It seems today that, wherever we turn, we are inundated by yet another “latest” in that wonder cream/serum with a “break- through” ingredient that will retain or return the youthful luminosity to our skin. The fact is that bottled remedies are only a part of the solution to healthy vibrant skin. Actually our body relies on synergies and balances of many things to make it as finely tuned as it is. Having accepted that the aging process is a part of being alive, if we want to make a difference in the way we look – no matter what age we are – we need to understand the way this process works, as it applies to our skin.
Experts believe that one of the main causes of the aging has to do with unstable negatively charged oxygen molecules known as “Free Radicals”. They are generated externally by such things as UV sun damage and pollutants and internally by metabolism and digestion. As these molecules try to stabilize, by latching onto other molecules, a self-perpetuating path of destruction and inflammation is created, resulting in the aging process. Factors such as UV ray exposure and consumption of foods high in sugar, are the accelerators of free radical development. Our skins, high in rich lipids, proteins and DNA, unfortunately are highly susceptible to destruction by these free radicals.
Certainly we do have neutralizing mechanisms in our bodies that have the natural ability to produce antioxidants to combat free radicals. But an adjustment in our nutrition and lifestyle can take us much further in protecting us against free radical destructive activity and help us be the best we can at our particular age.
There are many studies that show the beneficial properties of the various antioxidants that are present naturally in our skin as well as in certain foods.
Most of us have heard of the ant oxidative activity of Beta Carotene and its link to healthy skin. It is a carotenoid found in the skin, and also found in yellow orange and green leafy fruits and vegetable.
Lycopene, found in watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit and tomatoes, is another powerhouse carotenoid. Interestingly cooked tomatoes such as tomato paste or juice is a better source of this antioxidant than raw tomatoes, for it has been shown that heat processing of tomatoes increases Lycopene’s bioavailability. Linked to the protection of skin’s lipids, proteins and DNA against oxidative damage, it may not be enough to block direct UV radiation, but can help reduce the effects of indirect light such as that coming through glass windows.
Then there is Lutein which has been shown to inhibit our auto immune response as well as being linked to healthy eyes. Found in green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, corn and egg yolks, it improves skin hydration and elasticity while inhibiting cutaneous inflammation due to UV light exposure.
Flavonoids such as Rutin and Quercetin, both found in apples and blueberries, have been shown to have potent antioxidant and gene-regulatory activity. They increase our blood circulation at the sub epidermal level and improve the skin’s general texture and appearance.
The next in our skins protective arsenal are the various vitamins. Found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy bean, salmon, and most vegetable oils, Vitamin E is not only one of the best sources of antioxidants, it is also abundant in the skin. Vitamin A and its derivatives act not only as antioxidants but have the ability to increase levels of Vitamin E and also activate specific genes and proteins. The Vitamin B family for its part enhances our skin complexion by speeding up the skin cell renewal process. Vitamin C plays a role in collagen renewal, body tissue repair and the prevention of nitrates conversion into cancer causing substance.
Thus our diets should always have a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables but an avoidance of Carbohydrate Sugars found in sodas, cookies, cakes and white breads, ensuring that our blood is not deluged with a sticky sugar molecule that attacks the skin collagen causing the skin fibers to be stiff, inflexible, wrinkled and definitely dull looking.
Last but not least, our body requirement for a fine tuned balance, are the minerals such as Copper, Zinc and Selenium that work in conjunction with vitamins to prevent free radical damage.
Although we get some benefit from each and every antioxidant, it is important to keep in mind that the optimal benefit is attained by the synergies of all of them working together. Furthermore to ensure that all of these nutrients reach our skins, drinking about 8 glasses of water per day should be the rule of thumb.
As far as fats are concerned, experts tell us to avoid Saturated Fats, found in animal products such as meat, poultry, butter and whole fat milk as well as the Trans-Fats found in frozen dinners chips, cookies and crackers. The desirable fats are the polyunsaturated fats, found in fish oil and flax seed oil, and Monosaturated fats, found in olive oil and nuts. They function as building blocks for healthy cell membrane and help us maintain skin hydration.
With regards to lifestyle changes, the need to protect against the sun has been enumerated upon (ref: Lokvani E-Magazine June 15’ 06- Smart Sun Protection). Stress it seems is part and parcel of modern day living but managing that stress is important, for it definitely leaves a tell-tale sign on our skin. In tense situations, our body has a helpful hormonal response in the release of elevated levels of cortisol, giving us that extra energy needed to act. However, long term response to elevated cortisol levels results in an oxidation process that again unleashes free radicals.
So how can we help ourselves given that for most of us stress, to a greater or lesser extent is a part of our lives? Most of us are familiar with the benefits of exercise and the practice of Yoga for a healthy flexible body. But did you know that studies have shown that, not only the advanced, but even beginner Yoga practitioners can reduce the cortisol level in their bodies?
Another helpful thing is the drinking of green tea because it contains Theanine which is not only a non-sedative, de-stressing, anxiety-relieving relaxant but also contains ant oxidative Polyphenols. These polyphenols combat those free radicals produced by elevated levels of cortisol. In fact it has been noted that a cup of green tea produces more ant oxidative activity than even a serving of broccoli spinach or carrots. Polyphenols can also be found in Pomegranates, Blueberry Leaf, Olive Leaf and Rosemary.
The destructiveness of smoking and its effects on our lungs is well documented but it is also an opponent of good skin health for it is known that nicotine thus infused, destroys vitamin C and collagen synthesis causing vasoconstriction, resulting in blocking off oxygen to the skin.
Indeed a healthy beautiful skin is not a question of one cream, one food item diet or even an obsession with exercise. What is required is a multi-directional approach that includes smart food choices, lifestyle adjustments and by all means the consistent application of topicals that are well researched formulations of ingredients which are not only in synergy with one another but are in appropriate concentrations.
To live is to age, but – To live with balances means to age slowly and beautifully.
Smita M Patel – Skin Clinic Director
KK Newsletter 2012