Achieve glowing skin by following our A to Z guide.
Antioxidants like vitamin C and E reduce the harmful effects that sun, smoke and pollution have on your skin. These nasties destroy your skin’s collagen and elastin (proteins that support skin structure) causing wrinkling and ageing. Vitamin C reduces the likelihood of wrinkling, while vitamin E helps reduce inflammation. Citrus fruits and capsicum are rich in vitamin C, while plant oils and nuts provide vitamin E.
B vitamins including biotin, riboflavin and niacin are essential for beautiful skin. Biotin forms the basis of skin, niacin helps skin retain moisture and riboflavin aids in proper cell growth. Include chicken, tuna and dairy products for niacin, and milk, yoghurt and eggs for riboflavin. Your body makes most of the biotin you need, however bananas, rice and mushrooms are also sources.
Carotenoids, beta-carotene and lutein, are stored in the skin, where they enhance the skin’s ability to protect itself against harmful UV rays, reducing sunburn risk and premature ageing. However, these UV protection properties are insufficient to act as a physical sunscreen, so you still need to slip, slop, slap. Get your lutein from egg yolks and green leafy vegetables, while orange fruit and vegetables such as apricots and pumpkin will provide beta-carotene.
Ditch the fad diets if you want smooth and glowing skin. Fad diets eliminate whole food groups, increasing the likelihood of nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to conditions like dermatitis. Make sure you include a variety of wholefoods in your diet such as lean meat, legumes, dairy products, breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and avocado.
Eliminate cigarettes as smoking accelerates skin ageing and promotes wrinkles, especially around the mouth and eyes. Smoking narrows blood vessels to the skin, reducing blood flow. This damages collagen and elastin, reducing skin’s elasticity and strength. Get the help you need to quit smoking today by calling the Quitline.
Flavanols are antioxidants found in foods like cocoa, and have been found to increase blood flow to the skin, improve skin hydration and reduce skin roughness. Eating flavanols in the form of dark chocolate also appears to protect the skin against UV damage. Just make sure your dark chocolate contains at least 70% cocoa.
Green tea contains the catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which helps eliminates cancer-causing free radicals by making DNA and reactivating dying skin cells. ECGC may also speed up wound healing and reduce scarring risk, but more research is needed. Start the day with a cup of green tea. It’s also great for crushing the afternoon sugar cravings.
Hydration is key to healthy skin so drink plenty of water. Water plays a key role in maintaining elasticity and suppleness of skin, as well as helping to flush out toxins so it remains clean and clear. Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily.
Iron found in red meat, seafood and eggs, is essential for the normal growth and functional maturation of the skin. Not getting enough iron will cause dull, dry skin. For help you reach your iron requirements, include 3-4 serves of lean red meat each week.
Just relax, as stress increases cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol stimulates oil production in the body, increasing the likelihood of oily skin and acne. Chronic stress has also been found to impair wound healing by increasing the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, cell regulators that promote inflammation and tissue destruction. Manage your stress each week by allocating ‘me’ time. Turn off all technology and choose an activity that relaxes you.
Keep fit as it’s the perfect way to de-stress! Exercise lowers cortisol levels in the body, which helps normalise the skin’s oil production. This reduces the likeliness of developing acne. Controlling stress improves immune function and skin repair at the cellular level. Enjoy a 60-minute workout each day and enjoy glowing skin.
Lower sugar intake as too much sugar might be making your skin dull and wrinkled says British research. Sugar attaches to proteins forming harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Over time, AGEs accumulate and accelerate the degradation of elastin and collagen, leading to wrinkles and sagging. Remove soft drinks, lollies, cakes and other sweets from your regular diet. Enjoy them as an occasional treat only.
Minimise alcohol, as it’s a diuretic that dehydrates the skin, making it appear dull. Drinking alcohol also causes facial blood vessels to dilate with repeated overindulgence causing permanent dilation and red, spidery veins. Alcohol can also exacerbate flare-ups of rosacea and psoriasis. Drink in moderation with no more than two standard drinks each day and at least two alcohol free days weekly.
