The skin is our largest organ. It serves the primary purpose of keeping precious elements and nutrients inside the body and preventing harmful substances (and potentially infectious organisms) from entering. It is made up of several layers and has its own immune system — much more complex than just a physical shield. Collagen and elastin are the primary proteins that give skin its structure and elasticity. When these begin to become depleted, signs of aging appear.
Aging may bring us benefits, such as wisdom, but it does not help the appearance of our skin! As we age, molecules called free radicals cause oxidative stress, analogous to “rusting” of our cells. To make matters worse, our ability to protect our cells against this oxidative stress decreases as we get older. The good news is that although we can’t stop the clock, we can make changes that can help us slow the aging process.
Beauty truly comes from within. What we put in (or on) our bodies will significantly affect how we appear on the outside. Below are some of the best things you can do to promote healthy and lustrous skin.
Increasing your water intake is paramount to promote clear and beautiful skin. Aim to drink 64 ounces of water daily to boost detoxification and help skin cells be robust and result in a more youthful appearance. Adding fresh fruit, and/or lemon juice can help add some flavor and make you more likely to drink enough water throughout the day.
A scientific review states: “The most suitable method is the consumption of natural antioxidants in the form of fruit and vegetables. In addition, the skin, which also accumulates antioxidant substances, may profit from a sufficient antioxidative level, as damage induced by sun radiation in addition to skin aging is reduced.”
A multitude of leafy greens, red, orange, yellow, blue and purple vegetables and low sugar fruits (e.g. berries), quality fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut and extra-virgin olive oil, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and anchovies-or fish oils), quality proteins (to build collagen), Vitamins A, C and E, as well as green tea are important nutrients to nourish and protect skin cells .
We can increase antioxidants, substances that remove or inactivate the free radicals, through eating an abundance of healthy colorful vegetables, fruits and certain herbs and spices. The brighter and more colorful a plant is, the more likely it has lots of these antioxidant phytochemicals.
Moisturization is key. Apply moisturizer (oil, cream or lotion) to damp skin after a bath or shower to help lock in moisture. Adding essential oils such as unscented coconut or jojoba oil can be a great aromatherapy experience as well.
If your hands are frequently in water or you suffer from dry hands, try using a thick ointment or cream under cotton gloves overnight to help relieve the dryness. When using rubber gloves, wear cotton gloves underneath, to avoid irritation.
Natural substances can also have medicinal effects. A small clinical trial showed a statistically significant improvement in atopic dermatitis (eczema) lesions after application of Manuka honey applied overnight after 1 week without any adverse effects.
The body produces its own antioxidant substances, such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C. Look for topical creams, oils and lotions that contain these powerful youth-boosting molecules.
Apply sunscreen daily or use a facial moisturizer containing SPF of 30 or higher. This will help avoid UVA and UVB rays, which cause damage to skin cells, resulting in uneven skin pigmentation and other premature signs of aging.
Natural sunscreens contain effective ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium oxides. Many products have great additional ingredients to further nourish and protect.
While it’s important to include hydration and healthy foods to support vibrant skin, avoiding certain things that promote aging is just as crucial. Avoiding inflammatory foods, such as sugar, dairy and white flour can be extremely helpful in avoiding acne and preventing or improving other skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea.
These include cigarette smoking, alcohol and excess caffeine. Cigarettes promote inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which wreak havoc on our skin and throughout the body. Alcohol prevents optimal detoxification by the liver and, along with excess caffeine, cause loss of water and a dehydrated state, which will exacerbate wrinkles.
Unfortunately, many products, even those that advertise as being “natural”, also contain chemicals that can be toxic and may disrupt hormones. Some of the ingredients to avoid in personal products include parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, petroleum, triclosan and oxybenzone.
The Environmental Working Group’s website (ewg.org) also provides helpful information as a resource to determine if cosmetics or other personal products are safe.
A self-massage does wonders for your complexion and this practice has been around for centuries. This simple practice increases blood flow and the boost in circulation is what gets you glowing. Other benefits include muscle relief and an increase in collagen production as well.
Dry gentle skin brushing prior to a brief infra-red sauna session can help to exfoliate the skin. Dry brushing will help remove dead skin cells, allowing fresh cells to come to the surface. Follow with a warm shower to wash away any toxins.
Collagen is an important building block for elasticity, and can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. While it could be useful to take collagen externally, consuming collagen internally can have even greater health benefits.
Since the body’s natural collagen production declines with age and lifestyle factors such as stress and poor gut health , this can affect the body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of collagen.
To add more collagen to your diet, you can consume more bone broth or a grass-fed and pasture-raised collagen protein powder . Adding foods naturally high in collagen to your diet such as beets, fish, kale, spinach, and sweet potatoes can help as well.
Our hormones have tremendous effects on skin health. Factors influencing hormones include mindfulness, gratitude, quality sleep , nutrition and exercise. Each of these can have positive effects on skin and overall health. However, emotional stress, alcohol, smoking, excessive sunlight and inadequate or poor quality sleep can all contribute to hormone and skin problems.
If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, it’s best to work with a functional doctor to help you treat the underlying cause(s), create balance, and help you improve your symptoms.
In the video below, Dr. Robin Berzin shares her top biohacks for healthy skin.
Consult your doctor or dermatologist if you have ongoing or severe skin problems. Practicing all of the recommendations above has only one potential side effect: improving your overall health and not only looking great but feeling great as well!