In this blog post I discuss why it is essential to look after your skin and the best foods for skin health. Skin conditions can range from rashes, redness, dryness to more serious conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea. A day doesn’t go by in the pharmacy where I don’t do a consultation with a customer regarding a skin complaint. There can be many factors at play like hormonal imbalance and gut issues especially with acne, rosacea and psoriasis but eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water should be part of any skin condition management plan.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and forms a protective barrier for the internal organs, muscles, tissues and bones. It helps regulate body temperature, is responsible for vitamin D production and the sensations of heat, cold and touch. Importantly it can act as a window to overall health.
Protecting your skin externally is essential by wearing SPF when exposed to the sun’s UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning) rays and reducing the toxin load from cosmetic products applied to it. However it is just as important to nourish it from within through your diet and by reducing stress and getting enough sleep.
Having healthy glowing skin starts from within so what nutrients are key to skin health and which foods can you eat to boost levels?
1. Vitamin A
There are two types of vitamin A, beta carotene and retinol, both are important for skin health. Beta carotene (a form of vitamin A) acts as provitamin A and is then converted to it’s active form in the body. Vitamin A carotenoids are powerful antioxidants and protect skin cells from damage from sun exposure. It is typically found in the yellow/orange group of fruit and vegetables but also dark green leafy vegetables. Sources include sweet potato, carrots, tomatoes, mango, apricot, red and yellow peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli. Retinol is preformed vitamin A and stimulates production of new skin cells. Retinoids can be found in animal products – salmon, beef liver, eggs, dairy products, cod liver oil, fish.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C supports collagen (one of the main proteins found in skin) production and supports wound healing. It is a powerful antioxidant protecting against free radicals which can cause skin ageing. It is found in a lot of similar foods as vitamin A. Sources include kiwis, oranges, lemons, berries, grapefruit, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale and parsley.
3. Omega 3 & 6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Healthy fats are crucial for healthy, strong and hydrated skin. In fact dry flaky skin can be a sign of omega 3 deficiency. They are essential as they cannot be made in the body therefore must be taken in through the diet. Omega 3s in particular help to reduce inflammation which can cause redness in the skin and is often a feature of acne. Sources of omega 3s include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring), flax seed and flax seed oil, chia seeds, soybeans, walnuts, omega-3 rich eggs, hemp seeds. Omega 6s are mainly found in vegetable oils like sunflower, canola and safflower oil and nuts including walnuts, almonds and cashews and seeds like sunflower and hemp seeds. Avocados and avocado oil as well as tofu and eggs also contain omega 6s. The ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s is also important, ideally this should be 4:1 or less but in the Western diet it can be anywhere from 10:1 to 50:1. The reason for this is omega 6s are proinflammatory whereas omega 3s are antiinflammatory so maintaining a healthy ratio is extremely important not just for skin health but overall health in terms of inflammation in the body.
Zinc is essential for vitamin A transportation, wound healing, sebum regulation and skin cell turnover. It is found in red meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts (cashews and almonds), pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, eggs, dairy and wholegrains.
5. B Vitamins
The skin needs B vitamins, in particular B2, B3, B5 and B6 to utilise EFAs efficiently, to regulate skin cell turnover and sebum production. They are found in wholegrains, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, meat and dairy products.
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E, like vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and is a powerful antioxidant protecting from damage by free radicals. Sources include salmon, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, vegetable oils, spinach, broccoli and other green vegetables.
Protein is a macronutrient and is one of the main building blocks of skin. It is essential for maintaining skin intergrity, elasticity and plumpness with the proteins collagen, keratin and elastin all involved in skin health. Protein is found in both animal and plant products and so is readily available in the diet. Animal sources are generally complete proteins, meaning the contain adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. Plant sources on the other hand tend to be incomplete so it is important to eat a variety of plant sources to ensure you get all the essential amino acids.
We can spend a lot of time focusing on the health of internal organs like the heart, liver and kidneys but the skin is also integral to overall health. As you can see eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, wholegrains, oily fish and other whole foods will boost both the health and appearance of skin and protect against sun damage and ageing. What ways do you look after your skin both internally and externally?
If you would like some support with your skin health then why not get in contact with me today to discuss your goals.