If you want glowing and vibrant skin that looks young and feels nourished, then your number one priority is your diet, writes naturopath Jennifer McLennan.
True beauty comes from within, and the skin is no exception. Treating your skin from the inside out nourishes, hydrates and provides antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fats. Conversely, a poor diet and external factors like detergents and weather can affect your skin and cause dryness.
The top part of the skin is predominantly made up of layers of flattened keratin (protein) filled cells that form a hard, protective shield. These cells take 25-45 days to migrate from the basal (bottom) layer of the epidermis to the top. As they get closer to the top they flatten and become more keratin filled, looking more like randomly stacked dishes. In between these epidermal cells are lipids (fatty acids) which form a water-tight barrier.
Did you know? The average person sheds 18 kg of dry skin flakes in a lifetime!
Essential fatty acids are needed to provide healthy skin cells and moisture to the top layers of the skin. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in the following foods:
- Sesame seeds 21.3 g/100 g
- Cashew Nuts 7.8 g/100 g
- Almonds 12.2 g/100 g
- Walnuts 38 g/100 g
Gamma linolenic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid found naturally in borage and evening primrose oils, has been found to be specifically helpful in maintaining moisture in the skin.
Other recommendations for keeping your skin well nourished:
- Eating a diet high in essential nutrients and antioxidants is imperative for healthy-looking skin. Nutrients are delivered to the skin via circulation.
- Munch on nuts and seeds every day. Make your own trail mix with linseeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds and other nuts for a skin saver that will work from the inside out.
- Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulphate. This is a chemical found in most shampoos, liquid body washes, soaps and detergents. It strips back the oils in the skin.
- Avoid harsh chemicals. The skin, like the liver, is an organ of elimination and is not immune to chemicals, solvents or synthetic products.
- Many of these can get through the skin’s layers and can cause damage leading to a lack of moisture.
- Gentle regular exfoliation with a mitt or a natural cleanser can remove old skin cells that look dry and undernourished. This can be especially helpful in winter. Drink plenty of water. Aim for 2 litres per day; this will help keep the skin hydrated.
- Avoid harsh weather conditions. Too much wind and sun can dry out your skin cells and cause damage. Always cover up in the sun with a hat, sunglasses and SPF30+ sunscreen, and moisturise regularly after sun exposure. Buy a good natural moisturiser free of fragrance; you can even pierce an evening primrose oil capsule and mix it in.
References available on request