The science behind younger looking skin
There are many reasons to take care of your skin, and certainly more than just looking after your appearance. Your skin isn’t simply a protective case to prevent your insides from escaping; it’s also a complex organ in its own right, and an outward reflection of your complete health.
Taking care of your skin starts within, and by looking after it, you are actually nurturing your whole health.
In this article we take a closer look at the science that gives you younger looking skin, and share with you some simple tips to get working on it straightaway.
The skin’s structure
The skin is made up of two main layers: the epidermis (the top layer that we see) and the dermis, which sits underneath and contains high amounts of collagen and elastin. A subcutaneous layer of fat cells sits underneath the dermis, adding extra cushioning and protection. It’s the range of beneficial fats in your diet that will feed this layer, hence why low fat diets are bad news for your skin.
The epidermis consists of 4 layers, and cells gradually work their way up through the layers, and finally to the thin surface layer, where they are rubbed, or fall off as a natural part of day to day living. In fact, the epidermis is completely renewed every 6 – 10 weeks. The protein and fat content of the epidermis is crucial to help the skin to retain moisture and also to allow the transport of substances, such as sweat, out of the body.
Your skin is made up mostly of dermis. The top portion of dermis contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, connective tissue and some collagen and elastin, whereas the lower layer of dermis is where you’ll find high amounts of collagen and elastin.
Collagen is a crucial structural component of skin. It is a tough, special type of connective tissue, made up of bundles of protein fibre, and is a bit like the ‘glue’ that holds skin together. Collagen forms about ¾ of the skin’s dry weight so it is vital to support this special tissue to maintain younger-looking skin. Collagen is fairly rigid and doesn’t stretch much. Its strength and capacity to respond to daily stresses lessens with age and with sunlight exposure. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, so it is important to maintain an optimal daily intake, especially as you get older. Minimising your exposure to the sun’s UV rays will help to maintain levels of collagen as you age too.
Whilst collagen provides strength and rigidity, elastin is what gives skin the elasticity to stretch and then return back to shape. It is believed that changes in thestructure of elastin may be one of the factors involved in the development of wrinkles as we age. Both collagen and elastin are bound in a fluid made up of several substances including water, just one of the reasons why water is so important for youthful skin – it supports the function of these vital skin structures. A deficiency in vitamin C can weaken elastin fibres as you age so it is crucial to include plenty of this essential nutrient in your diet to support youthful skin and high elasticity.
Oxidative stress & premature skin ageing
You are constantly exposed to oxidative stress from chemicals and environmental factors that negatively affect your skin. Air pollution, UV rays, chlorine in swimming pools, radiation, smoky atmospheres and extreme heat or cold are just a few of the stresses that the skin must deal with on a daily basis. The sun’s UV rays are among the worst offenders, causing permanent skin damage by oxidising the elastin in skin; the proteins become cross-linked and lose their elasticity.
And it’s not just external factors that can harm your skin. Oxidative stress happens inside the body too, from factors such as cigarette smoke, fried / burnt food, alcohol, processed cooking oils, pesticides, even normal metabolic processes and more.
Oxidative stress, from external or internal sources is one of the most significant factors affecting prematurely ageing skin. And long term exposure to the sun’s UV rays and cigarette smoke are perhaps the most damaging of all. Oxidants are highly destructive because they destroy fats, proteins, connective tissues and can even damage your DNA.
Protect your skin against oxidative stress
When it comes to protecting and maintaining a healthy skin structure, the most significant step you can take is to protect your skin against oxidative stress. You can achieve this by reducing your exposure to oxidative stress wherever possible, at the same time as increasing your intake of antioxidants through your diet and targeted supplements. Use the 12 simple tips below to help you achieve this.
Anti-ageing benefits of hydration
Your skin needs water like a balloon needs air. Deprive your skin cells of water and they will become shrivelled and saggy, like a deflated balloon. Not only do you need to drink plenty of fresh filtered water daily to support healthy digestion and elimination, flush out unwanted toxins and to keep your skin cells plump and taut, you also need to make sure your diet contains high quality sources of protein and beneficial omega 3 and 6 fats as these help the skin to retain its moisture and improve hydration.
