Is your skin ready for the summer? The cold, dry months of winter can leave skin parched, dull and flaky, yet preparing skin for summer involves more than a great moisturizer. Beautiful skin starts from the inside.
People often turn to topical treatments to shed their winter pallor, unaware that a diet rich in skin-nourishing nutrients coupled with blood-pumping exercise can revive the dullest winter complexion.
Martina M. Cartwright PhD, RD, adjunct faculty member at the University of Arizona and an independent biomedical consultant, author and nutrition counselor living in Scottsdale, Arizona, shares how.
Recipe for Healthy Skin
The diet-appearance connection has long fascinated scientists. Studies associating diet with acne, clear skin tone and overall skin health have demonstrated that certain vitamins, minerals and fats may help create a healthy, ageless glow.
- Cosgrove et al. (2007) assessed the relationship between diet and skin aging in 4,025 middle-aged women. Those whose faces had a wrinkled appearance consumed significantly less protein, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A. Dry skin was observed in women with lower linoleic acid and vitamin C intake.
- Boelsma et al. (2003) found in a study of 302 adults that serum vitamin A levels correlated to sebum content and fat intake were associated with skin hydration.
- Purba et al. (2001) observed less sun-exposed skin wrinkling in older adults who consumed eggs, yogurt, legumes, fruits, vegetables and olive oil, suggesting that diets rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals and certain fats may ward off signs of aging.
a Rosy Outlook
The skin benefits of exercise are numerous. Increased muscle tone can improve skin appearance by firming the foundation that underlies tissue. Regular exercise keeps skin vibrant by increasing blood flow, which bathes skin tissue in oxygen and vital nutrients, encouraging new cells to form and whisking away damaging toxins.
While the repeated physical movements of exercise may cause unsupported skin to sag, Cosgrove et al. (2007) reported more skin dryness and wrinkles in women who were less physically active. Chafing, rashes and skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne can flare up in response to heat, sweating and pool chlorine (Jaret 2011). Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may relieve these conditions, but showering after exercise and using powder or moisturizer can help reduce skin inflammation right away. Sunscreen is a must for outdoor activities.
The Right Combination
Healthy skin starts with good eating habits, exercise and a skincare regimen that includes exfoliation, cleansing, moisturizing and using sunscreen. Skincare expert Peter Thomas Roth says, “A regular skincare regimen that includes sunscreen is essential to getting the great skin you want, but healthy diet and activity are key.”
The rainbow connection.Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and fiber. Produce-rich diets improve skin tone and appearance and may prevent photoaging (Dinkova-Kostova 2008).
Water. Vital for flushing waste products, water keeps skin plump and hydrated.
Seafood. Fish, especially salmon, is full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish are a good source of zinc.
Healthy fats. Avocados, flaxseeds and olive oil have beneficial fats that keep skin supple and glowing.
Nuts. Almonds, walnuts and other nuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
Whole grains. Unprocessed grains are an excellent source of the B vitamins that are essential for manufacturing new skin cells.
Spices. Basil, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger, red chili, turmeric and curry have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.
Boelsma, E., et al. 2003. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77 (2), 348-55.
Cosgrove, M.C., et al. 2007. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86, (4), 1225-31.
Dinkova-Kostova, A.T. 2008. Phytochemicals as protectors against ultraviolet radiation: Versatility of effects and mechanisms. Planta Medica, 74 (13), 1548-59.
Jaret, P. 2011. Exercise for Healthy Skin. WebMD. www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/acne-care-11/exercise?page=1; retrieved Jan. 4, 2012.
Purba, M., et al. 2001. Skin wrinkling: Can food make a difference? Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 20 (1), 71-80.
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