An introduction to dry skin and diet
Dry skin occurs when moisture is stripped away from your epidermal layer, which can make you more vulnerable to pathogens, irritants and bacteria. Since your epidermal layer and your skin in general rely on a constant stream of nutrients, it makes sense that, when deprived of those nutrients, your skin will inevitably start to suffer.
Since your diet is one of the primary ways that your body intakes nutrients, it’s not too big of a leap to assume that what you eat can have a noticeable impact. When it comes to dry skin in particular, inflammation can play a big role in triggering an outbreak and unfortunately, certain foods can have an inflammatory effect on the body, potentially inspiring a bout of dry skin.
The best nutrients for dry skin
So what can you do to help your skin? Well drinking plenty of fluids will certainly have a beneficial effect – you should be drinking between 1.5-2 litres a day! A lot of people are surprised at how much better they feel simply by increasing their intake of plain water.
It’s important to note that tea, coffee and fizzy drinks most definite do NOT count as fluids so don’t be fooled into thinking that your morning cuppa contributes towards your water intake!
Apart from water though, it’s important to concentrate on getting a healthy balance of nutrients into your diet. Below I’ve listed some of my favourite nutrients for dry skin but, as it would be impossible to list them all, it’s vital that to try and include a wide range of vitamin-rich foods in your diet!
1 - Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredible when it comes to your skin. Not only do they help your epidermis to retain more moisture, they can also strengthen your skin cells and alleviate inflammation! In dry skin conditions such as eczema, research has been conducted to examine the effectiveness of omega-3, with one study finding that 1.8g of EPA (a form of omega-3 found in fish oil) helped to significantly reduce the symptoms of eczema.1
Unfortunately, in the West our intake of omega-3 fatty acids can be imbalanced compared to other parts of the world. I would try and include as many omega-3 rich foods in your diet as possible – you can normally find them in healthy fats –but you may also want to try taking a supplement.
Our sister company, Jan de Vries, offers a wide range of omega-3 supplements and fish oils, but my personal favourite is Wiley’s Peak Omega-3 Liquid Fish Oil.
Best sources: Oily fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, natto
Grilled Honey Lemon Sardines with Herbed Rice
Cinnamon & Chia Seed Energy Balls
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2 - Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial nutrients for your skin as it can help to stimulate the production of collagen, an integral structural protein that makes up the majority of your skin. It also helps to prevent free-radicals and premature ageing, maintaining your skin’s natural barrier and allowing it to retain more moisture. However, as with most things, too much vitamin C can be counterproductive so it’s always worthwhile making sure you’re getting the right amount, not too much or too little.
According to the NHS, adults should be getting around 40mg of vitamin C a day and, since your body cannot synthesise vitamin C itself, the majority of this intake should be from your diet. Fortunately, there is a huge selection of dietary sources available, with most forms of fruit and veg containing a decent level of vitamin C.
Best sources: Oranges, carrots, peppers, kale, strawberries, pineapple, mango, cauliflower
Pineapple & Avocado Smoothie
Spiced Cauliflower & Carrot Salad
3 - Vitamin E
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant within the body, preventing oxidative stress and signs of premature ageing. It’s naturally soothing for dry skin, reducing inflammation, supporting skin cells, and promoting the repair of any damaged skin. Unsurprisingly this nutrient has really made a name for itself when it comes to beauty and skincare, and is now included in a variety of products, from shampoos to moisturisers.
Vitamin E oil can be applied topically to the skin to hydrate and smooth any roughness, with avocado and coconut oil often being employed for this purpose due to their high vitamin E content. While this is a good idea, it’s also worthwhile increasing your intake of vitamin E by examining your diet. If you’re interested in a vitamin E supplement, you could try our Wheat Germ Oil, which is naturally high in vitamin E.
Best sources: Avocado, almonds, spinach, wheat germ, sweet potato and coconuts
Apple & Spinach Smoothie
Mexican Avocado Bean Burrito
4 - Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a great all-round nutrient for your skin but when it comes to dry skin, vitamin A may play a very important role. This is because vitamin A deficiency has been linked to very dry skin, implying that there is a very real connection and that vitamin A is essential for healthy skin. It is known that vitamin A does play a role in encouraging your dermis, the layer of skin just below your epidermis, which is where your collagen and blood vessels are located.
