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Beautiful skin - ageing gracefully

By Denise Elliot

Sadly, ageing gracefully is not as easy as it sounds - it actually takes a bit of work.

Healthy looking skin requires regular care to retain hydration and support the ageing tissue. Without a doubt, too much exposure to UV rays is extremely ageing on the skin, so sun protection is vital. Clear fluids are also a must, so ensure a generous intake of water.

Our skin cells need to be well functioning and nourished to retain beautiful skin. It’s not just about using amazing creams (preferably not mineral oil based) but also the food we eat. Ideally we need a variety in our diet so eat whole and fresh food to make sure you are getting a full array of nutrients. Our skin will not shine with health if we eat mainly highly refined food, this is because many vitamins and nutrients have been removed during processing.

Choosing foods high in antioxidants is important to support and strengthen the collagen network in our skin. Collagen is the primary protein involved in all our connective tissue. Skin, arteries and our bones are all types of connective tissue.

While plant antioxidants are important, cellular protectors are required for correct collagen production. Vitamin C is one vital cellular protector and easily destroyed by heat and light. So a meal cooked with excessive heat will not provide enough vitamin C. Adding raw ingredients to each meal means you obtain more vitamin C for skin health and fibre for your bowels. Constipation will only add to congestion in the skin, so for a healthy bowel function it is a simple recipe - fibre, water, exercise and maybe a probiotic.

Antioxidants are present in highly coloured fruit and vegetables – berries, kumara with the skin on, bright capsicums, etc. Some antioxidants offer more protection than others to our skin.

Lycopene is a carotenoid that is particularly high in cooked tomatoes that offers the skin protection from exposure to UV rays and supports the skin integrity. Though it is present in raw tomatoes (unlike vitamin C) cooking increases the lycopene concentration and improves absorption.

As we age our skin cells take longer to renew so exfoliation is important. Ideally a couple of times a week to help shed those top cells and allow new fresher cells to surface. This is a role that our skin performs anyway as there are five upper skin layers (our epidermis) and then two more layers underneath (our dermis). These cells are constantly moving up and off - renew, shed, renew. So to gently enhance this process with exfoliation is a simple way of keeping a youthful brightness to our skin.

There are a number of products and methods on the market and is best to seek guidance for the best product and type for you. Natural ‘chemical’ exfoliation is increasingly common in beauty therapy clinics - these use naturally sourced fruit acids and/or glycolic acid that gently exfoliate the top layers off. These are best used with professional advice.

A positive attitude (the glass is full type thinking), shared smiles and laughter all make for beautiful skin. Our circulation improves with a good belly laugh and all that extra blood flow brings nutrients to our skin cells. A grumpy face produces more wrinkles than a happy one.