“Healthy skin is a reflection of overall wellness.” (Howard Murad, MD)
Taking care of our skin is an act of love towards ourselves. We must dedicate all the necessary care to our skin to see extraordinary and long lasting results. In this article, I will explain the main players in having a healthy skin and what can we do about them.
1 – GENETICS
“Genes are like the story, and DNA is the language that the story is written in.” (Sam Kean)
Genetics are largely responsible for our skin type (normal vs oily vs dry). In essence, our genetic makeup is responsible for regulating skin cell production—telling the body to create new skin cells as older ones die— skin pigmentation, skin structure, etc. Have you noticed that some people have a soft skin without putting too much effort into it. Well, a study done by Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Stanford University has identified three genes; KCND2, DIAPH1, and EDEM1 as genes associated with skin youthfulness (1). It is quite possible that with larger sample size we identify even more genes responsible for a soft skin.
Genetics also influence how our skin ages. Recent studies have revealed that up to 60% of the skin aging variation between individuals can be attributed to genetic factors, while the remaining 40% is due to non-genetic factors (2). For instance, MC1R gene mutations can promote severe photoaging, even though photoaging is considered an environmental factor (3). Caucasians have an earlier onset and greater skin wrinkling and sagging signs than other skin types. In chinese women, however, wrinkle onset is delayed by about 10 years and starts mostly between age 40 and 50. In return, pigmented spot intensity is a much more important aging sign in Chinese women (severe for 30% of women over 40) than in Caucasian women (severe for less than 8% of women) (4). So, understanding the impact of genetics and elucidating the mechanisms of skin aging in different populations seems to be the first step toward developing effective anti-aging strategies.
2- SUN EXPOSURE
“I don’t think sun-tanned skin is any more attractive than white skin, or any healthier, for that matter.” (Marilyn Monroe)
Sunlight has many benefits. It stimulates the production of vitamin D, serotonin, and dopamine and help people with anxiety and depression, but it is one the greatest enemies of unprotected skin. Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation and can cause permanent skin damage. UV radiation is divided into 3 main groups (5):
UVA rays have the least energy among UV rays. These rays can cause skin cells to age and lead to some indirect damage to the cells’ DNA. UVA rays are mainly linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers. About 95% of the UV rays from the sun are UVA rays.
UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage the DNA in skin cells directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers. About 5% of the UV rays from the sun are UVB rays.
UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays. Fortunately, because of this, they react with ozone high in our atmosphere and don’t reach the ground, so they are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer.
The strength of the UV rays reaching the ground depends on a number of factors, such as:
- Time of day: UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Season of the year: UV rays are stronger during spring and summer months.
- Distance from the equator: UV exposure goes down as you get farther from the equator.
- Altitude: More UV rays reach the ground at higher elevations.
- Clouds: The effect of clouds can vary, but UV rays can get through to the ground, even on a cloudy day.
- Reflection off surfaces: UV rays can bounce off surfaces like water, sand, snow, pavement, or even grass, leading to an increase in UV exposure.
So, protecting ourselves from the sun is important not only for avoiding sunburn and wrinkles, but also as a health measure for preventing skin cancer.
3- DIET / NUTRITION
“A healthy outside starts from the inside.” (Robert Ulrich)
How good it is to eat! As you may know nutrition plays a fundamental role in skin health. Cellular turnover is a constant process. That is why following a correct diet and introducing specific foods is necessary for the regeneration of our body and our skin. There is a long list of vitamins and minerals that are essential for having a healthy skin. Here I have listed a few:
⦁ Vitamin A, essential for helping cellular repair in the skin. It is found in eggs, milk, spinach and all orange colored fruit and vegetables.
⦁ Vitamin C, an antioxidant and essential for the collagen synthesis. It is found in sour fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, kiwis, pineapples and berries; in some fresh vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and in tubers such as potatoes.
⦁ Vitamin E, very important for fighting free radicals that cause skin aging. It can be found in vegetable oils such as wheat germ, olive oil and sunflower oil; in dried fruit such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts; in whole grains, eggs and some vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus.
⦁ Vitamins of group B, have powerful anti-aging and antioxidant properties and help to remove toxins from the body. Food high in Vitamins B include meat, fish, milk, and dark green vegetable.
⦁ Omega 3 and Omega 6, essential for cell membranes. They can be found in foods such as fish (smoked or fresh salmon and anchovies), nuts, and oil seeds.
4- HIGH QUALITY SKIN PRODUCTS
“Invest in your skin. It’s going to represent you for a very long time.” (Linden Tyler)
Choosing high quality products suited to your needs and your skin type is essential for having a healthy, nourished, and hydrated skin. Over-the-counter products can be effective if the consumer knows what to look for. It’s best to research the product and study the ingredients to find the products that work best your skin type and your budget. The most expensive products are not always the right product for certain skin type. To choose the best skincare products:
1) Know your skin type and its needs. To determine your skin type, wash your face and wait a couple hours to observe your skin in its natural state.
2) Use high quality products that contain active ingredients designed for the care and well-being of your skin.
3) Dedicate time to your skincare beauty routine every day. The key to success with most skincare products is repetition, especially with anti-aging creams.
So, genetics, lifestyle, product choice, and daily habits can all have an impact on our skin. We cannot change our genetic makeup obviously, but we can change our eating habits, life style, and beauty routine. Try to add more fruits, vegetables, and micronutrients to your diet. Protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV and always apply sunscreen even when it’s cloudy. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and to reduce the risk of cataracts. Wash your skin regularly and use a moisturizer that suits your skin type. Remember, repetition is the key.
I hope you liked this article. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Stay Amazing, Stay Beautiful
Dr. Zahra Motahari