Adding ‘good’ oils and fats to your diet, and eating nuts, some fish and eggs, are essential for our oil-producing glands and help to prevent sking drying out, says nutritionist Yinka Thomas.
I’ve long been a champion of fats and oil, and Recent research has confirmed that when you restrict fats in your diet you become fatter and your skin ages faster.
Despite them being demonised in the 1980s and 90s and low-fat diets becoming all the rage, I have always advocated eating fats knowing how important they are to our health and wellbeing.
As we grow older, our skin becomes drier as our production of natural moisturising factors such as sebum decreases. This can be made worse by two things that many of us do: limiting the fats in our diets and using skincare products that are predominantly water.
Dry skin is characterised by a lack of oil and moisture caused by inadequate production of the sebaceous glands.
A prime cause of dry, aged skin is too little fat in the diet. Good fats are essential for firm, supple skin and eating adequate amounts of fat will mean more is available for our oil-producing glands that are the skin’s natural moisturisers.
We’ve all heard that drinking lots of water is great for your skin, but fats are more important for treating dry skin.
Water does help rid the body of toxins, which can build up and lead to blemished skin; however, the water we drink goes into the bloodstream and out through the kidneys.
For water to affect our skin, it has to get into the tissues via the cells. The water in our cells actually comes from metabolising fats.
So use oils such as extra virgin olive oil on your food and moderate amounts of coconut oil to cook with whenever possible.
Have butter in moderation instead of low-fat spread, and eat free-range eggs, nuts, and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel.
Almost every cream you put on your skin contains predominantly water (labelled aqua), which is mixed with synthetic oils such as mineral oil or liquid paraffin, emulsifiers, preservatives and some active ingredients.
However, studies have shown that this added water can loosen the skin surface proteins that form a protective layer on the skin, and less protection leads to the skin being more susceptible to damage by free radicals, the sun, bacteria and viruses.
Using oils instead increases the acid mantle on the skin and keeps the surface proteins intact and protective.
Using oils also reduces water loss, and because the skin is able to retain moisture, it stays soft and supple. Also, when constantly using moisturisers, the skin forgets how to soften itself.
Normal, well-functioning skin keeps itself moist by producing ‘natural moisturising factors’ (NMFs). But constantly covering the skin in moisturiser causes the NMFs to become idle and produce fewer natural oils that keep it moist.
Studies have also shown that even more moisture is taken from the surface of the skin through evaporation when water-based products are applied, making it even drier.
Using a facial oil protects the skin by strengthening and maintaining its lipid barrier, which accelerates its natural healing and repairing process. Oils can also encourage skin cells to renew themselves and produce more moisture. Oils rich in oleic acid are beneficial to skin because it is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Oleic acid is the main fatty acid produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands, so a facial oil containing it can help the skin produce its natural oil, sebum, and replenish what our skin loses.
Using a facial oil underneath your anti-ageing cream can make it more effective because it can help active ingredients such as retinol, peptides and vitamin C to penetrate deeper into the epidermis and closer to the collagen-producing fibroblasts. A good facial oil will balance the skin’s oil production, making it less oily rather than more so.
One final but important tip on restoring youthful skin and reducing lines: drink bone broth. A good bone broth contains the building blocks of collagen, which is the structural protein that keeps skin firm and elastic. As we grow older, we produce less collagen, which can lead to sagging, lined skin.
It contains the amino acid glycine, which makes up a third of collagen, as well as proline, which improves skin texture and lysine, important for forming elastin which gives skin elasticity.
Bone broth also contains glycosaminoglycans, known as GAGs, which hold moisture in the dermis of skin keeping it plump and firm and preventing wrinkles and lines.
Broth also contains the minerals calcium, phosphate, potassium, magnesium and trace minerals, as well as red marrow which contains stem cell factors which benefit our immune system. It’s also free to make (get friendly with your local butcher and ask him to save you chicken and lamb bones which they usually throw away).
Yinka Thomas is a registered nutritionist specialising in skincare and healthy ageing and she practises holistic wellbeing. She has an MSc in nutrition, health and physical activity from St Mary’s University College, and has written for The Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Good Housekeeping, Woman and Top Santé