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Eating for healthy skin

How do we actually eat to achieve and maintain healthy skin? Good question.

There is so much information out there about how to achieve healthy skin, but it is can be difficult to determine which of these tips and tricks are going to be right for you.

The science behind healthy skin is complex but does offer a lot of answers to this widely asked question.  

Our skin has 2 layers – the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis serves as a barrier to prevent nasty microbes from entering our bodies, while the dermis lays beneath, providing nutritional support to the epidermis.

Although hormones, immune function, and other factors can significantly affect the health of the skin, nutrition definitely plays an important role in skin health.

Essential fatty acids (EFAS):

These are types of fatty acids that we can’t produce in the body and therefore, must be consumed via the diet. EFAs such as Omega 3s and 6s are key components of all cell membranes, including the cells of the skin. They are also involved in maintaining the natural oil barrier of the skin, which is essential for hydration. When there are inadequate EFAs (or water intake) in the diet, this can cause dry skin.

Foods high in EFAs include oily fish such as salmon and tuna, as well as flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds. Plant-based oil such as flaxseed or soybean oil is also great source of EFAs.

Zinc:

Zinc may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you consider healthy skin, but this fantastic mineral may just improve the health of your skin more than any other nutrient! Studies have shown zinc to be more effective for acne reduction than the most commonly used medical acne treatment; minocycline (which is an antibiotic!).

Zinc is an antioxidant, boosts immune functioning and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. These actions make it seriously effective in reducing the severity of acne and promoting skin cell repair and controlling the production of oil in the skin.

Great sources of zinc include chickpea, beans, lean beef, chicken and oysters.

Vitamin A, E and C in response to prolonged sun exposure: 

Excessive exposure to sunlight causes ultraviolet (UV) damage to the cells of the skin. This UV damage depletes the skin’s antioxidant levels and can produce free radicals and photodamage to the skin, which can cause prematurely aged skin as well as increased risk of skin cancer.

Nutrients such as Vitamin A, E, and C are antioxidants that can aid in repairing damaged skin cells and reducing the free radicals produced.

What should I avoid?

As you may expect, avoiding processed foods and excess sugar is key to achieving and maintaining healthy skin. The fewer toxins present in the body, the less it has to process and eliminate. The skin is, in fact, an excretory organ, therefore, if the body has to process and excrete a lot of toxins, your skin will know about it!

Drinking plenty of water is also essential to maintain hydration of the body, and subsequently the skin.

Finally, a high intake of dairy products may also increase the severity of acne in some people, although the link here still needs more research and should be discussed with a medical professional if you want to trial reducing dairy in your diet.

It is hypothesized that cow’s milk contains components that are related to the hormone testosterone. Increased testosterone levels are linked with increased acne; therefore, it is suggested that this may be a reason for increased acne in some people who consume dairy.  

The most important advice around eating for healthy skins is to remember that your skin health is a reflection of what you eat! Focus on consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Drink plenty of water and reduce stress in your life wherever you can. These simple changes are often all it takes to achieve healthy, glowing skin.  

Written By : Esther Rijk, Dietitian
Do you want to know more? Contact Esther at rijkesther@gmail.com