Lifestyle, Sound Nutrition and Your Skin:
A Reflection of the “Inner You”
Written for Salon Plus January 2005
Skin: Basic Structure & Function
Skin. Is it just a membrane, an organ, or as more recent scientific definitions suggests, is it a system? Yes, in a sense, it is all of these. It is a very flexible protective covering (membrane) that shields us from the world around us. It contains two or more types of tissue (i.e. epithelial, connective, nerve, etc) and by definition qualifies as an organ. Recent advancements in the study of the skin and its structure / function have concluded it qualified as a system called the Integumentary System, integument meaning covering.
The skin is comprised of three major layers: Epidermis, Dermis/True Skin or Corium, and Subcutaneous.
Epidermis: This is the top layer that is constantly shedding. It is a result of deep layers of the skin pushing upward toward the surface. There are no blood vessels in this layer. Nutrients reach this section by means of tissue fluid. Fluid seeps or filters gradually upward from the deeper dermis to this layer. Germinating cells in this layer supply the constant turnover of new “Daughter cells.” It is here that pigment granules called melanin give the skin its color. Minute elevations and depressions in the epidermis and dermis provide the pattern known as fingerprints.
Dermis: This layer is the “heart beat’ of the skin. It has a framework of elastic connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. Involuntary muscles are found primarily at the base of hairs. The thickness of the Dermis is quite varied too, with soles and palms being thick and eyelids thin in texture. Appendages include sweat and oil glands (sudoriferous & sebaceous glands), nails and hair, which extend primarily from the dermis and some from the subcutaneous layer also.
Subcutaneous: This last layer is commonly referred to as the “fatty layer.” It also contains part of the sweat and oil glands. More importantly, it contains the connective tissue that connects the skin to the underling surface muscles. The fat serves as insulation and a reserve source of energy.
You can remember the functions of the skin as covered in your Cosmetology / Cosmetician Schooling with the following acronym: S.H.A.R.P.E.S.
Sensation – Touch, pain, pressure receptors
Heat Regulation – Cold and hot receptors
Absorption – Moisture and some nutrients
Respiration – The breathing action of skin
Protection – The primary role operating as a semi-permeable shield to the outside world
Excretion – Limited to water and salt
Secretion – Oil from Sebaceous glands and dietary sources (i.e. essential fatty acids)
Telling Signs of Your Skin & the Path to Make it Healthy
Noting the skin’s color, texture, and suppleness can reveal valuable information toward analyzing what regimen of skin care and supplement products will be helpful in improving it, especially its internal chemistry. The inner workings of the body’s chemistry is dependent on the quality and quantity of nutrients (i.e. protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, etc) it receives from the diet you consume. It’s virtually impossible to have healthy, radiant skin without paying attention to what you eat. Barring youth and certain genetic tendencies, your skin outwardly reflects what level of health you are experiencing inside your body. Think of it this way… about two thirds of your blood supply is passing through your skin at any moment in time. If your blood is deficient, lacks the nutrients mentioned above, so too will be your skin.
The “Other Factors” Affecting Skin Health
There are a number of “other factors” that play a major role in skin health. Here are the major players.
- Ultraviolet Exposure: Under this category is not only ultraviolet radiation from the sun, but also exposure from sun tanning beds touted to be “safe” due to their reduction or absence of UVB rays, the more apparent “burning rays.” As far back as the late 1980’s dermatological studies unmasked the common misconception or fallacy that UVB rays were the bad rays and UVA rays (those found predominately in tanning beds) were “safe.” The fundamental science behind ultraviolet rays states that all forms of visible light frequency are potentially hazardous to your skin’s health. Both UVA and UVB rays are forms of radiation. Note: UVA rays are longer waves which penetrate deeper layers of skin while UVB rays are a shorter wave length primarily affecting the outer or top layer of skin. Because radiation is accumulative, collects in the body over time, it is easy to see how it can cause skin damage, aging, and possible changes leading to skin cancer. Appropriate use of sunscreen and antioxidants can significantly help to protect and rejuvenate skin.
