Never has the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ been truer when it comes to skin health. We all want celebrity-esque glowing clear skin but wants the secret? Not all of us are blessed with clear skin. Common ailments include rashes, acne, psoriasis and dermatitis, but is nutrition key to unlock healthy skin?
The study of skin is called dermatology. There are 3 layers of the skin, called the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The role of the skin is to:
- Protect the body from moisture
- Protect the body from viruses, bacteria and parasites
- Produce melanin for skin colour
- Contract hair cells to keep the body warm.
- Synthesise Vitamin D
- Protect from wounds and friction
- Protect for UV rays
- Control temperature
- Common skin disorders
The scientific name for Acne is Acne vulgaris. This is thought to be caused when oil from the sebaceous glands block the hair follicles and cause either white or blackheads. This can go on to develop painful nodules associated with cystic acne.
Acne is most common in the years of puberty and adolescence but 20% of cases do happen in adults too. During puberty, there are great changes in hormones. Hormone imbalances can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which increases the chance of developing acne.
We all dread the white flakey shoulder caused by dandruff. The scientific name for dandruff is called seborrheic dermatitis. The common symptoms of dandruff are a dry, itchy and flaky scalp. Dandruff is thought to be genetic or caused by the environment. However, likely causes can include zinc deficiency, chemical irritants and changes in weather.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease. This causes flakey and reddened patches called lesions.
These typically form around the joints, knees, elbows, ankles, but also the scalp. The direct cause is not yet known, but what we do know is that it is caused by a combination of genetic and immune system dysregulation. The skin cells of psoriasis sufferers develop faster than people without the disorder, forming the lesions. Psoriasis occurs in 1.3-2/2% of the Uk population.
The scientific name for eczema is dermatitis, of which there are many different kinds. The most common form of dermatitis is called atopic dermatitis. The onset of this usually occurs before the age of 5 years, but the symptoms can be a lifetime struggle. The cause of this is thought to be associated with genetics, stress, immune distress, and nutrition deficiencies. Common symptoms of eczema include rashes, itching skin, reddened bumps and, leaking fluid from the sore patches. A 2015 statistic stated that approximately 15 million people suffer from eczema.
Cold sores are caused by the virus Herpes simplex, commonly known as oral herpes. Once a person has caught the virus it may not act straight away. Sometimes the virus lays dormant until its activated. Once activated this can cause a tingling or burning sensation around the mouth, then this forms a painful sore which eventually bursts and forms a yellow crust. This is a highly contagious lesion. It’s thought that in the UK every 7/10 people carry a form of the virus.
Nutrition for Healthy Skin
Hydration is essential for healthy skin. Studies show that drinking optimal amounts of water (+2 litres) can lead to improved corneum hydration, which is the outer layer of skin. Dehydration can cause the outer layer of the skin to be rough and coarse. This can reduce the elasticity of the skin and accelerate skin ageing.
Zinc is an essential trace element that carries an approved skin health claim. Zinc contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Studies show that zinc is needed for essential biological zinc transporters. Mutations or dysregulation in zinc transporters and/or a zinc deficiency have been shown to cause common skin disorders.
Copper is an essential trace element that carries a health claim associated with skin health and anti-ageing. Copper contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress and normal skin pigmentation. Copper is commonly taken as a supplement to minimise pigmentation associated with ageing
Free radicals are pollutants found in our environment that can increase the speed of skin ageing and even cause disease. Example of free radicals includes cigarette smoke, air pollutants and UV rays. Antioxidants prevent oxidation of cells, these include nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, E, selenium, zinc, manganese and copper.
Excessive caffeine consumption is thought to be linked with poor skin health. Caffeine is a
diuretic, which increases water loss from the body. Drinking a lot of caffeine can lead to dehydration which can lead to dry skin.
According to studies, copper has multiple roles including upregulation of collagen and
antioxidation, which can help to generate a more youthful complexion.
Essential fatty acids that promote skin health are omegas 3 and 6. These are used to make the cell membranes of the skin cells. They have been shown to increase skin hydration, protect skin cells and regenerate skin plumpness. Moreover, omega 3 is anti-inflammatory so it can help to reduce inflammation in pro-inflammatory disorders.
Supplements for Healthy Skin
Turmeric & Honey
Turmeric is extracted from the Curcuma longa. It’s infamous and world-renowned for its actives
called curcuminoids. These carry health claims to improve skin health and to reduce inflammation. The active dosage of this can be between 80-500mg.
Honey is known to be anti-bacterial which can help to reduce infections due to a reduction in skin microbes. Studies suggest that honey is able to modulate the skin’s immune system
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that carries multiple beneficial properties to the skin.
Not only does it keep away free radicals it also helps to regenerate Vitamin E - another antioxidant. Moreover, Vitamin C is used to promote collagen crosslinking and keeps the skin looking young and healthy.
Other antioxidants include Vitamin B2, E, copper, selenium, manganese, green tea and astaxanthin.
Lysine is an essential amino acid that can be found in poultry, red meat, cod, cheeses, soy products and eggs. There are no approved health claims for lysine, that being said there is great research into its use for herpes simplex/cold sores. It’s thought that lysine prevents the synthesis of the herpes simplex virus.
If you have any concerns about your skin health please contact your GP or Dermatologist. ‘Healthy skin is a reflection of overall wellness’
WRITTEN BY HARRIET HUNTER, ANUTR. NUTRITIONIST