Transform your skin and hair from the inside out
No matter your age, it is possible to revitalize your skin and hair and return to your former, youthful glow. You can transform your skin and hair, but this kind of transformation must come from within, from the key supplements that you take regularly each day in a synergistic program.
The typical Canadian diet includes too many inflammatory foods that undermine skin, nail, and hair health. Cellular inflammation, or micro-inflammation, breaks down the skin cells’ supply of collagen, destroying elasticity and eventually resulting in wrinkles and sallow, sagging skin. And highly processed foods, common in our diet, can hasten aging by creating protein-like substances called peptides and neuropeptides that increase this inflammatory, collagen-damaging process.
So what supplements should you take to fight aging and boost your overall beauty? Let’s examine the key members of your new beautification team.
BETA-CAROTENE is converted into vitamin A or retinol in the body. This powerful antioxidant is required for normal growth and renewal of skin cells, and also helps smooth out skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines, while preventing acne and dry, rough, or flaky skin. Some studies suggest that it also reduces skin damage resulting from years of sun exposure.
Ensure that you get at least 5,000 IU of beta-carotene daily. For extra beauty insurance, talk to a health professional about taking up to 25,000 IU a day. Also, research suggests that supplements may work best when taken with foods containing the phytonutrients that often accompany the vitamin in nature. When supplementing with beta-carotene, be sure to boost your intake of foods that are yellow, orange, and red. This includes apricots, cherries, mango, paw paw, peaches, rockmelon, and watermelon; as well as carrots, pumpkin, red cabbage, sweet potato, winter squash, and yams. Green foods are also abundant sources: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach.
B VITAMINS play a critical role in skin and hair appearance by rebuilding and repairing skin tissue. They also generate the energy required to keep cells working and oxygenate the skin. Deficiencies can cause dermatitis, dryness or excessive oiliness of both skin and hair, cracking and wrinkling lips, pigmentation problems, eczema, dandruff, premature wrinkles, and peeling, splitting nails.
Causes of B vitamin deficiency include: overcooked food, excess sugar intake, too much coffee, tannin (from black tea), nicotine, or alcohol. Also, birth control pills increase the need for B vitamins.
For best beauty effects, take 50-100 mg per day of each of the B vitamins, except for B12 which should never exceed 1 mg (1,000 mcg). These vitamins work together as a team, so when supplementing, be sure to take a B-complex to get the whole B spectrum.
Like all vitamins, the B supplements work best in the presence of components found in natural, B-containing foods such as: nori, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, oats, millet, seeds and peanuts, sunflower seeds, avocado, dark-green leafy vegetables, oily fish, chicken, egg yolks, and liver. And if you suffer from the red-skin condition known as rosacea, be sure to supplement with a little extra vitamin B3 (niacin) and consult your health practitioner.
One of the most important vitamins for enhancing the overall appearance of skin and hair is VITAMIN C, which increases production of collagen (the substance that provides skin with its youthful resilience), improving skin elasticity and helping reduce ongoing collagen damage that leads to wrinkles. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that slows the oxidative damage occurring as a result of ultraviolet (UV) and other environmental exposure, which can cause photo-aging of the skin. Studies show that this vitamin actually reverses skin damage caused by free radicals.
Humans are one of the very few species that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, and because it is water-soluble we must get a fresh supply daily. Vitamin C is destroyed easily by cooking, oxidation, light, heat, and the use of bicarbonate of soda in cooking. Smokers are especially likely to have a deficiency.
For radiant skin and optimal beauty, take vitamin C every single day, aiming for 500 to 2000 mg in divided doses throughout the day. Vitamin C should be taken with C-rich foods for best absorption. These include: fruit (cherries, citrus, papaya, rockmelon, and strawberries), vegetables (green and red capsicums, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark-green leafy vegetables, sauerkraut, and parsley), sprouted grains, seeds, and beans.
Bioflavonoids occur in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and they enhance the absorption and utilization of vitamin C. These are the brightly-coloured components citrin, rutin, anthocyanadins, quercetin, proanthocyanidins, hesperidin, flavones, and flavonoids. They keep skin supple and elastic by assisting vitamin C in its manufacture of collagen, as well as strengthening capillaries and reducing sagging skin, varicose veins, and spongy gums. Bioflavonoids also protect the skin against sunlight, especially the bioflavonoids lutein and lycopene, found in spinach and tomatoes, respectively.
Supplements of bioflavonoids can produce a rapid improvement in skin tone, as they increase collagen synthesis. For skin rejuvenation, take 500 to 3,000 mg of mixed bioflavonoids and increase their efficacy by taken them with foods that contain bioflavonoids: brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as apricots, tomatoes, raspberries, and spinach.
VITAMIN D isn’t a beauty vitamin – although a well-rounded intake of vitamins is important to the overall health that promotes beauty from the inside. But if you suffer from psoriasis, you can improve symptoms by 30% with an increased dietary intake of this sunshine vitamin. Canadians are particularly prone to a deficiency of vitamin D in the winter.
VITAMIN E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that counteracts premature aging by protecting cellular membranes from damage and genetic mutation. This vitamin is abundant in the outer layers of your skin, because it acts as the first line of defence against UV light and other environmental damage. Many studies show that vitamin E helps prevent wrinkles, improve skin texture, and reduce sun damage. Vitamin E also promotes oxygenation of skin tissue and prolongs skin cell health; it aids healing and reduces scarring. Poor vision can make you seem older, but vitamin E does help protect against age-related macular degeneration. Some people have a greater need for vitamin E – such as women on oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy), those eating a lot of over-processed foods, and those exposed to air pollutants.
