For the longest time, there has been a general assumption that skin functions are related to maintenance of temperature, electrolyte and fluid balance, and protection from environmental, physical, chemical, and microbiological stressors. But there are a number of new studies showing that human skin does more. It is involved in the synthesis and processing of a number of proteins and lipids. It also appears to be an important part of the immune, nervous and endocrine systems serving as a communication pathway between these systems. (1)
With such a long list of responsibilities that impacts such a wide range of functions and systems, it is wise to know some simple, effective habits for promoting not just healthy skin, but a healthy life.
Use Sunscreen! Support Healthy Skin
There are changes in skin that naturally occur over the course of a lifetime. Wrinkles, sagging skin, vascular issues, and pigmentation irregularities are all to be expected. But there are environmental factors that can impact the health and quality of the skin, such as gravity, sun and ultraviolet exposure, and high levels of pollution. Lifestyle factors play a role too, often having important and obvious effects on skin aging. Things such as diet, tobacco consumption, illness, or stress can really do a number on skin health too. But of all these, sun/ultraviolet damage is the strongest. A study published by the Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology found that sun exposure accounts for as much as 80% of visible aging. (2)
What are the two most effective ways to combat the negative effects of the sun? First, minimize exposure by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, hats and sunglasses when going outside. Second, use sunscreen. The FDA recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15, at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. (3)
Good Hygiene Is Good For Skin
Forming regular washing and moisturizing habits are an important way to maintain skin health and integrity. But more is not necessarily better. In fact, too much washing can lead to an increase in the transmission of some bacteria, due to the negative impact on the skin flora. Regular bathing with a mild, nonantimicrobial soap is suggested. Consult with a dermatologist or medical provider if you need help in choosing the correct product. (4)
Eat A Healthy Diet For Glowing Skin
It’s a given, the quality of one’s diet can strongly impact their overall health. This is especially true when considering the skin. A balanced diet with fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to maintain younger looking skin. (5)
Fish Oil For Skin Health
Fish oil (or omega 3), the fatty acids in fish oil, has been found to improve skin barrier function, inhibit sun damage and hyperpigmentation, accelerate skin wound healing, and may also support skin health. (5)
Polyphenols For Healthy Skin
Polyphenols are found in fruits and plants which are used for beverages such as coffee, tea, and red wine, these compounds have been found to protect the skin from UV radiation. (6)
Antioxidants For Healthy Skin
There is a lot of attention in the study of antioxidants recently. The science can get a bit dense when considering how it applies to skin health, but in essence, free radicals are the byproduct of not just regular cellular activity, they are the result of changes in the environment, and can create an inflammatory reaction. The use of antioxidants (orally and/or topically) may be helpful in maintaining healthy skin. It is important to check with a licensed dermatologist before adding antioxidants to any skincare regimen. (7)
Vitamin Options For Healthy Skin
1. Collagen peptides (derived from animal skin, bones, tendons, and other tissues) are popular in recent years as an external agent that may relieve skin aging.(8)
2. Vitamin D can reduce DNA damage, inflammation, and photocarcinogenesis caused by ultraviolet rays.
3. B vitamins have been shown to support healthy skin aging mainly by balancing skin inflammation and pigmentation.
4. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and promotes collagen synthesis.
5. Probiotics also have the potential to improve aging skin.
6. Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance widely present in meat foods, and has been shown to have anti-aging properties.
Healthy Skin Means Drinking Plenty of Water
There is plenty of research to support the idea of good hydration for physical and mental health, but a good average for adults is at least 750 ml a day. When considering how this affects the skin, it helps to remember that it is made up of about 30% water. Adequate hydration can help maintain the skin’s elasticity, plumpness, and resiliency. (9)
Stress Management Promotes Great Skin
Skin mast cells are activated by stress, and they also produce stress hormones and inflammatory responses, making the skin both a stress perceiver and a target of the stress response – creating a difficult cycle of stress-induced inflammation. Skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne, contact dermatitis all demonstrate this perfectly. (10)
Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, breathwork can help in minimizing the effects of stress on the skin.
Healthy Skin Is Moisturized Skin
Moisturizers do more than just keep the skin soft, they can also reduce inflammation, reduce itching. Given the incredible number of products available, it can be difficult knowing which to choose. Consulting with a dermatologist or skincare professional is a great way to gain an understanding of the options available and choosing what is correct for an individual’s skin type. (11)
For Healthy Skin: Get Some Sleep
The benefits of a good night’s sleep can’t be overstated. When it comes to skincare, good sleep habits can improve the quality and health of the skin. In a study published in Clinical Dermatology, “chronic poor sleep quality was associated with signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance.” (12)
Acupuncture Can Support Skin Health
Acupuncture is an ancient medical system that assesses the balance of energy moving through the body. Needles are inserted at specific points to realign the energy and create a change in body dynamics. Acupuncture has proven effective in treating a number of illnesses – its effectiveness in treating skin issues has not been documented.
There is, however, something called “Cosmetic Acupuncture” or the acupuncture facial, which has shown great promise in improving skin elasticity and collagen production. (14) Before scheduling an appointment with a practitioner, make sure they are licensed, and have the required training to provide this service.
(1) What is the ‘true’ function of skin? Kligman, AM. Experimental Dermatology. 2002 Apr; 11(2): 159-187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7010069/
(2) Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Cuacasain skin. Flament, F. et.al. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2013; 6:221-232. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3790843/
(3) Comprehensive Review of Ultraviolet Radiation and the Current Status on Sunscreens. Wilson, B.D., Moon, S., Armstrong, F. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2012 Sep; 5(9): 18-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3460660/
(4) Hygiene of the skin: when is clean too clean? Larson, E. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Vol. 7, No. 2, March-April 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2631732/pdf/11294712.pdf
(5) Cosmetic and therapeutic applications of fish oil’s fatty acids on the skin. Huang, T. et.al. Marine Drugs 2018. Aug: 16(8) 256. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6117694/
(6) Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Schagen, S.K., Zampeli, V.A, Mokrantonaki, E., Zouboulis, C.C. Dermatoendoctinology. 2012 Jul1: 4(3): 298-307 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
(7) Antioxidants in dermatology. Addor, F.A. The Annals of Brazilian Dermatology. 2017 May-Jun; 92(3): 356-362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514576/
(8) Diet and skin aging – from the perspective of food nutrition. Cao, C., Xiao, Z., Wu, Y., Ge, C. Nutrients 2020. 12(3), 870. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/3/870/htm
(9) Water intake: validity of population assessment and recommendations. Gandy, J. European Journal of Nutrition. 2015; 54(Suppl2): 11-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473081/
(10) Barin-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Chen, Y., Lyga, J. Inflammation & Allergy – Drug Targets. 2014 Jun; 13(3): 177-190. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/
(11) Moisturizers: the slippery road. Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, SK., Gamvhir, ML. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2016 May-Jun; 61(3) 279-287. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885180/
(12) Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing? Oyetakin-White, P. et.al. Clinnical Dermatology. 30 September, 2014. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ced.12455
(13) Effect of facial cosmetic acupuncture of facial elasticity: an open-labeled, single-arm pilot study. Yun, Y., et.al. Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. 2013; 2013: 424313. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/424313/