Skin Health – Part A – Nutrition
I have seen numerous clients over the years whose skin (and health) is being affected by what they eat. The skin is an organ, like the brain and heart, and so needs good food to nourish it. This is especially true because the skin is the largest organ in the human body. When it is stretched out it averages two square metres and makes up around 15% of your total weight. In today’s column I will address what you should be eating for skin health and to help slow down ageing.
What to eat
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables (especially vegetables) are essential in your diet, not just for skin health, but for many reasons. They are rich in antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C) which mop up damaging molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can harm skin (and other) cells leading to premature ageing. In addition, the fibre in vegetables is essential for preventing blood sugar swings that prematurely age skin. The average American diet consists of only 5% vegetables and fruits. The correct percentage for health is at least 50% of your plate should be vegetables. For those of you who only eat one or two types of vegetables, good on you for eating some instead of none, but variety is the key here. Think of a rainbow of vegetable colours on your plate, at least over the course of the day if not at every meal. An example of a rainbow of vegetables is strawberries, carrots, grapefruit, spinach, blueberries.
Carbohydrates (aka carbs) provide the main fuel source for skin cells. Carbs are found in most foods but there are bad and good carbs. An example of a bad carb would be standard table sugar or even excessive fruit (more than 2-3 pieces/day). Examples of good carbs are wholemeal bread/pasta, vegetables and fruit (less than 2 pieces fruit/day), breakfast cereals, rice, peas, lentils, and milk.
Good fats (Omega-3 fatty acids) such as those found in wild salmon, avocados, eggs, and certain nuts (e.g. walnuts) help maintain the skin barrier so that pollutants and toxins are kept out. Good fats are also essential food for making new skin cells, reducing inflammation (damage) in the skin, reducing sun (UV) damage and aging.
Minerals such as zinc and selenium are important for skin health also. Zinc stabilizes skin cells, is involved in growing new cells and lastly helps to reduce the effect of those damaging free radicals mentioned above. Zinc can be found in oysters, red meat and poultry mainly but other sources include nuts, beans, fortified breakfast cereals, some other seafoods (e.g. lobster), whole grains, and dairy products. Selenium helps to protect the skin from free radical and UV damage. Selenium is found in most protein containing foods, e.g. seafood, peas and beans (legumes), lean meat, eggs, seeds, nuts (especially Brazil nuts), and soy.
Organic food are better in many ways. They contain more antioxidants than non-organic food and they are not sprayed with chemicals, e.g. pesticides that damage our skin (and body). Organic (grass fed, free range) meats contain at least 7 times more good fats (omega 3-fats) than bad fats (most omega 6 fats) compared to factory farmed meat. Factory meat also contains hormones that can create havoc in our skin (and body). If you have to eat food that isn’t organic then remove fat from meat and limit your intake of it.
In order to learn about nutrition and lifestyle changes that benefit your skin and health in general talk to the team at The Chandler Clinic for professional medical advice. Also look out in the next 2 weeks for an exciting announcement from The Chandler Clinic Team.
Skin Health – Part B – Nutrition
As I said in my last column our skin (and health) is affected by what we eat and we looked at what to eat. Your skin counts for around 15% of your body weight so needs nourishing as much as the rest of your body. In today’s column I will address what you should definitely NOT be eating in order to maintain good skin health and help slow down ageing.
What not to eat
Simple carbs such as sugar are very inflammatory (damaging) and create free radicals (those nasty, damaging chemicals we mentioned in our last column. Sugar sticks to and breaks down collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are our wrinkle fighting friends as they help keep skin elastic, soft and youthful.
Excess bad fats e.g. vegetable fats such as corn and sunflower oil not only are bad for our health but also reduce collagen and elastin production in our skin. This makes your skin loose and dull looking. Bad fats also are very inflammatory (damaging) to your skin in general. The trans fats often found in margarines and junk food, can reduce the hydration of the skin leading to more wrinkles.
Some people find dairy can make their acne worse. This is because milk can be full of growth hormones and growth factors that remain intact even after all the processing of milk, such as pasteurization. These hormones and growth factors also badly affect insulin (our sugar processing hormone), and increase oil production and inflammation.
Lastly, organic food is the best and safest food to eat. The chemicals that are added (e.g. hormones that are fed to cows) or sprayed onto our foods (e.g. pesticides on vegetables) add to the damage that our skin sustains every day. Try to limit non-organic food. If you have to eat food that isn’t organic, then try to peel your fruit and vegetables.