It helps to repair damaged skin cells and improve blood flow to the skin, allowing nutrients to get to where they are needed quicker. Not bad! You can take vitamin A supplements but I always find that it’s worthwhile trying to increase your dietary intake first. Biotta’s Carrot Juice is naturally rich in vitamin A and other antioxidants such as beta carotene, protecting your skin from oxidative stress!
Best sources: Beef, kale, spinach, broccoli, kale, eggs
Broccoli, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup with Fitness Mix Sprouts
Foods that may upset your symptoms
Just as there are foods in your diet that can help to promote healthy skin, there are inevitably some foods that will also exacerbate an episode of dry skin. Unfortunately, most modern diets are high in foods that contain inflammatory triggers which can exhaust the immune system, upset your digestion and have poor repercussions for other areas of your body, including your skin. Below I’ve listed a few of the worst culprits but it is still important that you pay attention to what you are eating and how it affects your skin so you can notice any trends.
1 - Alcohol
Almost none of you will be surprised that alcohol has made this list. Its detrimental impact on health is widely known and recognised and most forms of alcohol are very inflammatory. Alcohol can also act as a diuretic and can even inhibit your body’s ability to extract water from the kidneys, making you more susceptible to dehydration. It can also dilate your blood vessels which can sometimes cause fluid to leak into your skin tissues, stimulating an inflammatory response from your immune system.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you should never drink alcohol again but it’s important to remember the word moderation. A couple of drinks every now and then won’t have a dramatic effect on your skin but, if you’re out every weekend, you will definitely reap the results and make your skin more prone to inflammation and irritation.
2 - Caffeine
From one inflammatory beverage to another, caffeine can have an unfortunate impact on your skin. As I mentioned earlier, most people seem under the impression that drinks like tea and fizzy beverages can count towards your daily fluid intake, when in fact they definitely do not. Aside from being chockfull of sugar (more on that later), caffeinated fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola can upset your digestive system.
This is because, like alcohol, most caffeinated beverages can act as diuretics, which in turn dehydrates you. Not to mention drinks such as coffee can strip away key skin-boosting nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and certain B vitamins. Again, moderation is key, but unlike alcohol, coffee and tea are far more regularly consumed on a daily basis.
I would advise trying to cut down your intake of coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages and replace them with healthier alternatives such as herbal tea, plain water or alternatives such as our Bambu Coffee Substitute, which is 100% caffeine-free but still tastes incredible!
3 - Processed foods
The chances are that processed foods make up a good chunk of your diet, from packets of ham to microwavable meals. Unfortunately these foods tend to be high in fat, refined sugars and salt. Salt, or sodium, is essential for our bodies but the truth is that most of us are consuming far, far too much on a daily basis. This can cause water retention and even stimulate your skin to produce too much oil, leading to breakouts and episodes of acne.
Now I understand that after a long day, freezer food can be extremely tempting, but I would try and opt for fresh options over processed ones. Not only do fresh foods contain more nutrients, they also don’t contain the same artificial flavourings and preservatives that processed foods do. Here at A.Vogel, we have a fantastic section on our website devoted to healthy recipes contributed by award-winning bloggers such as Holly Jade, so please do check them out!
We also offer our own alternative to conventional table salt, Herbamare, which is prepared from a blend of sea salt, 12 organically grown herbs and iodine-rich kelp. Free from preservatives and artificial flavours, this delicious seasoning also comes in a spicier form that’s perfect for more fiery dishes!
4 - Refined sugars
Refined sugar is another culprit when it comes to poor skin health and this is mainly due to its inflammatory effect. When you consume too much sugar, it can cause your insulin levels to spike which in turn produces an inflammatory reaction. These reactions can sometimes even break down structural proteins such as collagen, which can result in premature ageing and brittle skin that’s more prone to irritation.
Yet companies can be quite sneaky about what products they put sugar into. You’re probably aware that a Mars Bar isn’t the healthiest snack option but you probably think a yoghurt is relatively sensible option in comparison. Unfortunately sugar makes its way into everything these days from yoghurts to white bread and pasta to pizza and other packaged snacks.
This is why I think it’s important to opt for complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates – wholemeal bread, brown rice etc, are rich in fibre and contain less sugar. You could also consider alternative snacks such as fruit instead of sweets – being healthy doesn’t have to be boring! Check out our delicious recipes for Healthy Twix Bars or indulge in our own version of Oreo Cookies!