Aestheticians understand how important a well-rounded skin care regimen is and that it is imperative to healthy, glowing, clear skin. But, skin health goes just beyond topically caring for the skin. It also synergistically works with internal factors such as nutrition. Nutrition plays an important role in the maintenance of healthy skin. What an individual eats and drinks can have an impact on acne, rosacea, skin tone, skin congestion, and more. The types and varieties of food choices made can greatly impact skin’s appearance. Skin is the largest organ of the body, and it needs to be carefully cared for and protected.
The reality is when it comes to the skin, it is often the last place to receive the benefits that adequate water intake provides. After all, every cell in the body requires proper nutrition and hydration to survive, and the truth is that most people do not drink enough water and eat enough variety of well-balanced foods to have a significant impact on their skin. But, what if they did?
First, let’s talk hydration. When most people are asked how much water they drink, the answer is – enough. Digging a little deeper and more specifically how many ounces – most answers then are 16 to 64. Sorry to say, that is most likely not enough. A good rule of thumb for most people for a basic day-to-day intake is to take one’s body weight divided by two, then divide that number by eight, to get approximately how many eight-ounce glasses one should drink daily. By the way, that number does not account for exercise, sweating, or caffeine consumption so add on a few more eight-ounce glasses on top of it.
Now the reality is that some people do not like water, and therefore, it is a challenge to drink half of what is needed. So be creative, tell clients to add their favorite natural fruit, fresh cucumbers, or even a little mint to it, and try to drink more. Water will not completely fix skin concerns, but when the cells in the body are hydrated, everything works better.
Water helps move toxins and waste out of the body, aids in digestion and metabolism, helps keep one focused and energized, and that is just the start. Encourage clients to start drinking an adequate amount of water and be amazed at the changes in their skin.
VITAMINS & MINERALS FOR SKIN HEALTH
Vitamins and minerals are other essential nutrients for skin health. A proper, well-balanced diet with a variety of different food, especially fruits and veggies, can have a great impact on skin’s health and appearance. Strive for one’s plate to look like the colors of the rainbow. A wide variety of colors from different vegetables will help ensure a client is receiving the appropriate vitamins and minerals. For example, orange color fruits and vegtables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, or yellow like mangos and bananas, which are loaded with vitamin A (great for antiaging, cellular turnover, and a crucial antioxidant.) The more variety of color, the more chance to increase one’s daily intake of vitamins A, C, and E which are crucial for healthy skin. These essential vitamins provide the body with antioxidants. The body needs to protect against free radical damage as they can wreak havoc, especially our collagen and elastin fibers. A question that is constantly asked is, “is taking or even eating foods with vitamins enough for my skin?” If a client asks this, respond by suggesting they include a well-balanced skin care routine that contains high amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. Remember by the time the benefits of what is eaten is digested and dispersed throughout the body, the last place to get the benefits will be skin. Topical application of micronutrients can complement dieter consumption leading to a stronger, healthier protective barrier that is needed to protect the skin. Macro- and micronutrients work together to maintain the health and barrier function of the skin. Changes in nutritional habits can alter the structure and function of skin cells and directly impact the appearance of the skin.
IMPORTANCE OF ANTIOXIDANTS
First, what are free radicals? They are atoms or molecules that have unpaired electrons. These atoms are usually highly reactive. The body naturally generates free radicals during the normal metabolism process. Free radicals are created by an immune response in an attempt to fight against infection. However, while searching in the body for their electrons, they can become more dangerous and destructive if they do not find their electron. Over time, free radicals can cause extensive DNA damage. Antioxidants have the ability to donate an electron, without themselves becoming damaged or altered. Therefore, they can help prevent damage caused by these atoms. Antioxidants strengthen cells and protect collagen and elastin.
This vitamin has many beneficial skin health properties. It has the ability to influence the cell's function to behave in a younger and healthier manner. Vitamin A can help normalize sebum production and help clear acneic skin by creating balance. It can inhibit tyrosine which helps pigmentation issues, stimulates fibroblast cells to promote healthy collagen and elastin, and creates cellular turnover to lead to healthy, glowing skin.
Most clients know vitamin C as an immunity-boosting vitamin, which it is. For skin, it is crucial for healing and a very powerful antioxidant. It is beneficial in inhibiting melanin production, which will help even out skin tone and brighten the overall complexion. It can create hydration and decrease transepidermal water loss. It is great for collagen and elastin health and can even speed up the healing process after peels or too much sun exposure.
A very powerful antioxidant and crucial for healing and protecting, this vitamin helps with cellular restoration after sun exposure. When it comes to moisturizing and soothing, it is a natural anti-inflammatory and can be very beneficial in strengthening the skin’s barrier.
Some great minerals for skin include iron, selenium, copper, silica, and zinc. They are full of great benefits, such as immune-boosting benefits, preserving tissue elasticity, and collagen building. Silica is perhaps one of the most foundational minerals the body needs most. It helps create bonds between protein molecules to increase the skin's ability to retain water. It acts like a glue for collagen which provides strength and flexibility. It also brightens complexions and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Around the age of 25, silica production slows down, so make sure clients up to their food sources like melons, watermelons, artichokes, and asparagus, which are rich in silica.
While there are so many amazing skin and health benefits that these and other vitamins and minerals provide, not everyone can tolerate them on their skin or even take them orally. Encourage clients to get them from food. Advise them to consult with a doctor or pharmacist so they are taken safely. Start them off slowly by using any products that contain them, so one can see how clients will tolerate them.
