APN

Skin, hair reflects eating habits

YOU are what you eat.

It seems that saying is as relevant to finding the secret to healthy hair and skin as it is to your general wellbeing.

The skin is the body's largest organ and there are a number of things that determine how quickly it ages, including genetic factors such as your natural skin type, environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight and external factors such as whether or not you smoke.

In general, pale skins wrinkle faster than darker skins that are protected by increased amounts of pigment and lipids. The skin starts aging when the cells die off faster than the body can replace them. Sickness, stress, anxiety and depression also add to the aging of the skin.

While experts agree a balanced wholesome diet will help keep your skin on the right track, there is consensus there are specific foods that will give it a boost.

The most important component for good skin is Vitamin A, which can be found in a variety of low-fat dairy products.

The antioxidants in blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and plums also get a big tick as they protect the cells from the damage of free radicals while salmon, walnuts, canola oil and flax seed deliver the essential fatty acids needed for healthy membranes.

Add water for hydration, the anti-inflammatory properties of green tea and the selenium found in whole wheat bread and brazil nuts and your skin is bound to rejoice.

Interestingly enough these foods, along with beans and leafy green vegetables, will also do their bit to ensure your shiny tresses are the envy of all your friends.

Your hair may be the fastest-growing tissue in the body but, unlike the skin, it cannot repair itself. That is why getting the right balance of vitamins and proteins is imperative.

Don't expect to look like you've stepped out of a hair commercial the day after you've changed your diet. It is likely to take at least three months before you actually see tangible results.

Surviving winter

  • Exfoliate at least once a week to remove the build-up of old cells and rejuvenate the skin.
  • Increase the humidity of the air in rooms with a humidifier or water-based oil heater and choose a body moisturiser rich in hydrating elements.
  • Winter can be an unpleasant time for people with sensitive skin, eczema or dermatitis. Keep skin moisturised, avoid synthetic fabrics and keep showers short.
  • Lips take a beating in the cold winds. Use a good lanolin-based balm.
  • Protect hands and nails with gloves in extreme temperatures. Use a cuticle repair and soothing hand cream.
  • Use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for dry hair and try not to wash your hair daily.

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