The skin is the largest and most visible organ of the body. Our skin can be divided into two layers:
- The epidermis is the superficial layer of the skin and is made up of several layers of cells. It is in this layer we also find melanin, which is responsible for pigmentation of the skin.
- The dermis is the second and deeper layer of the skin. This layer is made up of connective tissue and contains elastin, fibres which are responsible for the elasticity of the skin and collagen which provides skin with its strength. The dermis also has blood vessels which provide nutrition to the skin.
Below the dermis sits the subcutaneous layer which contains connective tissue.
How the skin changes with age
As we age, the collagen and elastin in our skin is reduced, and we see changes in strength and elasticity as a result. The epidermis becomes thinner, and the number of cells that make melanin decrease with the remaining cells becoming larger.
With these changes we see the beginnings of wrinkles, our skin looks thinner and we may start to get spots of pigmentation – commonly referred to as “age spots”.
Can we turn back the clock?
These skin changes are due in part to our genetics but nutrition, environment and other factors all contribute. A healthy diet can play a large part in maintaining overall skin health and helping your skin look and feel youthful as you age.
One of the biggest contributors to skin ageing is sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes what’s called photoaging, where we see damage to collagen fibres and to the cells that produce melanin. So it’s important to remember to cover up when out in the sun and invest in a good quality sunscreen to help achieve more youthful, healthy skin as we get older.
The importance of collagen in skin ageing
Collagen is one of the key proteins of skin that helps it to maintain its strength,elasticity and bounce
We can make collagen in our bodies from amino acids (the building blocks of protein) but we can also obtain its building blocks from the diet. Collagen hydrolysate is a bioavailable form of collagen building blocks and it is found primarily in beef, stock,small fish such as sardines where the bones are consumed and collagen drinks
There are a number of nutrients that are needed for the production of collagen including:
- Vitamin C- found in guava, kiwi fruits, capsicum and broccoli.
- Zinc- Zinc foods include oysters, lean red meat, whole grains, legumes and pumpkin seeds.
- Copper- nuts, grains, fresh fruit and veggies can all give you a daily copper boost
- Vitamin B2- you can get your B2 from eating your greens- especially broccoli and asparagus, eggs and whole grains
- Vitamin A- found mostly in dairy and eggs you can also get your daily dose of vitamin A as betacarotene from carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin and capsicum
- Sulphur- from foods such as garlic, onion, dates, and broccoli
Skin boosting antioxidants
With oxidative (free radical) damage being a major contributor to premature ageing of the skin – think UV rays from the sun – having an adequate intake of skin-friendly antioxidant nutrients is a must have for healthy radiant skin.
- Lutein & zeaxanthin: found in green vegetables- especially spinach, egg yolk, kiwi fruit, grapes, zucchini, squash and corn, may help to increase skin hydration and elasticity and help to protect the skin from the effects of sun damage.
- Vitamin C & E: these antioxidant nutrients may help to protect against UV damage and help to nourish the deeper layers of the skin. Vitamin C also helps to support healthy collagen and skin integrity. Vitamin C can also be found in berries, citrus fruits and blackcurrants. Vitamin E foods include nuts and seeds, wheat germ and whole grains.
- Zinc: like vitamin C, zinc helps to maintain skin integrity. Other foods to include in your diet for adequate zinc include miso, tofu, mushrooms and green beans.