Hair, Skin, Nails : Nourishing the Skin from Within

Its not a scientific secret that balanced nutrition in the body is important for maintaining healthy skin. Nutrition may not produce striking rejuvenation, but neglecting the proper sustenance for skin will make it age considerably faster. Here are nutritional guidelines to keep your skin looking younger than you are.

Its naive to believe that changing your nutrition is going to wipe out all your wrinkles or completely stop skin aging. But it is just as naive to think that you can eat (or neglect to eat) whatever you want without any effect on your skin. What you eat affects every organ in your body, and skin - the largest organ - is no exception. Food intake, particularly the consumption of fat and sweet and spicy food, is known to influence skin conditions.

Health experts say our skin is the fingerprint of what is going on inside our body, and all skin conditions, from psoriasis to acne to aging, are the manifestations of our body's internal needs, including its nutritional needs. Every cell in the human body needs dozens of nutrients and metabolites. Some, like vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids need to come from food. Others are produced by the body, provided it is healthy and properly nourished. No skin cream can replace that.

Although skin cream may provide a number of important substances, it is never enough to ensure a proper, all-round skin nutrition. Applying a cream with nutrients to the surface of you skin does not ensure that those nutrients actually penetrate into your skin cells. How much of the active ingredients actually get into your skin cells depends on the skin's condition, concentration of the ingredients, manufacturing technology and many other factors.

But when the nutrients are ingested and absorbed into your bloodstream, they are sure to be delivered to your skin cells. Nutrients and foods that benefit your skin also tend to benefit other body systems and overall health. Of all the news coming from the beauty community about skin, the biggest buzz is about the power of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to give skin a more radiant, healthy, and youthful glow. Nutrition has some effect on the mechanisms of aging of the body as a whole. Inhibiting these mechanisms slows down the overall aging process, including the aging of the skin.

Deficiencies of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, B-complex, and essential fatty acids are known to cause various forms of dermatitis and other skin conditions. Proper nutrition may help partly inhibit physiological aging but does little to protect the skin from the outside world. The latter must be achieved by limiting sun exposure and the use of proper (UVA+UVB) sunblocks.

Skin condition, in general, is defined by a combination of surface texture, color, and physiologic properties, such as hydration, sebum content, and surface acidity. These skin characteristics are impacted by inside and outside (environmental factors), including aging, exposure to sunlight, chemicals, and mechanical damage.

Vitamins for Skin Nutrition

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the following vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients nourish your skin, whether you take them in supplement form, apply them directly to you skin, or make sure you get enough from the foods you eat. Many vitamins and some minerals can help improve skin health. Here's how:

Vitamins B1 and B2 are critical for energy production in the cells. Overt deficiencies of vitamins B1 and B2 are known to cause special forms of dermatitis (along with many other problems).

B12 (cyancobalamine) is essential for a variety of synthetic processes in the cells. The deficiency of this vitamin is particularly detrimental to neurons and rapidly dividing cells, including skin cells.

Folate participates in many of the same biochemical cascades as B12. Just as B12, it is particularly important for rapidly dividing cells, including skin cells.

Vitamins C and E are among the most important new dermatologic discoveries in the power of vitamins to counter the effects of sun exposure.

Zinc can clear skin by controlling oil production. It is also important in cell growth.

Biotin forms the basis for skin, nail, and hair cells and is easily obtained from diet, with little effort.

Vitamin A is critical for normal life cycle of skin cells. Vitamin A deficiency causes skin to become dry, fragile and prone to wrinkles.

Vitamin C, iron and copper are all important for the synthesis of collagen, a key structural protein in the skin.

Selenium can protect your skin against sun damage by helping to minimize the damage caused by free radicals.

The diet optimal for overall health is optimal for skin health as well. To ensure than all essential nutrients are consumed in adequate amounts, it is desirable to consume a wide variety of foods. The recommendation to consume a balanced diet comes from the Daily Food Guide developed by the US Department of Agriculture. Adults are advised to:

Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level. Many of the pigments responsible for the color of fruits and veggies are -- among other things -- potent antioxidants. These antioxidants help protect skin cells from damage by free radicals which are especially rampant in the skin due to environmental exposure.

Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.

Consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. At least half the grains should come from whole grains.

Consume three cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. A well-moisturized skin is somewhat less prone to developing of wrinkles. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day ensures proper hydration of the body and helps reduce skin dryness. Coffee and sodas are not a good substitute for water because they contain caffeine, which is a diuretic, i. e., a substance promoting the excretion of water via urine. Dont drink too much fluid 2-3 hours before going to bed. This may cause morning puffiness and excessively stretch your skin.

Except for frying yourself in direct sunlight at noon, or accumulating hours in a tanning bed, the quickest way to get wrinkles is to put on a lot of weight and then lose it. The reason is obvious: when you gain weight, extra fat stretches the skin, then, when you lose weight and body fat goes away, the skin sags and crumples up. Gaining and losing weight in cycles may have negative effects not only on the skin but on your overall health as well.

Dont forget that the journey towards healthy skin begins with good nutrition; a well-balanced diet is essential for healthy skin. It won't necessarily reverse damage that is already done, but it will prevent more damage and nourish your skin by supplying the essential vitamins and minerals that your skin needs to keep it looking healthy.
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