WHAT IS SENSITIVE SKIN?
Sensitive skin is defined as skin that is hyper-reactive to its environment, often becoming red, flaky, spotty and inflamed and feeling itchy, hot and uncomfortable when triggered. This is because, for one reason or another, the barrier function of the skin has been compromised. There are many reasons why this may happen. Sensitive skin can be genetic. It can also be weakened by extrinsic factors like the sun, pollution or extreme heat and cold. There are other, intrinsic factors that may make skin more reactive too – hormones, age and stress are all factors that can contribute as does diet.
HOW CAN DIET AFFECT SKIN?
The adage that ‘you are what you eat’ is very true in the case of skin sensitivity but diet is a too often ignored as a contributor to skin health. As the largest organ in the body, skin acts as a barometer of overall wellness. So, just as a diet of junk food, processed meals and sugary snacks will pay havoc general health, so will it compromise the look and feel of skin. A good beauty regime needs to take both what’s put in to the body and what’s applied onto the body into account.
ARE CERTAIN FOODS LIKELY TO EXACERBATE SKIN IRRITATION?
While research into foods and skin health is still limited, there is a growing body of evidence that some foods are more strongly associated with sensitive skin and skin damage. Research suggests that a diet high in processed or refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats can lead to premature skin ageing.
FOODS TO WATCH
- FOODS WITH ADDITIVES - additives such as food colourings, can trigger inflammation.
- SALT – As hydration is such an important part of maintaining healthy skin, salt, which dehydrates the body, should be considerably reduced. Compensate for eating salty foods by drinking plenty of water.
- SUGAR – a diet high is sugar activates inflammation. Sugar also binds to collagen through a process called glycation, which makes the skin stiff. This can lead to premature ageing, sensitive skin, rosacea and acne.
- JUNK FOOD – processed fast food often contains high levels of salt and sugar as well as additives.
- SPICY FOOD – Hot, spicy foods are stimulants that generally stimulate the circulation and raise body temperature. The increased heat in the skin may cause it to become more sensitive.
CAN SKIN SENSITIVITY BE DUE TO A FOOD ALLERGY?
In some cases a particular food or food additive may cause skin to become sensitive and reactive, especially skin that is already delicate and vulnerable. This could be a sign that the body is actually allergic to that food. Famous trigger foods include dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts and eggs but the problem could lie with other foods too. An allergy test is advisable to find out which foods might be the triggers for sensitive skin.
SKIN NUTRITION: A HEATHY DIET FOR A GLOWING COMPLEXION
There are many benefits to adopting a healthy eating plan, as foods that are good for skin are also generally the best foods for overall wellbeing. Cutting down on processed foods, bad fats, sugar, caffeine and alcohol and upping intakes of fresh fruit, vegetables and omega 3’s will have the added bonus of boosting energy levels, brain power, healthy hair and contributing to weight loss.
WHAT ARE THE BEST FOODS FOR SKIN HEALTH?
A healthy and varied diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and omega 3 fatty acids is key to keep skin hydrated and provide all the vitamins and minerals it needs to perform a healthy function. Research suggests that antioxidant-rich foods have a protective effect for the skin.
Foods containing the following properties are all said to be good for skin -
- Omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish, walnuts and flax seed oil, help to replenish the skins natural barrier.
- Selenium – helps protect skin from free-radicals and is available from foods like Brazil nuts, prawns, lamb, fish beef, turkey, oysters, sardines, crab, and whole-wheat pasta.
- Antioxidants - important for slowing and preventing free-radical damage and maintaining healthy cells. Found in man different foods, especially colourful fruits and vegetables like berries, beetroot, squash, peppers, tomatoes and spinach.
- Coenzyme Q10 – this important antioxidant that is key for energy and helping cells work, is made by the body but as the body ages CoQ10 depletes. The antioxidant can be found in fish such as salmon and tuna, poultry, liver and whole grains.
- Vitamin A – found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, oranges, carrots, dairy foods and melon, is vital to repair skin.
- Vitamin C – Helps protect the skin from sun damage and repair cells. Found in foods such as citrus fruits, papayas, kiwis, broccoli and bell peppers.
- Vitamin E – thought to be one of the most effective vitamins for sensitive skin. Vital for rescuing skin from sun damage and reducing inflammation. Available from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, greens and asparagus.
- Vitamin B – found in nuts, seeds, dark leafy vegetables, lentils and brown rice – is thought to support skin, hair and muscle tone.
Sensitive skin is often caused because the skin becomes dehydrated. When the skin’s protective, horny layer, or stratum corneum, lacks moisture it is unable to function properly. This layer is made up of cells and lipids that, when healthy, form a permeable barrier that keeps the skin moist, whilst also blocking out toxins and free radicals. If not enough fluids are being consumed then this top layer of skin is compromised leading to premature signs of ageing. So staying hydrated is a critical part of having healthy skin.
Drinking enough fluids also acts as a flushing system in the body to help remove toxins that could otherwise build up and cause skin sensitivity. Drink at least eight glasses of pure, filtered water daily to help your body detoxify.
However not all fluids are helpful to your skin, in fact some can actively increase sensitivity levels.
Fluids to avoid…
- Alcohol – a diuretic that robs the body of fluids and dehydrates skin.
- Caffeine – also a diuretic that sucks out moisture from the skin.
- Sugary sodas – loaded with refined sugar and chemicals.
WHEN TO EXPECT RESULTS?
While some changes, like drinking more water, may have an immediately positive effect on the look and feel of skin, most dietary changes will take a few weeks to filter through. This is because skin takes up to six weeks to renew, so the visible effects from dietary changes will emerge over time.
For persistent skin conditions, talk to your GP or book in to see a dermatologist.