Your skin may sometimes just feel like an outer casing to keep all your organs in place and to protect you from the outside world but it plays a much bigger role than that. It is, in fact a very complex organ and is a reflection of your overall health.
By learning a little more about your skin you will begin to see how much it is influenced by what you eat and drink as well as your environment and the cosmetics you use. One of the most frequent questions I receive is ‘does what I eat really affect my skin’ I am here to tell you YES YES YES!!!
What is skin?
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. In fact in an adult it weighs around 5kg and has a surface area the size of 2 double beds! It is the only organ that is exposed to damage from the outer world and at the same time reflects internal conditions and emotions. Some skin disorders are confined to the skin, like warts, but most reflect what is going on inside. Take chicken pox as an eg – your immune system is trying to fight off an internal infection and the result is those pesky little dots all over your skin.
What does your skin do?
The skin plays many important roles in the body:
- It feels – meaning you can detect changes in temperature, feel pain and other sensations
- It regulates body temperature hence the reason we sweat
- Its absorbs and eliminates
- It protects you from infection
- It produces vitamin D
- It shows you what is going in inside your body. This is why we need to look at nutrition as well as a good skincare product if we want healthy glowing skin
How can I keep my skin strong and supple?
Your skin has a remarkable capability to stretch and then return to it’s original shape. 2 components are responsible for this amazing talent. The better you can keep these 2 bad boys nourished and in tip top shape, the better your skin will be.
- Collagen. This is a connective tissue that binds, supports and strengthens other tissues. The name comes from the greek word ‘Kolla’ which literally means glue – it basically holds us together. It is a tough, rigid structure that doesn’t stretch very much. Sunlight and the ageing of the body lessen its rigidity and ability to adapt to physical stresses.
- Elastin. If collagen is the yin, Elastin is it’s yang. It keeps your skin springy. It enables skin to spring back to it’s original size. The fibre’s that make up elastin can be stretched to almost twice their original size. Give it a go – pull on your ear lobe and see how far it will stretch!
What has all of this got to do with ageing?
Wrinkles are a combination of a few different factors:
A reduced ability in performance from our good old collagen and elastin along with damage to the skin cells through oxidation.
So what is the low down on this thing called oxidation?
Think of an apple that has fallen from a tree and been in the sun for a few weeks – wrinkled, shrivelled and brown…nice! This is what happens to our skin when it is exposed to chemicals and environmental factors. This includes cigarette smoke, chlorine, chemicals in our skincare and make up and extreme temperatures. On top of these we have internal process which bring on the signs of ageing. The bad boy here is oxidative damage. This is damage caused by free radicals. Think of a free radical like a pac man in your body. It is a rogue cell that wants to cause chaos and so this little pac man goes and nibbles on another cell turning him into a pac man…what does he do? The same to another cell so it is a domino effect.
Where do these free radicals come from?
They actually come from a source that is vital to us – oxygen! We need it but it makes us rusty! Go back to the apple analogy. If you slice an apple and expose the flesh to air,, it goes brown. This is what happens to us too. These free radicals cause a whole host of problems in our bodies as they can damage DNA as well as fats, proteins, and connective tissue
How can we stop free radical damage?
Limit your exposure to them. All of these cause oxidative damage:
- Burnt or browned food
- Tobacco smoke
- Petroleum based products. Be aware of this in your skincare and cosmetics. It Is ABUNDANT in them
- Exhaust fumes
- Viruses and Bacteria
Our bodies own energy production. That’s right, when you produce energy, you produce free radicals…darn it!
Of course not all are avoidable but limiting where possible will protect your skin and overall health.
Now on to the part you ALL want to know…how do I stay wrinkle free?
Here are my top 10 tips for smooth, supple, springy skin
1. Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen.
Eat a rainbow of vegetables at each meal to increase your Vitamin C intake.
2. Load your body with antioxidants.
These fight free radical damage, in other words they stop those pac men munching away at your cells. Antioxidants are abundant in colourful vegetables, fruits and you can opt to take a supplement too. 2 key antioxidant minerals that are vital for good skin are Zinc and selenium. Increase your intake of shellfish for zinc and brazil nuts for selenium
3. Drink enough water.
Collagen and Elastin are contained in a fluid which is made up of several substances including water. If you are dehydrated, collagen and elastin can not work efficiently
4. Ensure you are getting enough protein.
Your body is made of protein so if you aren’t giving it the correct building blocks, you won’t be able to repair damage to skin cells or produce new skin cells
5. Use products that do not contain petroleum.
This is a by product of the crude oil industry. You wouldn’t choose to slap a load of petrol on your skin so why use products that contain it
6. Avoid excessive sun exposure.
A little is good, a lot is not. Sunlight is crucial for vitamin D production but too much basking will leave you looking like a leather handbag.
7. Don’t smoke.
No more needs to be said!
8. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Sugar cross links with the collagen and elastin in your skin and causes it to become rigid. Remember we want to be able to bounce back
9. Go organic.
Limiting your intake of pesticides and herbicides will do the crows feet a favour or two
10. Eat fat.
It will not make you fat and you need good fats for soft, supple, springy skin. Omega 3 fats reduce inflammation and help to maintain water balance. Dry skin is because of lack of moisture in the skin and dry skin = old, wrinkled skin.