Incorporate water and eating pattern questions into the consultation, as it can help aestheticians get an idea of what may be going on with the client’s skin. Skin care professionals can get an idea of whether or not their clients are eating foods with these powerful skin vitamins and otherwise guide them towards some foods they can incorporate into their daily intake. Do they eat a lot of dairy or gluten? If so, that may be a contributing factor as to why they are having more breakouts, especially on the lower half of the face. It is important to remember that most skin care professionals are not dietitians or nutritionists, so tread lightly on telling clients what they should or should not eat, especially if it does not fall under one’s scope of practice. Make suggestions, give advice, or even refer them to a specialist if necessary. Consider having one on hand to refer clients to.
Dairy products can contain excess hormones, which have been thought to increase or exacerbate hormonal acne issues. Hormones from dairy, especially milk, can stimulate sebaceous gland activity. This can create an overproduction of oil and can plug or block follicles or pores and increase breakouts.
It is important to understand that not all carbohydrates are processed and handled the same by the body. Understanding the glycemic index, a guide that indicates how quickly blood glucose and insulin levels show up in the blood immediately after digesting carbohydrates can help a skin care professional understand which carbohydrates to eat or which to eat in moderation. Foods that cause a quick spike in glucose have a higher glycemic value. The more natural and unprocessed food is, the lower the index value and will not cause a spike in insulin levels. Lower levels create less inflammation which also helps keep down those free radicals in the body. Recommend the client to eat fruits, especially berries, as they are not only low on the glycemic scale but super high in antioxidants.
A spike in blood sugar caused by the excess consumption of sugar in a diet can cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation results in redness, swelling, and stress amongst other things. Chronic inflammation can greatly affect skin tone and texture over time. Glycation occurs when any type of sugar is digested, and a release of glucose enters the bloodstream. The sugar then attaches itself to collagen weighing it down. Over time, this can lead to a weakening of collagen fibers, dry skin, and the reaction of skin-protecting antioxidants. If clients drink a lot of sugary soda or juices, they may be constantly causing inflammation. Encourage clients to slowly decrease their consumption of soda and drink healthier beverages. If they really enjoy the carbonation, of soda suggest they grab a bottle of seltzer water instead. Small changes can make a difference.
A protein found in some loaves of bread and other types of processes can affect certain hormones and cause inflammation in those who are allergic to it. In addition to it causing pain to one’s gut, it can also have negative effects on skin health. People with allergies to gluten may find that their body's response is to see it as a foreign substance, which in turn, can cause irritation and inflammation to the body and the skin.
EXERCISE & SKIN
The importance of exercising and moving regularly also contributes to a bright and clear complexion. Adding in some daily exercise can round-out a skin health program. Exercise leads to an increase in blood circulation, which can lead to the skin receiving more oxygen and nutrients. Exercise also increases serotonin or the “feel-good hormone” levels. This can help with mood-stabilizing, increase overall well-being, and happiness. There is no denying the negative impact stress can have on the skin. Stress can lead to increased breakouts and oil production. It can even affect the proteins in the skin, which could reduce elasticity. Adding in 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can help keep stress away while simultaneously keeping skin clear, healthy, and glowing. Do not forget when sweating, a person loses fluids, so be sure to add in some more water to keep skin hydrated.
Asking clients questions about diet and nutrition can seem a bit personal or intrusive to the client. After all, they are there for a facial treatment or even to just relax a bit. Incorporating this into one’s consultation form can help aestheticians have a better handle on what may be going on with the client’s skin and how to give them some input on the great benefits of vitamins and minerals. Most people are just unaware of the great impact nutrition can have on skin health and conditions. The more education provided to clients, the more they may be willing to answer questions. Keep in mind what the scope of practice is when advising clients of potential changes, they could make to see the difference they are hoping for. Some people really just want that quick, overnight fix that they think comes from a bottle of hyaluronic acid or vitamin C, but aestheticians know that it is just not the way skin works. If clients are serious about making a change to help their skin, it starts from within. Give them the best advice, and refer them out when necessary, either to an in-house nutritionist or a reputable nutritionist in the area. The more skin care professionals understand how nutrition can play a crucial role in the skin, the better they can clients make some changes. Skin care professionals have the ability to help clients achieve a youthful glow, smooth a complexion, and to even clear some breakouts with just a few tweaks in their daily routine.
Remember, skin care professionals must also practice what they preach. If a skin care professional is not eating a variety of skin healthy foods or drinking enough water, make changes. Keep track of any changes in skin by taking pictures and sharing them with clients. It is important for clients to know that sometimes aestheticians also suffer from skin concerns and conditions and that even skin care professionals need to make changes to their daily routines to see an improvement. Sometimes skin care professionals can relate to clients on a personal level and can share their real-life experience of how to see a significant change in their skin instead of just selling them a product. So, eat, drink (water that is), and keep skin healthy, glowing, and beautiful.
Andrea Gregaydis is a licensed aesthetician and international CIDESCO diplomat. She holds multiple additional licenses as a New York state instructor and nail technician, as well as certified laser technician. Gregaydis is the lead instructor at the Aesthetic Science Institute and has over 10 years of experience as a practitioner, team coordinator, and role model for hundreds of future skin care professionals. She is contributing author to top industry trade magazines, as well as a speaker at various aesthetics conferences across the United States. She is also a CIDESCO International Examiner.