In order to learn about nutrition and lifestyle changes that benefit your skin and health in general talk to the team at
Hopefully, the change of clocks didn’t affect you too much! It’s a topical time to talk about this month’s topic. Last month we talked about ways to slow down ageing. This month we’re going to discuss ‘Psychodermatology’. Dr Karen Mallin, lecturer in the departments of psychiatry and dermatology at the University of Miami, USA, gives the best explanation of this field of medicine. “Psychodermatology addresses the impact of an individual’s emotion as it relates to the skin.” In a nutshell this means that the state of our mind affects our skin. You may have heard of the phrase ‘mind-body’ link, well, how our mind affects our skin (and vice versa) is one example of this.
Let’s look at how this works. “The skin and mind are connected on many different levels. The skin contains a huge number of nerve endings. Our emotions trigger the release of many nerve signals in the brain. These signals can travel to the skin (and other parts of your body) and conversely nerve signals in the skin travel to the brain. A well-known example of this is the ‘butterflies’ we get in our stomach when we are nervous or anxious. Another example is that during exam time stress, many students will suffer with acne. Research shows that at least 30% of all dermatology patients have an underlying psychological problem.
Good dermatologists have gradually been embracing a more integrated (blended) approach with other fields of medicine such as psychology, psychiatry, and even complementary medicine. This integrated approach encourages doctors to try alternative treatment possibilities (instead of or as well as the usual medications/creams they prescribe). These treatments can include antidepressants, relaxation therapy, or counseling. It is thought that these additional treatments and management strategies can help alleviate the mood problems that cause or result from skin problems.
Mindfulness is one of these management strategies and is a really important one for managing the stress that is caused by or is causing skin conditions. Mindfulness is an amazing technique that helps us be more aware of what we are doing and thinking. It has multiple benefits and there is fantastic research showing its benefits for depression, anxiety and many other medical conditions. There are also many resources on Mindfulness, from introductory books such as the ‘Frazzled’ book by Ruby Wax all the way up to full residential courses. An example of how Mindfulness helps in skin conditions is by making us more aware of what our hands are doing. Often patients with skin conditions will itch their skin without even being aware they are itching. By being mindful about what their hands are doing, patients are much more able to refrain from itching. Mindfulness is one of the techniques that I use with my Wellness patients and it is extremely satisfying to see the benefits they gain.
I’ll finish this month’s column with an extremely useful Mindfulness tool. Whenever you feel a bit ‘frazzled’ S.T.O.P. This stands for Stop, Take a breath, Open and Observe (your thoughts), Proceed mindfully. Have a great month.
All you need to know about your skin Part 5
All you need to know about your skin Part 5-Slow down!! (skin ageing that is!)
Last month we talked about the dangers of sugar on your skin. This month we’ll look at how to slow down and potentially reverse the signs of skin ageing.
- Protect your skin from the sun EVERY day. Sun protection is essential whatever you are doing, at the beach, nipping around town and even at work. Most workplaces will not have UV protection on their windows. You can protect your skin by covering with clothing, using sunscreen that is broad-spectrum, SPF 30, and water-resistant and to some degree by seeking shade. Apply sunscreen every day to all skin not covered by clothing. The SLIP (on clothing and into shade), SLOP (on sunscreen), SLAP (on a hat) and WRAP (some sunglasses on) mantra should help you remember all this.
- Apply self-tanner rather than get a tan. Tanning from the sun, or tanning beds all emit harmful UV rays that accelerate how quickly your skin ages. The only safe way to tan is from self-tanning products.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking greatly speeds up how quickly skin ages. It causes wrinkles and a dull, sallow complexion. As a reminder see the twin photos on this page.
- Try to minimise repetitive facial expressions (such as frowning). Every time you make a facial expression, you contract underlying muscles. If you repeatedly contract the same muscles for many years, these lines become permanent. Wearing sunglasses can help reduce lines around the eyes caused by squinting.
- Eat a healthy diet. Scientific studies suggest that eating vegetables may help prevent damage that causes premature skin aging. Also, as mentioned in last month’s column, a diet containing lots of sugar and other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging. Eat no more than 5-7 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol dehydrates your skin, and eventually, damages the skin, causing lines and other signs of ageing.
- Exercise at least 6 days per week. Scientific studies suggest that moderate exercise can improve circulation and boost immunity. Both of these can make the skin look more youthful.
- Be gentle with your skin. We covered this in Part 2 but just to remind you-Scrubbing your skin clean can irritate it, which accelerates skin aging. Gentle washing and then patting dry helps to remove pollution, makeup, and other substances.
