Our Skin serves as the ultimate anecdote of our tales. From our acne-prone teenage skin to our wrinkled skin at old age, everything tells our story. Every phase of our skin tells a different story of our life. It is also the largest gland of our body which needs a proper skincare routine. How do we keep protect our storyteller?
Skin deterioration consists of two didactically independent and biologically distinct processes. The first is the intrinsic deterioration that occurs as a part of the natural process which also affects the other organs alike and the other one is the extrinsic process i.e. the damage of skin as a result of external factors like chronic sun exposure, ultraviolet radiation, smoking, lack of sleep, etc. It’s plausible to believe that extrinsic factors can be handled. There have been tons of tried and tested methods to slow down the effects of extrinsic damage like using sunscreen, sleeping for 8 hours, and eliminating smoking to maintain your skincare routine. Now the question is how do we slow down the intrinsic deterioration of our skin? Is there seriously a solution to this omnipresent natural process? Well Yes. The answer to this lies in our food intake and subsequently our body’s cleansing mechanism – how our body is eliminating the toxic substances that have accumulated over time.
Our skin is basically a mirror holding up reflections of everything that we put into our body, how our body processes the food, and the resulting toxicity. You can put everything you want to slow down the extrinsic deterioration of skin but the intrinsic deterioration can be only be slowed by efficient and regular monitoring of our digestion thus leading to clearing up of our skin. As our skin is a natural storyteller in order to keep our skin healthy and fresh we need to look into the food we eat and also the subsequent cleansing of its toxic after-effects from our body. Before we do that we need to know how food affects our skin.
Effects of Food on our skincare routine
Quoting from a report by The National Institutes of Health, United States (NIH), “Skin has been reported to reflect the general inner-health status and aging. Nutrition and its reflection on the skin have always been an interesting topic for scientists and physicians throughout the centuries worldwide.” Now, here are food compounds that has been put forward by the aforementioned report to give an overview of the linking of nutrition and skin aging.
Food Compound- Vitamin C
Description-It is a water-soluble and photosensitive substance
Function-It plays a major role in stabilizing the triple helical structure of collagen and also plays a role in the synthesis of cholesterol and bioavailability of selenium(it neutralizes free radicals).
Foods containing this compound- Fresh Fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, guava, chili pepper, and parsley.
Salient Aspects-It isn’t synthesized by the human body so adequate dietary intake is essential to supply in it our body
Food Compound- Vitamin E
Description-It is a group of eight compounds called tocopherols. It is a naturally occurring antioxidant and a free radical scavenger.
Function-It helps us to fight against collagen cross-linking and lipid peroxidation which contributes to premature aging of our skin. It also causes a significant reduction in erythema(skin redness), sunburn, and UVB skin damage.
Foods containing this compound- Vegetables, vegetable oils like wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and seeds, corn, soy, and some sorts of meat.
Salient Aspects-It works synergistically with Vitamin C.
Food Compound-Carotenoids (β-carotene, Astaxanthin, Lycopene, and Retinol)
Description-These are Vitamin-A derivatives which are highly effective antioxidants and they also possess photoprotective properties(protects from molecular damage caused by exposure to sunlight).
Function- β-carotene and lycopene are the dominating carotenoids that protect against sunburn (solar erythema) by providing basal defense against UV light-mediated damage. Retinol, on the other hand, promotes growth and is responsible for the maintenance of epithelial tissues and influences reproduction.
Foods containing this compound- β-carotene Pumpkins, Sweet potatoes, papaya, mangoes. Astaxanthin-Yeast, Salmon, Shrimp. Lycopene-Tomato, Watermelon, Papayas. Retinol-Milk, Egg yolk, Liver.
- β-carotene and lycopene-rich diets reduce UV-induced erythema while Astaxanthin reduces skin sagging and wrinkling.
- Retinol isn’t synthesized in our body.
Food Compound- Vitamin D
Description-It acts as a prohormone that can be synthesized by the human body itself through sun exposure.
Function-It protects the skin from UV-induced cell death and apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Foods containing this compound- Salmon, Sardines, Egg yolks, Mushrooms, Cod liver oil.
