Healthy Skin is Beautiful Skin
Beauty and confidence start with what you put inside your body and taking care of yourself. This, of course, includes emotional regulation and stress management. Both skin’s physical and emotional importance is often overlooked until things start to look “bad”. Looking your best means feeling your best and vice-versa. When patients are not getting enough micronutrients and macronutrients, deficiencies can manifest in the skin, hair, and nails. Stay well hydrated; eat nutrient-dense foods that are right for your unique body and optimize digestion so you absorb everything you should and eliminate anything you don’t need. Proper hygiene is important but washing too frequently and using harsh soaps / sanitizers or water that is too hot will lead to skin dryness. End showers with a cold blast and moisturize immediately after to rehydrate and replenish lost oils.
Skin provides a barrier, a physical boundary
Skin is what separates and protects us from the environment. It’s naturally thicker in areas where there’s more abrasion (e.g., hands, soles, lips) and contains specialized structures (e.g., sweat and oil glands, hair follicles, sensory receptors). When it’s well functioning, irritants and microbes are kept out while hydration and moisture are retained. Skin that is flaky, sensitive, dry, acne-prone, or otherwise inflamed signals that the protective barrier has been compromised. The breach may have been associated with an immune or hormonal condition (eczema, psoriasis, allergies, low thyroid, menopause, diabetes, etc.) but our emotions (stress, anxiety and fear) often make it worse, or even bring it on. In the world of mind-body medicine, chronic skin problems are associated with an unmet desire to keep ourselves at a “safe” distance from others and attend to our own needs. These “boundary” issues can include letting things get under our skin, which irritate us.
Strengthening our boundary
Our skin’s appearance not only affects our feelings about ourselves but also people’s first impressions of us. Further, it can affect our social and psychological development and health. Louise Hay recommends saying “I approve of myself” several times a day to affirm our ability to stand up for and accept ourselves. Dry skin brushing is an invigorating act of self-care that can improve skin’s texture, circulation of blood and lymph, and attunement with one’s body. Judicious use of supplements can also help, especially when there are absorption issues or difficulty eating a balanced diet.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, 80-90% consists of Types I,II, & III. It’s considered “anti-aging” due to its skin, joint, and other benefits. Marine sources are superior at raising Type I collagen levels, the most dominant type, which also helps maintain skin’s elasticity and firmness. Besides fish, collagen can be sourced from cows, chicken, and eggs.
Biotin (vitamin B7) deficiency is rare, but those who consume large amounts of raw egg, tube feed, have short bowel syndrome, are on chronic antibiotic therapy, pregnant or breastfeeding are at higher risk. It may benefit those with brittle nails, hair loss, or scaly rashes (like seborrheic dermatitis) and skin pallor who are deficient. Food sources include animal protein, egg yolks, nuts, legumes, leafy greens, cauliflower, and mushrooms.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) mainly consist of linoleic acid (sunflower, grapeseed, hemp, wheat germ, etc.), an omega-6 FA, and a variety of omega-3 FAs, including plant-based ALA (flax, soybean, canola, pumpkin seed, walnuts, etc.), which can be converted to EPA and DHA (naturally found in fish / sea-based food). EFAs are crucial to skin function and appearance and can even be applied topically (directly to the skin) to improve hydration and elasticity and prevent breakdown.
Lycopene is a carotenoid found in tomatoes and also abundantly in our skin. Sun exposure decreases concentrations of this antioxidant through oxidative damage. A tomato a day helps protect skin from environmental damage (sun, pollution, smoke, etc.), excess pigmentation (melasma), and premature aging. Other skin-specific antioxidants with solar protectant and free radical scavenging effects include carotenoids (beta-carotene, astaxanthin), vitamin C & E, soy isoflavones, polyphenols (green tea, wine, dark chocolate), resveratrol, fern leaf extract (Polypodium leucotomos), etc.
Protecting our boundary from the Sun
As the weather gets warmer and our shadows become shorter, our ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure increases. It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen anytime the UV rating is 3 (moderate) or higher. UVA is responsible for aging, while UVB primarily causes sunburns. In excess, both can suppress the immune system and increase the risk of skin cancer. Protect yourself and your family by being sun smart: use broad-spectrum sunscreen properly (as indicated on the bottle, ~2 tbsp. is needed for full coverage of the average adult); cover up with a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing (when possible); and seek shade (shelter, umbrella, tree, etc.). While UVB exposure is needed for vitamin D production, most “real world” application of sunscreen still leaves room for absorption. Avoid the sun for at least one week after a burn and get plenty of fluids, also consider adding more antioxidant foods and products to your daily routine to boost internal protection.
This is “the skinny” on achieving beautiful skin health from the inside out. Looking your best is synonymous with feeling your best. Practice radical self-acceptance and respect your bio-individuality not only when it comes to diet but all areas of life, including but not limited to susceptibility to certain health conditions, sun tolerance, and sensitivities.