- Wash your face twice a day and after sweating. Perspiration, especially when wearing a hat or helmet, irritates the skin; so wash your skin as soon as possible after sweating.
- Apply a medical quality, natural facial moisturizer every day. Moisturizer traps water in our skin, making it appear more youthful. Medical quality moisturisers also stimulate skin rejuvenation which helps slow down, and if using medical quality serums, can reverse ageing.
- Stop using skin care products that damage your skin. A lot of skin care ranges contain chemicals that damage your skin. The most well known example is SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate), which is also found in floor cleaners! Damaged, irritated skin ages faster. Also beware ranges that are advertised by celebrities, they are being paid to do so!
- Reduce stress. There is a new field of medicine called psychodermatology. This medical specialty studies how our emotional state affects our skin and how to reduce these stress related skin diseases by managing the underlying cause.
The ‘sciency’ bit
Sugar causes cross-linking (joining) of collagen fibers, which makes the collagen unable to repair itself. Sugar also affects the elastin part of our skin making it less elastic, which also cause wrinkles. The effect of sugar in the skin is made even worse when it is exposed to UV light. Also, simple carbohydrates, e.g. refined sugar, soft drinks, white bread causes insulin (a hormone in our blood) to rapidly rise. Insulin triggers inflammation in multiple parts of your body, including your skin. This inflammation speeds up ageing.
Sugar can also worsen acne and rosacea. The more sugar you eat, the greater your chance of developing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can result in excess hair growth (hirsutism) and dark patches on the skin of the neck and body creases.
In addition the type of collagen in your skin is affected by how much sugar is in your diet. The type of collagen you have is important in how resistant your skin is to forming lines. Type III collagen is the longest lasting and most stable. Sugar turns type III collagen into the more delicate type I collagen which leads to more lines. Sugar also joins to protein to make products called ‘AGEs’ which stop your body’s natural antioxidants working. This makes you even more at risk of sun damage.
How to quit (or cut back) on the sweet stuff
It’s not easy to cut out sugar totally as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to sugar when digested. Reducing added sugar as a first step will be a big help. We should eat less than 6-8 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is how much is in one 333ml can of Coca-Cola. Most New Zealanders consume 37 teaspoons per day of added sugar, which is around 465 calories. Sugar is hidden in food under many different names, e.g. barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, and molasses. Absolutely avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as it makes more AGEs than other types of sugar.
It’s not all bad though, reducing (or even better, quitting) sugar will have multiple health benefits and will save you money because ‘Real’ food is cheaper. I’ll talk more about food and your skin later on this year. In the meantime, see the experts at The Chandler Clinic for a holistic approach to your skin problems. Next month we’ll look at ways to slow down and repair skin ageing.
All you need to know about your skin – Part 3
January 2016 Column – By Dr Tracy Chandler
Happy new year! Although it’s been quoted that only 8-20% of people achieve their new years resolutions, a mindfulness approach and a belief in yourself will increase your chances. Let 2016 be the start of great skin as well as a great new year for you. This month’s column is the science behind skin ageing and is part 3 of all you need to know about your skin.
Although we humans have made many advances in medicine we cannot stop the natural aging process. However we can slow down skin ageing. The secrets to this will be revealed in next month’s column.
There are two types of skin aging, ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’. Our genes control when these changes occur. The medical term for this type of aging is ‘intrinsic aging’.
Intrinsic aging is controlled by our genes (those things we inherit from our parents). Our genes cause accumulation of dangerous forms of oxygen, skin cells to get older, and decreased oxygen and ‘food’ supply to cells. Specifically, as you age, your skin:
- Becomes thinner, flatter and more delicate.
- Produces less oil.
- Contains less pigment (melanin) cells.
- Contains less water in the outer (stratum corneum) layer.
- Produces new cells more slowly in the middle (epidermal) layer.
- Has less blood supply in the deeper (dermal) layer.
- Contains less of the hydrating molecule (hyaluronic acid).
- Produces less collagen. The collagen that we do have becomes damaged by sugar in our body.
- Has less fat under it, especially on our face, hands and feet. The fat pads, under the skin, also migrate downwards. Unfortunately, fat increases under the skin on your thighs, waist and abdomen!
- Is more at risk of skin cancer, because ageing suppresses your immune system.
- Your facial bones lose volume.
- Hair becomes thinner and grey.