- Adequate Sleep: Recent medical reports, which have also surfaced on the nightly news, have clearly suggested people in the U.S. with their fast paced, high pressure lifestyles are getting too few hours of restful sleep. This in turn is affecting traffic safety, work productivity, family life, and health wellbeing. It appears the old advice to get eight hours of sleep per night is good advice. Our bodies are wired in such a way that we regenerate / repair our energy supply and tissues, including our skin, while we sleep. Hence, healthy skin requires good, sound sleep.
- Psycho-Emotional Stress: This describes our common lifestyle of “hurry sickness,” the fast paced, jam-packed lifestyle we consider normal. Actually, our ancestors would have never considered such a “pedal to the metal” lifestyle. People must take positive steps to decelerate. It will have a major impact on all phases of your health, including your skin.
- Smoking: I think this almost goes without saying. Cigarettes produce over 1200 different substances which are breathed into the lungs, absorbed into your bloodstream, and negatively impacts your skin.
- Infections: Almost any infection, particularly fungus and bacteria, such as Staphylococcus Aureus that can cause acne, needs to be addressed. A well functioning immune system, supported by a healthy diet, exercise, and antioxidants can go a long way toward healing your skin. Prevention is the key!
- Medications / Recreational Drugs: Legal drugs (medical prescription or OTC) can have a negative impact on your skin. For possible side effects, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist. Recreational drugs? They are dangerous for your body and your skin’s health.
- Hormonal: While it is easier for women to demonstrate signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance than men, it does not rule out the fact that both sexes can be affected. Famed biochemist and author of “The Zone Diet,” Dr. Barry Sears, suggests that the foods we eat should be thought of as intimately influencing the hormones of our bodies. Such thinking certainly shows how important food selection is to our health. Hormone balance can positively or negatively affect the health of our skin. Discuss this with your doctor or healthcare practitioner. Being that hormone health is closely connected and influence by what we eat, I will move right into how and what we eat influences the quality of our health and our skin.
Sound Nutrition - Good for the Body, Good for the Skin
High quality fuel is absolutely vital to the reliable operation of any high quality machine. Without question, your body is no exception! In order to obtain and maintain high quality health, your body must consume some 60 different nutrients (variety of protein, essential fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, and various vitamins and minerals) daily! Without consuming these essential nutrients daily, a person could gradually and inevitably develop one or more chronic, degenerative diseases such as heart, arthritis, cancer, diabetes to name a few. Obviously battling a degenerative disease would not be good for your skin.
Professional Recommendations to Enhance and Provide Healthier, More Radiant Skin
- Work with a Certified Nutritionist or a nutritionally orientated M.D., D.O., D.C. & Ph.D. to oversee your health program and progress.
- Food Allergy Testing: For those with problem skin issues I strongly recommend working with your doctor to get Food Allergy / Reaction Blood Testing. You might check www.acam.org for a physician referral or ask your local health food store. Food reactions can wreck havoc on your body and your skin, outside of the obvious probable culprits such as chocolate, salty or oily foods, and spicy foods. Possible or suspect foods are usually those that you consume frequently. No matter how nutritious a food is, you may individually be sensitive, reactive or allergic to it. When you consume reactive foods your immune system identifies them as an enemy not a friend and attacks them causing inflammation and when chronic can lead to disease. You may wish to review the following website: www.foodallergy.com. What is food to one person may be poison to another.
- Nutritional Support: Due to improper food choices, questionable soil quality, premature picking of fruits and vegetables, use of insecticides, individual lifestyle, air quality where food is grown, and biochemical individuality (your unique, inherited internal chemistry with it’s own tissue and organ weaknesses), it is very difficult to simply rely on a “good, sensible diet” to get the 60+ nutrients your body needs daily. Therefore you must support your health by taking nutritional supplements. Fortunately the nutrients that are good for your body as a whole are also great for your skin.
- Fundamental Nutrients for Good Health:
Multiple Vitamins and Minerals: These are the foundations for your supplement program. A broad spectrum supplement contains the following:
Vitamin A: About 10,000-25,000 I.U. Very important antioxidant for skin health. This vitamin helps build and maintain your epithelial skin, fight infection, and provides skin suppleness.
