Part 3: Nourish
image by Liam Frankland
It is important to nourish and replenish your skin in the wintertime. Dry skin allows nutrients to escape through the cracks when it needs them most.
Here’s how dry, cracky skin happens
Have you ever wondered how your skin can get so dry and cracky, and why it’s so hard to get it back to normal? Your skin cells, although completely dead on the topmost layers, are held together with a mixture of oils and such commonly referred to as “inter-cellular cement.” This “cement” binds these flat, lifeless cells together creating a smooth, protective barrier between the live skin cells and the outer world. When the skin gets dry or dehydrated, the cement becomes less effective and the cells begin to pop up at odd angles, thus compromising the barrier and leaking nutrients. There goes your nutrients and your natural protection in one fell swoop. If you do nothing to stop this it only gets worse.
What to do about it
Getting back your luscious, supple skin requires that you repair the damage to the barrier and re-nourish the skin. Not the easiest and quickest thing to do for you must replenish nutrients internally and externally.
“Your skin is the fingerprint of what is going on inside your body, and all skin conditions, from psoriasis to acne to aging, are the manifestations of your body’s internal needs, including its nutritional needs,” says Georgiana Donadio, PhD, DC, MSc, founder and director of the National Institute of Whole Health in Boston.
You must have a full complement of nutrients for your body and skin to be truly healthy.
How to get these nutrients in order to maintain healthy skin
- First, try to get them through foods. Though that can be difficult because our soil is severely depleted and many of us are not eating well-balanced meals – especially if we are busy.
- Second, supplement. If you supplement, please do it under the advisory of a healthcare professional, and when in doubt consult a pharmacist. Pharmacists know about the possible dangers of many supplements and how they will react with any medications you are taking. For instance you can take too much of the non-water soluble vitamins such as A & E because they accumulate in your body. Any excess of Vitamin C, on the other hand, will flush right out. Minerals are best taken combined. You need such small amounts of each mineral in your body that supplementing just one or another is very difficult to get right. For instance, copper must remain in balance with zinc. Many mineral supplements these days are food-based and have a full-complement of nutrients that are designed to work synergistically. Find one of those.
The most important nutrients for skin health
Vitamins A, C, E, K, and B complex are all necessary for skin health and can improve skin health.
The Antioxidant Vitamins
Vitamin A, C and E are all antioxidants which help by reducing the damage caused by free radicals, a harmful byproduct of sunlight and environmental pollution. Free radicals oxidize cells and destroy collagen and elastin, the fibers that support skin structure, causing wrinkles, sagging and other signs of aging.
To make sure your diet includes plenty of vitamin C, eat citrus fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C such as bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens. Fortunately, foods and food supplements containing absorbable forms of vitamin C abound, because it’s very hard to get it into the skin from the outside. The only topically absorbable form of vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid, and the concentration required to do any good would burn you. So, don’t buy into vitamin C creams. Word on the street is that the vitamin C in them is worthless.
You can find vitamin E in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives, spinach, and asparagus. But it’s difficult to get a lot from food. Fortunately this is a vitamin that is easily absorbable by the skin and is found in many of the plant oils contained in a good moisturizer.
If your vitamin A levels are up to snuff from the foods you eat, adding more probably won’t do much more for your skin. That said, if those levels drop even a little below normal, you’re likely to see some skin-related symptoms, including dryness and flakiness. That’s because vitamin A is necessary for the maintenance and repair of skin tissue. It’s part of what makes up our inter-cellular cement, and without it you’ll notice the difference.
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamin A. But even so, many people have a vitamin A deficiency. One symptom of a vitamin A deficiency can be little dry bumps on the backs of your upper arms. These little bumps are not always caused by a vitamin A deficiency, but its likely. Topical vitamin A is the form that makes the biggest difference in your skin. Medical studies show a reduction in lines and wrinkles, acne control, and some psoriasis relief, all from using creams containing this nutrient. Unfortunately, these medically studied creams usually contain dangerous levels of vitamin A in mixtures that you don’t really want to put on your skin. Find oils, creams and serums with ingredients that have naturally occurring vitamin A. You won’t get as dramatic a result, but you won’t have to worry about complete renal failure either.
