Our skin is our largest organ, and it is often the first thing people notice when they meet us. Our skin takes a beating—it is exposed to all the external temperatures and substances we experience daily. It protects our muscles and organs, helps regulate our temperature, and is crucial for our survival. Our skin is always in a constant state of renewal. It renews itself every 28 days, and we are constantly shedding dead skin—we shed between 30,000–40,000 skin cells every minute. That is about nine pounds a year! Now you know where much of the dust in your house comes from and why our mattresses get so heavy after a few years. Knowing all this, where do we start in better addressing the needs of our skin? Let’s look at the nutritional aspect of skin health—how what we consume inside impacts what we see on our outside.
People who suffer from acne can often see a difference by lowering their intake of dairy, sugary foods/drinks, and high-carb foods. Refined sugar is one of the worst foods for our skin—it causes inflammation in our bodies and can raise insulin levels, which increases oil gland activity and thus creating more acne-related conditions. In addition, refined sugar consumption can degrade collagen and elastin—which nobody wants to see on their skin! If you suffer from acne, try cutting down on your dairy and sugar intake for a month and see the impact on your skin. I know you will be happy, and you will not miss that candy bar, ice cream, or soda once you see the results.
Want younger-looking skin? Diets that are lower in fat and carbohydrates and higher in vitamin C have been shown to help slow the signs of aging in our skin. When we have a wound, from scratches to surgical sites, extra vitamins C, D, and zinc can help speed the healing process. Vitamin C can help encourage our bodies to grow new collagen and is topically applied in serum form in many popular skin regimens.
Green fruits and veggies also play an important role in our skin health. Vitamin A can slow the production of sebum (the oily, waxy substance you may sometimes see on your skin) and flushes out toxins. Vitamin E helps fight free radicals, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that helps repair and renew, lutein helps us boost hydration levels in our skin, and chlorophyll helps us with being the supreme protector against free radicals. In general, the leafier and darker green, the more stockpiled it is with these superhero nutrients for our skin. Eat up that broccoli and spinach and those green beans, kiwis, and green apples! There is also a lot of Vitamin C in those leafy greens.
When we ingest foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, we’re better able to retain the moisture in our skin that helps protect us from UV rays. When our skin is dry and dehydrated, we do not have the tools we need to adequately fight off the impact of UV rays. Our skin therefore ages faster; it can also crack and get chaffed and irritated. Proper hydration and intake of omega-3 fatty acids makes a positive impact on our skin. Whenever we have cracked, blemished, or irritated skin, it leaves that important protective barrier at risk for infection. Olive oil, avocados, sunflower seeds, salmon, and mackerel are all great resources for omega-3 fatty acids. Also strive to drink 6–8 glasses of water a day, but do not hesitate to drink more if your skin shows signs of dehydration. Listen to your body—it will often tell you what you need.
A final important fact to consider: the nutrients we absorb internally first go to the most vital organs, such as your heart, brain, and liver. Our skin is the one organ that can significantly benefit from the external absorption of nutrients as well as those we absorb internally. Once you have tackled the nutrition side of skin care, come see one of our students in our clinic at Cortiva Institute in Cromwell for a facial, and further learn how to take care of your skin. They will analyze your skin and customize a treatment plan for your areas of concern.
Elisabeth Johnson is the Campus Director of Cortiva Institute in Cromwell, CT. Cortiva offers a robust Massage Therapy and Esthetics program as well as CEU courses for advanced training. She can be reached at 860.667.1886 or at email@example.com. Elisabeth resides in the Stony Creek section of Branford with her boyfriend Chris and his three kids—Chloe, Katie, and Max—and their dog Juniper.