Today I will talk about the most important nutrients for combating dry skin. I will limit myself to nutrients that you can get from regular foods. I will not talk about isolated nutritional components that you can buy in a high dose in a jar at the drugstore.
A balance between oil and moisture is crucial for healthy, beautiful skin. Oil is secreted by the sebaceous glands and smooths the surface of the skin. Moisture is the water present in the skin cells. Moisture reaches the skin cells through the bloodstream. Moisture prevents dehydration. Oil and water work together.
There are two types of dry skin: simple dry skin and complex dry skin. Simple dry skin results from a lack of natural oils. This condition mainly affects women under thirty-five. Complex dry skin lacks both oil AND moisture. It is characterized by fine lines, brown spots and sagging. This condition mainly affects people over thirty-five.
Dry skin usually feels tight after washing unless you apply moisturizer. In extreme cases, fissures and cracks can occur. Dry skin is most common on areas of the body that are exposed to the environment, such as the face and hands. But it can also appear anywhere on your body.
What causes dry skin
The proteins that make up the skin – elastin, collagen and keratin – can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight. In addition to sun, dry skin can be caused or exacerbated by exposure to wind, cold, harsh soaps, and cosmetics. But nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to dry skin. What can you change in your diet to make your skin less dry? Here is the most important advice from a dietitian.
The nutritional advice: what can you eat (and drink) to make your skin less dry?
I must say that the research on the link between dry skin and diet is not a priority in scientific circles. The explanation (in my opinion) is that you can’t make money if you prove that eating carrots, for example (carrots are the best source of vitamin A), cures dry skin. The most well-researched nutrients related to dry skin are vitamins A, C, and E and alpha-linolenic acid. But first:
Drink enough water
I can’t say it often enough: drinking enough water is very important. The human body contains more than 70% water. Water is the main component of every cell in our body.
How much should you drink? The general recommendation is at least 6 glasses of water (one glass = 250 ml) per day, even if you are not thirsty.
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is needed, among other things, for the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is one of the three major proteins our skin is made of (elastin and keratin are the other two). As we age, our body gradually produces less collagen. With age, collagen in the deep layers of the skin changes from a tightly organized network of fibers into a disorganized maze. This leads to wrinkles on your skin, among other things.
Vitamin C can slow down the appearance of wrinkles, reduce the risk of skin inflammation, and make skin less dry.
In the Netherlands, the recommended daily amount of vitamin C for men and women from the age of 14 is 75 milligrams.
The best way to get enough vitamin C is to ensure that you eat four ounces of fruit and vegetables (combined) every day. Four ounces of fruit and vegetables a day is also recommended by the World Health Organization.
Contrary to popular belief, oranges are not the best source of vitamin C. There are some superior foods for that matter. Here are the best sources of vitamin C:
- Black currants: 150 mg vitamin C per 100 g,
- Bell peppers: 135 mg vitamin C per 100 g,
- Broccoli: 115 mg vitamin C per 100 g,
- Brussels sprouts: 85 mg vitamin C per 100 g,
- Kiwi: 75 mg vitamin C per 100 g.
Vitamin C and vitamin E work synergistically, especially when it comes to the skin. That is, the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E works better than if you only take one of these vitamins.
In the Netherlands there is no recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E. The adequate intake is considered to be in the range of 11 mg (adult females) – to 13 mg (adult males) per day.
One tablespoon of wheat germ oil (15 ml) provides 18 mg of vitamin E. Wheat germ oil is really the best source of this vitamin. Other good sources of vitamin E are:
- Sunflower oil: 9.5 mg vitamin E per tablespoon,
- Sunflower seeds: 9.5 mg vitamin E per 25 g,
- Almonds: 7 mg vitamin E per 25 g,
- Hazelnut oil: 6.5 mg vitamin E per tablespoon.
Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to dry skin with flakes.
In the Netherlands, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin A for an adult is 800 mcg/day. 100 grams of carrots contains 1500 mcg of vitamin A, so almost twice as much as we need per day. Another great source of vitamin A is sweet potato. A medium-sized sweet potato (120 grams) contains about 850 mcg of vitamin A.
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)
ALA is the main fatty acid of the Omega-3 family. The other two Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, can be made from ALA. Alpha-linolenic acid is known to reduce dryness in middle-aged women.
For optimal health, women should eat two grams of this fatty acid per day. For men, that’s three grams.
Flaxseed oil (a.k.a. linseed oil) is nature’s richest source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One tablespoon of flaxseed oil (14 grams) contains a whopping seven grams of ALA. Therefore, consuming just two or three tablespoons of flaxseed oil will cover your weekly ALA requirement.
In addition to linseed oil, flaxseed itself is also incredibly rich in ALA. One tablespoon of flaxseed contains 2.5 grams of ALA.
Do you suffer from dry skin? First of all, make sure you drink enough water.
Furthermore, regularly use flaxseed and sunflower oils.
Eat carrots, sunflower seeds, almonds, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kiwi.
Avoid the sun!