Salient Aspects- In 2009, The American Academy of Dermatology recommended
- 200 IU(0-1 y)
- 600 IU(1-70 y) 800(71+ y)
Food Compound- Polyphenols (Phenolic Acids and Flavonoids).
Description-They reduces agents which act as antioxidant protecting our body’s tissues from oxidative stress.
Function-They improves cell survival, induce apoptosis, and prevent tumor growth.
Foods containing this compound- Plant-derived beverages like fruit juices and red wine, onions, and tomatoes.
Salient Aspects-The phenolic content in foods can be easily altered owing to the methods of meal preparation. E.g. Onions and tomatoes lose 75-80% of their initial phenolic content when boiled over 15 minutes and 65% when cooked in a microwave and 30% when fried.
Major Foods To include in your diet in all seasons
According to a study published in The Journal Of Nutrition in 2011, green tea( this tea isn’t oxidized unlike black tea) was found to have a potent phytonutrient called epigallocatechin-3- gallate(EGCG) i.e. catechin which is rich in antioxidants(substances that prevent oxidation which releases free radicals responsible for skin cell damage and premature aging) which ensures increased blood flow to the skin that keeps the skin fresh and healthy.
Green tea has also been observed to stop inflammation and slow down DNA damage due to the sun and the polyphenols in them are results in healthy and blemish-free skin by increasing the healthful amount of water in the skin. So add more green tea in your diet and also for your skincare routine.
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should get 20-30 % of our daily calories from fats so we need to select healthy monosaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats termed as good fats due to their ability to keep our heart healthy and consequently our overall health.Omega-3 fatty acid(salmon, spinach) and Omega-6 fatty acid(eggs, nuts) are healthy fats that you should add in your skincare routine. They work as an oil barrier for our skin and keep dryness and blemishes at bay so their inclusion in your diet can lead to smooth and younger-looking skin in the long run.
Good quality oils like cold-pressed oils are extremely good for our skin for their inherent nutritional value. These oils are produced by normal oil extraction from oilseeds like coconut, mustard, or groundnut using pressure (instead of heat) for extraction. This retains the natural antioxidant properties of the oil along with its vitamins and minerals cant be ignored in your skincare routine.
According to a study conducted at The Imperial College School of Medicine, London in 2004 cold-pressed oils has a greater amount of nutritional value- higher Omega-3 fatty acids, more antioxidants and is also rich in Vitamin E. If you plan to use them in your cooking select oils with high smoke point ( the temperature at which oil begins to break down giving out harmful free radicals thus damaging it’s nutrition and flavor) is recommended like groundnut oil or mustard oil.
Yogurt is actually termed as a superfood. Its consumption and application both have their own benefits. It contains an organic compound called lactic acid that diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, on its application by tightening and shrinking the pores. It also exfoliates the skin and prevents it from getting dull and dry.
A study named “in-vitro and in-vivo studies” conducted by National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated that yogurt was efficient in locking moisture content of the skin thus increasing its softness and elasticity. It is rich in Vitamin B and also contains 20-30% of riboflavin (leads to glowing and hydrated skin) helping in cell growth and regeneration, it also soothes out inflamed skin. It contains probiotics that aid in renewing cells and also acts as a lipid barrier for dehydrated skin. The probiotics also aid in digestion, absorption, and excretion which leads to a decrease in our gut problems leading to decreased breakouts, dryness, and infections.
Drinking water can also do wonders for your skin. This is because it helps in digestion and flushes out toxins from our body. It also maintains the optimal temperature for our body thus increasing skin elasticity by retaining its moisture. Drink more water to have a healthy skincare routine.
A study by the University of Missouri, Columbia found out that 2 cups of water increased blood flow to the skin thus keeping the skin radiant and fresh. It also maintained the pH balance and kept the skin blemish-free. The rule of thumb is to drink 8 glasses of water every day.
List of Foods to Avoid to maintain a good skincare
- Deep-fried foods.
- Refined sugar.
- Refined Grains.
- Fast Foods.
- Aerated Drinks.
- Too much Caffeine.
- Red Meat.
- Salty snacks.
- Energy drinks.
