For the last few months, we’ve partnered up with some amazing professionals here in town to shine light on some of our health related questions and concerns.
Last week, Erin Bishop, Nurse Practitioner at Vitality Integrative Skin Clinic, brought her knowledge to the Coldwell Banker Morris conference room to get to the bottom of what makes our skin do what it does. Here are some of the takeaways.
A Few Things to Know About Your Skin
The skin is a reflection of what’s happening inside the body, so what you eat can affect your skin. The products you put on your skin affect internal health and common prescriptions and topical products are usually only a bandaid type of fix, ignoring the underlying cause. Beneficial bacteria in the gut and on the skin are our friends.
The skin is your largest organ and it’s composed of 3 layers:
- Epidermis-outer layer: melanocytes & the sight where skin cancers form.
- Dermis-middle layer of your skin: mostly collagen, elastin, & hyaluronic acid.
- Hypodermis-beneath the dermis: comprised of fat, connective tissue & blood vessels.
What Impacts the Appearance of Your Skin?
Aging occurs because of two different factors: Intrinsic & Extrinsic factors. The most significant factor to aging is UV exposure. Its’ responsible for 90% of the visible signs of aging. Other factors include air pollution, stress, smoking, diet and lifestyle choices.
To Combat Air Pollutants
Air pollutants are real, even here in Central Oregon, so wash your face twice daily, especially at night with a gentle cleanser. Air pollutants including polyaromatic hydrocarbons are known to contribute to aging, pigmentation and acne.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are unstable Oxygen molecules missing at least one of their electrons. They try to steal an electron from nearby cells in your body to make a pair. This causes Oxidation of that neighboring cell and results in DNA damage or even cell death. When you add in Extrinsic factors like UV exposure, smoking, alcohol, poor diet, toxins like air pollution, pesticides, and chemicals used in households and agricultural products, it overwhelms your body and leads to Oxidative Stress.
What is Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative Stress sets off a chain of events in your body that begin to cause visible damage such as breakdown of your collagen, elastin and premature gray hair. It also causes skin to wrinkle, age, and appear thinner. As we age, collagen production is already slowing down. Combining extrinsic factors with natural aging accelerates this process.
Food – What It Really Means to Your Body on a Cellular and Molecular Level
The food you consume is broken down into Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Macronutrients are your fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are your minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. Food provides information to your DNA to tell it how to function.
As it turns out, if you’re not giving your body what it needs to function, imbalances will start to occur. A healthy diet will impact your skin positively whereas an unhealthy diet will impact it negatively.
Here Are Some Foods and Vitamins to Consider for Your Skin Health
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid fights free radicals and increases immunity. It is essential for production of collagen and Elastin. Consuming vitamin C rich foods daily is recommended and eating foods fresh and raw is best to maximize the benefits. Great sources of Vitamin C: pomegranate, cantaloupe, collards, strawberries, kale, mangoes, onions, oranges, pineapples, spinach, tomatoes, green peas, currants, raspberries, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage.
Vitamin E contains potent anti-inflammatory effects and improves healing, reduces scarring and also plays a role in making your DNA.
Great sources of Vitamin E: avocados, dark green leafy veggies, anchovies, salmon, nuts, seeds, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, olive oil, eggs, organ meats.
Vitamin A has important role in the maintenance & repair of skin tissue. It boosts immunity, slows the aging process and neutralizes free radicals.
Best ways to get Retinoids & Beta-carotene: carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe apricots, mangoes, eggs, shrimp, fish (tuna, trout, salmon), shrimp, liver, milk.
Other Carotenoids – Lycopene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin
Lycopene is especially powerful in protecting the skin against UV damage. Lutein and Zeaxanthin have also been shown to help protect the skin from UV exposure. They help prevent damage and maintain the structural integrity of your skin.
Best sources of Lycopene: red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, and guava. Best sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin: cooked green leafy veggies like spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens & romaine lettuce.
Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. They can absorb the entire UVA, UVB, and UVC spectra and prevent penetration of UV radiation into the skin to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and the DNA-damaging effects of UV radiation in the skin.
Foods high in Polyphenols are deeply colored fruits and cruciferous veggies: watercress, arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, pomegranate, black currants, grapes, plums, cherries, and strawberries.
A Special Note about Pomegranate
Pomegranate contains not only polyphenols, but phytochemicals such as indoles. Indoles help stop cancer before it starts. Pomegranate has been named Nature’s power fruit.
Taken internally or applied topically pomegranate protects against UV induced oxidative stress, cell death, and cancer formation.
