Your outermost protection against infection and disease known as skin is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for the protection of your internal organs from injuries.
Keeping your skin healthy is very important for your overall health and wellbeing. Since it is the body’s first defense against disease and infection, your skin helps in regulating body temperature and prevents excess fluid loss, and it also helps your body remove excess water and salt.
Skin problems like Acne, psoriasis and eczema can affect anyone—young and old, men and women. The good news is that there are numerous simple ways to keep your skin healthy, and many treatments are available if necessary.
If you think you may have a skin problem or need to learn how to better care for your skin you need not only in depth information but also need specialist advice. Some skin problems can sometimes be difficult to diagnose and you need special evaluation for effective treatment.
Your skin composition
To keep your skin healthy, it is helpful to learn about your skin’s structure.
Skin is composed of three layers:
- The epidermis layer is the outermost layer of the skin which is made up of keratin and dead cells. This layer acts as the barrier between your body and the outside world.
- The dermis layer is the middle layer of the skin. It consists of blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and oil glands. The dermis layer is made up of collagen and elastin. The dermis layer provides support and elasticity to the skin.
- The subcutaneous layer is the innermost layer of the skin. This layer is made up of fatty tissue that provides nourishment to the outer dermis and epidermis layer. It conserves body heat and cushions internal organs.
Effect of sun exposure
You typically look best in younger age as you grow old, your skin becomes dry and thin due to breakdown of proteins like collagen and elastin. Your skin can worsen with excessive sunlight exposure without protection. However with a healthy lifestyle and good diet you can protect your skin from wear and tear of old age.
Exposure to the sun causes the most damage to your skin so protecting the skin from it is crucial. Excessive exposure to the sun can wrinkle and dry your skin. The most serious consequence of sun exposure is skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, making up nearly half of all diagnosed cases of cancer. Most sun damage occurs before when you are young and skin cancer can take decades to fully develop. So protecting your skin from sun damage at a younger age is important to avoid skin cancer later in life.
Some Common Skin Problems
Although primary care physicians can help you with skin problems. However, some skin conditions can be difficult to diagnose so consulting dermatologists with extensive training in skin care is recommended to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Following are some common skin problems faced by many:
Acne. This may be a mild condition with small blackheads and whiteheads; moderate, with some inflammation, or severe, with large cysts or nodules. Acne is a buildup of oil, microorganisms and dead skin cells in the hair follicles under the skin. Squeezing can make acne worse and more likely to leave scars.
Eczema. is an itchy, red, cracked, scaly rash that can occur anywhere on the body, but occurs most commonly on the backs of the knees, as well as on the hands, feet, face and neck. It often occurs in individuals who suffer asthma or hay fever.
Dandruff. Often attributed to dryness because of the flaking it causes, dandruff is actually caused by inflammation in the scalp. The microscopic scales accumulate and then fall off in visible flakes.
Hives. Hives are an allergic reaction. They can be caused by stress. These pink, itchy swellings are the result of release of histamine and other chemicals in the skin. Food and medications can sometimes trigger hives for some people, as are exposure to cold temperatures or infections.
Psoriasis. It is a chronic disease caused by the inflammation of skin which becomes covered with flaky, silvery scales. The condition is not contagious, it is thought to be an immunologic genetic disorder. Because of this immune disorder, the skin cells multiply at an accelerated rate. There is no cure for this condition, but treatments can reduce skin inflammation.
The development of actinic keratoses is the warning sign of sun damage. Most people over age 40 may develop this as a result of cumulative exposure to sun rays causing squamous cell carcinoma. These lesions appear on the face, ears, neck, and forearms.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is a form of nonmelanoma skin cancers and men are at higher risk than women.
Melanoma develops in skin’s melanocytes and appears in or around a mole, but it can also develop on clear skin. Melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer. It can be flat, brown, black or tan spot or a raised bump and of irregular shape.
People with fair complexions are more susceptible to skin cancer than people with darker skin. Whites have a tenfold increased risk of developing skin cancer than black people. Darker skin has more melanin, which has natural protection against the sun’s damaging rays.
Risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Exposure to toxic materials like arsenic
- Radiation therapy
- Chronic scarred skin such as long-standing ulcers or severe burn scars
- A family history of melanoma skin cancer.
- A personal history of skin cancer
- A tendency to freckle or burn easily
- Lots of sun exposure throughout your life
- Many sunburns as a child or adolescent
- Outdoor summer employment during adolescence burns
- Tanning bed use
Check Your Skin Regularly
Skin cancers are usually easy to identify and can be treated successfully in early stages.
Examining your skin regularly for any suspicious changes. Sores that won’t heal may also indicate skin cancer that needs attention.
The American Academy of Dermatology an easy-to-use following method to evaluate your skin for melanoma:
Asymmetry: One half of the spot is not shaped like the other half
- Border irregularity: Poorly defined or “scalloped” border
- Color: Shades of tan, brown, black and sometimes red, white and blue, vary across the spot
- Diameter: The spot is larger than six millimeters, the diameter of a pencil eraser, however, skin cancers can also be smaller
- Evolving: The mole looks different from the other moles on the body and is changing in size, shape or color.
There are many new and refined treatment options available today for skin conditions. For recommendations about how to keep your skin healthy. Here are a few treatment options for common skin conditions.
- Acne. Treatment can include topical or oral antibiotics and creams to remove plugs at the opening of the oil glands. When washing, you should use a mild soap and avoid scrubbing. For deep, crater-like scars where laser resurfacing is ineffective, there is soft tissue augmentation.
- Eczema. Treatment includes oral antihistamines for relief of the severe itching, as well as topical steroids to relieve inflammation and itchiness. Moisturizers are an important part of eczema therapy but should be chosen carefully because they can inflame sensitive skin. Petroleum jelly is an excellent bland lubricant for this condition.
- Dandruff. Prescription shampoos and topical steroid medications may be necessary in difficult-to-treat cases.
- Hives. Antihistamines and sometimes oral steroids are prescribed to treat hives.
- Psoriasis. There is no cure for this condition, but treatments can reduce skin inflammation. Topical steroid medications are frequently prescribed, but the condition often returns quickly once treatment ends.
Skin Cancer Treatments
There are three primary kinds of treatments your health care professional may use to treat your actinic keratoses (precancerous lesions) or your skin cancer:
- Surgery : Surgery removes the cancer, or destroys these abnormal cells
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill these abnormal cells
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill cancer cells
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy encourages a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.
Skin care starts with you. Many simple lifestyle changes—such as improving your diet and learning basic skin care techniques can improve your skin’s appearance. Discuss prevention tips with your health care professional, and consider these steps:
- Good nutrition
- Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day
- Avoiding alcohol
- Stopping smoking
- Using sunscreen regularly
- Avoiding sun exposure during peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wearing protective clothing when outside
If you have dry skin using moisturizers for dry skin come in three preparations: lotions, creams and ointments. Lotions are least effective since they disappear after application quickly, making them convenient to use for normal and oily skin. Creams are heavier and more effective at sealing in moisture for normal to dry skin. Ointments like Vaseline, are thick and are best for preventing moisture from escaping from the skin.
Sunscreens should be an important part of your skin health routine because they absorb or block UV rays. Sunscreens are rated by how much sun protection factor (SPF) they offer. SPF calculations are based on laboratory comparisons of how much sunlight will cause mild sunburn on the unprotected skin of a person with a fair complexion and on the same skin area protected by sunscreen.
A sunscreen with SPF-30 or greater should be used all year for all skin types. These products don’t require chemical interaction with the skin to be effective, provide a protective shield-like barrier and rarely cause rashes. All sunscreens need to be reapplied after water contact or sweating.
For the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays:
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.
- Apply lip balm that contains a sunscreen to protect sun-sensitive lips.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when its rays are strongest.
- Wear a large brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your scalp and eyes.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and apply it more frequently if you have been swimming or sweating.
- Stay in the shade whenever you can.
- Limit the time you spend in the sun.
