Written by elénzia’s Nutrition Manager, Christie
When we are running low on nutrients or lacking hydration, we can be sure our skin will let us know.
At some point in our lives we have all experienced dull, fatigued or dry looking skin, not forgetting to mention those breakouts that always seem to occur at the most inconvenient of times. If you think back to those periods of flare ups, you may find that you let the balance of diet, exercise, mindfulness and sleep slip. This lifestyle imbalance shows in our skin and is its way of telling us it isn’t receiving enough of the right nutrients, meaning that the lack of nutrients is negatively impacting the intracellular reactions that help support the skin’s ability to compensate for environmental changes. Also, the increased levels of stress mediators such as cortisol, trigger an imbalance of hormones impacting the skin’s immune and inflammation system by reducing cell survival and proliferation, bringing on those unwanted blemishes.
Quite often when our skin is suffering, we find ourselves reaching for topical skin care products and forget to include nourishing foods and overall well-being. More recently we have seen the health, beauty and wellness market promoting the importance of both nourishing the skin topically and from within and increasingly we hear from skin care specialists and dermatologists that supplementation can further support the results of topical skincare treatments, and that they should be incorporated within our daily skincare regime. This could be due to the spike in recent research revealing how externally our skin is up against heightened levels of pollution in both urban and rural areas, various toxic chemicals and new strands of bad bacteria; whilst internally it is fighting with the rest of your body for the nutrients it needs to replenish and restore itself against those external stressors. In addition to this, further research explores the link between specific nutrients and the key roles they can play in skin function.
Unfortunately, nutrients that we consume will always reach all other organs within the body before they reach the skin. Therefore, with any slight deficiency in a nutritional compound within the body – including water – the skin will be the one organ that has to forfeit its supplies. Hence, when we are running on low our skin acts as a visible indicator.
First things first, hydrate!
Water makes up cells and cells make up skin. The average skin composition is nearly three quarters water, slightly more than the average body composition which is nearly two thirds water. These calculations should come as no surprise since it is well known water is vital for every cellular function that continuously occurs within the body. Therefore, drinking an adequate amount of water daily is important for overall good health, but also ensures your skin holds onto the levels it needs to stay radiant.
Secondly, the expression, ‘nourish your skin from within’, is no marketing ploy. A healthy balanced diet and the nutrients it provides will help support good skin health and there is no doubt the Mediterranean diet is the one we should aim to follow. Holistically it should provide your body with the phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals it needs as well as providing a good balance of energy from macronutrients. For example, a balanced intake of macronutrients prevents that after dinner sugar rush which inevitably leads to a spike in A.G.E.s (advanced glycation end products). Yes, the abbreviation is exactly what it does to your skin. A.G.E.s caused by free sugars in the blood encourage the degradation of collagen and elastin in the skin by binding with the skin’s healthy protein molecules, deregulating their balanced amino acid profile leading to an uneven levelling, also known as wrinkling.
However, by making sure we consume those essential nutrients instead of sugary foods, we can support our vital skin cell function in the following ways:
- Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit): is key to supporting the formation of collagen fibres;
- Beta-carotene – pro-Vitamin A (found in rich leafy greens such as spinach and kale): is key to maintaining and repairing skin tissue;
- Vitamin E (found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds): acts as an antioxidant through the skin’s sebum, preventing dryness;
- Omegas (found in seafood, nuts and seeds): work on the phospholipid bilayer, helping skin cells hold onto water (Evans and Johnson, 2010).
Antioxidant rich phytonutrients you may have heard of, known as polyphenols and carotenoids – found in colourful fruits and vegetables – are mainly associated with actively reducing oxidative stress within the body, e.g. anti-ageing. Yet more recently scientific exploration into their active components suggests that they go further in supporting the skin’s functions. A few examples of which types have been proven to specifically support the skin’s extracellular matrix are:
- Catechins and epicatechins – (found in green tea): improve the skin’s elastic tissue content (Chiu et al., 2006);
- Flavanols (found in cocoa): boost vascularisation by improving the blood flow and oxygen levels that reach the skin’s outer layer (Neukam et al., 2006);
- Proanthocyanins (found in grapeseed and citrus fruits): act as photo protectants against UV rays reducing the levels of sun burn (Darvin et al., 2008; Pérez-Sánchez et al., 2014; Dumoulin, Gaudout and Lemaire, 2016).
See more in our Nutrients and Their Role in Skin Health table below.
Essentially, all these nutrients prevent the deterioration of healthy skin cells reducing the risk of cellular imbalances.
Sounds simple – just follow a healthy balanced diet and all your skin troubles will go away. Not quite. The reality is lifestyle just as much as nutrients interferes with skin. Mental, physical or emotional pressure causes psychological stress. When these levels exceed the body’s capability to cope, its adaptive power triggers responses, a visible one being inflamed skin. Therefore, if you are stressed, over worked or not getting enough sleep, no level of antioxidants is going to prevent skin problems, and any you do intake will have to deal with even higher levels of oxidative stress.
In summary, nutrients have a large part to play but they cannot do it on their own. As much as we need to drink lots of water and eat a healthy balanced diet, we need to prioritise well-being. We need to ensure we are making room for physical activity and mindfulness within our busy schedules and counteract any stress hormones with those feel good endorphins.
Look out for our next blog which will focus on how you can incorporate the nutrients outlined in our skin and nutrient table into your daily diet.
Nutrients and Their Role in Skin Health
|Nutrient||Role in Skin Health||Food Source|
|Maintains & repairs Skin Tissue.
Deficiency may result in dry flaky skin and poor wound healing.
|Yellow + Dark Green Leafy Veg;
Carrots, Sweet Potato,
|Forms the basis for skin cells, nails & hair. Necessary to build healthy fats in the skin.||Banana, Almonds, Oatmeal,
|Vit C||Protects from sun, smoke, pollution damage by acting as an antioxidant & playing a key role in collagen production.||Citrus Fruits,
|Vit E||Same as Vit C (photo protection) provided to the skin through sebum||Sunflower oil,
Sesame & Pumpkin seeds, Olives,
Spinach & Avocado
|Selenium||Neutralise free radical damage. Helps prevent pigmentation & inflammation. Best combined with Vit E.||Whole Grains
|Zinc||Cell growth & oil production for skin healing.||Pumpkin seeds
|Omega 3 & 6||Vital for cell communication, skin lipid layer & retaining moisture. Controls inflammation.||Nuts,
Flax & chia seeds
|Glycine and Proline||Vital components for building strong & elastic collagen fibres, repairs skin damage.||Beans
|Silica||Vital for building new collagen and increasing skin density. A deficiency leads to large pores and redness.||Cucumber