The skin is the largest organ of the body and covers its entire outer surface. The area of the skin is typically around 25 square feet in the average person and the total weight of the skin is 25 pounds. The skin protects the internal organs from infectious agents; it also helps to regulate the temperature of the body by the production of sweat.
In addition, the skin also plays a role in the protection of the body from the sun by the production of melanin (it also gives the skin its coloring). The skin provides the body its sense of pain, pleasure, temperature and pressure- alerting the body to danger by these sensations (Source: MacLean 1993).
The skin transforms sunshine into Vitamin D, one of the vitamins that the body is often lacking. it is important to keep in mind that the skin is a living part of the body and it needs to be nourished inside and out. It also needs to be given plenty of fluids from inside- dehydration is often seen in the condition of the skin before any other symptoms are noted.
The layer that we think of as skin is only one layer of many. The epidermis is the part of the skin that we can see and touch, the part that we wash and care for. This layer is several layers thick and consists of living cells and dead cells that are constantly shed off throughout the day. This layer does not use any blood supply at all and is the first line of defense against any harmful germs or bacteria.
The next layer is the dermis which is bright red in appearance. The dermis layer is where the nerve endings and nerve fibers, sweat glands and hair follicles are found. Beneath this is the subcutaneous tissue which is a layer of fatty tissue. This layer helps to insulate the body against heat and cold. This is also the layer that gives the face and body individual shape and character by various deposits of fat globules. Finally, in this layer are the muscles that allow the face to show expressions and reactions.
Healthy Foods for Healthy Skin
There are some foods that are good for the skin and some that can be even better. First though, it is necessary to keep in mind that there are some myths about the skin, particularly in regard to acne. It is not caused by eating junk food, at least not directly; however a poor diet can lead to the overproduction of oil from the pores, which does contribute to the possibility of acne.
The better that you take care of yourself from the inside out, the better your skin will look. These are the top foods in a number of categories:
The Best Vegetable – Romaine lettuce gives you more than 100% of your daily value of Vitamin A which helps to keep the skin looking fresh and vital by increasing the rate of daily skin cell turnover. Romaine also has the mineral potassium and provides 45% of the daily value of Vitamin K. This vitamin is necessary in the body to activate a protein that supports vascular health. This can prevent the bulging varicose veins often found in the legs of older people.
The Best Fruit- One cup of strawberries gives up to 130% of the daily value of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the body to produce collagen fibers which can help keep the skin smooth and firm. It also helps to protect against future wrinkles- women in particular with low intake of Vitamin C tend to have drier, more wrinkled skin. Ellagic acid, another antioxidant is used by the body to prevent sagging skin and is also abundant in strawberries. Finally, strawberries may lower the risk of cancer, with people eating the most strawberries three times less likely to develop it (Source: Repinski 2010).
The Best Protein- In a study, women in their thirties and forties who ate foods with high amounts of soy like tempeh had improved skin firmness and the reduction of fine skin wrinkles. The results are likely caused by a soy isoflavone called aglycone. Soy also helps to reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer as well as diabetes and the recurrence of breast cancer.
The Best Nut- A handful of almonds can boost levels of the Vitamin E, which is considered to be one of the most important antioxidants for skin health. Women who eat nuts at least twice a week are also less likely to gain weight.
The Best Fat- Women who drank a half cup of cocoa made with dark chocolate had an increase in skin circulation that lead to glowing skin that lasted for at least two hours. It also leads to softer and smoother skin with better hydration as well. An 8 ounce cup of cocoa also improves blood flow to the brain which can lead to better functioning in complex tasks. This increased blood flow may also reduce the risk for certain dementias.
Honorable Mention Foods
Tomatoes – Lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon can protect against sunburn , increase the collagen and may reduce the chance of heart disease by up to 34%.
Apples – Apples have quercetin, which is an antioxidant found in their peels. This antioxidant protects against sunburn and is found in the highest concentration in Monroe, Cortland and Golden Delicious apples. Two or more apples per week for a whole year may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 15%.
Walnuts – Walnuts have alpha-linolenic acid, one of the Omega 3 fatty acids that keep the skin moist and supple. Only half an ounce of walnuts gives 100% of ALA. Walnuts may also help with sleep by providing melatonin.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fat sources and is also a great source of essential fatty acids which the body cannot create on its own. These EFAs are used by the body to resist damage from the sun’s UV rays. Olive oil also contains hydroxytyrosol, which may lower cholesterol, prevent obesity and lower the risk of diabetes. It has also been known to help reduce the amount of hunger between meals.
Whole Grain Foods – Whole grain breads, pastas, cereals and other foods are high in antioxidants which have a number of body benefits, including keeping the skin soft, smooth and wrinkle free.
Hilary and Healthy Skin: A Case Study
Hilary washes her face with a gentle cleanser twice a day, uses a moisturizing lotion that contains sunscreen, and always makes sure that she only uses high quality makeup and skincare products on her face. She also makes sure that she gets the best nutrition for her skin’s health, including plenty of pure water so that she stays well hydrated. In addition to the foods listed above, Hilary eats plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and also includes Profect, a protein supplement from Protica to her daily diet so that she is not hungry between meals. Protein is important to healthy skin and plays a number of roles in keeping it that way.