- If you are taking an antibiotic or other medication sometimes it may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Beautiful Skin Starts with Your Diet
Boosting the quality of your diet checks a lot of boxes for your health. Weight, energy, and proper fuel come to mind first. The health of your skin should be added to that list. 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. 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. Below, you’ll read about some of the foods rich in important nutrients for your skin. Make nutritional skincare a priority and ensure these nutrients are in your diet.
Healthy skin 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 stabilizes 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.
There’s another way vitamin C influences the appearance of fine lines in aging skin. Oxidative stress leads to wrinkled skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that acts as a free radical scavenger and maintains healthy levels of toxic oxygen species in cells. So, vitamin C can aid in repairing the oxidative damage done to your skin cells to keep it looking healthy.
This nutrient 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:
Eating a diet rich in vitamin C can help protect your skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And if you’re looking for another vitamin to pair with it, vitamin E is also an important part of nutritional skincare.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are known to support healthy eyes. And evidence suggests these nutrients could be an important part of your nutritional skincare, too. By working together to filter blue light, lutein and zeaxanthin help protect your eyes and skin from the effects of the sun. These nutrients are not produced by your body, so it’s important to include them in your diet.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids—plant pigments. Other carotenoids, like beta carotene, can support your skin’s appearance, too. You’ll find these carotenoids in yellow and oranges foods. Cantaloupe, carrots, orange and yellow peppers, egg yolks, and salmon are all rich sources of zeaxanthin and lutein. They’re also found in green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, peas, and lettuce. Including these foods in your healthy diet can pay off in clear eyes and healthy-looking skin.
Known as the “universal antioxidant,” alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is great at fighting off free radicals. ALA is active in both lipid layers of the skin and water-filled skin cells. Its primary role in the body is protecting cells from oxidative damage. Alpha-lipoic acid binds to oxidants and diffuses potential damage.
Another function of ALA is the regulation of nitric oxide production. Levels of nitric oxide in your body influence the amount of blood flow to your skin. Increased blood flow helps your complexion transform from a dull and pale appearance to a vibrant and glowing one.
Your body creates very small quantities of ALA. There are a few food sources of this compound, but their bioavailability is limited. These foods include: kidney, heart, liver, broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. It’s most readily available to your body in the form of nutrient supplements. Increasing the amount of usable ALA in your body supports free-radical scavenging and provides antioxidant benefits.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant. It works alongside other antioxidants such as vitamins E and C and is essential to support the immune system. Studies have found that a selenium-rich diet can help to protect against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots. To boost your intake of selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, eggs, wheatgerm, tomatoes and broccoli in your diet.
Curcumin is another pigment that should play a role in your nutritional skincare. This phytonutrient is derived from turmeric, a spice used in preparing vibrant, tropical cuisine. Turmeric (and curcumin) comes from the root Curcuma longa and belongs to the ginger family. Adding turmeric to a meal gives it a beautiful bright yellow color.
But curcumin doesn’t just brighten up your plate. It has demonstrated considerable ability to help reduce the appearance of puffiness and swelling. By blocking the biochemical steps that produce the look of red and irritated skin, curcumin helps your skin tone look smooth and even.
Vitamin E protects your skin from oxidative stress and supports healthy skin growth. Foods high in vitamin E include almonds, avocado, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower and corn oils.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – the types found in avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds – provide essential fatty acids which act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple and improving elasticity. These fats also come packaged with a healthy dose of vitamin E which will help protect against free radical damage.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats
You need to eat enough omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are essential fatty acids which cannot be made in the body and must be obtained through food. You will find omega-3s in oily fish and plant sources such as linseed and their oil, chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil. Omega-3 fats produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which may help inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Phyto-estrogens are natural chemicals found in plant foods. They have a similar structure to the female sex hormone oestrogen and have been found to help keep our natural hormones in balance. There are different types, some are found in soya bean products such as tofu, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables. You should include phyto-estrogen rich soya, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables for healthy and glowing skin.
Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the oil glands in the skin and helps to repair skin damage and keep skin soft and supple. Zinc-rich foods include fish, lean red meat, wholegrains, poultry, nuts, seeds and shellfish.
Nutritional skincare doesn’t have to be hard. Probably the simplest thing to do to help your skin is drink water. And lots of it.