The other type of aging is ‘extrinsic aging’. It is caused by our environment and lifestyle choices. The major environmental and lifestyle cause of skin ageing is UV light from the sun or sun-beds. Other causes include:
- Repetitive facial expressions such as frowning or squinting (in the sun)
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Roughly treating your skin, e.g. when cleaning your skin
- Not cleaning sweat off your skin
- Not using good skin-care products
- Using irritating products on your skin
Don’t panic! There are ways to slow down and even repair the effects of extrinsic ageing on your skin. Next month in ‘Part 4 of all you need to know about your skin’ we talk about ways to slow down and repair skin ageing. In the meantime, see the expert team at The Chandler Clinic for professional advice on how to slow down and repair skin ageing.
The effect of smoking on the skin can be seen in this photo of twins. You guessed it, the smoking twin is on the right and the non-smoker is on the left.
Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ – Part 2
Welcome to part 2 of this series on your body’s largest organ-the skin. This month we reveal the secrets to taking care of your skin. Investing time into caring for your skin means you will be rewarded with a bright, healthy skin barrier that feels great and ages slower.
Specifically the steps to caring for your skin are as follows:
- Use a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that does not contain alcohol or other nasty additives.
- Wet your face with lukewarm water and use your fingertips to apply the cleanser. Using a washcloth, mesh sponge, or anything other than your fingertips can irritate your skin.
- Resist the temptation to scrub your skin because scrubbing irritates the skin. One of the most common causes of skin problems that I see are people over-cleaning their skin or using face scrubs.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a soft towel.
- Apply a good medical quality skin serum and/or moisturiser. Be gentle when applying any cream around your eyes so you do not pull too hard on this delicate skin.
- Next, use a natural medical quality sunblock SPF 30 to limit UV damage. Sunblock needs to be used year round (including on cloudy days) and even when indoors (unless your windows are UV tinted).
- Limit washing your face to once in the morning and once at night, as well as after sweating heavily. Perspiration, especially when wearing a hat or helmet, irritates the skin. Wash your skin as soon as possible after sweating.
- Cover any breaks in your skin to prevent the spread of infection. Treat any skin problems as soon as possible by seeing your dermatologist or GP.
- Take up stress reducing strategies such as meditation, mindfulness, and exercise. Stress plays havoc with your skin (as well as the rest of your body!)
In summary looking after your skin means you need to:
Keep it clean.
Protect it from the sun.
Care for it when it gets damaged.
Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ
Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ. Your skin keeps all your insides in, and unless it’s damaged, keeps germs and water out. It helps you stay warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot. Your skin is made up of three main layers-the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.
The epidermis is the top layer and is super thin in some parts (your eyelids) and thicker in others (the bottoms of your feet). The epidermis is the layer of skin in charge of:
- Making new skin cells: This happens at the bottom of the epidermis. The skin cells travel up to the top layer and flake off, about a month after they form.
- Giving skin its color: The epidermis makes melanin, which is what gives your skin its color.
- Protecting your body: The epidermis has special cells that are part of your immune system and help you stay healthy.
The dermis is the middle layer of skin. It’s much thicker and does the following:
- Makes sweat: Sweat glands in the dermis make sweat, which comes out of your pores. Sweating keeps you cool and helps you remove unnecessary products.
- Gives you sensation: Nerve endings in the dermis help you feel things. These nerve endings send signals to your brain, so you know if something hurts, is itchy or feels nice when you touch it.
- Grows hair: The dermis is where you’ll find the root of each hair in your skin. Each root attaches to a tiny muscle that tightens and gives you ‘goose bumps’ when you are cold or scared.
- Makes oil: Another gland in your skin makes oil. The oil keeps your skin soft, smooth and waterproof. Sometimes the glands make too much oil and cause acne.
- Brings blood to your skin: Blood feeds your skin and takes unnecessary products away.
The bottom layer of skin is the subcutaneous fat layer. This layer plays an important role in your body by:
- Attaching the dermis to your muscles and bones: This layer has special connecting tissue that attaches the dermis to your muscles and bones.
- Helping the blood vessels and nerve cells: Blood vessels and nerve cells in the dermis get bigger and travel to the rest of your body from here.
- Controlling your body temperature: The subcutaneous fat is the layer that helps keep your body from getting too warm or too cold.
- Storing your fat: This fat pads your muscles and bones and protects them from bumps and falls.
Next month-more fascinating facts on your amazing skin!
The professional Chandler Clinic team are your skin experts. See us today for all your medical skin care and skin solutions.