Beauty from within

Beauty is more than just skin deep. Skin, hair and nails can all be affected and improved by what you eat, and the foods and drinks you consume can either contribute to, or compromise, their integrity. The secret to maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails is to improve hydration, aid detoxification and maximise nutrition in the body. In this article, nutritional therapist, Sarah Eglington, who runs Lime Nutrition and Health, speaks exclusively to Beauty Without The Beasts about how to maintain your body from the inside out.

Sarah Eglington, nutritional therapist at Lime Nutrition and Health

'A' good place to start

Vitamin A promotes clear skin by balancing oil production in the skin and encouraging nail and hair growth. There are two types of vitamin A - retinol, the animal source often used in the treatment of acne; and beta-carotene, the plant source known to maintain the renewal process of skin, hair and nails.

Foods rich in beta-carotene include carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Other healthy sources of vitamin A include low-fat dairy products such as yoghurt, which contains healthy bacteria to improve digestive health; and cottage cheese, which contains selenium to aid detoxification.

Give us a 'B'

There are also two B vitamins that are vital for skin and nail health - biotin and niacin. A lack of biotin can cause dry, flaky nails and also promote hair loss. Biotin is naturally produced by the body, but can be found in bananas, eggs, oatmeal and rice. Niacin provides essential moisture to both skin and nails and can be found in meat, fish, milk and green vegetables.

B vitamins are vital for skin health
(Photo courtesy of african_fi) 

'C' a difference in your skin

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, which maintains skin elasticity and therefore can reduce the appearance of those dreaded wrinkles. It is also known to counterbalance the toxic effects of smoking, pollution and sun exposure, which cause aging.

A lack of vitamin C in the diet can potentially compromise nail health and cause hangnails, so stock up on foods rich in vitamin C such as peppers, broccoli, spinach, kiwis, strawberries and citrus fruits.

Stock up on strawberries

Hair's to Vitamin E

Vitamin E can promote hair growth by improving circulation and the delivery of nutrient-rich blood to the scalp. In addition, it provides essential moisture, so is great for skin integrity and can prevent hair and from nails becoming brittle and splitting. Vitamin E-rich foods include almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, olives, dried apricots and spinach.

The good guys

Good fats found in fish, nuts and seeds are believed to have a positive effect on hair, nails and skin. Oily fish is rich in omega 3 and contains selenium, both of which are great for keeping skin moisturised, reducing wrinkles and decreasing inflammation. Nuts, particularly Brazil nuts, also contain the mineral selenium , which helps contribute to improved skin appearance and

Drink your way to better skin

When it comes to drinks, make sure you get plenty of water. Keeping hydrated helps with skin detoxification, reduces wrinkles and helps balance oil production. Another great drink is green tea as it is rich in antioxidants and therefore can aid detoxification and reduce the negative effects of exposure to UV and sunburn.

The bad guys

The 'bad' guys in the main cause dehydration, increase toxins and deplete the body of hard-working nutrients. Dehydration can lead to dry skin, wrinkles, split ends or even brittle nails. High levels of toxins in the body can lead to poor circulation, hormone imbalance or inflammation and a lack of vitamins and minerals will compromise the immune system, which in turn can promote infection and make skin and nail problems worse.

Not so sweet

Sugar, sorry to say it, may taste good, but it can weaken your immune system, reduce your ability to fight off infection, upset your digestive system and cause a build-up of toxins. Caffeine is a stimulant that causes dehydration and raises levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. Too much cortisol can accelerate the aging process. A diet high in salt will also draw essential water away from the skin.

Avoid dehydrating caffeine 

Artificial ingredients, whether sweeteners, flavourings or colours, offer no nutritional value at all. They are basically chemicals that the body has to work harder to deal with and can often lead to skin reactions. In some food production processes of non-organic food the use of chemicals, pesticides and artificial hormones is still in existence and therefore these are being ingested when eating these types of foods. Saturated fat and those that have been chemically modified such as hydrogenated and trans-fats are known to lead to poor circulation.

Processed foods and ready meals not only lack the enzymes and nutrients found in fresh foods, but are also packed with high levels of the bad guys listed. If you don't want to experience the effects these ingredients can have on your skin, nails and hair, then they are best avoided where possible.

If you want to have a positive effect on the way you look, you need to increase your intake of the good stuff and stay away from the bad guys to prevent you from the 'ugly'. Make the most of what you've got by starting your beauty regime from the inside.

Sarah Eglington (DipNT, mBANT) is a Nutritional Therapist at Lime Nutrition & Health.

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All product information and prices correct at time of publication (November 2012).