Expecting the usual list of herbs and dietary supplements in this feature? Well, we’ve listed a few, but this time we’re focusing on ways to supplement your lifestyle with healthy habits, resulting in healthier skin. Our skin takes the award for largest (and hardest-working) organ. It protects our internal organs and keeps out various environmental stressors. Think about all the things we put our skin through over the years: the sun exposure, overindulgence in food and beverages (especially the fermented variety), rapid weight gain or weight loss, environmental toxins and so much more. Yes, the epidermis, dermis and subcutis really do work overtime for us. According to traditional Chinese Medicine, the condition of our skin reflects our overall health. Its hue corresponds with the 5 Chinese Elements that represent specific organs and their functions. If there are a few things about your skin you’d like to improve, take heart. Surprisingly, by making a few tiny changes, you’ll greatly impact your largest organ. Just imagine what major lifestyle changes will do!
Drink Enough H2O. According to Elson M. Haas, MD, and Buck Levin, PhD, RD, authors of Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the single most important thing for skin health is drinking adequate amounts of water. To accomplish all of its tasks, our skin must stay hydrated. Many experts recommend everyone consume at least 64 ounces of water. Haas and Levin point out that individual water needs vary, based on diet, climate, exercise, bowel function and more. Individuals who consume a high-fat diet—rich in processed food—need more water than those who consume more fruits and vegetables. People who lead an active lifestyle need more than those who are sedentary. So, 64 ounces of water is a general guideline. 1 And, yes, drinking water while taking your multivitamin and daily supplements counts, too!
Eat enough protein. Obviously, everyone needs protein. Haas and Levin explain that amino acids are essential to protein building, cell division and tissue health and repair—all important for healthy skin. They specify sulfur-containing amino acids, such as L-cysteine and L-methionine, as crucial skin-supporting nutrients. Good food sources include meat, fish, lentils, beans and seeds. Alternative sources include protein supplements in capsule or powder form.
Take your multivitamin and mineral. A high-quality multi gives you the basics. Make sure it contains these skin-supporting nutrients: B vitamins, beta-carotene, calcium, selenium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin E. Don’t forget to sneak in those healthy fats (EFAs/Omegas) every day!
Watch out for the UV rays, Icarus! Okay, so you can’t get as close to the sun as that poor Greek mortal Icarus did, but protection is definitely a must these days. Too much UV exposure dehydrates the skin. That’s why some sun worshippers look 10 to 20 years older than they really are. Use an effective natural sunscreen with at least an SPF rating of 15, even in the cold, dreary winter months.
Use natural health & beauty products. Many cosmetic and skin-care products contain a plethora of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Several companies now offer products made with herbs, honey, healthy oils, and other familiar ingredients. For more information about natural skin care products, visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Quit Smoking. You’ve heard over and over the various health reasons to stop; we know it’s tough. But consider this: Cigarettes are little toxic cocktails that actually dehydrate the dermis, making those little lines around your eyes and mouth more pronounced. Thanks to those extra free radicals from tobacco. Check out smoking cessation programs in your community—many employers now offer these programs for free or with discounted rates.
1Haas, Elson M. and Buck Levin. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. © 2006