Feeding your face with the Skin Nerd

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Did you know that your skin is an organ? With this in mind, we should feed it with the respect and attention that it deserves and needs in order to perform optimally, both anatomically and aesethetically. A couple of weeks ago, the Skin Nerd (aka skincare guru Jennifer Rock) shared her own skincare regime and some extremely useful tips for caring for our faces. (If you missed it, click here.)

Jennifer insists that although we can forever use good skincare products, it’s what inside that counts too. Here, she tells us what we really need to know in order to ‘feed our faces’ and work from the inside out… 

Jennifer Rock

We are often advised “you are what you eat”; I prefer to take it one step further and describe it as “you are what your gut can absorb and digest”. Foods are digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals, amino acids, sugars and fatty acids, and then absorbed into our bloodstream. The key is not always what we eat but what our bodies can do with it. As I teach my 12 year old – or attempt to – food is fuel. This fuel does not need to taste desirable; instead it serves a purpose, the purpose of body and skin health.

An Eastern diet is typically high in protein, and those who follow such a diet age slower than those who have a typical Western diet, which is statistically deficient in protein. Collagen and elastin fibres are proteins, so in order to trigger these proteins, you need to give your body fuel in the form of protein. This will then result in plump, fresh, clear skin with minimal scarring, reduced stretch marks, fewer lines and wrinkles, and less redness. SOLD!

Remember that you need the RIGHT type of protein, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, soya, and beans and pulses. Recent studies suggest that the current obsession with protein bars needs to be addressed, as many contain high levels of sugar, spiking insulin levels in the bloodstream just as a traditional candy bar does. A traditional handful of nuts and berries will always win out.

What you eat can affect your hormone balance; cause acne; feed wrinkles; irritate psoriasis, rosacea and eczema; and create or lessen inflammation, which is associated with skin ageing. Although it is controversial to suggest omitting dairy from any diet, many believe it is such a mucous wet food that it triggers and exacerbates many inflammatory conditions physically, mentally and in the skin realm. There are alternatives such as almond milk, goats milk and indeed NO milk!

“Low-glycemic diets have been shown to be beneficial to acne-prone skin,” says registered dietitian and nutrition expert Alex Caspero. “There are some studies that do not show an association with acne, insulin levels and glycemic loads, but I see consistently positive results in my clients. In my practice, I usually recommend reducing sugar as much as possible. I replace refined, sugary foods with nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables and healthy sources of Omega-3.”

protein meal

So what should you eat?

Antioxidants: Eat green – green veg are powerfully anti-inflammatory, protecting the skin’s DNA at a cellular level against light and lifestyle.

Tomatoes: If eaten raw, these can increase the natural ability to fight against light by up to 33 per cent.

 Dark Chocolate: Good news! Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa flavanols, plant compounds with antioxidant properties, which help hydrate skin and improve circulation. Don’t eat to the point of excess, however!

Sardines: One serving (3.5 ounces) of these little swimmers contains 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, making it one of the best sources of the fat. Fatty fish is particularly rich in the type of omega-3 fats called DHA, an anti-inflammatory. Remember that inflammation is now known as the root cause of acne.

Green Tea: This drink is extremely anti-ageing as it is clinically proven to affect the telomeres, finger-like age-telling projections that sit on the outside of the skin cell. The longer the telomere the younger you appear. Green tea lengthens the telomeres!

Orange Peel: Researchers from the University of Arizona studied a group of people who said they ate citrus fruits, juices, and peels weekly. People who ate peels (orange peel or lemon zest, for example) had a 33 per cent decreased risk for squamous cell carcinoma. Juice and fruit didn’t have any effect.

Water: Yes, water keeps your skin hydrated—and staying hydrated makes it appear more plump and less wrinkled. But there’s another reason to fill up on water over other drinks: you’ll save on sugar. Sugars found in juices, sodas, and sports drinks cause your skin major woes.

Red Wine: When Australian researchers analysed the diets of more than 1,000 adults, they discovered that the rate of actinic keratosis (skin lesions caused by long-term sun damage) was reduced by 28 per cent in those who sipped a half glass of red wine a day. Red wine is a top source of resveratrol, an antioxidant compound with anti-tumour properties.

Carrots: Who needs blush when filling up on carrots can give you a natural glow! A 2011 UK study found that people who eat a higher amount of carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables like carrots have more yellow tones in their skin, giving them a complexion that others rated as looking healthier.

Mackerel: This oily fish is one of the best sources of vitamin B12, containing 16 mcg per serving, or 270 per cent of what your body needs in a day. That’s significant, because many people miss out on B12 when they’re trying to eat less meat (or vegetarians who don’t eat any at all). One of the symptoms of B12 deficiency? Hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and vitiligo (white spots). Making sure you get enough of this vitamin every day (vegan sources include nutritional yeast) can help keep your skin even-toned.

Remember: Feed the skin from within!