many bodily functions. Their role in maintaining healthy skin cannot be overstated. Our obsession with fat-free diets has left many people with chronic deficiencies in essential fatty acids. Symptoms include brittle nails, extensive wrinkling and dry, flyaway, or splitting hair. Plant seed oils are one way of topping up your omega fats and may deliver numerous health and beauty benefits. Oils that have been shown to aid healthy skin are Golden Flaxseed Oil, Hempseed Oil and Evening primrose oil. Flaxseed oil provides the highest concentration of omega 3 fatty acids from seed source. A randomised, control trial over 12 weeks found that supplementation with flaxseed oil led to a significant decrease in sensitivity, skin roughness and scaling and improved smoothness and hydration.

Whilst increasing your intake of skin boosting foods and omega oils it’s also important to consider the foods that can have a detrimental effect on skin health and would be worthy of avoiding altogether or restricting to the bare minimum e.g. red meat (especially processed meat), potatoes, soft drinks/cordials, cakes/pastries, added sugars and fast food. Sugar is one to particularly take note of as research has shown it can lead to accelerated ageing and poor wound healing.

Skin Hydration! Is your skin crying out for moisture?

I’m sure you are all aware of the importance of drinking water when it comes to skin health. It’s a simple, inexpensive and effective way to keep hydrated and research confirms it. A 2015 clinical study by Palma et al concluded that higher water inputs in one’s regular diet might positively impact normal skin physiology, as expressed by its hydration and biomechanical behaviour, and in particular in those individuals with lower daily water consumptions. So that’s another easy one to tick of the list. Many beauticians and nutritionists alike recommend drinking one to two litres of water daily. Try swapping your coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and dare I say your favourite tipple for a glass of water. You’ll soon be increasing your intake and noticing a difference. Why not try a glass of warm water in the mornings with a slice of lemon?

Ensuring that moisture is transported to the structure of the skin and retained in the skin tissue appropriately is an important anti ageing mechanism. Certain ‘phytonutrients’ (health protecting compounds found in plants), have also been shown to improve skin hydration. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a compound that naturally occurs in the skin and in connective tissue. It helps to regulate water balance in the skin and maintain cell structure by utilizing its high water retention and viscosity. According to Kawada et al certain factors such as ageing, smoking, ultraviolet radiation and air pollutants reduce levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin and induce dryness. They go onto suggest that consuming hyaluronic acid affects the skin cells, improves dry skin physiologically and recommend that taking a dietary supplement of HA will improve overall skin health.

We can further support the skins natural moisturising mechanisms by applying topical moisturisers to reduce moisture loss from the skin, protecting it from dehydration, wrinkle formation and dryness/flakiness. A good quality body or facial oil will permeate the skin and support skin cell structure enabling them to retain moisture, cream based moisturisers on the other hand sit on the surface of the skin to create a barrier.

Be savvy when selecting skincare products and make sure they are appropriate for your skin as skin types and needs will differ from person to person. Consider also the ingredients in skincare products. Are they naturally sourced and organic? Are they full of synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances? Try to opt for products that contain as few ingredients as possible, that will be gentle in their action, nourishing, repairing and regenerative.

Some of the best topical oils:

Organic Coconut Oil – shown to be a significant skin conditioner. Rich in antioxidants and fatty acids that penetrate into the underlying tissues. It can help with the appearance of stretch marks and aid in the prevention of premature ageing.

Organic Rose Oil - Damascena rose is a wonderful anti inflammatory agent and tissue regenerator. High in antioxidants with amazing hydration properties, it can also help reduce redness. Rosa Mosqueta oil has also been shown to be particularly beneficial in wound healing and scar reduction.

Sea Buckthorn Oil protects, heals and regenerates damaged skin by its high concentration of natural carotenoids, tocopherols, sterols and fatty acids. Natural antioxidants and fatty acids that aid reversal and damage caused by sun radiation whilst minimizing long term effects of sun exposure i.e. wrinkles, dryness and sunspots

Organic Pomegranate Oil – moisturises and nourishes skin restoring the skins PH balance, fights damage causing free radicals leaving the skin super soft and smooth

Lavender Essential Oil – the ideal item for a natural first aid kit. Well known for its wound healing, cleansing and toning properties and removing redness and heat from the skin.

Finally, in addition to the foods choices we make and the products we apply to our skin, there are also a number of well documented nutrient and beauty supporting compounds that can be taken in supplement form too. As a fundamental building block, a supplement containing the key skin nutrients vitamin C, beta carotene, biotin, zinc, copper and selenium and MSM is a worthy addition to any skin regime whilst Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) is one of the most researched and effective ‘inside-out’ cosmetics. It’s a naturally occurring complex of several bioavailable antioxidant nutrients and has been demonstrated to protect and increase collagen and hyaluronic acid levels in the skin whilst improving blood circulation to the skin and thus improving nutrient delivery too.

So as Summer approaches, now is the a perfect time to give your skin a helping hand and a bit of TLC. Prepare and protect your skin for the extra exposure to the sun, make sure it is hydrated whilst keeping that vital moisture locked in. Avoid exposure to unnecessary irritants and nourish your skin with lots of skin boosting foods! Go on! Love the skin you’re in!

For more information, or, to pick up your free skincare booklet, pop into Bare Health, Congleton. Your local, health and well being store.

The content of this article is for information purposes only and should not replace the advice of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your GP if taking prescribed medication or undergoing medical treatment of any form.

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