By Peter Jo
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Americans spend millions of dollars on skin care products each year in the hope of recapturing a youthful luster. A 30-day supply of skin products can range from $20 to $250, depending on the product.
While lotions, creams, toners, or light treatments may have some effect in improving appearance, none have long-term efficacy. There is only one method for this, and it is rejuvenating your skin from the inside out.
I would like to present a different way of thinking about skin care. I realize that many of us want a quick fix with a bottle of cream. Unfortunately, skin health, much like heart, bone, or brain health, is dependent on many variables, and a decline in skin appearance is usually a signal of unhealthy internal factors. So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture of skin care.
Eat good food
Your skin is a reflection of your internal environment. If your skin is unhealthy, it tells you that your insides
are not healthy. As such, most experts emphasize the need for vitamin A, vitamin C, healthy fats, water, B vitamins, selenium, copper, zinc, and a half-dozen other nutrients that scientists have shown to be good for your skin.
Just as you should disregard the idea of a “magic lotion,” you should also ignore the idea of a “magic vitamin” that will clear your skin. Nutrients are best derived from foods, not pills. It is true that many of us may require additional supplements, but in the absence of a healthy diet, you are throwing money away on pills.
Let me give you an example. Try imagining a failing student who skips math class every day. If that student gets help from a math tutor once a week, it will still be useless if he continues to skip all his math classes. Similarly, attempting to get beautiful skin by taking a pill or rubbing on a cream without eating a healthy diet will usually result in minimal success.
Try a wheat and dairy fast
Scientists have shown that an overactive immune system can irritate your skin. Most of your immune system lives inside your gut. When you eat, your immune system scans your food to make sure bacterias aren’t present. While this process usually works seamlessly, there are times when your immune system will start fighting food when it shouldn’t. For reasons not fully understood, wheat and dairy are among the usual suspects that trigger an immune response. As the battle erupts, the toxic chemicals your immune system utilizes irritate the skin.
The latest research in dermatology recommends screening for food sensitivities for skin conditions ranging from dryness to red, itchy, or bumpy skin.
Get some sun…. but not too much
Admittedly, one of the worst things you can do for the long-term health of your skin is sunbathe. It is common knowledge that chronic sun exposure damages skin, leads to premature wrinkling, increases the risk of skin cancer, and is generally unhealthy.
But it’s important that we do not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Direct sun exposure is necessary to make vitamin D. Experts have described vitamin D deficiency as pandemic, and those of us in the Pacific Northwest are especially susceptible to low levels. Remarkably, several studies have shown that vitamin D helps relieve psoriasis, eczema, and skin infections. Based on these findings, it seems safe to say that vitamin D plays a significant role in skin health.
So get out in the sun to make your vitamin D. About 10 to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure to your face and arms is sufficient during the spring and summer months.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends implementing stress man-agement strategies to improve skin health. Stress acts as a double-edged sword to your skin. First, stress interferes with hormone balance. A careful interplay of hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, gives skin a healthy glow. If you know a woman whose skin has cleared after taking birth control pills or while pregnant, you’ve seen the skin-enhancing power of these hormones at work. Second, stress assaults the immune system. As we’ve seen, skin often suffers as an “innocent bystander” when the immune system starts a fight.
Remember that your skin is the largest organ in your body. Do not think of it as inanimate covering like a wool sweater or down blanket. It is alive, vibrant, adaptive, and responsive to the environment around it and the fuel that you feed it. (end)
Peter Jo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.