Vitamin B Complex
When it comes to skin, the single most important B vitamin is biotin, the nutrient that forms the basis of skin, hair, and nail cells. Without adequate amounts, you can develop dermatitis or sometimes even hair loss. Even a mild biotin deficiency causes symptoms.
Most people get enough biotin without even trying. It’s found in many foods including bananas, eggs, oatmeal, and rice, plus your body also makes some biotin on its own.
Niacin, another of the B vitamins, helps the skin retain its moisture. It is said that creams containing this nutrient can help your complexion look plumper and younger in as little as six days. Niacin also has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe dry, irritated skin. Foods high in niacin are: coffee, oats, grains and mushrooms.
Vitamin K, the nutrient that helps your blood to clot, won’t do much for your skin from the inside. But studies show that topical vitamin K works to reduce circles under the eye as well as bruises. I wonder if that’s in my eye cream?
Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs
If your skin is dry, prone to inflammation, or frequently dotted with white heads or black heads, you may be lacking essential fatty acids. These nutrients are crucial to the production of your skin’s natural oil barrier, the inter-cellular cement. Without an adequate supply of EFAs, the skin produces a more irritating form of sebum, our natural oil. Not good. Not surprisingly, EFAs have anti-inflammatory properties.
EFAs fall into two categories: omega-3s and omega-6s. Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in cold-water fish like Atlantic Salmon. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry, and eggs. Walnuts are one of the best sources for omega-6s. The reason these fatty acids are called “essential” is that your body cannot make them. You have to get these from an outside source. And they are both polyunsaturated fats, good fats as opposed to saturated and monounsaturated fats, and are necessary for overall health.
Minerals are hard to get into the skin but are very easy to come out. We sweat them away and then rinse them right off.
Tip: don’t shower after doing hot yoga. According to the Ayurvedic tradition, your skin will reabsorb the minerals you’ve sweated out without reabsorbing the toxins.
One important mineral for the skin is copper. Together with vitamin C and the mineral zinc, copper helps to develop elastin, the fibers that support skin structure from underneath. Yay! Elastin is almost impossible to rebuild.
Copper is found in greater quantity in foods such as meats, eggs, poultry, nuts, seeds and grains.
Another skin-friendly mineral is zinc. Zinc is important if you have acne. In fact, sometimes acne itself is a symptom of a zinc deficiency.
The best sources of zinc include beef, lamb, pork, crabmeat, turkey, chicken, lobster, clams and salmon. Anyone for seafood? If you are a vegetarian, you will probably take in less zinc that those who have meat-based diets. Good zinc food sources aside from meats are dairy, yeast, peanuts, beans, wholegrain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potato and yogurt. But pumpkin seeds offer one of the most concentrated non-meat food sources of zinc. Mmm, I love pumpkin seeds.
My absolute favorite form of getting all kinds of nutrients, but especially minerals, into and onto the body is seaweed. My latest thing is eat it, supplement with it, and put it on your skin. Lots of it. You can’t go wrong. And who doesn’t love sushi? Get a seaweed salad while you’re at it.
The two best seaweed skincare products are these:
Use the nutritional supplement Body Balance as a toner. Leave on and use daily. This is a liquid blend of 9 seaweeds and aloe vera. The aloe vera work synergistically to ensure absorption of the seaweeds, among other wonderful things it does. Topically, seaweeds reduce inflammation and redness, regenerate and oxygenate skin cells, enrich with vitamins, stimulate collagen production, assist in healing and preventing acne, detoxify, remineralize and moisturize. Seaweeds are also quite powerful antioxidants. This is a DIY skincare product, since it is not tested or made for putting on the skin, but rather is meant to be put into the body. Do both and you’ll see tremendous results in no time!
Pangea Organics’ award winning Japanese Matcha Tea with Acai & Goji Berry Facial Mask is an all-in-one/at-home spa treatment for your face. As you can tell by the title, it’s got the kitchen sink in it and is just the ticket for a quick nourishing fix. Let this little green gem multi-task for you:
- Soothe (anti-inflammatory)
- Protect (super-antioxidant)
- Deeply Nourish
It even helps to heal breakouts.
Guaranteed: Your skin will be more radiant after just one use.