Here’s a question for you. How old are you?
Given that you body will replace the whole of your skin every 30 days or so and that we are constantly replacing the gut lining (the health of which is essential for absorption of nutrients), and we have already replaced our teeth by the time we are 10 years old, the answer is somewhat complex. The average age of all our parts is thought to be ~15 ½. Interesting therefore, is it possible we may be able influence and perhaps restore some of the elements that appear to have left us? The skin will inevitably deteriorate but our appearance is all down to connective tissue and the main protein of connective tissue is Collagen. Collagen is essentially the scaffolding which holds joints, skin and vital organs together. As you age, the number of collagen and elastic fibres in your inner layer of skin decreases. Additionally, you lose fat from the tissue under your skin. As a result, your skin becomes less elastic and begins to sag and wrinkle.
Skin health of course is a reflection of the impact of diet, exercise, stress, pollution, genetics and many other factors we have exposed ourselves to over the years. Improving any or all of these issues will reflect on improvements to our skin health.
Your skin is your largest organ. It covers your entire body and has a surface area of around 2 square metres. Its thickness varies from 0.5mm on your eyelids to 4mm or more on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. In total, it accounts for around 16 percent of your body weight.
Tough Physical Barrier
Your skin consists of two main layers: the outer epidermis and the inner dermis.
Cells in the deepest layer of your epidermis divide constantly to make new cells. The new cells are pushed towards the surface of your skin. They eventually die and become filled with keratin, an exceptionally tough protein. Keratin provides your body with a durable overcoat, which protects deeper cells from damage, infection and drying out.
Cells on the surface of your skin rub and flake off steadily and are continuously replaced with new ones. About every 30 days, your body produces a totally new epidermis.
Your inner dermis consists of strong collagen and elastic fibres pierced by blood vessels. It also contains touch, pressure and pain sensors and is packed with hair follicles, sweat and oil glands. The oil glands produce a lubricant that keeps your skin soft and prevents your hair from becoming brittle.
Natural Skin Therapies
So how do we go about looking after our skin which is a key to our overall health.
We all know the phrase “beauty comes from within” and to a great extent this is a reflection of both the inner spirit and equally to the body’s nutritional status. Nutrition is fundamentally involved at each stage of skin development. Collagen is a key to skin health and it is highly dependant upon Vit. C. No Vit C – no collagen.
Damage to skin is also limited by antioxidants such as Vitamin A. C & E, Selenium and many others. Vitamin A helps to control the rate of keratin accumulation in the skin; a lack of this Vitamin will result in dry flaky skin.– Pycnogenol is an effective antioxidant and protects against both fat and water soluble free radicals. Derived from Pine Bark Extract it is an antioxidant that binds and protects collagen so that enzymes and free radicals can no longer break down the collagen and elastin fibres. The effects of Pycnogenal can be greatly enhanced with the antioxidants green tea, MSM and vitamin C.
The membranes of skin cells are made of essential fats. A lack of EFA’s (Omega 3, 6 & 9 from fish oil, flaxseeds etc.) makes these cells dry out too quickly, resulting in dry and an excessive need for moisturizers. The health of the skin also depends on sufficient Zinc, which is needed for production of new skin cells. Lack of zinc leads to stretch marks and poor healing and is associated with a wide range of skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
Skin cells also produce a chemical that, in the presence of sunlight, is converted to vitamin D which is needed to maintain the calcium balance of the body. You have to strike a balance here of course – too much sunshine will damage the skin cells.
Other skin nutrients include Hyaluronic Acid which is known as “nature’s moisturizer” with its ability to nourish and hydrate collagen (vital to maintain the skin’s layers and structure).HA acts by binding water and thus helps keep skin wrinkle free. In addition it acts as a space-filler in dermal layers between skin cells which helps to make skin soft, smooth and elastic, especially the face and lips. The body makes and degrades a few thousand milligrams of HA a day. Unfortunately with age the body does not synthesize at the same rate as degradation take place, hence the ageing process. Supplementing will contribute to slowing the ageing process.
Good dietary guidelines are essential for quality skin. Limit alcohol, coffee, tea, sugar and saturated fats and increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, water, herb teas as well as taking a good all round mineral supplement and 1000mg of vitamin C a day.
No matter how many skins you accumulate during your life the trick is to look after it. Watch out for excess sunshine, the use of chemical cosmetics ( the subject of next months article) and quit smoking ( depletes vitamin nutrition big style).
Remember what you eat today you will wear tomorrow.