It’s no secret that a healthy lifestyle is essential to feeling and looking good. Diet, exercise and stress management are essential considerations for whole-body wellness. Unfortunately, in a fast-paced culture that consists of multitasking at lightning speed, people often neglect their health by making poor lifestyle choices. The skin is the largest organ of the body and yet often the most neglected. Everyone wants beautiful skin, but those who suffer from imperfections often focus solely on quick fixes before considering the internal and external factors, and long-term commitments to improve the skin’s appearance. The role of skin care professionals is not only to help improve the skin’s appearance, but also to educate clients about environmental factors, such as lifestyle choices, that detrimentally impact healthy skin.
The American diet is full of simple sugars, carbohydrates and “bad fats,” including saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are found in whole milk, cheese, red meats, poultry skin and even in some plant foods, such as palm and coconut oils. Trans fats are man-made, created to allow liquid fat to solidify and last longer before spoiling to increase the stability and shelf life of snack foods. They are most commonly seen in processed foods, listed on labels as hydrogenated oils. Most fried foods and processed meats, chips and margarine contain high levels of these trans fats and are associated with triggering inflammation. Inflammation is a major culprit in cancer, aging, poor skin health and disease.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), saturated fats should be reduced to less than 10% of daily calories. Alternatives to these harmful fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are considered “good fats” because they are known to lower internal cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are found in olives, olive oil, peanuts and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn, soybeans and fish. Fish, in particular, contains high amounts of the polyunsaturated fat omega-3, which has natural anti-inflammatory benefits. Oral supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids is quite common. These supplements not only have internal health benefits, but also have been shown to increase moisture levels in the skin. Other nutritional supplements such as lycopene, found in tomatoes; coenzyme Q10; minerals such as zinc; and botanicals such as green tea all may be beneficial to the skin’s appearance by reducing inflammation—however, clinical trials supporting these claims are lacking.