Maintaining Healthy Skin as We Age

Our skin is important. Actually, no, it is essential for life. Without our skin, we would have a tough time making it through life. So how important is it that we take care of our skin? Essential. Our skin is actually our largest organ system and is a pivotal protective barrier to our body just as our gastrointestinal system, our inner skin, is a protective barrier for things we ingest. We care about what we eat so why shouldn’t we care about what we put on our skin? Our skin not only protects us from bacteria and bad things in our environment, it also is a way for us to take care of what is going on inside our body through pores. Pores are like little mouths on our skin that allow things such as lotions, makeup, even dirt and good bacteria, to get into them and be absorbed into our body. Pores also excrete oils and fluids that protect our skin from drying out or bacteria sticking to our skin. When we start to sweat, our pores produce the sweat that helps us detoxify also. Did you know that some of the largest pores we have on our body are on our feet and our head? Hence the importance of chemical-free shampoo, conditioner, and soaps. When we put ANY product anywhere on our skin, it goes into those pores and gets absorbed into our body, therefore, gets into our blood system. Some medications are actually administered this way by use of a cream or gel topically.

Our skin is an organ that expresses what is going on inside our bodies. It is a window that sheds light on how our internal systems are functioning. When we have an internal insult such as a food allergy or a bacteria or virus, our internal organs respond with inflammation and thus our skin commonly follows suit. Let me give you a few examples. Eczema isn’t a result of something you directly touch like poison ivy, it is a result of something that ends up in our internal body that our body is not happy about. We begin to get an outward expression of the unhappy environment going on inside. The same situation occurs with shingles. The shingles rash forms after someone contracts the herpes zoster virus. This virus is running around in your body and our skin responds with a very particular rash. Is the rash the problem? No, it is the virus. So when people start to use products topically for most skin complaints it certainly is helpful in some cases, but we ultimately need to be addressing what is going inside our bodies more so than what is going on with our outer skin. Too many people today lather on things that claim anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, smoothing, toning, hydrating, and whatnot. These topical treatments may be palliative and help a bit but are they addressing the ROOT CAUSE? Absolutely not.

We need to go deeper.

So if we are going to be smart about the foods we eat, we have to be smart about our beauty and cosmetic products. Just like navigating the red flags in our foods, we need to address the root cause and be smart about red flags in our topical products.

Do you want radiant skin for the rest of your life? Then you have to think inside and out.

I have 2 lists here. One is about things to think about topically and one about things to think about internally; both of which is just as important as the other.

 

Things to think about TOPICALLY to keep your skin healthy

  • Use organic, natural oil, or beeswax based products: This is probably the biggest take away from this article. YOU MUST FEED YOUR SKIN HEALTHY PRODUCTS, even your cosmetics. Beeswax is the best natural product that locks moisture into our skin. The use of a beeswax based product after showers or baths is super awesome at keeping our skin supple and hydrated after we just removed the natural protective oil layer from our shower or bath.  I recommend that you look up your product to see how it ranks on skin health by visiting EWG Skin Deep Database. I especially urge those of you who wear lipstick or lipgloss often, check the safety of your lipstick. What you put on your lips, you eat. If you want a list of ingredients to avoid on your next cosmetic or body care product purchase visit this site.

  • Fragrance: As discussed above, "fragrance" is added to almost all products and it is labeled as "fragrance". How descriptive. Avoid the term fragrance as it has connections to hormone dysregulation, fertility issues, thyroid concerns, cancer, and it literally dehydrates your skin. Instead, choose fragrance-free or if you prefer fragrance, choose an essential oil based scented products.

  • Sunscreen: Don’t get me wrong, sunscreen is very helpful to prevent sun damage but overdoing it on sunscreen can be detrimental to our health not only because it blocks our absorption of vitamin D but also because of all the chemicals in most sunscreens that then gets absorbed. We need sun for its vitamin D so getting about 15-20 of unadulterated (sans-sunscreen) sunshine is essential in our lives. Putting sunscreen on every time you go outside prevents you from getting that vitamin D, therefore, hindering optimal skin health. If you choose to wear sunscreen during prolonged times of sun exposure, which you should, choose a sunscreen around 30 SPF and reapply every 1-2 hours depending on activity level.

  • Exfoliation: Gentle exfoliation helps rid your skin of dead skin cells and induces cell regeneration. Over-exfoliating can be no good for your skin so do not overdo it on products that take off the top layers of your skin. Choose exfoliators that are based in salt or sand.

  • Showering: Did you know most Americans shower too much? Yes, showering is hygienic but too much showering is NOT hygienic. When we shower too regularly we strip our hair and skin of all the naturally occurring protective oils off our skin which leaves our skin more susceptible to bacteria. So unless you are working out daily and bustin’ a sweat, taking a quick water rinse or skipping the shower is better for your skin.

  • Cleaning products: If you are like me and use whatever it takes to get that stain or grime off your counter and carpets, you can get yourself into trouble with most cleaning products. If you choose to use harsh bleach products or ones that are really potent, please wear gloves and a mask. With that toxic chemical smell comes toxin inhalation and toxin absorption into your hands and arms as you clean. To see if your products are safe, visit the EWG here

  • Topical aloe vera: Aloe vera is very high in chlorophyll and contains constituents that are anti-inflammatory. Aloe vera has been used to treat skin burns, psoriasis, acne, and eczema. Studies also show that topical aloe vera gel effectively locks moisture into your skin. After a day in the sun, aloe is your go-to topical. 

