Reading and Interpreting Skin Health Signals
From what we eat to what we apply to our skin, our health and beauty are intertwined. Interdependent upon each other - our outer beauty dances in delicate step with our inner health.
SKIN AS A HEALTH COMMUNICATOR
For a beautiful, radiant glow from the inside-out, we must view beauty as more than pretty hair, a slim figure, and blemish free skin. We must look deeper. A vibrant glow comes from a vibrant lifestyle. From the foods we eat to daily movement to topical applications, it all plays a part in producing the elusive healthy glow we all desire.
The skin is an important transmitter for the body’s communication system. Your skin often reflects what is happening inside your body - breakouts, color, tone - it all reflects the greater balance of our digestion, nervous system, hormones, and blood-sugar levels. Your skin is connected to all of the systems of your body and reflects the balance of these systems.
READING YOUR SKIN
Your skin is constantly changing in rhythm with your hormones, environment, lifestyle, and overall health. Symptoms such as break-outs, early aging, and a sallow complexion are indicators of imbalance deeper in your body’s systems.
For skin, there are several main issues that can cause skin aging and stress.
Free radicals and oxidative stress - Oxidative stress is the term for the overall effect of free radical damage on the body’s cells. Oxidative stress results in symptoms such as aging and wrinkles. It also damages the body’s cells which can lead to disease, inflammation, DNA damage, and mitochondrial slowdown - which all contribute to signs of aging.
Outward signs of oxidative stress are:
- loss of skin elasticity
- graying hair
- hair loss
- changes in hair texture
As oxygen molecules develop and fill they sometimes split. Oxygen molecules that split into single atoms with a missing electron form unstable free radicals. Free radicals seek other atoms or molecules in search of the necessary electron pairing required for a full, balanced molecule. This search creates oxidative stress and can break down cells over time. Free radicals and the resulting oxidative stress are linked to age and disease.
As we age, our body loses the ability to battle the effects of free radical damage. Oxidative stress is exacerbated by overexposure to UV rays and pollution, chronic dehydration, smoking, stress, pesticide exposure, prescription drugs and poor diet. This results in a cycle of producing more free radicals and oxidative stress, further damaging cells, and over time ending in degeneration and aging. Loss of skin elasticity and wrinkles are symptoms of oxidative stress.
Antioxidants present in foods and plant rich topical applications can help to supply the missing electron that free radicals seek, neutralizing free radicals and reducing their damage.
Look for product descriptions that state the product helps fight free radical damage.
Unstable blood sugar and AGEs - Blood sugar plays an important role in the aging process. When excess sugar (glucose) is present in the body it connects proteins. This produces Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
AGEs can bind skin’s collagen and elastin resulting in wrinkles, sagging, and thinning skin. By damaging blood vessels, AGEs harm circulation, contributing to a dull, dry complexion. They also create free radicals which add to their damage (see above for more on free radicals).
Symptoms of AGEs in skin are:
- Wrinkles, especially at a young age
- Redness, Inflammation
- Loss of volume in the face due to fat redistribution
- Stiffness, loss of elasticity
To keep AGEs at bay, avoid high glycemic foods that boost blood sugar, overcooked or burned foods, exposing your skin to the sun without proper coverage or sunscreen, smoking, stress, and chemical food additives.
Always be sure to apply a sunscreen of SPF 50 year-round to your face as the last step of your skin care routine.
Poor Nutrition - Digestive issues, too much alcohol, an imbalanced diet - it all takes a toll on the body and in turn, your skin. Vitamins, minerals, and plant nutrients play an important part in your overall health. A proper pH balance of acidity and alkalinity is crucial to your internal chemistry.
Your body primarily needs a slightly alkaline pH for prime performance. Too much acid found in meat, dairy, sugar, and caffeine combined with lifestyle stress or lack of sleep can sap energy and nutrition. This speeds the aging process and can cause a dull, lackluster complexion.
Signs of poor skin nutrition that require deeper investigation to find the root of the cause:
- Dry Skin
- Redness, flakiness
- Capillaries across the cheeks
- Tiny bumps on the back of the arms or tops of the legs
- Dark stains under the arms or at the back of the neck
- Bleeding gums
- Brittle, dry hair
Inflammation - Redness, swelling, heat - we are all too familiar with the symptoms of inflammation. Skin inflammation occurs when your skin is exposed to irritants such as UV light, pollution, harmful chemicals, and allergens. As a result, your body begins the inflammatory process which engages the immune system to attack the irritant.
Signs of skin inflammation:
- Burning or Stinging sensation
- Raised areas, blisters, or pimples
- Raw or cracked areas of the skin that may bleed
- Thickening of the skin in affected areas
Chronic systemic inflammation weakens the body’s natural immunity and inhibits the body’s ability to meet everyday challenges such as fighting acne or sun damage. When your body is busy fighting against inflammation, it cannot give its all to necessary daily processes like producing skin supporting collagen and elastin.
Chronic inflammation promotes free radicals. Oxidation caused by free radicals results in the body releasing the enzymes hyaluronidase, elastase, and collagenase. These three enzymes break down the main building blocks of skin - hyaluronic acid, elastin, and collagen - causing signs of aging.
Avoiding chemical skin irritants found in many conventional skin care products is a key step in protecting skin health. Opt for skin care ingredients and foods that are anti-inflammatory and rich in plant nutrients.
Your skin is more than just a wrapper to hold in all the bits and pieces of your body. It is a vital, important organ that acts as a barometer for your overall health and wellness. In addition to protecting our bodies from exposure to harmful elements such as bacteria and viruses, skin also nourishes and protects the body by regulating temperature, excreting waste, and absorbing nutrients such as vitamin D from sunlight.
By paying careful attention to the signals your skin sends, from wrinkles to tone, you can decipher the best approach to create a healthier, age-defying lifestyle and skincare regimen.
Christine Untiedt, Owner, Brown Barn Botanicals
Notice: These statements and blog content have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information in our articles are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and are not intended as medical advice. The content of these blogs and associated products is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using products or following blog advice.
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