Despite all our best efforts to put the right kinds of food into our body and avoiding harmful foods, we might still be exposed to a lot of pollutants which might lead to the accumulation of toxic waste over time. Most of us experience this type of toxic build-up which results in blocked channels in our body leading to health imbalances ultimately casting their reflection on our skincare routine making it look dry, dull, and dreary.
So what is The Way Out? How can we keep our skin fresh and healthy?
The answer is we need to cleanse our bodies. There is a direct link between our digestive system and our skin. But wait. Here’s a catch. Here we won’t tell you to follow those detox diets that keep popping every now and then. That modern practice is quite old now. Let’s do something new by turning our pages to the old ones. Confused? Well, here we are talking about Ayurvedic Cleansing.
According to a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Fayne Frey “There’s no such thing as skin detox from a medical perspective.” Then what are we talking about? Well, this is quite different from “detoxification of skin” as normally detoxification means what we can do on the surface but it’s important to cleanse what’s on the inside.
What is Ayurvedic Cleansing?
According to Ayurveda, good health is defined as the balance between our nutritive system (Kapha) , metabolic system(pitta), and our nervous system(Vata) as these systems maintain the delicate balance between our body, mind, and emotions. Any disturbance between these systems manifests into toxic build-up and consequently diseases.
An Ayurvedic cleanse draws out the excess toxins from our body tissues into our digestive tract in order to eliminate them which unblocks the channels and restores balance in our body. It is actually a method of cleansing the body of all its unwanted waste materials by lubricating the body. This cleanse is known as panchakarma which essentially means five actions.
Brittany Wright, a registered dietician states, “While modern-day cleanses such as juice fasts or elimination diets abound, an Ayurvedic cleanse is anything but modern and can be there in your skincare routine. Individuals have been using natural Ayurvedic medicine and healing cleanses for hundreds of years. While many options exist, they can be depleting or unbalancing. Most individuals cannot and should not exist on sole juice for several days. The Ayurvedic cleanse is a powerful draw for a variety of reasons. It balances all the constituents and is low-cost so is easily accessible to everyone. It focuses on healing and replenishing both the body and mind.”
How long does this cleansing last and When is it done?
An Ayurvedic cleanse can be done either for 3 days or you can extend it up to 21 days. It is typically done three times annually at the beginning of each season or Ayurveda also suggests you can do it whenever you feel toxic accumulation in your body.
What does toxic accumulation look like physically?
The symptoms of toxic accumulation include-
- Brain Fog.
- Low energy levels leading to fatigue.
- Unusual body odor.
- Sudden skin reactions.
- Aching joints and muscles.
- Bad breath.
- Undesired weight gain
- Appearance of white coating over your tongue, especially in the morning.
- Sugar cravings.
How is This Cleansing process done?
It’s a 5-step process that occurs in 3 phases.
The traditional Ayurvedic cleansing is a costly and very long and detailed process requiring the intervention of a certified Ayurvedic practitioner. However, for your convenience here we have laid down some basic guidelines of this cleansing process focusing more on a generic Ayurvedic cleansing process that you can add in your skincare routine at home itself without the need to go to a certified practitioner.
- This is the first phase of this cleansing process which aims at simplifying your meals and preparing your gut for the changes in the second phase of cleansing.
- You should prepare and plan out the details of your next phase- collect the following ingredients and plan a daily skincare routine for your next phase-
- Basmati Rice.
- Mung Dal.
- CCF Tea(Cumin , Coriander, Fennel Tea)
- Oil for self-massage.
- Tongue Cleaner.
- Triphala Tablets.
Additionally also plan a strategy to slowly exit from this cleanse and safely return back to normalcy post this cleansing.
- You should also slow down your pace a bit and take out time to focus internally and indulge in certain self-care activities like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness in your skincare routine. Take more rest and exercise more. Additionally, more physical exercise will also mean the proper movement of the lymph fluid in our body.
- Hydration is very important in this phase as it thins down your lymph fluid. This lymph fluid is essential for our immunity and digestion. This fluid surrounds our gut and destroys any pathogen that makes its way through the gut lining during digestion. If this lymph fluid is congested it won’t be efficient in its function.
