Some people say that our skin is a mirror to our overall health, you can tell a lot about a person from it. Whilst genetics play a part in our skin quality and appearance, is largely forgotten that our skin is a living breathing organ. We are constantly regenerating our skin approximately every 28 days. Therefore it makes sense that what we feed and water our skin with, from both inside and outside.
This blog is about how to get, and maintain, general healthy skin as we age. I am using a 360 degree approach with a little help from some colleagues who are experts in this area.
FEEDING the skin from the INSIDE
There are a number of ways we can help our skin from our diet and lifestyle.
Foodwise, the most important are –
Carotenoids (beta-carotene is the most well-known) are a type of phytochemical, the plant form of Vitamin A. They deliver localised antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support where needed. Interestingly they also offer the skin some protection from the sun. Find these in yellow orange and red vegetables and fruits – sweet potato, squash, melon, peppers etc.
Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that helps to protect the skin cell membranes from DNA damage. Find it in avocados, sunflower seeds, a variety of nuts and leafy green veg.
Omega 3 fats are needed for keeping skin cell membranes soft, supple, and strong. When skin cells work optimally, the skin as an organ will function better & retain more moisture. The richest source of Omega is oily fish (such as mackerel or salmon), also found in lesser quantities in linseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, algae, and green veggies.
Vitamin C (water soluble) – is essential for collagen production, to keep the skin firm and prevent sagging. Easily found in a wide range of brightly coloured fruits and veg (including greens) – the single highest source is in blackcurrants.
The impact of insulin – insulin spikes (from refined or excessive carbohydrates) are thought to be detrimental as excess sugar molecules bind to collagen & elastin, which ages the skin. Insulin is released when we eat carbohydrates that are refined, or excessive, or by themselves. So opting for wholegrain / wholemeal / skin on potatoes + eat with fibre, fat or protein is the best way to avoid this.
And of course I have to mention fluids. We all know that drinking plenty of water and non-caffeinated drinks provide our skin with hydration. Fruits and veg of course also provide liquid. Alcohol is not a friend to the skin!
In summary, eating a (predominantly) plant-based diet each week that incorporates variety in colour, texture and origin – fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains. Eat the rainbow as best you can on your timescale, budget and lifestyle.
Moving away from food now, perhaps the single best thing we can do for our skin is to try to stay calm. When we are stressed, the hormone cortisol can be really damaging. Cortisol increases oily skin (breakouts), redness, sensitivity, dullness. When you think about it, you can often see at a glance from a person’s face if they are stressed. Putting into place some calming techniques should pay dividends.
And of course so closely connected to stress is sleep. There is a vicious circle of needing our sleep more than ever when stress, yet it becoming ever more elusive. Nobody wants to look tired. So, managing sleep and stress, particularly as our skin ages, are also a priority.
I find with clients that often they forget about the outside of the skin – what products they use on and around their skin. With a certain amount being absorbed into the skin (the actual % seems to vary between studies), toiletries, make-up, and cleaning products are all really important to consider for skin health. Ever looked at the ingredients of your daily moisturiser? Still want to put that on your skin? Or perhaps why you might have wondered why your cleaning products can give you a headache. Chemically made high street brands are well known endocrine disrupters, which means they can upset hormone balance. Which, for those of us approaching the menopause, is the last thing we need.
So what should we use instead?
I got some help in this from a couple of experts in their area –
FEEDING the skin from OUTSIDE
‘Using natural skincare products is a wonderful way of nourishing our skin. Many plant oils, extracts, butters and waxes have all been used for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. This is because of their medicinal and healing properties. Isn’t it amazing that we are still using them now – this surely shows their efficacy! For example, argan oil has been used for centuries to treat skin conditions, and for its anti ageing and anti oxidant properties. It is still made using traditional methods by the Berber women of Morocco, so that it is the purest quality. This amazing oil is packed full of fatty acids, polyphenols and squalane. These help encourage skin cell regeneration, soften our skin and improve elasticity.
We can really TRUST natural and organic skincare. Most of the ingredients come from nuts, flowers, plants or seeds so they work as food for our skin! Natural skincare can be just as effective as mainstream skincare.
Many people suffer from sensitive skin, and it is often the unnatural / manmade ingredients that can cause irritation. There is much debate over how harmful these substances are as well as how many of these toxins are absorbed into our skin. The safest approach is to use products that are 100% natural or naturally derived. However, remember you do need to be careful with essential oils though. As although they are natural (and incredible!), they are potent and need to be used in very small amounts. ‘
Wendy Thomson has been making her own ecofriendly cleaning products since 2011 after discovering what synthetic chemicals were in most of them.
‘I feel that as well as taking care of our skin by knowing what it needs to be healthy and strong, we also need to think about the ways chemicals can still come into contact with it. This is especially for our hands, but also our whole body through washing powders and body washes. The main brand washing powders have up to 48 ingredients, of which only a quarter are added for cleaning properties. All the other chemicals are for the benefit of the manufacturer. Our skin’s pH is 6.5, slightly acid to allow for good bacterial to thrive. Using body washes which are alkaline will keep stripping the protective surface bacteria away.
So, my advice is look more closely at your household products. Start building your own list of ingredients and what they are needed for in a product. That way you can make well informed choices when you go shopping, and with what you are happy to regularly put on your skin.’
I hope you have found this blog on general skincare helpful.
Please do reach out to any of us with any questions or comments. Would like some coaching on how to integrate the above into your life to help boost your skin? You can contact me here, or text me on 07972 374150, for a free half hour chat to see how I can help you.