B-Complex: Your multiple vitamin-mineral should contain between 25 to 50 MG (milligrams) of each of the B vitamins with the exception of B12 and Folic Acid which are expressed in micrograms (mcg).
Ester Vitamin C: Antioxidant. About 1,000-1500 mg daily is important to assure strong flexible collagen that resists infection, bruising, bleeding, and aging.
Vitamin D: About 400-600 I.U. To insure the absorption of calcium for skin tissue repair.
Vitamin E: Antioxidant. About 400-800 I.U. helps to oxygenate the skin. Helps with skin elasticity and aids in resisting infection and damage due to ultraviolet exposure
Chelated Copper: About 2-3 mg daily helps with the construction, strength and flexibility of skin
Selenium: Antioxidant. About 150-200 mcg daily. Major involvement in cellular detoxification from environmental toxins such as exhaust, smog, and heavy metals, and internal sources such as ammonia, alcohol, and improper diet.
Chelated Zinc: About 30-40 mg daily. Provides the ability; along with Vitamins A, C, B6, Cooper and Selenium, to synthesize collagen and elastin tissue by enzyme action which are very important to produce healthy skin. All hormone production is heavily dependent on Zinc metabolism.
Note: If your multiple vitamin and mineral supplement does not supply these levels of nutrients, you might consider purchasing one that does or buy individual bottles of the various nutrients listed above especially Vitamins A, C, E so you are getting the recommended levels. All supplements should be taken with meals with the total quantity consumed in 2-3 divided doses during the day. If you have a sensitive stomach, try capsules instead of tablets.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: About 2-3 caps daily. These are critically important to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins which help with cardiovascular health, immunity, and healthy supple skin. They are usually in very short supply in most people’s diets. Rich dietary sources are tuna, mackerel, salmon, flax seed, and walnuts. Most individuals consume very little of these foods.
Lactobacillus Multidophilus: About 1-3 capsules at bedtime. These are the good bacteria that are absolutely necessary for good health. Sometimes known as the “friendly flora” of your digestive track, they do a lot to help maintain your overall health, good digestion, and bowel elimination which leads to great radiant skin. Make sure each capsule contains several billion organisms per capsule to be effective.
Comprehensive Digestive Enzymes: About 1-2 per meal. Everyone knows that many individuals, particularly 35 years and older, experience digestive symptoms that may be occasional or at worst chronic in nature. Symptoms such as sour/queasy stomach, nausea after eating, “heart burn,” belch-burp-bloat, or lower bowel disturbances are quite common. As a result, many of these individuals have joined the ranks of antacid product users. Obviously, the body does not have a lack of antacids. Most commonly the individual is deficient or inadequately produces digestive enzymes so there is not enough to breakdown the amount or type of food consumed. While food reactions can also be involved, real relief can be achieved by taking an enzyme or two toward the end of the meal. Note, if you have ulcers in the stomach or otherwise, do not use an enzyme with HCL (Hydrochloric Acid). Consult your local health food store for suggestions. Helping digestion helps improves your quality of life and your skin!
Your skin is a major part of your body and is quite complex with many functions designed to adapt to the surrounding environment. A number of lifestyle factors can affect its health and radiance. Such habits as excess ultraviolet exposure, inadequate sleep, stress, smoking, infections, medications, and hormonal imbalances can negatively impact skin health and vibrancy. Despite various conflicting scientific opinions, your skin is affected by the quality and compatibility of food you consume. Your body needs some 60+ different nutrients to maintain and sustain good health and wellbeing. Unfortunately our diets are deficient to supply this need. As a result you need to take nutritional supplements, digestive enzymes as needed, lactobacillus multidophilus, and omega 3 fatty acids. If you properly nurture your body, your skin will show the glow of your efforts.
About the Author:
Michael D. Levi, Ph.D. holds a doctorate in Health Education with a specialty in Orthomolecular Nutrition. He is a Certified Nutritionist with more than 25 years experience in the field and was former Associate Health Education Professor at UCLA. He is Vice President of Miqropure Laboratories, www.miqropure.com.