Every cell membrane contains essential omega 3 and 6 fats and these fats keep the membranes soft and smooth. Membranes that don’t contain enough fat struggle to retain water and quickly lose their plumpness. In fact, skin problems are among the first signs of a deficiency in essential fats. Symptoms such as dry, flaky, itchy, inflamed skin can often be dealt with simply by adding more essential fats into the diet.
How to look after your skin…
Youthful, radiant, glowing skin is a reflection of optimal health overall. So the good news is that the steps you take to look after your skin will naturally benefit your wider health too. Science tells us that younger looking skin happens when total oxidative stress load is lowered, antioxidant intake is increased, hydration is optimal and vital structures that make up your skin, such as fat, protein, collagen and elastin are well supported through the diet. It is also crucial to replace key nutrients that are easily depleted with age, such as CoQ10 and water soluble nutrients such as vitamin C that are needed daily. You can even make use of supplemental collagen for an extra boost along with unique plant compounds such as Maritime bark extract and citrus and rosemary extracts that have been shown to reduce wrinkles, improve elasticity, smoothness and firmness. Read on for a summary of 12 simple tips to nourish youthful skin.
12 Simple tips to nourish youthful skin
1. Limit your exposure to oxidative stress. Whilst it’s not possible to avoid oxidative stress completely, you can certainly limit your exposure to factors such as cigarette smoke, sun’s UV rays, radiation, air pollution, exhaust fumes, pesticides, alcohol, burnt/fried food and processed cooking oils to protect your skin.
2. Eat more antioxidants. Antioxidants are found in rich supply in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and will help to protect your skin against some of the inevitable sources of daily oxidative stress. Reducing your exposure to oxidative stress whilst upping your intake of antioxidants is one of the most effective ways you can nourish youthful skin. Another good reason to aim for ‘9 a day’.
3. Stay hydrated with water, protein and fat. Not only do you need to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, you also need high quality protein and fat to help your skin retain moisture. As well as drinking plenty of water, include lean poultry, fish, pulses, beans and lentils (protein) with nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil and oily fish (fat).
4. Support collagen and elastin production with vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for collagen and elastin production, has strong antioxidant activity and is water soluble so must be supplied regularly via your diet. Rich sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, papaya & pineapple.
5. Eat a Mediterranean-style diet. Your skin will benefit most from a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats from nuts, seeds, oils and avocado, protein from lean poultry, fish, beans and lentils and wholegrains such as oats and rye. The Mediterranean-style diet is naturally packed full of protective antioxidants, beneficial fats and high quality protein to support youthful skin.
6. Apply antioxidant-rich skin cream daily. Youthful skin is a product of both what you eat and what you put on your skin. A daily face cream that contains antioxidants can help to topically reinforce your protection against oxidative stress.
7. Protect your skin against harmful UV rays. Whilst a certain level of bare skin sun exposure is essential for vitamin D production, too much can permanently damage your skin and increase your risks of skin cancer, so a delicate balance is needed here. Apply high SPF sunscreen when needed and use a hat / parasol / long sleeved top to cover up the most vulnerable areas such as your face, chest and shoulders.
8. Maritime bark extract. Rich in polyphenols with super strong antioxidant properties, Maritime bark extract has been shown in studies to improve skin firmness, skin elasticity, skin fatiguability and reduce wrinkles.
9. Citrus & rosemary extract. Studies have found that the combination of citrus and rosemary extract helps to protect the skin by resisting sunburn, reducing wrinkle depth & improving skin elasticity.
10. Collagen. The main structural component of the skin can be taken as a supplement to support firmer and smoother skin, and reduce wrinkles.
11. Co Q10, Biotin & Astaxanthin. Co Q10 is a vital antioxidant and helps to protect cells against oxidative stress and recycle vitamin E. Levels of Co Q10 in the skin decrease with age so this is an essential supplement for youthful skin. Biotin also supports healthy skin and astaxanthin is a powerful carotenoid with strong antioxidant activity to help protect the skin.
12. Omega 3 & Omega 6 – Supplement daily with omega 3 fats from high quality fish oil and omega 6 fats from starflower oil to keep the skin well oiled from within, and support optimal hydration.