As we age, our skin does as well. People all over the world spend a lot of money to reverse or mask fine lines and wrinkles, which are two signs of aging. Over time, our skin goes through changes as a result of our lifestyle. How much we sleep, what we eat, and how much time we spend in the sun are three of many factors that affect our skin throughout our lives.
The good news is that nutrition and lifestyle can promote healthy looking skin, making it appear more plump, healthy in colour, and more resilient.
The Layers of the Skin (1)
Your skin has three layers, from top to bottom: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis (also called the subcutaneous fat).
The epidermis is the superficial layer that interacts with the environment. It can get dry, oily, exhibit acne, and show wrinkles. Although we like to treat the top layer with products, most skin issues stem from the deeper layers of the skin.
The dermis is the middle layer, which contains hair follicles, sweat and oil glands, blood vessels, nerve endings, and more. The dermis is what provides nutrition for the skin and is where collagen and elastin are located, which are two connective tissue fibers that provide elasticity and plumpness to the skin (2). This is where wrinkles stem from.
The deepest layer, the subcutis, provides cushioning, attaches the skin to the tissues and muscles, and keeps you warm. Having a healthy layer of subcutaneous fat gives your skin resilience and protects your tissues underneath.
What is Happening to our Skin as we Age? (3)
As we age, all three layers of the skin are changing.
In the epidermis, the skin starts to thin and the melanocytes (the cells containing pigment) decrease in number. This means your skin appears thinner and more pale. Age spots will appear as well, especially for individuals who spent a lot of time in the sun.
In the dermal layer, changes to elastin and collagen make the skin less elastic. Your skin also produces less oil here, leading to more dryness, and therefore wrinkles. Your sweat glands also produce less sweat, making it harder to cool down when needed.
Lastly, the subcutaneous fat layer starts to thin, giving less insulation and padding. This makes it harder to recover from skin injury and keep warm.
After menopause, declining levels of female reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone contribute to a number of changes in the skin. Since estrogen is associated with collagen production, increased skin thickness, and the skin’s water content, it’s likely that a decline in this hormone contributes to dry skin, poor skin healing and wrinkling in post-menopausal women (4, 5). By comparison, progesterone is associated with increased sebum production (5), and therefore a decline in progesterone will make the skin more dry, causing fine lines and wrinkles.
Although this may seem bleak, it is a natural part of aging. And luckily, certain nutrients can support the structure of the skin from all three levels.
Nutrients to Support Aging Skin
Collagen, as mentioned, exists in the middle layer of the skin: the dermis. Along with elastin, it’s an important connective tissue fiber that gives strength and elasticity to the skin. Collagen production naturally decreases with age. Taking collagen as a supplement or consuming it in whole foods can be very helpful ways of reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and making the skin appear more plump. Read here for more information about collagen, including a bone broth recipe you can make at home! Collagen Powders and Liquids are also a great choice such as Genestra’s Collagen Liquid Enhanced.
Since humans cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, it is an essential vitamin to get through the diet. Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation, it modulates cell growth, and is an important antioxidant protecting your skin and body against free radical damage (2). Vitamin C supplements can be extremely helpful for improving overall health, and therefore your skin. It’s also vital to consume lots of food rich in vitamin C on a daily basis.
Foods high in vitamin C:
- Citrus fruits
- Green vegetables (brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, etc)
- Herbs like parsley, rose hips
- Tomatoes and peppers (bell peppers, sweet peppers, etc)
*Note that processed orange juice is not your best option for obtaining vitamin C as it is too high in sugar, throwing off your blood sugar levels.
Nutrition Dispensary carries Genestra’s vitamin C supplement which contains rose hips and other flavonoids for antioxidant protection (also important as we age).
The deepest layer of skin, the subcutis, is made up of subcutaneous fat, which starts to thin over time. Consuming omega 3’s such as Designs for Health’s OmegAvail Liquid can be a helpful way to make the skin appear more plump, while supporting its overall structure (as well as offering a host of other benefits, like improved brain health, heart health, lowering inflammation, and more).
Furthermore, omega 3’s have been shown in both animal and human studies to protect skin cells by preventing and treating sun damaged skin. “Photoaging” is the term for damage to the skin after repeated exposure to UV radiation (translated: sun damage!). Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to treat inflammation and redness, reduce photosensitivity, and boost collagen levels which became reduced by sun damage (6).
A Skin-Loving Diet
We should always be striving for a whole foods diet, rich in nutrients, and low in processed foods. A low-inflammatory diet, low in gluten, corn, soy, dairy, and any other foods you are sensitive to will promote skin health.
- Eating foods rich in antioxidants will fight free radical damage all over the body, including the skin. This includes:
- Colourful fruits and vegetables like blueberries, dark leafy greens, etc
- Green tea (organic)
- Dark chocolate
- Low glycemic carbohydrates which are also colourful for added nutrients:
- Squash, sweet potatoes, carrots
- Zucchini, green beans,
- Seasonal produce that is local to you – apples, melons, lettuce, berries, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, etc – the list is endless!
- Consume an adequate amount of protein, minimally processed.
- Organic, free-range, grass-fed red meat, poultry, organ meats, etc
- Wild-caught shellfish and fish, two servings per week
- Organic beans and legumes like lentils, peas, etc
- Organic grains like brown rice, quinoa, etc
- Drink homemade bone broth to boost collagen levels
- Healthy fats will support cell structure all over the body, including the skin. Include the following foods rich in healthy fats:
- Organic olive oil, avocado oil – use these raw
- Raw, organic and unsalted nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, hemp seeds, chia seeds, etc)
- If consuming dairy, keep consumption low and choose 2% grass-fed greek yogurt with no added sugar over other options.
Blog Written by: Jennifer Costello
Advice and/or information provided is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
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