Last Saturday was a typical day for me. I woke up late, not because I was out partying all of Friday night, but because it has been a very long week of grinding and I spent most of my Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday morning working on my businesses. Popular to contrary belief, being an entrepreneur is not all cocktail parties, book signings and event speaking in front of large crowds. After waking up and looking into the bathroom mirror, it dawned on me that my face looked more tired than usual. The skin on my face felt dry and not as stretchy as usual. A classic sign of water dehydration.
After booting up my laptop and starting to research on what to write for this blog, I needed a break and decided to put the television on for few minutes. Within 10 minutes I had viewed 3 different adverts for products that promised clearer skin. Whilst there is nothing wrong in applying products topically to your skin, it got me thinking about how the outside of your body is expressing what is going on in the inside. Indeed beauty is truly deeper than skin. It is physical, physiological, psychological and emotional.
So before I get into the details of this blog, let me explain what skin is! The skin is the largest organ in the body with a total area of approximately 20 square feet. Skin is designed to protect our microbes, regulate body temperature and permits the sensations of touch, heat and cold. It has three layers :
The skin's colour is created by special cells called melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin. Melanocytes are located in the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) . The skin also also acts as a reservoir for the synthesis of Vitamin D .
So what is that is so important about our skin? Why do most people fascinate with having good, clear skin? Why do some people freak out at the first sign of wrinkles and run to the nearest botox clinic? The answer is simple. As human beings, we want to project the best version of ourselves. We want to look good, have the appearance of being attractive and skin is a major factor in this. It is after all not hideable and seen by everyone.
There are some things that are commonly known to cause bad skin. Sugar is most certainly one of them. Sugar or high-glycemic foods quickly convert to sugar. This in turn raises insulin levels and puts unnatural demands on your body to deal with the food you just ate. Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, white bread and soda, cause your insulin levels to spike, which leads to what Dr. Nicolas Perricone describes as “a burst of inflammation throughout the body .”
Digested sugar permanently attaches to the collagen in your skin through a process known as glycation. Aside from increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Plus, the more sugar you eat, the more likely it is you’ll develop insulin resistance, which can manifest as excess hair growth (hirsutism) and dark patches on the neck and in body creases.
Simple carbohydrates are the worst offenders : white bread, candy, fried food, ice cream, fruit juice, pasta, ketchup, cream cheese, jam, pizza, sugar (white and brown), packaged snacks and sodas. Common and uncommon names for sugar – see all the “other” names for sugar that you may be unaware of .
In addition to this there is another culprit that is known to contribute to ‘bad’ or what I call ‘not optimal’ skin. This culprit is consumed by hundreds of millions of people on a daily basis. Yes you guessed it, it's coffee! Why is coffee the culprit? Long, scientific story short: It’s because coffee is highly acidic. High doses of acidic caffeine mess with your hormones, namely your stress hormones, which control your skin’s oil production. On top of that, it can act as a diuretic, dehydrating your skin if you drink too much .
Dehydration is a very common skin condition. Dehydration is the loss of water from the body. Dehydration, is the skin’s inability to retain its limited moisture in the epidermis. The quantity of water transmitted from the inside (dermal reserve) to the outside layers (epidermal) of the skin, is dependent on the level of internal hydration. Trans-dermal water loss or flow (TEWL) is the movement of water through the epidermis. People often get confused between dehydration and dryness. DRYNESS is lack of oil on the skin and DEHYDRATION is lack of moisture in the skin. Skin feels a little like tissue paper. If you feel a baby's skin, it feels soft and plump. Whilst dehydrated skin feels less dense and dull . To see tips on how to stay hydrated, read my blog on water and hydration.
Another factor that is close to most people’s hearts is the amount of sun exposure the skin can be exposed to. The sun is the source of all energy, and it brings with it many benefits, from sustaining life by plant photosynthesis to aiding the production of vitamin D in humans. However, as with most biological processes, there is a balance; sun exposure is good, but there is a limit, and too much sun exposure can be harmful, especially for the skin . Like its been stated, there needs to be a balance.
For years we have been told to cover up in the sun to cut the risk of getting skin cancer. But now it seems that a little bit of sunshine on your body is actually good for you. Studies have shown that a sensible amount of sun reduces your risk of several cancers and other serious health conditions. And it's all thanks to vitamin D, which is made by our bodies through the action of the sun's UVB rays on our skin.
Professor Michael Holick, of Boston University School of Medicine and author of The UV Advantage, says: "We get about 90 to 95 per cent of our vitamin D from the sun. It is essential for absorbing calcium, keeping our bones healthy, and for protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many common cancers." He advises that we should go out in the sun without sunblock for between five and 15 minutes a day, at least three times a week in spring and summer, to boost our vitamin D levels .
