Your skin is the first thing people see when they look at you. Strangely
enough, it's considered the largest organ in the human body -- right up there
with the intestines, lungs, and liver. It serves many purposes, including
acting as our first defense against germs and the environment, and converting
sunlight to vitamin D. The layer of fat under the skin's surface helps ensure
that the important fluids inside our bodies stay inside our bodies.
The ironic thing about skin is that when people are young, their biggest
concern about their skin may be how to get a tan. But as we get older, our top
skin priority becomes preventing wrinkles -- and the No. 1 way to do this, of
course, is NOT to tan.
(Since I am the kind of person who doesn't tan but only turns different
shades of pink, I figured out at a young age that sun worshipping just wasn't
in my genetic code. My younger sister did tan as a teen and young adult. And I
have to say, I do seem to have fewer wrinkles.)
So when does it become crucial to start taking care of your skin? It's
probably earlier than you think. Mark G. Rubin, MD, assistant clinical
professor of dermatology of the University of San Diego, believes that not
smoking and avoiding the sun starting in your teens will pay off later.
"Since prevention plays a big role in skin aging, the sooner you start the
better," he says. "By the time you see changes you don't like in your skin, a
lot of damage has already been done."
If you think about it, what we're basically trying to do is delay the
normal aging of skin, which ages as all organs do. The best way to slow the
aging of many things in the human body, on a cellular level, is to keep body
cells from oxidizing. And the best way to keep your body from needlessly
oxidizing, experts say, is to avoid smoking and to eat a diet rich in
antioxidants (more on this below).
On a physical level, the best way to slow the appearance of skin aging is to
keep skin well-hydrated with a nice layer of lipid (fat) beneath the skin to
protect the internal moisture. Some experts say you can do this in part by
eating a healthy diet that includes some "smart" fats (omega-3s and
monounsaturated fat), drinking plenty of water, and having a good skin-care
regimen to condition the skin and minimize moisture loss. It's all about
keeping the skin healthy from the inside AND the outside.
"Your skin is a reflection of your underlying health, so good nutrition,
getting enough sleep, reducing stress, staying hydrated, etc., all play a role
in creating better-looking skin," says Rubin.
G.G. Papadeas, DO, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, adds "no
excessive drinking" (of alcohol) to this healthy lifestyle list.
So what foods should you choose to boost your chances of having healthy
skin? Read on for a list of skin-friendly nutrients and the foods that are
richest in them.