Normal needs for vitamin E vary with body size and diet. But for a good beauty program, take at least 400 IU daily (away from iron supplements or high-iron food because E and iron negate each other). For stronger rejuvenation, choose vitamin E in the form of natural tocopherols, mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols, and avoid dl-alpha tocopherol (the synthetic form of vitamin E). Food sources include blackberries, nuts, seeds, flaxseed, and vegetable oils. And spinach contains a good supply of vitamin E, as well as zinc (which is important for fighting stretch marks) and iron.
SELENIUM is a trace mineral that slows down the oxidation of polyunsaturated acids, which can cause skin to lose tone. Selenium also pumps up your body’s production of potent antioxidant enzymes, called prostaglandins, which promote better skin texture. It works with iron to maintain skin smoothness, providing plumpness and elasticity where it’s needed. Authorities often recommend 25 mcg of selenium, but if you’re serious about beautification, consider higher dosages. As much as 400 mcg can work wonders for your skin, but check with your health practitioner before starting on this regimen. Food sources include Brazil nuts, garlic, coldwater fish (especially tuna and salmon), dark mushrooms, chicken, and whole grain bread and pasta.
Without ZINC, stretch marks form readily. Zinc facilitates oil gland production and regulates hormones that affect skin appearance. Like vitamin C, this mineral assists collagen production, increasing skin elasticity. It keeps your vision younger by improving night vision. Telltale signs that you are getting a less-than-optimal supply of zinc include white spots on fingernails, dandruff, and acne.
Because your body cannot manufacture zinc, make sure to supplement your beauty program with an average of 20 to 30 mg a day. One of the best food sources is oysters. Other sources include poultry, dairy, liver, eggs, and beans.
SULFUR is a mineral that enhances the appearance of skin, hair and nails. It can offset, to some extent, the effects of environmental toxins such as pollutants and radioactive particles. (Although sulfur’s detoxification and protective abilities extend to radioactive particles, nothing short of a solid lead shield will protect you against contact with radiation waves.) Collagen, important to the elasticity of skin, cannot be produced without sulfur. And keratin, a sulfur by-product, is needed for healthy hair and nails. In fact, signs of sulfur deficiency include dry skin, skin disorders, and wrinkles. Sulfur is available in tablet form (as well as in the supplement methylsulfonylmethane or MSM), but because sulfur can trigger asthma in susceptible people, and can cause an imbalance with selenium, it is important to talk to a health practitioner before supplementing, especially if you have allergies. Food sources of sulfur include garlic, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, wheat germ, meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. (Ed note: The Ayurvedic herb “Asafoetida” is also high in sulfur.)
It doesn’t take long for low blood levels of IRON to cause sallow and dull skin and lacklustre hair, because without this mineral, blood doesn’t move around the body as efficiently. Iron is also required for mental and physical stability, energy, growth, and immunity. Clues that your overall beauty might be hampered by low iron levels include heavy menstrual periods and poor digestion.
To optimize your glow, make sure that you get at least 18 mg of iron a day. Vegetarians tend to be deficient, but they can easily get sufficient iron supplies from supplements or non-meat foods such as spinach, molasses, sesame seeds, broccoli, parsley, alfalfa, legumes, dried fruit, whole grains, and sea vegetables, such as kelp. For carnivores, red meat and eggs are big iron sources.
Publicity surrounding the essential fatty acids known as omega-3 and omega-6 focusses on their ability to regulate cholesterol and triglycerides and help prevent heart disease. However, a substantial dietary intake of these essential oils (so-called because, since the body cannot synthesize them, it is essential that we consume them) prompts a definite and noticeable improvement in skin texture. These essential fatty acids help prevent eczema, inflammatory skin conditions, slow skin healing, splitting nails, dull and thinning hair, and dry, scaly skin. Also, omega-3s in particular stimulate the growth of human growth hormone (HGH) in skin tissue. The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis increases with age, but fish and fish oils can diminish symptoms. Also, monounsaturated fats moisturize the skin from within.
To ensure that you’re getting enough omega-3 and omega-6, take daily supplements in the form of fish oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, primrose oil, blackcurrant oil, or borage oil. And watch out for factors that conspire to diminish the amount of EFAs in your body – hydrogenated fats, fried foods, sugar, along with low levels of magnesium, vitamin B3, and B6. Also, add olive oil and walnuts to your diet to boost your level of monounsaturated oil.
To retard the aging process, there is nothing more important than a rich supply of antioxidants. A nutritious diet, which includes a wide spectrum of colourful fruits and vegetables, will furnish a good supply of these age-fighters. But five antioxidants stand out from the rest and are available in supplement form. The five members of the group known as ‘network antioxidants’ work synergistically to clean and recycle the other members, allowing them to cancel out free radicals a number of times. In other words, together, these network members’ overall effectiveness at slowing down skin and general aging is greater than the sum of the effects of each member added together. These antioxidants are Glutathione, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Selenium, and Flavonoids. Not coincidentally, glutathione, ALA and Coenzyme Q10 levels decline with age.
The best way to get enough glutathione is to supplement with alpha lipoic acid. And if you are over age 40, take 50 mg of coenzyme Q10 daily. Normal supplemental dos-ages of ALA are 50 mg in the morning and again in the evening, but for a beauty boost, you may want to take double that amount, remembering to check with your health practitioner first. Selenium is covered above. And flavonoids, a subset of bioflavonoids, are found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, red wine, and tea.
Wash all of these supplements down with plenty of pure water, a good digestive enzyme, and be patient. Glowing skin, healthy hair, hard nails, and sparkling eyes may be the next reflection that you see in the mirror.
About the Author
Curtis James is a Toronto freelance writer whose articles have appeared in a variety of natural health magazines across North America.
Vitality Magazine is The Trusted Source for Natural Health Solutions, one of Canada's largest publications on natural health, alternative medicine and green living.