Self-care doesn’t just apply to how you train or recover, looking after your skin and hair are equally important parts of taking care of yourself and ensuring you have a healthy and happy body.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body and has many important functions, as does our hair. Although most of us regard both our skin and hair as fashion accessories, they have protective roles too. Our skin prevents bacteria and viruses entering our body as well as operating as a protective cover for our organs, muscles and blood vessels. Similarly, our hair not only protects us, but keeps us warm and helps to facilitate the evaporation of sweat to regulate our body temperature.
It is therefore important to keep both our skin and hair healthy. We can do this by several means including making small changes to our lifestyle and adopting a regular cleansing routine. Here are some top tips on caring for your skin and hair from our biomedical scientist and health specialist, Leanne Edermaniger.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking water is like moisturising your skin and hair from the inside out. The average adult body consists of approximately 60% water and our skin is 63% H2O, so ensuring that you drink enough water is crucial for maintaining a healthy body.
If you’re not giving your body enough water, your skin will be the first to let you know. Dry, red skin that looks blotchy and flaky or has visible white patches, is a sign that it’s dehydrated. This happens because the water in your blood is being used up by other organs in the body and so it’s taken away from the skin. When there is not enough blood flowing to the skin, it becomes dry and irritated as there is no water to keep it moist and supple - and let’s be honest...who doesn’t want moist and supple skin?!
Staying hydrated also helps to slow the ageing process. By not drinking enough water, our skin can become wrinkly and less elastic because there is not enough water to keep the areas between the skin layers lubricated.
Dehydration affects your scalp and hair, too. When the scalp loses too much water, it can produce symptoms similar to dandruff, like white flakes, itchiness and irritation. Just as skin becomes dry and cracked when it’s not hydrated, so does our hair. Hair is made of dead cells, but the follicles it grows from are alive and require water to function effectively, just like every other cell in the human body.
Aim to drink around 2 litres of water every day. You may need to adjust the amount if you exercise or if the weather is very warm.
2. Collagen improves skin and promotes healthy looking hair
Collagen is an animal fibre and is, in fact, the most plentiful protein found in the human body. Many components of the human body contain collagen, including our bones, muscles and blood vessels. One way to think of collagen is as the scaffolding that helps to hold the body together.
However, consuming collagen has been shown to have several other health benefits. For example, it can:
● promote strong skin
● help keep skin hydrated
● improve skin elasticity
● improve the strength of our hair
● prevent brittle hair.
Some studies have found that increasing the consumption of collagen hydrolysate in rats increases the expression of type I and IV collagen. Therefore, it could help to reduce the effects of ageing processes in skin tissue. Collagen hydrolysate is produced from the enzymatic degradation of gelatine.
Interest piqued? Collagen can be found in gelatin products, bone broth, fish and egg whites. You can also buy collagen protein powder and collagen supplements. Berries, tomatoes and citrus fruits also all help boost collagen production and prevent its breakdown. The optimal time to consume collagen? Scientists are divided over whether it is best eaten on an empty stomach or with a meal, so our advice would be to experiment and see what produces the best results for you.
Remember: collagen is an animal protein and so is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
3. Basic Skin and Hair Care
The outer layer of our skin renews every 2- 3 weeks and we shed thousands of skin cells every day, so it is important to keep our skin looking clean and refreshed. We can moisturise from the inside by drinking water, but on the outside, we need to adopt a good, regular regime.
If you are in the sun, make sure you use sun lotions to help protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Use gentle soaps to keep the skin cleansed, avoid taking hot showers though, because they can dehydrate the skin. Use gentle moisturisers to keep the skin moist and protected from the elements.
With regards to your hair, keep it trimmed. Every month you should trim your split ends to keep hair looking healthy. When showering, massage your scalp and when conditioning brush through the hair to even it out before washing it out thoroughly.
4. Nutritional Supplements Can Help
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is vital for getting essential vitamins and minerals into your system. However, if you’re not eating the right foods, you may be missing these important nutrients.
Make sure you are getting:
● vitamin C: found in citrus fruits and needed for a bright complexion
● vitamin A: found in carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potato; helps increase cell turnover, leaving your skin looking youthful
● vitamin E: found in spinach and nuts; a powerful antioxidant which prevents skin damage
● iron: found in green leafy vegetables and red meat; good for keeping hair strong
● omega-3 fatty acids: found in oily fish; a component of the hair shaft and scalp cell membranes
● zinc; found in oysters, chicken and nuts; good for preventing a dry scalp and dry skin.
Looking after your skin and hair is relatively simple. Keep yourself hydrated and ensure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet packed full of fruit and vegetables. Taking care of your skin and hair will increase your confidence as well as keeping you looking younger for longer.
Choi, J, W., Kwon, S, H., Huh, C, H., Park, K, C and Youn, S, W. (2013). The Influences of Skin Visco-Elasticity, Hydration Level and Aging on the Formation of Wrinkles: A Comprehensive and Objective Approach. Skin Res Technol: 19(1), pp e349-55.
Farrell, S. (2015). 7 Nutrients You Need for Healthy Skin and Hair. [online]. Available at: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/g19894737/vitamins-for-healthy-skin-and-hair/ [accessed 30 October 2018].
Finner, A, M. (2013). Nutrition and Hair. Deficiencies and Supplements. Dermatol Clin: 31, pp 167-172.
Gelse, K., Pӧschl, E and Aigner, T. (2003). Collagens – Structure, Function and Biosynthesis. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews: 55, pp 1531-1546.
Zague, V. (2008). A New View Concerning the Effects of Collagen Hydrolysate Intake on Skin Properties. Arch Dermatol Res: 300, pp 479-483.
Zague, V et al. (2011). Collagen Hydrolysate Intake Increases Collagen Expression and Suppresses Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 Activity. Journal of Medicinal Food: 14(6), pp 618-624.