In addition to this, let's look at what else can be done to help with keeping our skin looking young and healthy. As always, I always begin with food! So here’s some foods that will help with your skin; firstly my favourite, oily fish! Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring are excellent foods for healthy skin. The Omega-3 fats in fish reduce inflammation and make your skin less sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays [8,9]. Fatty fish are also a source of vitamin E, which is one of the most important antioxidants for the skin. Getting enough vitamin E is essential for protecting the skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation .
Secondly, I would recommend avocados. Avocados are a great source of antioxidant carotenoids like alpha-carotene, beta carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein. These free radical quenching compounds provide significant protection for your skin from the environmental damage that leads to fine lines, wrinkles and other visible signs of aging. High amounts of carotenoids in your diet have been shown in scientific studies to improve your skin’s density, thickness, tone and general appearance.
A diet high in avocado is good for your skin, and particularly your face, in the way its fatty acids moisturize and soften your skin cells. When you eat avocados you are also giving your body a lot of skin protecting antioxidants, like beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, to prevent wrinkles and slow down the visible signs of aging. If you need any more reasons to eat them, there are 9 more health benefits of avocado here, including losing weight, better digestion and lowering your risk of serious health problems like heart disease and cancer .
Sweet potatoes are also an excellent food to keep your skin healthy. Beta-carotene is a nutrient found in plants. It can be converted into vitamin A in the body, and it’s found in orange and dark-green vegetables such as carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of it. One 1/2-cup serving (100 grams) of baked sweet potato contains enough beta-carotene to provide nearly four times the RDI of vitamin A . Carotenoids like beta-carotene help keep your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock. When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and protects your skin cells from sun exposure. This may help prevent sunburn, cell death and the resulting effects of dry, wrinkled skin. Interestingly, beta-carotene may also add a warm, orange color to your skin, contributing to an overall healthier look .
Other good sources of food for the skin are walnuts, seeds, tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, dark chocolate, red wine, green tea and extra virgin olive oil. What do all these have in common? They are packed full of nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, lycopenes, carotenoids and isoflavones. All of these help the body function and some such as vitamin C are not stored by the body. Therefore consumption of these daily and even with every meal is required for good skin health.
As well as getting avoiding sugary and processed foods, keeping coffee intake to a minimum, staying hydrated by drinking lots of water and eating a diet rich in nutrients, etc. as mentioned above, the following are also good tips for healthy skin:
EXERCISE! Yes exercising is great for your skin. The toxins and excessive secretion of oils by skin glands are the prime causes for your skin problems. Exercising regularly does not only help in keeping your weight under control, but it also stimulates blood circulation throughout your body including face. Sweating during exercise results in to opening up of the pores of your body including face. After exercising, take shower and wash your face to get rid of sweat and toxins. This will help in getting clear skin. During teenage years, acne is developed mainly because of an escalation in the work of hormones. Exercising regularly helps in regulating the surge of hormones .
Washing your clothes using environmentally friendly washing powders can also help those with sensitive skin. Regular washing powders are made using chemicals. Not all of these are natural and the side effect of these is that they can cause skin rashes, itching and other adverse reactions. Using environmentally friendly brands such as eCover can help with your skin conditions. They do a range of products that range from washing powders, dishwashing soap, household sprays, fabric conditioners and hand soaps too. I have personally been using them for over a year now and am very happy with their products. They are available online and in most supermarkets and health food shops.
The last thing I wish to cover in this vast topic of the skin which could be discussed in detail for a long time, is topical things that are applied onto skins. Mostly makeup that is used on the skin. If I ever get the train into London during peak times in the morning, I see an army of girls sitting down on the train, their faces getting plastered with mascara, foundation and lipstick. That’s about as far as my makeup knowledge goes. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy looking at a pretty looking face that has a ‘regular’ amount of makeup as much as the next red blooded male. I’m not advocating that women stop wearing makeup to clear their skin, that is a personal choice for every person to make themselves. What I am advocating is using good, organic and harmful chemical free products.
The problem with traditional makeup is that it causes a number of skin conditions . So their is a vicious circle here. The average woman working in a western city, will wake up and not be happy with her skin. So she’ll wear makeup, drink a few cups of coffee a day, have a very ‘western’ diet. All of this leads to further damage to her skin. So what does she do? Yes, apply more makeup to hide the bad skin! To break this cycle, I would suggest using good organic brands of makeup and skincare. Neal’s Yard Remedies is an organic based company in the UK that prides itself on creating makeup and skincare that is fully sourced from organic ingredients that are gentle on the skin. They are a truly green company that take pride in organic health and beauty.
In conclusion, I would suggest that staying hydrated, avoiding sugary foods, cutting down on the coffees, having foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and different colours as well as using ethical and organic sourced beauty and skin care products, absorbing sunlight safely and exercising will help you maintain good, clean and healthy skin. Processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. The plate you eat should be rich in colours, such as greens, reds, oranges and whites. If you think you require support with your skin or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com