Tue | Dec 5, 2023

For your perfect skin

Published:Wednesday | August 23, 2023 | 12:06 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

BOOSTING THE quality of your diet checks a lot of boxes for your health. Weight, energy, and proper nutrition come to mind first. The health of your skin should be added to that list as nutritional skincare illuminates the natural radiance of your skin through a proper diet.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and its health is easily influenced by what you eat. Skin goes through many cycles of renewal and repair and proper nutrition supplies your skin with the materials it needs to maintain its beauty and strength.

That means eating a variety of healthy, whole foods that include a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lean proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

New research suggests a balanced gut microbiome can play a pivotal role in determining the way skin behaves. For instance, omega-3s, the fatty acids found in fish oil and other seafood, can help maintain gut health and give skin a soothed, glowing appearance.

According to Dr Marsha Barnett, if you are not getting enough omega-3s in your diet, it is important to understand what you may be missing out on and how to turn the situation around.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients found in certain foods. They can serve to regulate the skin’s oil production, improve balanced hydration, subdue breakouts and minimise signs of ageing. Omega-3s can also help soften rough, dry skin and have a soothing effect on irritation and dermatitis,” Dr Barnett said.

Research shows that regularly taking fish oil may boost the skin’s immunity to UV damage and skin cancer. The most well-known food to be packed with these nutrients is fish oil.

“Flax seeds, chia seeds and soybean oil are all vegetarian sources of omega-3. The difference is that omega-3s from fish oil are readily absorbed upon consumption, while plant forms need to be converted first in the body before they can be used,” Dr Barnett said.

Getting your omega-3 through fish oil supplements or other foods can improve the fatty acid composition in your skin and balance its inflammatory response. In other words, skin stays softer and less inflamed. Keeping your fatty acid levels up also helps to minimise the effect of sun damage and improve sensitive skin conditions.

There is actually no set recommendation for how much omega-3 you need. However, health experts recommend adults get 500 mg per day, or the equivalent of two servings of fatty fish per week. This is your ticket to improvements in your overall wellness, not to mention supple, radiant skin.

“Omega-3 supplementation is a hot topic right now, which means myths abound. One of the most common misconceptions is that any fish is a good source of omega-3. In reality, different fish contain different levels of certain nutrients,” Dr Barnett said.

“The discrepancies are either due to the biological makeup of the fish or because they were raised in less-than-healthy conditions. Safety is also a factor. It is often best to eat smaller fish which are less likely to contain high levels of mercury or supplement your diet with a high-quality fish oil,” she added.

Healthy skin also requires a good supply of the protein collagen. This peptide is the most abundant protein in your body and is found in connective tissue and skin. Collagen gives your skin elasticity, bounce, structure, and durability.

“Your body needs vitamin C to regulate the amount of collagen produced in your skin. Vitamin C stabilises the genetic blueprints for collagen production and increases the rate at which it is made. This helps keep your skin looking as firm and healthy as possible,” Dr Barnett said.

There is another way vitamin C influences the appearance of fine lines in ageing skin. Oxidative stress leads to wrinkled skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that acts as a free radical and maintains healthy levels of toxic oxygen species in cells. “Vitamin C can aid in repairing the oxidative damage done to your skin cells to keep it looking healthy,” Dr Barnett said.

Vitamin C can also support the production of cells called fibroblasts. Fibroblasts help maintain healthy skin, but their numbers dwindle with age. By recharging your body’s ability to produce fibroblasts, vitamin C gives your skin the tools it needs to maintain a youthful appearance.

Vitamin C is found in many fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements. Good sources are oranges, apples, strawberries, spinach and broccoli.

Eating a diet rich in vitamin C can help protect your skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. If you are looking for another vitamin to pair with it, vitamin E is also an important part of nutritional skincare.

“Vitamin D may be beneficial for acne, while zinc is an important mineral that supports collagen production and may help treat acne,” Dr Barnett said.

Additionally, aloe vera as a gel works well for sunburns and moisturising skin. It may have a role in treating eczema and wounds. Oral intake is shown to improve elasticity and collagen production.