Eating your way to healthy skin

Skin is often a good reflection of our inner health, which is why it is said that the key to healthy, flawless skin starts from the inside, not the outside. This is why our nutritional status plays a huge role in the appearance, health and maintenance of our skin through the life stages. As much as we may try to hide it, the appearance of our skin changes dramatically as we age, but whatever stage of life you have reached, it is likely that you still aspire to have flawless skin that gives off that ‘healthy glow’ that everyone seeks.

When it comes to healthy skin, there is unfortunately no magic fix. That one hundred pound skin cream promising to knock years off your real age and blind you with science on the label, is not going to suddenly make you wonderfully unrecognizable. However, ensuring your daily diet is packed full of ‘skin healthy’ foods can certainly make a big impact on skin health, both in the short and long term. You are never too old to start to improve the health and appearance of the skin and it is often in these autumn and winter months ahead that our skin takes a real hammering, especially with the central heating in full force. So whether your skin is too dry, too oily, too wrinkly, too flaky, or all of the above, read on to see what foods can help change this.

Dry and cracked skin

Dry skin can be a real problem, especially at this time of the year when central heating is switched on, which strips the skin of its natural moisture. Dry skin can feel tight and itchy and in appearance it can certainly lack luster and if that wasn’t bad enough, dry skin is more prone to developing wrinkles.

It’s an obvious one, but one of the biggest causes of dry skin or cracking skin is dehydration. If fluid is lacking in the body, your skin is going to suffer and even a small amount of dehydration makes a big impact on the skin. So the only solution here is to drink more water! Remember caffeine is considered a diuretic when drunk in large amounts, so if you are someone that drinks multiple coffees or teas every day, especially if you like it strong, this will have a negative impact on general skin health as it will deplete the skin’s moisture content. Alcohol also has a negative impact on the appearance of the skin, as it dehydrates the skin and also causes inflammation resulting in skin reddening especially around the facial area.

Oily fish is a must for people with dry skin. The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids contained in oily fish play a critical role in skin health. These fatty acids are responsible for the health of the cell membranes that help make up parts of the skin.

Healthy cell membranes result in supple, moist, soft and wrinkle-free skin so play a big part in achieving that ‘healthy glow’. Omega 6 in particular, is involved in maintaining the barrier function of the skin, which helps prevent the loss of ‘good’ things and prevent the entering of ‘bad’ things through the skin’s surface. Most people fall short on the dietary guidelines, which state you should aim to consume oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines, at least once every week. A portion size is about 140g when cooked.

Almonds are also fantastic for dry skin as they are a high source of Vitamin E, which helps moisturise the skin as well as repair skin damage. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant which can help reduce inflammation of the skin, so can be especially helpful for those suffering from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. 

If you are someone that likes the heating on full whack, one simple thing you can do is to place a small bowl of water in the main rooms of the house you spend most of your time. This water will evaporate overtime making the air more humid and less drying to the skin.

Oily Skin

The oil produced by the skin is called sebum, which is important as it helps to lubricate and waterproof the skin. However some people can produce too much sebum, leaving a classic case of oily skin and an

unwanted shine. If this is you, then the top foods you should be eating are lamb, pumpkin seeds, beef, chickpeas, lentils, cocoa / very dark chocolate, spinach and cashew nuts. You might be thinking well that’s a varied list of random foods, but the relation between them is that they are all high in the mineral zinc and when it comes to oily skin, zinc is a must. Zinc actually helps reduce the levels of sebum that the skin produces, so a diet high in zinc can help control and reduce oily skin.

Due to the effect that zinc has on sebum production, people who suffer with acne often benefit from eating foods high in zinc or taking a zinc supplement, as the skins pores get clogged with sebum in acne sufferers so reducing sebum levels is certainly beneficial here.

Anti-aging & wrinkles

We may not be able to truly reverse the aging process, but we can certainly try and there are some foods which we know to be helpful in the fight against aging skin. Citrus fruits are one such food. Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and limes are all packed with Vitamin C, which is one of the skins best vitamin friends due to its powerful antioxidant activity. Vitamin C helps plump up collagen (the protein within skin that gives skin its strength and elasticity), reduces the appearance of age spots, helps reduce the appearance of sun damage and also reduces skin dryness. Some studies have shown that higher intakes of vitamin C lead to better skin appearance with a notable decrease in skin wrinkling. The good effects don’t stop there either. Vitamin C is now one of the main ingredients in many topical creams and moisturisers aimed at the anti-aging market. Applying creams that have a high content of vitamin C (3-10%) showed to be beneficial in reducing the appearance of wrinkles as well as increasing collagen production, which naturally decreases as we age.

Pomegranates have a range of health benefits stemming mainly from the polyphenol antioxidants that are found in abundance in this fruit and its juice. These compounds help protect the skin from the suns rays,

which we know to be a main cause of premature aging of the skin. Pomegranate seeds also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the breakdown of collagen, so again this can help reduce the signs of skin aging. Other foods containing ellagic acid include pecans, walnuts, grapes and raspberries so add them to your shopping list too.

One advantage of being older is that we are no longer forced to eat our vegetables, however we should now be old enough to know that eating them is to our advantage! This is certainly the case when it comes to maintaining the health of our skin. Carrots, kale and sweet potato should be big on the menu here due to their high content of Vitamin A, which is critical for new skin cell production and also promotes the skin’s natural moisturising ability.

One thing that has been used throughout history for promoting skin care is goats’ milk. Goats milk cosmetics such as soaps and topical creams are increasingly popular, especially amongst those suffering from skin problems such as eczema, acne or dry skin. Remember though that skin health starts on the inside and with goats’ dairy products containing important nutrients, such as selenium and the hypoallergenic properties that research shows goats’ dairy has, it’s a good addition to your diet for helping to improve general skin health.  

Eggs are known to be one of the best fast foods and are certainly a power house of nutrients containing numerous skin boosting vitamins, namely vitamin B5, A and E. All of these can really help reduce the signs

of skin aging in various ways. B5 actually increases levels of an antioxidant called glutathione in the body’s cells. This increase in glutathione protects against cell membrane damage and reduces the effects of sun damage, both of which help reduce the signs of premature aging including the prevention of wrinkles.

Itching Skin

Itchy skin can be a problem that can occur for a variety of reasons including certain skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis as well as food intolerance or even just very dry skin. Constant scratching can lead to further skin damage and bleeding, which can leave the skin more susceptible to infection and over time can make the skin look older than it is. Intolerable itching of the skin can be helped by baking soda, an ingredient found in many kitchen cupboards. Adding a cup full of baking soda to a bath is excellent for alleviating itchy skin, whether it be caused by eczema, psoriasis, insect bites or an intolerance to something, baking soda can work wonders in helping to offer some relief.

Unfortunately there is no special elixir that can create flawless skin and the directions to the fountain of youth have yet to be disclosed. However small changes in your diet and an improvement in your nutritional status will undoubtedly help.

• Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging, 2012. Dermatoendocrinology
• The effect of zinc on the sebum secretion rate, 1980. Acta Derm Venereol.
• The relationship of diet and acne, 2010. Dermatoendocrinology
• The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health, 2017. Nutrients
• Review on Medicinal and Nutritional Values of Goat Milk, 2014. Academic Journal of Nutrition

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