Feed Your Skin’s Health
Your skin doesn’t look like other organs of the body, so it’s easy to forget that it is one, says Dr. Amy Miller, medical director of the St. Louis Skin Solutions medical spa and skin care clinic. And what you do and don’t put into your body affects your skin’s health just as much as it does other tissues. “Taking care of your skin is just like taking care of your heart or liver,” Miller says. “Your lifestyle plays a major role.”
A well rounded diet and proper hydration are key to keeping skin in good shape. “The general rule is that you should drink about two liters of water each day, but that can vary a bit depending on body mass,” Miller says. “If you are a small person with a small bladder, you may not be able to do two liters, but you should still be conscious of how much you’re taking in. Drink plain water, not soda or coffee because they usually contain caffeine, a diuretic.”
Next, pay attention to the nutrients healthy skin needs. “Vitamins and minerals are key, and the trace minerals that are most important for your skin are zinc, copper and selenium,” Miller says. “All of the vitamins A through E are needed at some level.” Healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6 are necessary as well, and plant-based antioxidants called polyphenols are important.
According to Miller, good skin health also means avoiding foods that cause inflammation. “We used to be taught that conditions like acne didn’t have anything to do with diet,” she notes. “That has been proven untrue. We have found that high glycemic-index and high-fat foods can contribute to inflammatory disorders like acne. There is definitely a connection.”
High sugar in the diet can be a problem as well. It can structurally change the skin’s collagen, making it stiffer and less functional for good skin health, Miller says. Alcohol can be detrimental too—it’s another diuretic, and it inhibits the metabolism of dietary fats, which can cause the skin’s lipid barrier to malfunction and may lead to dryness and inflammation.
One of the most overlooked factors in good skin health is proper rest. “Sleep is when repair happens in the body and the skin,” Miller says. “If you are not getting enough rest each night, your body is not repairing damage and injury as efficiently. The importance of sleep can’t be overstated.” Regular exercise has benefits as well. “Whatever makes sense for the general health of your body can be applied to the health of your skin,” she says.
Miller adds that some supplements also can be helpful for skin. “Collagen supplements used to be thought of as something of a fad, but they have been around for a while now, and studies show they can be beneficial,” she notes. “Powdered preparations can be added to water or other drinks; they contain collagen peptides that are already enzymatically broken down so they are more easily digested. And the body needs amino acids to make new collagen molecules. When you add the right things to your diet, you are giving your tissues the building blocks to create new collagen. It’s like having all the construction materials you need to build a strong wall. Good diet, sleep and self-care — all three are key for healthy skin.”