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Your Epidermis Is Showing: The Role of Diet and Nutrition for Healthy Skin


Our skin is an amazing organ that works as our first line of defense from injury, infections, ultraviolet radiation and changes in temperature. It is sensitive to stimulation, touch, pain, heat and pressure and can heal rapidly to protect the underlying tissues.Skin is made of 3 layers, the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous layer.

The epidermis is the top level of hardened dead cells that produce a tough protective layer without nerve endings. Below it in the basal cell layer you have living cells that divide continuously to replace the outer layer over a 3 or 4 week cell production-loss cycle. The keratinization in this level allows for the closure of wounds.

The next layer down is the dermis and this layer supports the blood circulation for the cells to reproduce in the epidermis. The individual cells in this level contain collagen and elastin fibers in the matrix of support tissue. The nerve cells in the dermis produce sensation and the lymph vessels fight infection. Located here are also the sweat glands that help regulate your body's temperature and keep the skin integrity moist and soft. Fibroblasts found here are responsible for the necessary collagen synthesis and macrophages regulate how the body responds to infection.

The third layer is the subcutaneous layer, which works as a protector of underlying tissues by insulating and absorbing shock. This layer is the last level between the skin and tissues, beneath it is the fascia, which attaches skin to muscle.

When your skin suffers damage, your body triggers tissue repair. The first stage of this is the inflammatory phase, followed by the proliferation stage which reestablishes the skin as a barrier. The next stage is the remodeling phase, where scar tissue can develop.

Nutrition is so important to maintaining optimal skin integrity and for the healing process when skin cells become damaged. When you are healthy your skin repairs at a faster rate. The most essential things for skin repair are the following: energy, protein, fluid, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Energy is needed to fuel the healing process. Protein is used for cell production, accumulation and remodeling of college and immune function. Fluid is one of the most essential elements, it transports the needed supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Fats are one of the key elements of cell membranes and are needed to absorb fat soluble vitamins. Although if you have skin damage, consider limiting omega-3 fatty acids because they have anti-inflammatory properties that may hinder the skins regeneration.

Specifically for vitamins and minerals the following are key for skin health; Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Zinc, Iron, Copper, Vitamin K and Vitamin E. Your skin integrity can be affected by diabetes, aging, medication, obesity, infection, illness, renal disease, vascular disease or surgery. As we age, our skin becomes thinner and produces less oil and moisture, both things are essential for skin integrity. Skin becomes wrinkled due to less subcutaneous fat and college synthesis takes more time, thereby delaying skin regeneration.

  • Vitamin C helps the formation of collagen and is required for neutrophils, which help the immune system to reduce free radical production and oxidative stress.
  • Vitamin A is one of the fat soluble vitamins, and is needed for skin strength and regeneration. If you are deficient in Vitamin A, your body does not synthesize college or protect from oxidative stress as efficiently.
  • Zinc has numerous jobs in your body, including being a part of 200+ enzymes in your body. It helps with cell production, protein synthesis, college synthesis, and wound healing.
  • Iron is part of many enzyme systems and a cofactor in systems that promote collagen and essential enzymatic reactions. It also is needed to transport oxygen to the skin cells.
  • Copper is also another essential part of collagen synthesis by building strong cross links in the collagen.
  • Vitamin K is produced by bacteria in your intestine or found in green leafy vegetables. Rarely do people ever have a deficiency in this vitamin but is required for immune systems response to damage.
  • Vitamin E is one of the most important antioxidants, working to maintain the integrity of cell membranes.
So in addition to wearing sunscreen, not smoking, managing stress, sleeping, moisturizing and exercising, having a nutrient-rich diet is the most beneficial thing you can to do keep your skin healthy! Consuming a variety of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in your diet is the best way for your skin to get the necessary tools for skin integrity. Supplementation of specific nutrients isn't required for most people who are not at risk of deficiencies. So eat a variety of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, fats/oils, protein sources, as well as staying adequately hydrated for beautiful healthy skin!

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Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.

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