Nourish your skin by cleansing to remove accumulated dirt from pores and moisturising to restore natural moisture. Exfoliating aids in skin renewal and improves skin’s elasticity. For silky smooth skin, cleanse and moisturise your skin daily and exfoliate weekly.
Omega-3 fats literally moisturise your skin from the inside out, making it smoother and suppressing inflammation, immune responses and blood clotting. Omega-3 fats are also important for skin cell membranes, helping to retain moisture and keeping your skin looking plumper and younger. Include two to three 150g serves of fish each week and make sure one of them is an oily fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel.
Protein is the largest component of skin. The body uses protein to keep skin healthy by replenishing cells as they die. Inadequate protein causes skin to droop and loosen, as the production of collagen and elastin are reduced. For flawless skin, include a source of protein such as low-fat dairy, lean red meat, skinless chicken, eggs, fish or nuts at each meal.
Quality sleep is important for a healthy immune system. Not getting enough sleep increases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, negatively affecting skin barrier function and impairing skin integrity. Getting into a deep sleep is crucial for healthy skin, as it causes growth hormones to peak and initiates cell and tissue repair. Disruptive sleep reduces this crucial restorative process. Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Reduce caffeine intake as it constricts blood vessels, allowing less fluid to the skin, making it drier. Being a diuretic, caffeine also increases water loss from the body and indirectly affects skin integrity by interfering with sleep. Enjoy your daily coffee but limit caffeine intake to 300mg each day (3 instant coffees or 5 teas).
Selenium helps protect skin from sun damage and delays the signs of ageing by protecting skin elasticity and quality. Research shows that skin cells containing selenium are less likely to suffer the oxidative stress that can lead to unrestrained growth and cancer. Just two Brazil nuts will give you your daily selenium needs.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to protect skin from UV damage. In fact, British research found that people who consumed 50g of tomato paste daily for three-months had 33 per cent more protection against sunburn compared to those who didn’t eat tomato paste. Ensure tomatoes are on the daily menu. Add them to salads, sandwiches, pasta sauces or casseroles.
Up your sun protection. Sun exposure causes skin spots and ageing. UV rays penetrate your skin, damaging collagen and making your skin sag and more prone to wrinkling. UV rays also create free radicals, which can damage cell function and suppress immune factors increasing the length of time bruises and cuts take to heal. Slip, slop, slap and stay out of the sun during 11-3pm.
Vegetables such as green leafy veggies and orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the maintenance and repair of skin tissue. Deficiency in vitamin A results in dry, flaky skin. Boost your vitamin A intake by using spinach instead of lettuce in salads and swapping potato for sweet potato.
Wholegrain based foods have a lower GI than processed foods, which may be the key to healthy skin in acne suffers. In a study of male acne suffers, refined foods were found to cause a spike in insulin levels, which increased androgen levels, stimulating oil production in the skin. Swap your refined breakfast cereal for a wholegrain variety and use wholegrain bread instead of white.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and contains about half the kilojoules of regular sugar. Research in rats has found that xylitol supplementation increases skin collagen synthesis, as well as reduces the glycation of skin collagen thereby reducing skin ageing. While more research is needed, you can enjoy xylitol naturally in berries, plums, lettuce and cauliflower.
Yoghurt containing probiotics may help reduce inflammation by improving the balance of healthy bacteria in the body. Healthy bacteria in the gut cause intestinal cells to release various immune mediators, which may benefit the skin. Add yoghurt to your breakfast cereal or enjoy it as a snack each day.
Zinc maintains the integrity of skin, which makes it important for repairing damaged tissues and healing wounds. Research shows patients with chronic leg ulcers have low zinc levels. Zinc also plays a role in protein synthesis, immune function, cell division and DNA synthesis. Get your daily zinc intake by enjoying oysters, red meat, chicken and wholegrains.
About the author
Caitlin Reid is a unique health professional with qualifications as an accredited nutritionist, accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher. Caitlin is passionate about all things health and wellness, and keeps up-to-date with the latest health research, which she uses when contributing expert advice to health, fitness, lifestyle and food companies. She is also the nutrition expert for the Women’s Fitness magazine, the dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and ambassador for Papaya Australia. Follow Caitlin on Instagram @caitlinareid or visit her website.