 

Things to address SYSTEMICALLY to keep your skin healthy

  • Staying hydrated: If there is 1 thing you do for your skin, this is it! If you stay well hydrated, the need for lotions and hydrating products should be used to a minimum, therefore, saving you money. Most general guidelines for desired water intake is taking your weight, convert it to ounces and take that number in half. This number you get is a general guideline for how much water you should be taking in a day. Example: 140 lb person should drink about 70 ounces of water per day. Note: this recommendation is not best for severely obese or very athletic folks as needs change depending on the individual.

  • Minimizing diuretic beverage intake: diuretics are things that “diurese” which means they increase the amount of fluid your kidney releases into your urine thus losing more water than you body intends to. These are drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol. When you drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol, your body begins to release more of the water you have thus dehydrating you. Dehydration= dry skin among the other known side effects from high alcohol and caffeine intake. So I know it is impossible for some of us to quite the coffee, I get it! So I propose that you start with 1 large glass of water FIRST THING in the morning before that coffee. I promise your body will thank you for it.

  • Quality of water: Water quality differs greatly depending on where you live- which city, which county, well water, city water, and even the age of your home. Different cities have different qualities and different homes have different pipes. It is important to get your water tested frequently to determine the necessity of a home water filter.

  • Whole foods based diet: Eating foods particularly that are low-glycemic are ideal for skin health. This is a diet low in sugars, therefore, we prevent our bodies insulin levels from taking a roller coaster ride. When we allow our insulin to go up and down rapidly we experience mood swings, irritability, fatigue, energy bursts, headaches, and many other symptoms. Rapid rises in insulin are also connected to acne, wrinkles, rashes, and other skin conditions. Eating your veggies and greens help keep your skin glowing, particularly dark greens higher in chlorophyll. Red veggies such as tomatoes and bell peppers are high in lycopene, which is known to be protective against sun damage. Remember to stay away from preservatives and added food coloring or food additives as these can be irritating to our gut and ultimately our skin. Click here to read more about the top things to avoid on our food labels

  • Chlorella spp: Chlorella is a green algae that contains high amounts of amino acids and chlorophyll know to boost the immune system and detoxification. Amino acids, in general, are helpful for digestion and some are essential for life sustainability, a lot of which are on chlorella products.

  • Stress: Gosh, what does stress NOT affect?!?! Indeed, our nervous system dictates our lives. As we get stressed, studies show that our skin protective barrier function decreases leading us to be more susceptible to skin disorders and dehydration.

  • Rest: Going hand in hand with stress, as we get appropriate rest, we are able to actually reset our bodies functions allowing them to continue to operate at their optimal performance levels. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night for healthy skin along with a healthy life. 

  • Collagen Type II/Collagen peptides: Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue like our skin and is known to maintain or increase skin elasticity. This protein is also high in essential amino acids, chondroitin, and glucosamine. These constituents are useful in preserving joint and tissue plasticity. It is no fun to face the ugly truth of aging. As we age, our skin resilience goes down no matter what we do. What we can do is minimize all the added insults we do to our skin every day by adding collagen in our diet.  Collagen is best absorbed through regular ingestion of bone broths or can be purchased as a powdered supplement.

  • EFA supplementation: EFAs are essential fatty acids and the most important ones to get in our diet are omega-3s and omega-6s. These omegas are best found in fish. When we eat fish or take fish oil supplementation, we are promoting healthy skin among many other health benefits, such as decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, depression, fatigue and even cancer. Aim to eat 2-3 servings per week of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, or herring or begin a fish oil supplementation if fish is not sustainable for you.

  • Vitamin A and E: You can eat more foods high in these anti-oxidants. Foods high in Vitamin A can be found here and Vitamin E can be found here. Finding these nutrients in food is always best but most multivitamins also meet your daily vitamin A and vitamin E requirements.

  • Get that Sunshine (Vitamin D)- As mentioned above, a lot of people actually think the opposite is true. Well not so much! Sunshine, which is your BEST source of vitamin D, is beneficial for skin health and regeneration. When we get adequate sunlight, we are getting an important fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for regulation of our calcium and phosphorus levels. If getting out in the sun isn’t easy for you or you live in an environment low on sunlight, choose vitamin D3 as your type if vitamin D supplementation.

  • Medication Use: Some medications actually dehydrate or cause skin disorders so consult your doctor about the medications you are on to verify safety, as well as, common and adverse side effects.

  • Mental and Spiritual health: The rest of life follows suit. I know when I feel that I look good, I then feel good. So I encourage you to write a sticky note saying “I am beautiful” and place it on our mirror in your bathroom. Let this be your mantra for the next month by repeating this phrase 5 times while looking at yourself when you start your day. Who doesn’t need some positive thoughts to start the day?

 

HERE TO EMPOWER YOU WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HEALTHINESS,
DR. MEG


Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are no financial ties to any supplement companies, pharmaceutical companies, or to any of the products mentioned in this post. This post is not meant to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose conditions or diseases and is meant for educational purposes. As always, please consult your doctor before trying any new treatments or supplements. If you are experiencing a skin condition, please consult a doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatments as each skin condition is based on the individual. Please note that some of the recommendations made above interact with some medications so talk to your doctor before initiating any supplement for safety with your medications.


References

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Meghan Holpuch