Cold temperatures outdoors and the contrasting heat and dryness of central heating inside, all conspire to leave your skin feeling dull and dry. There are lots of lovely moisturisers you can apply and combining them with nourishing your skin from within will really help to maintain a healthy glow through the winter months. This is particularly important as we get older. In postmenopausal women, the collagen content of skin can decrease by as much as 30% in the first 5 years after menopause.1
During the cooler months we often reduce our water consumption. But it’s important to keep drinking water and herbal teas to keep the skin cells plump and healthy. Recommended daily water intake does vary, but the European Food Safety Authority recommend 1.6 litres for women and 2 litres for men on top of the water obtained from food. So that’s about 6-8 glasses per day.
Tip: start the day by rehydrating with a cup of hot water and lemon or a herbal tea. If you have mint in the garden, just pick a stem and infuse in boiling water for a few minutes.
Oxidative stress occurs in the body when there’s an imbalance of damaging free radicals and protective antioxidants.
To protect your skin, aim to limit exposure to factors that promote the generation of free radicals such as exposure to cigarette smoke, the sun’s UV rays, air pollution, exhaust fumes, as well as consumption of alcohol and burnt food.
You can also increase the amount of antioxidant nutrients in your diet, which include many hundreds of substances, the most well-known being vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene (the plant form of vitamin A) and the minerals selenium and zinc. The best way to make sure you have a good supply of these nutrients is to eat a wide variety of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables.
Tip: variety is your skin’s best friend! Try to expand your range of fruit and veg and add some different types to your shopping trolley this week. In season fruit and vegetables, have the advantage of being at their peak in terms of nutritional benefit as well as being cheaper.
As well as protecting the skin from oxidative stress, vitamin C contributes to collagen and elastin formation, giving the skin strength and elasticity (or ‘plumpness’). Vitamin C is water soluble and so you need a regular supply in your diet. Rich seasonal sources of vitamin C in autumn/winter are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, papaya.
Ensure your diet has sufficient essential fatty acids. These help to keep your skin soft and supple and aid the skin cells’ ability to retain moisture. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both important; since Western diets typically contain an excess of omega-6 fatty acids, it’s best to concentrate on increasing your levels of omega-3. Rich sources are oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines. Nuts and seeds are also good sources, particularly walnuts, ground flaxseed (linseed), chia seeds and hemp seeds.
Tip: add ground flaxseed to porridge and smoothies. Click here for my smoothie recipe.
Excess sugar can be detrimental to the skin as it can attach to collagen and elastin to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs).2 As we get older, AGEs can accumulate in the skin resulting in glycation stress, causing the skin to lose its elasticity.
Tip: try to avoid any food products that have sugar listed as the first ingredient!
1. Stevenson S and Thornton J. Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs. Clin Interv Aging; 2(3):283-297.
2. Masamitsu I et al (2011) Glycation stress and photo-aging in skin. Anti-Aging Medicine 8 (3): 23-29.