Healthy Fats – Omega 3 Fatty Acid and Olive Oil
There are three main Omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Your body can not make ALA, so you must consume it from your diet. However, your body is proficient at converting ALA to EPA and DHA. It keeps the skin healthy and looking younger and less wrinkled. Omega 3s fight free radical damage and exert significant anti-inflammatory effects.
Eat Omega 3 rich foods several times a week.
If you are not a fish lover, you can supplement with flaxseeds 1tbsp or fish oil capsules about 1000mg a day.
Tea – Rich in Antioxidants
Both Green and Black tea have been shown to help prevent skin cancer. Tea has polyphenols, with powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and tumor-inhibiting properties. Green tea taken in orally or applied topically prior to sun exposure has helped protect against sunburn. A study showed drinking 4-6 cups of freshly brewed green tea daily was protective against melanoma.
Coffee – Also Rich in Antioxidants
Coffee is rich in flavonoids and polyphenols. A higher consumption of caffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of basal cell carcinoma and may also have an effect at lowering melanoma risk. How many cups to consume still needs more research, but even 1 cup a day showed benefits.
Even Seasonings Have Benefits
There are a few most beneficial herbs and spices: oregano, rosemary, parsley, sage, dill, coriander, thyme, bay leaf, cinnamon, basil, star anise, celery seed, & curry powder. Parsley contains Apigenin, which helps to protect skin against the sun. Turmeric, ginger, & garlic are especially powerful anti-inflammatory agents and improve the appearance of skin and have sun-protective benefits. Turmeric inhibits UV-induced cellular damage, reduces inflammation, and prevents cellular changes leading to tumor formation.
Find any excuse to add these flavors in!!
HELLO, Dark Chocolate
Yes, dark chocolate is rich in flavanols that help your skin protect itself from UV damage. It helps to fight free radicals and increase blood flow. Dark chocolate flavanols improve skin hydration and thickness. But keep in mind, the benefit is only seen in 70% cocoa or higher.
Ensure you are getting a good quality supplement without impurities and that it is tested for potency. Check with your Healthcare Practitioner to ensure they are appropriate for you as some will interact with prescription medications.
- Astaxanthin: Has been shown to protect against UVA-induced DNA damage and adds protection from the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
- Vitamin E & C Topically: Prevents free radicals from forming during UV exposure and improve the skin’s protective barrier.
- Resveratrol: Benefits include anti-aging, sun protection, reducing inflammation and cancer prevention.
- Vitamin D: Boosts the skin’s immune system and helps destroy free radicals.
- Niacinamide: Boosts the immune systems ability to repair DNA, but also reduces the UV induced immune suppression.
- Polypodium Leucotomas (PL): Protects against sunburn, neutralizes free radicals, inhibits DNA damage and UV induced inflammation. It can stimulate a molecule internally to suppress tumor formation. This is not a replacement for sunscreen!
Approximately 70% of what you apply to your skin is absorbed into your body. This includes products you apply directly as well as household cleaning products. Women use approximately 12 personal care products daily containing 168 ingredients and teenage girls are using 17 personal care products daily. The FDA doesn’t regulate the safety of ingredients in personal care products and the US only has 11 banned ingredients compared to 1,400 in European Union.
Why You Should Care About Skin Products
Serious and chronic illnesses have been associated with some ingredients, including cancer, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, hormone imbalance and skin irritation. Many of these ingredients are used in commonly used shampoos, body soaps, deodorants, and makeup.
What You Can Do About It
Read labels of your personal care and household products just like you would food labels.
Avoid these 10 most commonly found skincare ingredients that have been identified as either causing, irritation, disruption of normal body functioning or suspected carcinogens.
- Parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl, ethyl)
- Peg/polyethylene glycol
- Imidazolindyl urea
- Diiazolidinyl urea
- Bha/butylated hydroxyansiole
Resources for Skin Products
- EWG.org (Environmental Working Group) provides an excellent resource for additional information.
- Provides the general public with free evidence based information about personal care items and household products.
- EWG has a free app for your smart phone called Skin Deep.
- Think Dirty is another free app for your phone.
- Start slowly and pick the 3 products you use most to see if they have clean ingredients.
Do Skin Checks on Yourself Monthly
Use the ABCDE methods for checking your spots:
A – Asymmetry: If you were to cut your spot down the middle would it look the same on both sides.
B – Border: A spot should have a uniform sharply marked border. You don’t want to see irregular, scalloped or poorly defined margins.
C – Color: There should be uniformity of color throughout the spot. You don’t want to see a spot that is multi-colored.
D – Diameter: Typically a spot is the size of a pencil easer or smaller (5mm)
E – Evolving: The most important factor. You are looking for any spot that has changed in size, color, and appearance compared to your last exam.
If you suspect any of your spots have changed, you should seek assistance from a trained professional