Eating Your Way to Radiant Winter Skin

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

December 18, 2013

  • Why “bad skin” is a family affair
  • Common mistakes that aggravate winter skin
  • Moisturize from the inside out

Once the cold winter sets in, it can be pretty hard to keep your skin looking smooth and supple. It’s a problem for a lot of people.

The change of weather has skin looking dry and itchy. Red blotches and wrinkles seem to become more apparent. And no matter how much moisturizer you slather on, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

You might even notice skin problems run in some families. Mom, Dad and the kids all seem to have the same sort of problems.

There is a reason for this. And it’s probably not because they all forgot to moisturize. It’s much more likely a combination of other factors.

You see, family members often follow the same habits (and mistakes!) when it comes to caring for their skin. Some of those blunders involve how you treat your skin. Others involve how you feed it.

But it’s easy enough to reverse those skin problems and keep your skin looking younger, more vibrant and supple during the cold winter months… and all year long.

The first thing I want to talk about today is some of those habits that cause your skin to become parched and irritated during the winter months.

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And you might be surprised. Because some of the things you might think are good for skin can actually harm it!

Lotions and moisturizers are the first thing people reach for when their skin is dry. And there are plenty of popular brands that promise amazing results.

Unfortunately, many of them also have chemical additives that can leave you worse off than you started. Preservatives, fragrances, emulsifiers, colorings and other compounds might make the product shelf-worthy, smell-worthy, pretty to look at and smooth on the skin. But these additives can also fan the flames of skin irritation.

Your best bet: If you can’t pronounce the ingredients in your moisturizer, ditch it. It’s especially important to watch out for sulfates, parabens, sodium benzoate, alcohol and FD&C colorings.

Then go out and find one that has skin-healthy ingredients like hyaluronic acid, collagen, elastin, vitamin C, aloe vera and/or CoQ10.

Exfoliants are next in line. And they are especially popular with women. After all… you have dry skin. What better way to slough it off than to exfoliate?

While the logic is sound, the actual process does more harm than good. That’s because exfoliating when your skin is irritated is more likely to aggravate the condition than correct it.

Your best bet: Limit exfoliation to absolutely no more than once a week. And when you do exfoliate, skip those scratchy pads that irritate the skin. It’s also a good idea to avoid the scrubs that feel like you’re rubbing sandpaper on your face.

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Instead, go for a mild, all-natural exfoliating formula that uses things like peach kernels, walnuts or even oatmeal as the exfoliant. These ingredients will remove those dead skin cells without scratching or irritating your skin.

Then, follow it up with a healthy moisturizer like the ones I mentioned above.

Log, hot, soapy showers are another common error. A lot of people seem to think the harder the scrub, the cleaner they will be.

This is especially true for men. Guys tend to believe if we scrub hard enough we can wash anything off – whether it’s grease under our fingernails or dead skin on our foreheads.

But this is the one time when soap and hot water won’t do the trick. Each of them individually will quickly strip the natural oils out of your skin and cause it to become even more dry and flaky.

Your best bet: Try and stick with quick, warm showers and focus only on your armpits, buttocks, groin and feet. And instead of using commercial soaps, switch to a Glycerin soap bar that contain natural oils like shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil and coconut oil. These ingredients will add moisture to the skin and help keep it from drying out.

Once you know the truth, it’s easy to see how these misconceptions can complicate matters. But there is another vital component to skin care that is just as important…

What we put in our bodies is just as important as what we put on them. Eating a lot of fried foods, processed foods and sugars can wreak havoc on your skin. They make it dry and brittle; and may make you look older than your years.

But when you avoid these foods and make just a few other changes, you can literally moisturize from the inside out.

Adding plenty of omega-3 foods to your diet is one of the best things you can do. These essential fatty acids have been shown to have all sorts of skin-protective effects. They reduce signs of aging, decrease inflammation, protect your skin from UV radiation, relieve psoriasis and even improve acne.

Seafood is your best food source of these healthy fats. I like wild-caught trout, mackerel, herring and salmon. Other food sources of omega-3’s include walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts and pecans.

If you choose to supplement for your omega-3’s, look for a cold-water fish oil that contains at least 360 mg. of DHA and 540 mg. of EPA.

Eating vitamin-A and beta carotene rich foods can also enhance your skin health. If you aren’t getting enough of these nutrients, it’s a pretty sure thing your skin will become dry, flaky and acne prone.

In fact, one of the first signs of a vitamin A deficiency is rough, dry skin accompanied by raised bumps. Try my modified Mediterranean Diet. This diet is anti-inflammatory in its makeup.

The best food sources of vitamin A and carotenoids include sweet potatoes, carrots, greens (kale, spinach, etc.,) winter squash and other brightly colored fruits and veggies. You can also get vitamin A from liver.

I also recommend investing in a daily multi-vitamin that’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Look for one that includes things like vitamin E, vitamin C, CoQ10, hyaluronic acid and plant extracts (grape seed, green tea, pine bark and so forth.) All of these nutrients work together to improve skin texture, reduce wrinkles and decrease damage caused by the sun.

In no time at all your skin will become more supple and develop a radiant glow. As an added bonus, you’ll also feel healthier and more energetic!

Kim HH, et al. Eicosapentaenoic acid inhibits UV-induced MMP-1 expression in human dermal fibroblasts. J Lipid Res. 2005. 46:1712-20

Shahbakhti H, et al. Influence of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, on ultraviolet-B generation of prostaglandin-E2 and proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1 beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-6 and interleukin-8 in human skin in vivo. Photochem Photobiol. 2004. 80:231-235.

University of Maryland Medical Center.

Sies, H., and Stahl, W. Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight. Annu Rev Nutr. 2004. 24: 173-200.

El-akawi Z, et al. Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? Clin Exp Dermatol. 2006 May;31(3):430-4.