In the northern Alberta climate I call home, all the moisture in the air seems to disappear around the second week of October. Possibly overnight, it feels that dramatic. The sudden drop in humidity coupled with the cold temperatures results in very dry, sometimes red, and irritated skin. Our hands crack, our lips feel like sandpaper, and that tiny dry patch on our cheek is suddenly the size of a walnut. Sound familiar? Read on! We have lovely, organic skincare and nutritional solutions that you need in your corner as you face another Canadian winter, solutions that feed and soothe your skin, keeping it resilient, hydrated, and silky soft through till spring!
Our skin is truly incredible. It is simultaneously an organ of protection, metabolism, and sensation. It is sensitive enough to communicate emotion through the softest touch but resilient enough to be the only barrier between our internal organs and tissues and the outside world. The uppermost layer, the epidermis, is only about as thick as a sheet of paper, or 0.1mm! (1) Still, we count on it to protect us for a lifetime, all while being exposed to radiation, temperature and moisture fluctuations, and all types of toxic substances and microbes that could spell disaster if they entered the body. Because it has so many roles, it can be affected by many different systemic changes and external influences. This complexity allows us to support the skin’s wintertime needs in several ways.
Let’s begin within and address the nutritional needs of your skin. What types of nutritional support are most critical during the winter months?
Essential fatty acids - omegas 3, 6, and 9 - sourced from fish, flax, or hemp, are vital for all your connective tissue, especially your skin. They are critical components of cell membranes, the intelligent physical barrier protecting every cell, allowing everything it requires entrance while keeping undesirables out. They are also essential to keep our blood vessels flexible and robust, to synthesize our hormones, and to produce new brain cells, to name a few (2).
In most cases, a typical North-American diet is deficient in omega 3’s, not 6’s. Dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids most often come from vegetable or nut oils like safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, and peanut. Walnuts, hemp, and canola also contain omega-6’s as well as omega-3’s.
Omega-3 fatty acids are most abundant in oily fish, but vegetarian sources exist, like in walnut, hemp, and flax. Adding a high-quality omega-3 supplement like Opti Krill Oil will regulate the inflammatory response everywhere in your body while providing a raw ingredient you require to synthesize hormones, build cell structures, and repair wounds (3). Opti Synergy Plus is also a great option if your diet is generally deficient in healthy essential fats, providing omega 3, 6, and 9’s in an ideal ratio.
Omega fatty acids are also a critical component of the intracellular material that, together with ceramides (waxy lipids) and cholesterol, form a sort of “mortar” around the “tiles” of your uppermost skin cells. This “mortar” protects your skin from trans-epidermal water loss, or TEWL. When the skin barrier is compromised, water passively leaves the tissues, and the skin becomes dehydrated and susceptible to infections and irritants (4). If your skin seems to become ultra-reactive in the wintertime, TEWL may be to blame.
Introducing a good source of dietary ceramides can assist in the healing of a compromised skin barrier. Plants contain the richest sources of ceramides, especially the bran and germ of wheat and rice. Spinach and beets contain some ceramides as well. Increasing your consumption of whole grains, dark leafy greens, and healthy fats this winter can help alleviate dry, itchy skin.
Another way to support your skin nutritionally, anytime of year, is to eat a diet rich in antioxidants. When our bodies use oxygen to make energy, we generate waste products called oxygen free radicals (5). They must be neutralized by the donation of an electron from a friendly antioxidant, a process that occurs millions of times a day throughout your body. Substances in our environment like UV radiation, pollution, and heavy metals accelerate the production of free radicals, especially in the skin (6). You can help keep your skin at its most resilient during the harshest time of year by supplementing with a potent antioxidant like Optimized Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin of red grapes, and has been found to be a particularly protective antioxidant for skin cells (7). Take two to four capsules per day with food to maximize your skin’s wintertime glow factor.
Collagen is a protein ubiquitous in the human body, and a major component of the extracellular matrix of the dermis; its interwoven fibres just below the epidermis give our skin its structure and resiliency (8). Supplementation with 1 g of a high-quality hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronic molecule has been shown to increase the skin’s firmness and elasticity, while significantly reducing dryness, TEWL, and decreasing wrinkle depth in as little as twelve weeks (9). There are many kinds of supplemental collagen to choose from; one of our favourites is a patented molecule called BioCell Collagen, which combines collagen with hyaluronic acid and chondroitin, and can be found in our highly effective Opti-Joint formula. Take two capsules twice a day, ideally on an empty stomach with 250 mg of Vitamin C (or orange juice), and see an improvement in your skin’s hydration, texture, and resiliency that you won’t believe is taking place during the winter months!
These “inside-out” recommendations will give your skin the nutritional building blocks it needs to look and feel radiant all winter long. Part II of this blog focuses on beautiful organic skincare solutions to support your wintertime skin from the outside in.
- Arda O, Göksügür N, Tüzün Y. Basic histological structure and functions of facial skin. Clin Dermatol. 2014; 32(1):3-13.
- McCusker MM, Grant-Kels JM. Healing fats of the skin: the structural and immunologic roles of the ω-6 and ω-3 fatty acids. Clin Dermatol. 2010;28(4): 440-451.
- Saini RK, Keum YS. Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Dietary sources, metabolism, and significance - A review. Life Sci. 2018; Jun15(203):255-267.
- Meguro S, Arai Y, Masukawa Y, Uie K, Tokimitsu I. Relationship between covalently bound ceramides and transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Arch Dermatol Res. 2000;292(9):463-8.
- Grüning NM, Rinnerthaler M, Bluemlein K, et al. Pyruvate kinase triggers a metabolic feedback loop that controls redox metabolism in respiring cells. Cell Metabolism. September 7, 2011.
- Wolfe U, Seelinger G, Bauer G, Meinke MC, Lademann J, Schempp CM. Reactive molecule species and antioxidative mechanisms in normal skin and skin aging. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):316-32.
- Ndiaye M, Phillipe C, Mukhtar H, Ahmad N. The grape antioxidant Resveratrol for skin disorders: promises, prospects, and challenges. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2011;508(2):164-170.
- Schwartz SR, Park J. Ingestion of BioCell Collagen®, a novel hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract; enhanced blood circulation and reduced facial aging signs. Clin Interv Aging. 2012; 7:267-273.
- Schwartz SR, Hammon KA, Gafner A, Dahl A, Guttman N, Fong M, Schauss AG. Novel hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract improves facial epidermis and connective tissue in healthy adult females: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2019;25(5):12-29