Hydration is crucial for the appearance of healthy and supple skin. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day provides your skin with an ample supply of moisture and helps flush out toxins.
Water helps fill out your skin to provide a smooth appearance. It also helps your skin look plump. You can maximize the effectiveness of topical moisturizers by making sure your skin is well hydrated.
When you eat refined sugar or high-glycemic foods that rapidly convert to sugar your body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose, which raises your insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, white bread and soda, cause your insulin levels to spike, which leads to a burst of inflammation throughout the body.
This surge in inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles. Digested sugar permanently attaches to the collagen in your skin through a process known as glycation. Aside from increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Plus, the more sugar you eat, the more likely it is you’ll develop insulin resistance, which can manifest as excess hair growth and dark patches on the neck.
Understanding the glycemic index, the scale which determines how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating particular food is key to making the right choices for your skin when it comes to sugar.
Simple carbohydrates are your skin’s enemy, since they rapidly break down into glucose and result in insulin spikes. Avoid foods that are proinflammatory, high-glycemic or high in saturated fats like: white bread, candy, fried food, ice cream, fruit juice, pasta, ketchup, cream cheese, jam, pizza, sugar, packaged snacks and sodas.
What Carbohydrate to Eat
Opt for complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and vegetables, which are broken down into glucose at a slower rate and therefore don’t cause that pesky insulin spike. Low-glycemic options, like beans, nuts and whole grains, as well as fibrous foods, which delay sugar absorption, also help control blood sugar levels. Do your best to follow an anti-inflammatory diet of healthy fats like olive oil and avocados, lean protein like chicken, fiber like broccoli and cauliflower and antioxidants like berries if you want glowing, youthful skin.
Some tricks to reduce sugar’s effects
•Get plenty of sleep. When you don’t get enough shut-eye, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which mobilizes sugar stores and causes your insulin to spike.
•Speaking of stress, try to keep yours at a minimum. Stress can spike insulin levels just like eating sugar can. The effects of stress are particularly correlated with acne breakouts.
•Eat frequent, balanced meals. Don’t think lowering your sugar intake means lowering your food intake per se. If your goal is to keep your blood sugar levels consistent, make sure to fuel up with low-glycemic, high protein food every three hours to avoid insulin spikes.
•Be mindful about how you prepare your food. When cooking starches, like potatoes and foods with wheat, keep in mind that the heat involved in cooking causes a process known as gelatinization, which can lead to upping the glycemic index of a food item. The takeaway? Avoid starches fried in high heat or that are commercially processed.
•Order counts. Eat your proteins first when sitting down for a meal, since they don’t stimulate insulin spikes and therefore keep your body from triggering the inflammatory effects caused when you ingest insulin-spiking foods.
•Fats are your friend. Healthy fats, like Omega-3s, keep your skin looking soft, supple and radiant.
Sleep Protects Skin
A study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology found that people who slept seven to nine hours a night had skin that was more moisturized and that could protect and heal itself better after being exposed to ultraviolet light compared to those who slept five hours or less. The well-rested participants also rated themselves as more attractive in a self-evaluation.
“The ability of skin to retain moisture, protect and heal all combat the signs of aging,” said Olszewski. “Your skin goes through much of its restoration while you sleep. If you cut back on sleep you are reducing the amount of time the skin has to repair, which can affect the way you look.”
Skin cells regenerate more quickly at night. Collagen, the protein responsible for helping your skin keep its volume and elasticity, is produced as the skin cells regenerate. There is also more blood flow to the skin during sleep, which delivers the nutrients it needs to recover from a day of exposure to the elements.
The journal Sleep published a study that compared how people look following eight hours sleep versus a period of sleep deprivation and five hours sleep. The participants were observed to have more swollen eyes and dark circles, more wrinkles, and to look sadder when they were sleep deprived.
Nighttime is a good time to apply moisturizing and retinol skin care products since the increased blood flow can help those ingredients work more efficiently. You don’t need a special pillowcase to catch your beauty sleep. Sleeping on your back or side instead of your face is a good idea in order to avoid creating sleep wrinkles that can deepen over time.