Everyone wants better, more supple skin, but not everyone is aware that skincare doesn’t *start* with cleansers and cremes. Some of us have oily skin, while others may have dry skin, patchy skin, etc., but how do you determine what’s causing your skin type, and is it possible to get a more balanced complexion? As your external-most organ on your body, your skin can take a toll from a variety of environmental toxins. But what many of us forget is that our skin also balances internal toxins too. That’s why it’s important to know that skin care basics start with how we are treating and fueling our bodies from the inside out.
Your skin needs deep sleep to repair itself
It’s no secret that sleep is an important factor in how you feel, but did you know that sleep is just as important for healthy, young-looking skin? This is because some very important processes take place while you are in a deep sleep state, including the regeneration and repairing of your blood, brain cells, muscles, and skin (1). Collagen, one of the most abundant and necessary building block proteins in your body, is also created during the deepest stage of sleep. As the largest organ in your body, your skin requires collagen for elasticity, strength, and to repair itself from daily wear and tear. If you aren’t in a deep sleep state for enough time, or aren’t fully reaching deep sleep, these repairing and regenerating processes can’t take place. There may be a bit of truth to “getting your beauty sleep” after all.
Maintain a nutrient-dense and low-toxin dietIt may seem silly, but the phrase “you are what you eat” has some validity. Although, it may be more fitting to say, “your skin is the window to your diet”. Our skin is like any other organ in our body in that it requires a variety of quality nutrients to perform at its best. Eating a nutrient-dense diet generally means eating foods that contain essential minerals, vitamins, proteins, complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fats, and amino acids. One study found that a high intake of vegetables, legumes, and olive oil aided in the protection of wrinkles, whereas a high intake of meat, dairy, and butter appeared to have the opposite effect (3).
Equally as important as eating an array of fruits and vegetables is the limitation of toxin-heavy foods that contain added sugar and sugar substitutes such as high-fructose corn syrup. In addition to sugar, additives such as food dyes, chemicals, GMO ingredients, and preservatives can cause breakouts, skin rashes, hives, and other skin issues (4).
If you’ve already tried every trick in the book to rid your face or skin of acne, you may have an underlying food allergy or hormonal imbalance (5). Some common food allergens that are known to cause skin disturbances are dairy, gluten, soy, corn, and eggs. The best way to narrow it down is by doing an elimination diet – removing the foods you suspect are causing the issue one at a time and journaling your results. Additionally, remember to grab a full glass of water every hour or two. Water flushes out toxins while keeping cells hydrated.
Manage levels of stress
Stress is extremely destructive to our health. It impacts sleep, it taxes your adrenal glands, and damages the youthfulness of skin (7). When we are stressed, our bodies create more of the hormone, cortisol, which also triggers the oil glands in our skin to produce more than they should. In combination with bacteria, dead skin, and inflammation, this can clog pores and cause bad breakouts. Additionally, stress impacts the production and integrity of collagen (6) – the main protein in our skin that gives it the full plump look. Without proper collagen production, our skin may become saggy, wrinkled, and dry.
Stress may not always be avoidable, but we can aim to control how we process stress. Positive ways you can cope include meditation, deep breathing, taking a short walk or break from what you’re doing, choosing a mantra, setting boundaries, or talking to someone you trust.
Protect your skin from the Sun’s UV RaysIt’s no secret that the sun can damage skin, create wrinkles, and even cause cancer. At the same time, who doesn’t love a summer sun-kissed body? You don’t have to lock yourself indoors to save your skin. Instead, as you pack your beach bag, bring a wide brimmed hat, a cover-up or an umbrella for shade, some SPF 30-50, and try to avoid the early afternoon hours when the sun is at its highest and hottest point.
Don’t trust a cloudy day to protect you from the damaging effects of UV rays either. UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds, and to make matters worse, a phenomenon called the “broken cloud effect” can result in even higher UV rays on partly cloudy days than if the skies were cloudless (8).
Create a nightly skincare regimen to keep your skin clean and moisturized
To prepare your skin for its nighttime rejuvenation, give it an extra boost by cleaning and moisturizing your skin. It’s a good idea to start by removing any makeup or dirt with a makeup removing wipe or cleanser. Once you’ve given your face a good wash, treat any blemishes or wrinkles with a serum or other medicated treatment prescribed by your dermatologist. Then finish it off with a quality moisturizer or night cream. When you wake up, you can repeat a similar routine, but be sure to add sunscreen to ensure you’re protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Support skin health with natural vitamins and mineralsOne unique feature of the skin is that it can effectively absorb nutrients from the inside – AKA our diet – and the outside – AKA topical application of a product. There are many products that contain vitamins for skin health. By using a multi-vitamin serum, you can provide important vitamins to your skin that your diet may not already be providing. Vitamin B3, B5, and B6 complex help to restore the look of youthful skin tone and texture by supporting the skin’s hydration barrier. Now that you know the importance of collagen for healthy and hydrated skin, adding in a collagen supplement is also a great idea. Finally, give yourself the full spa treatment with an occasional hydrating mask to help fill in the look of wrinkles and keep skin from appearing dry and stiff. It may take some trial and error to find the right products for your skin but doing so has huge potential to keep your skin looking younger for longer.
1: Can Poor Sleep Affect Skin Integrity?
3: Skin wrinkling: can food make a difference?
4: Diet and Dermatology – The Role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease
5: Diet in dermatology: revisited
6: Stress, immunity and skin collagen integrity: evidence from animal models and clinical conditions
7: The Response of Skin Disease to Stress – Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress
8: Broken-Cloud Enhancement of Solar Radiation Absorption https://www.arm.gov/publications/proceedings/conf05/extended_abs/byrne_rn.pdf