The largest organ of the body is skin. Skin contains three main layers:
- Epidermis: It is the thin outer covering of the skin. Every 28 days, the cells of epidermis are replaced by new cells, whereas, the old cells harden and die.
- Dermis: It is the second or middle layer, which contains nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles, oil glands and sweat glands. Dermis is made up of collagen and elastic fibers and 90% of the total thickness of the skin is due to dermis. The presence of collagen and elastic fibers provide strength and elasticity to the skin.
- Subcutaneous Layer: It is the third and the deepest layer of the skin and it is composed of fatty tissue. This fatty tissue acts as a ‘cushion’ and protects the body from injuries.
Functions of Skin
Provides protection: Skin is the first line of defense. It protects the body against ultraviolet rays, bacteria, viruses, fungi and pollution. It also excretes harmful waste substances.
Thermoregulation: Skin helps in maintaining a constant body temperature (37 degrees Celsius) and insulates you from extreme heat or cold.
Sensory function: The receptors present in the skin allow you to feel pain, heat and cold.
Skin Disorders Include
Here are some skin disorders that may affect a part of the skin or the entire skin, these include:
- Dry skin
- Skin cancer
Causes of Dull Complexion
A complexion that lacks sheen, brightness and luster is called a dull complexion. Some of the causes of dull complexion are:
- Poor diet and nutrition: A diet that contains poor nutrients will automatically show an effect on your skin. Vitamin and minerals are important for the growth of cells and for the replacement of old cells with the new ones. Increased intake of sugar and sugar-sweetened products is further associated with dull skin complexion and poor skin health.
- Stress: Stress and work pressure may make your skin look dull.
- Environmental factors: When you travel, your skin is exposed to a number of chemicals and pollutants that damage the skin. The skin looks dull when dust and pollutants settle on it.
- Exposure to sun: Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun is another major factor responsible for dull complexion.
- Dehydration: Not drinking adequate water throughout the day, takes away the moisture from the skin, and makes it look dry and dull.
Role of Nutrition
Beauty care products may improve your skin but this effect is temporary. For a long term, healthy looking skin some dietary changes are necessary.
Add papaya to your diet
Papaya (Carica Papaya) is an orange red fruit, rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C and vitamin E. It is also abundant in various minerals such as magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), folic acid (vitamin B9) and dietary fiber. The presence of all these vitamins and minerals in papaya makes it a great fruit for your skin. A recent research published in 2013 showed that the presence of vitamin A (beta-carotene) in papaya, helps to rebuild and restore damaged skin. In addition to this, papaya also helps in skin lightening. Therefore, papaya can be added to your diet in the form of juice, fruit salad (combined with other fruits) or it can be eaten on its own.
Tomatoes Are Skin-Friendly
Tomatoes contain huge amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A. It contains all the four major carotenoids:
Among all these, lycopene is the most potent antioxidant present in tomatoes. Research has shown that increased oxidative stress plays an important role in premature skin ageing. Such an oxidative stress causes collagen fragmentation. Collagen is an important protein found in the skin, and is responsible for firmness and elasticity of the skin. Due to oxidative stress, collagen cannot regenerate itself and thus the skin starts looking dull and wrinkles begin to appear. When tomato is consumed, the lycopene present in it scavenges the reactive oxygen species and fights oxidative stress. Such a decrease in the oxidative stress gives the skin a perfect flawless look. The lycopene present in tomato becomes more available when tomatoes are cooked. Thus, having a cup of tomato soup is more beneficial than having a raw tomato in the form of salad.
Follow a Low Glycemic Load Diet
Acne is a very common and complex skin disorder that can affect individuals of all age groups but it often occurs in adolescents. Acne makes the skin look dull and dry. A research published in 2007 has shown that consuming a diet with low glycemic load may play an important role in reducing acne and thus, restores the natural glow of the skin. A low glycemic load diet is rich in whole grain cereals, pulses, legumes, beans, nuts, oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables. Such a diet has further shown to reduce inflammation. A high glycemic load diet increases insulin demand and factors associated with insulin resistance. Such hormonal changes may aggravate acne. Therefore, for a clear, flawless and glowing skin one should follow a low glycemic load diet.
Include Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Studies have shown that consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid improves inflammatory acne lesions and gives your skin a clear and glowing look. It has also shown to reduce skin redness, lesions and blemishes which otherwise makes your skin look dull and pale look. Studies have also shown that communities who consumed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acid had lower incidence of acne. In addition to this, omega-3 fatty acid is anti-inflammatory which further reduces inflammation associated with acne and makes your skin look healthier.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acid Include
Increase Intake of Zinc-Rich Foods
Zinc plays an important role in regulation of inflammation, cell membrane stabilization, formation of important cells of the skin and hair, synthesis of protein and so on. Furthermore, it is present in abundant amount in the skin and is required for healthy growth of skin cells. Research has found that low intake of zinc and deficiency of zinc is associated with red, patchy, rough, dull and scaly skin. In addition to this, studies have also observed that zinc deficiency reduces the transportation of vitamin A to the skin and further deteriorates the skin heath. Therefore, it is very important to consume a diet rich in zinc to reduce the risk of acne and to improve the texture and overall look of the skin. Foods Rich in Zinc Include:
- Fish and shell fish
- Nuts and oilseeds
- Whole grain cereals
Note: Dietary zinc coming from animal foods (meat, fish, and poultry) is more available as compared to zinc from plant foods (nuts and oilseeds and whole grain cereals).
