Saturday, March 21, 2009

Can Diet and Exercise Improve Your Skin?

Feed Your Face: 10 Foods for Better Skin |

When it comes to your health, the outside reflects the inside. A dull, dry complexion is a blinking neon sign that you’re not eating right. Lucky for you, you can put your best face forward with a better diet. Here’s how:

Face Food #1: Avocados
This creamy, green fruit is abundant in essential oils and B-complex vitamins that nourish your skin, inside and out.

Niacin (vitamin B3) is especially important for healthy skin, and avocados contain oodles of it. Niacin, an anti-inflammatory, soothes irritated skin and red, blotchy skin. One avocado has 3.8 mg niacin – 27% of your daily need.

Blend half an avocado with yogurt and frozen berries to make a creamy, nutty-flavored morning smoothie. And keep reading for a great avocado face-mask recipe that will solve your dry skin problems instantly.

Face Food #2: Mangoes
Mangoes have more than 80% of your daily requirements for vitamin A, which is why they’re such a great face food. Vitamin A maintains and repairs skin cells; a deficiency will result in a dry, flaky complexion. As an antioxidant, vitamin A also fights free radical damage that can prematurely age the skin. And with fewer than 70 calories per serving, this succulent fruit is the perfect pick for your figure, not just your face.

Face Food #3: Almonds
Not only is it a gorgeous shape for your eyes, almonds are also great for your complexion. With 150% of your daily need for vitamin E, it’s no wonder that getting a bit nutty is good for you.

Vitamin E's rich oils moistuize dry skin, and its antioxidants protect against skin damage and premature aging of facial tissue.

Face Food #4: Cottage Cheese
Dairy is good for your bones and face. But it’s the selenium in cottage cheese, not the calcium that makes us wild for the creamy curds.

Selenium, an essential mineral, teams up with vitamin E as a powerful free radical-fighting antioxidant duo. Plus, it’ll protect against skin cancer and fight dandruff.

Face Food #5: Acerola Cherries
Your average cherry doesn’t supply a lot of vitamin C, but that’s not true for Acerolas. One Acerola cherry supplies 100% of your daily allowance for vitamin C, which is great news for your skin. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights skin damage and wrinkles. It also plays a central role in the production of collagen, the structural protein in your skin.

Face Food #6: Oysters
Whether they’re an aphrodisiac or not, oysters are a love fest for skin. Oysters fight pimples because they’re rich in zinc. The mineral affects sebum production, a deficiency may contribute to acne.

Zinc also helps boost elastin (the skin's elastic protein) production with the help of vitamin C.

Face Food #7: Baked Potatoes
Set aside the greasy French fries. A plump, steaming baked potato is good for your skin.

Eat one baked potato (with the skin) to get 75% of your daily copper need. This essential mineral works with vitamin C and zinc to produce the elastin fibers that support skin structure. Too little copper in your diet can reduce your skin’s ability to heal and cause it to become rigid and lifeless.

Face Food #8: Mushrooms
This fungus isn’t just for soup; it’s rich in riboflavin, a B vitamin that’s vital to your skin. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is involved in tissue maintenance and repair, and improves skin blemishes caused by rosacea. This vitamin is so important for skin repair that the body uses large amounts after sustaining a burn or wound, or undergoing surgery.

Face Food #9: Flaxseed Oil
It’s no secret that Omega 3s are great for your skin, but did you know that flaxseed oil is one of the best sources of this essential fatty acid? That’s great news if you’re not a fish-lover.

Just one teaspoon of flaxseed oil per day provides 2.5 grams of Omega 3s, which, in turn, hydrate the skin. Essential fatty acids also dilute sebum and unclog pores that otherwise leads to acne.

Face Food #10: Wheat Germ
Don’t let the “germ” scare you – it’s actually just the embryo within a grain of wheat, and it’s nutritious. Wheat germ is a good source of biotin, a B vitamin that is crucial to skin health. A mild biotin deficiency can cause dermatitis, a skin condition characterized by itchy, scaly skin. Sprinkle wheat germ on yogurt for a tasty way to get more biotin in your diet.

Improve Your Skin With Exercise

We know that exercise does wonders for our body. Physical activity strengthens our heart, muscles, overall health, and keeps us looking toned and in shape. But does fitness improve the condition of our skin as well? Curious to learn more about the effects of exercise on our skin, I turned to a couple of experts to find out. Annet King is the Director of Training and Education at Dermalogica, and Dr. Helen Flamenbaum is a dermatologist who practices on Long Island in New York.

Does exercise improve our skin? If so, how?

Annet King: Any increase to the body's circulation will improve the look of the skin, as well as boost detoxification and cell renewal. I don't think there are any studies that show which exercises are best, but of course yoga and more stress-relieving exercises help to smooth lines (as the muscles are contracted in the face) and lower stress hormone levels, which could be seen as helpful for our skin.

Dr. Helen Flamenbaum: Exercise is good for every organ in the body. Since the skin is the largest organ it goes without saying that the skin benefits as well. Perspiration acts as a body cooler during exercise and this enables your body temperature to be maintained.

Are there certain circumstances in which exercise can actually be bad for our skin?

King: For people with a lot of redness in their skin tone, or who have Rosacea, aerobic (cardio) activity can exacerbate the condition as blood flow is increased. Some people believe that cardio and running can cause more oxygen or free radical damage, which can break or damage the skin's supportive fibers (collagen and elastin).

Flamenbaum: Exercise can aggravate acne and Rosacea, as well as produce different kinds of skin irritations. For example, Exercise-Induced Urticaria, which is relatively uncommon, can cause people to break out in hives after exercising. Intertrigo is a yeast-related rash triggered by two areas of the skin rubbing together and chafing, such as the groin, armpit and creases of the neck. Miliaria is another kind of fitness-induced inflammation caused by the sweat gland ducts becoming clogged with dead skin cells or bacteria, which can lead to clusters of small blisters and uncomfortable itching. Also, current rashes may become worsened due to the heat and sweat produced by exercise.

Do you have any suggestions for maintaining a healthy, youthful looking glow, and is there anything else we should know about exercise and our skin?

King: The best advice is to work out without make up on, especially if you are prone to breakouts. Thoroughly cleanse you skin after a workout as toxins from sweat and oil increase when we exercise. Keep some skin purifying wipes in your gym bag. Drink plenty of water as you exercise so your skin does not become dehydrated. For someone who is an exercise junkie and also suffers from acne, try to incorporate some yoga into your routine to bring down the stress adrenal hormonal levels. This will help clear the skin, because stress hormones and acne are very much related.

Flamenbaum: An interesting point regarding exercise and skin is that many people assume they can rid themselves of cellulite with physical fitness. Not so! Cellulite is not improved by exercise. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cellulite at this point.