Active Cleansing phase
- This is the second and the peak phase of this process where you actively take part in this cleansing.
- Now that your lymph fluid has thinned and your gut has taken a break from congestion it’s time to tune up your digestive fire which the Ayurveda refers to as Agni.
- Consumption of a mono-diet of simple food is recommended: a nourishing blend of kitchari meals and ghee oleation (In Ayurveda, this term is used to describe the process of ingestion of healthy oils) as it will take less time to digest thus enabling the release of as many toxins as possible.
[Kitchari is a traditional Indian dish made of Basmati Rice (carbohydrates), Mung Dal (Protein), ghee(fat) thus containing all the essential macronutrients. Spices like cumin and coriander are also added for flavor. Ghee is consumed daily in increasing doses during this phase either in an empty stomach in the morning or during meals with kitchari mainly due to butyric acid, its metabolic byproduct, which keeps the gut healthy, lubricates it, facilitating easy digestion]
- The consumption of this mono-diet should be done 3 times a day keeping a gap of five to six hours between meals as it facilitates digestion. Eat until you are full thus keeping in-between snacking at bay.
- Herbal Teas ( Ginger Tea, Tulsi Tea, or CCF Tea) can be sipped at intervals.
- Massage yourself with any oil as it removes built-up toxins.
- Consume 2 tablets of Triphala before bedtime as it rejuvenates the tissues and eases bowel movements.
- Take a break from your gadgets. Practice Meditation, Exercise or yoga during this phase. Indulge in some self-reflection and look back on your life to gain some clarity. Our skin also reflects our internal state of mind so we need to strive towards striking a balance between our body and mind to achieve a desirable result extrinsically.
Plan your skincare routine according to your convenience and customize it with activities of your choice. To help you out with the planning we have given a short example of how a day should ideally look like during this phase of the process.
|6.30 am||Yoga or Pranayama.|
|7.15 am||Take a warm shower.|
|9.00 am||You can either read a book or do some journaling.|
|10.30 am||You can have any herbal tea if you want(CCF Tea or Ginger Tea)|
|1.30 pm||Take a brisk walk out in the open. Let Nature rejuvenate your mind and body.|
|2.00 pm||You can either read a book or take a short afternoon nap of 45 minutes.|
|5.00 pm||Make sure to have your dinner (kitchari with ghee)by this time.|
|6.00 pm||Have a walk in nature, with nature.|
|7.00 pm||You can take a relaxing hot shower.|
|8.00 pm||Self-massage yourself with oil: Sesame oil(summer) and Coconut oil (winter)|
|8.30 pm||Have a short rejuvenating yoga session or a meditation session.|
|10.00 pm||It’s bedtime. Put your lights out and retire to your bed for a good night’s sleep.|
A brief look at a day during the Active Cleansing Phase
- So now that your body is cleansed of it toxins the aftereffects will start appearing in your overall appearance though you still need to focus on clean eating and proper hydration.
- Now it’s time to gradually reintroduce yourself to your normal eating regimen. Start by adding steamed veggies over a week followed by eggs or beans and then slowly add heavier foods again like dairy and meat.
- Be sure not to reintroduce yourself to any bad habits that don’t serve you and incorporate any good practices that you might have picked up in the active phase (self-massage or consuming Triphala tablets or any other habit as you like).
- You need to be gentle with your body to get back to normalcy. This is the most delicate phase as it determines the outcome of this practice.
The Bottom Line
Your skin is basically a movie showcasing snippets of your body’s digestive system through its clarity, radiance, and blemish-free surface or its flare-ups, dreariness, and eruptions. You are not only what you eat but also what you can digest. Your gut health is an important factor in determining your skin health. Why? This is because the gut microbiome i.e. the bacteria living in your digestive system and intestines influences your overall health which ultimately improves your skin.
Skincare isn’t a practice you take up one month prior to big occasions. It’s a lifelong process. It takes hard work and diligence to put the right kinds of food into your body and also take care to eliminate any unwanted toxic accumulation from within the body. If we accept what Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine had once said that gut is the root of all diseases well then your skin is the shoot system bearing the effects of everything wrong with the root. So, look into your root system to correct your shoot system.