Home' Nova West : March 2010 Contents HEALTH NATUROPATHY
© NOVA MARCH 2010
Keep that Glow
CHOOSING TO LOOK after your skin is not
simply about vanity. While it is true that one's
appearance plays a role in how we assess
and interact with each other, there is another
very good reason to maintain the health and
the condition of your skin. Our skin serves
as an indicator of our health, of the quality
of our genes and maybe even an indication
of our sexual health.
On an evolutionary level, such
subconscious messages from skin can
provide a strong drive to or from potential
partners in the search for a mate with whom
to pass on our genes. So it's no coincidence
that individuals who are often seen as highly
attractive are also healthy individuals at the
peak of their reproductive years.
As skin ages it incurs various
degenerative and pathological changes,
including the development of wrinkles, the
loss of elasticity, changes in pigmentation, the
formation of aberrant growths and decreased
vascularisation combined with vascular
thickening. These changes all tend to occur
primarily due to a select group of biochemical
reactions, including oxidation, inflammation
and glycation (the toffee effect), much of
which can be successfully reduced through
nutritional and lifestyle strategies.
Not all skin ageing comes from inside. For
most Australians, the sun is the most damaging
influence to their skin, with the accumulative
UV exposure gradually inducing unwanted
changes, even without the extremes of
sunburn. Protecting your skin from damaging
UV rays from the sun throughout your life
through a combination of sunscreen and
shade may well be the best thing you can do
to help your skin age well. To get an idea of
how your skin is actually ageing without the
influence of sun damage, examine the least
sun exposed areas of your body. This skin
will still be thinning, losing subcutaneous fat,
losing elasticity, losing pigmentation, healing
slower and losing hair. But, the more sun
exposed skin will appear more weathered,
irregularly coloured and generally a looser fit.
Other developments from sun exposure
include circulatory changes such as
telangiectases (blood vessels close to surface
of the cheeks and nose) and venous lakes
(small dark blue palpable patches on the
back of hands, ears or lips). And then there
are freckles, liver spots (lentigo) and various
types of keratoses -- rough, warty or horn-
like growths which are usually pigmented,
elevated and with well defined edges. These
growths, which often have a "stuck on"
appearance, have the potential to develop
further into a malignant growth such as a
squamous cell carcinoma, one of the more
common skin cancers associated with
excessive sun exposure. Medical removal
of these spots is typically done via surgery,
laser treatment or liquid nitrogen
cryotherapy, or with the application of various
chemotherapy, Retin-A (a topical retinoid
form of vitamin A) or bleaching creams to
the spots. Unfortunately, growth recurrence
after these treatments may still occur.
Various topical, antioxidant-rich natural
remedies have shown promise in the
treatment of these spots, including pine
needle extracts and rosehip oil, which has also
been found to help hydrate skin and reduce
the appearance of wrinkles and irregular
pigmentation. Irregular pigmentation of the
skin tends to correlate strongly with ageing,
but this effect is also increased through both
excessive sun exposure and poor attention
to health management strategies.
As skin ages, the production of sebum,
our skin's natural moisturiser, decreases,
and a condition known as senile pruritis
can develop. This consists of increasingly
rough, dry and itchy skin, often with a scaly
appearance, usually significantly worse on
the legs and arms. The condition is especially
noticeable in winter due to the lowered
indoor humidity and restricted peripheral
circulation due to inactivity and cold weather.
While too much cold and dry can be
a problem, so, too, can too much hot and
wet. So avoiding long hot showers and
moisturising regularly to seal in the skin's
moisture can help maintain the condition
and appearance of your skin. It's also
helpful to exercise daily, which improves
circulation and thus nutrient delivery to
your skin and boosts vital hormone levels.
Given the significance that our hormonal
profile has on many of the signs of ageing,
it makes perfect sense to help support
your hormones as you age, monitoring
and maintaining DHEA levels, and the sex
hormones oestrogen and testosterone with
a healthy diet, regular exercise, appropriate
supplements and hormonal replacement
Getting plenty of sleep helps keep you
looking younger, but did you know that the
position you sleep in may give you wrinkles?
Lying every night in your favourite position
on your side or with your face buried in
your pillow can eventually lead to the
development of permanent lines. Learn to
sleep on your back before it's too late. On
the subject of bad habits, alcohol intake and
cigarette smoking are also strong promoters
of skin ageing due to the inflammatory,
oxidative and circulatory changes they induce.
Other adaptable lifestyle changes include
avoiding stress, keeping well hydrated with
water, green and herbal teas, following a low
glycaemic diet to help control your blood
sugar, identifying and minimising any chronic
inflammation, and eating a large amount of
widely coloured antioxidant-rich vegetables
daily. These have all been shown to be
beneficial in delaying age-related skin changes.
Antioxidant supplements such as vitamins A,
C, E, the minerals zinc and selenium, plant
extracts of grape seed, resveratrol, broccoli
sprout concentrates and Co-enzyme Q10
may be helpful in improving skin quality.
And while all of this won't totally banish
all of your age and lifestyle-induced skin
changes, these approaches will help to
supply the ingredients your skin needs to
maintain that fresh, plump, glowing and
natural look of youth for as long as you can.
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy)
is a Qualified Naturopath
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