Add Green Tea to Your Diet
It is very well known that green tea is completely packed with powerful antioxidants and health promoting polyphenols. Poor skin health and acne is associated with inflammation and increased bacterial activity. Green tea possesses both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. ‘Epigallocatechin-3-gallate’ is a major polyphenol, which is abundant in green tea has anti-inflammatory properties and has shown to protect the skin against inflammation. Excess production of sebum (an oily secretion by glands underlying the skin) plays a major role in the onset of acne and makes the skin look oily and dull. Thus, the skin loses its natural glow and sheen. Studies have further shown that polyphenols present in green tea suppress the production of sebum. Thus, consuming 2 cups of green tea daily can give your skin a healthy look.
Increase Your Intake of Vitamin A
Studies have shown that vitamin A plays an important and beneficial role in skin’s health. Vitamin A is found in the skin and in the sebaceous gland (glands underlying the skin). Deficiency of vitamin A is associated with dry, scaly and rough skin. In order to improve the texture of the skin and to restore the healthy cells, it is important to add vitamin A rich sources to your daily diet. Foods rich in vitamin A include:
- Sweet potato
- Bell peppers
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
Cut Down Your Sugar Intake
For a clearer complexion, it is important to cut down your intake of sugar and refined flour products. A high glycemic load diet often causes hormonal changes and increases the risk of insulin resistance. Such changes make the skin look dull and blemishes, dark spots and wrinkles begin to appear. This makes your skin look unhealthy. Foods you need to cut down include:
- Refined sugar
- Cakes, pastries
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Carbonated drinks
- Refined flour products such as noodles, pasta, bread, burger buns and so on
Avoid Outside Foods
A research published in 2010 showed that increased consumption of outside snacks, packaged foods, carbonated beverages and processed meat has increased the incidence of acne and thus, the skin starts lacking sheen. Irregular meal patterns was further associated with acne. One reason behind this could be- outside foods are processed, contain huge amount of salt, artificial coloring and flavoring agents, preservatives and thus, increase the overall glycemic load. As mentioned above high glycemic load diet is associated with hormonal imbalance, which further affects the skin health.
Consume An Antioxidant Rich Diet
Oxidative stress and inflammation plays an important role in premature aging, which is characterized by wrinkles and pigmentation. The presence of pigmentation and dark spots makes the skin look dull and the skin loses its luster. Research has shown that a diet rich in antioxidants neutralizes reactive oxygen species and keeps oxidative stress and inflammation at bay. Foods rich in antioxidants include:
- Berries such as blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, cranberries and so on
- Dark green vegetables
- Whole grain cereals
- Pulses, legumes and beans
- Green tea
Research has shown that drinking less amount of water or under-hydration lowers the oxygen level of the tissues and skin. Under-hydration is further associated with dry, rough and dull skin. Research has shown that drinking adequate water helps to keep the skin soft and supple and gears up the skin tone. In addition to this, individuals who drink more water have clearer complexion as compared to those who drink less water. Drinking any fluid is not healthy, for example- you cannot hydrate yourself by drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. Plain water is the best beverage to hydrate you.
Sample Diet Plan
|Meal timing||Menu||Reason behind|
|Early morning||1 mug green tea + 4 almonds||Green tea is extremely rich in antioxidants.|
|Breakfast||Breakfast option 1: 1 egg sandwich (2 slices multigrain or whole wheat bread + 1 egg)|
Breakfast option 2: 1 bowl muesli with milk
Breakfast option 3: 1 whole grain cereal preparation
|Do not use more of sauces or ketchup. They are high in sodium and preservatives.|
|Mid-morning||1 whole fruit or 1 cucumber||Cucumber contains a variety of nutrients and a lot of fluids in them.|
|Lunch||1 bowl of salad with flaxseeds or pumpkin seeds + 1 portion high fiber cereal grains + 1 portion pulses/legumes/sprouts/2-3 pieces chicken/fish + 1 bowl yogurt/ 1 glass buttermilk||Do not cover your salad vegetables with salad dressings or sauces. Eat them fresh and whole. It is better if you don’t cut them. Cutting, chopping and increasing the exposure of vegetables to oxygen will lead to loss of nutrients. Do not add more of salt to yogurt or buttermilk.|
|Mid-evening||I cup green tea/green coffee||Green tea is extremely rich in antioxidants.|
|Evening||1 bowl vegetable soup or 1 glass vegetable juice + 1 whole grain cereal preparation||A great way to add more vegetables to the diet.|
|Dinner||1 bowl of salad with flaxseeds or pumpkin seeds + 1 portion high fiber cereal grains + 1 portion pulses/legumes/sprouts/2-3 pieces chicken/fish + 1 bowl yogurt/ 1 glass buttermilk||Do not cover your salad vegetables with salad dressings or sauces. Eat them fresh and whole. It is better if you don’t cut them. Cutting, chopping and increasing the exposure of vegetables to oxygen will lead to loss of nutrients. Do not add more of salt to yogurt or buttermilk.|
|Bedtime||1 cup lemon water||Lemon is a great source of vitamin C which will make your skin look bright.|