Natural Beauty more than Skin Deep

What you perceive about beauty and being beautiful is very subjective and can mean different things to different people. If there’s one thing we know about natural beauty, it’s so much more than just your outward appearance, it’s what’s happening inside your body that really counts. The outward appearance of your hair, skin and nails is one of the best indicators of your general health and reflects the state of your whole body.

Inside out

Natural beauty starts from the inside out. Choices you make every day, from the foods you eat, the hair and body products you use, how you manage and deal with stress or exposure to chemicals and pollutants can all make an impact on the health of your hair, skin and nails. The good news is you don’t need to visit a beautician or expensive day spa on a regular basis to get strong healthy hair, smooth glowing skin or strong nails.

The `make-up` of hair, skin and nails

Strong healthy hair, smooth glowing skin and strong nails are all made up of healthy connective tissue, derived from amino acid building blocks or proteins; in particular, collagen and keratin.

  • Hair consists mainly of protein, anywhere from 65% to 95%, fats, water, trace elements and hair colour pigments. The hair bulb anchors your hair follicle into the dermal layer of your skin where blood vessels deliver nutrients and remove waste as the new hair shafts grow.  Hair growth follows a distinct pattern; growth phase (anagen), transitional phase (catagen) and the resting or shedding phase (telogen).
  • Skin is the largest organ in your body and provides you with a hard-wearing barrier between your internal and external environment, much like a waterproof bodysuit that’s flexible, washable, resists wrinkles, keeps its shape and lasts a life time. Skin is made up of two main layers; the epidermis, or outer layer, is made up of keratin that gives your body a tough protective coating and the dermis, which sits underneath the epidermis, is rich in collagen that gives your skin strength and firmness. The dermis is rich in blood vessels helping to provide nutrients and removing waste products for healthy, nourished skin.
  • Nails are predominantly made up of laminated layers of keratin. Nails consist of the nail plate, the nail bed (which is embedded in the dermis and epidermis of the skin) and the nail matrix.

Collagen - strength and firmness

Collagen is your body’s most abundant protein, representing approximately 30% of your total body protein. Collagen is the major structural component of connective tissue found in your hair, skin and nails, providing tensile strength and firmness to the dermis. Collagen attracts and binds water so helps keep hair, skin and nails well hydrated and ‘plumped-up.’ Proline, lysine and glycine in particular are the three main amino acids crucial for collagen production and stability.

Keratin - structure and protection

Keratin is the key structural building block that provides you with a tough physical barrier for hair, skin and nails, helping to protect all the underlying structures eg: the dermis. The epidermis of the skin does not have its own blood supply; instead nutrients and waste diffuse in and out of the epidermis from the dermis.

Natural beauty and ageing

As you begin to age, you may notice some unwelcome changes to your hair, skin and nails. Collagen levels begin to drop as you age, resulting in visible changes such as fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin, weak, brittle and splitting nails or dry, thinning grey hair. Hormonal changes may also exacerbate the problem of declining collagen levels.

How you can improve the natural beauty of your hair, skin and nails

Collagen

Supplementing with collagen will help to boost your own collagen levels and slow down the visible signs of ageing by ‘plumping-up’ and hydrating hair follicles, smoothing and firming skin and strengthening nails. Add a variety of high quality protein foods to your diet to provide the necessary amino acid building blocks for collagen and keratin production.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help to keep your skin hydrated and ‘plumped-up’, improving the tone and flexibility of your skin; particularly important if you have dry, flaking or rough skin. Balancing your intake of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids results in smoother, younger-looking skin by helping cells maintain and hold water and improves nutrient incorporation into cells.

Silica

Silica is an important trace mineral found in abundance in hair, skin and nails and is essential for keratin production and cross-linking of collagen. Brown rice, green beans, oats, root vegetables and whole grain cereals are good sources of dietary silica.

Biotin

Biotin forms part of the vitamin B family (vitamin B7) and helps build up keratin levels in the hair, skin and nails. Biotin is necessary for cell growth, the production and metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids. A biotin deficiency may lead to a dry scalp, hair loss, dermatitis, eczema and dry, flaky skin or brittle nails.

Fresh water

Drink plenty of fresh purified water every day to stay hydrated; we’ve all seen a grape turn into a sultana due to lack of moisture; the same goes for your hair, skin and nails.

Healthy and varied diet

Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, quality proteins and healthy fats in your diet; boosts your antioxidant status to prevent free radical damage which is linked to premature ageing and provides a wide variety of nutrients. Eliminate sugar, refined and processed foods.

Lifestyle tips

•    Apply sunscreen and lip balm when enjoying the great outdoors

•    Use natural, chemical free beauty and personal products

•    Enjoy moderate exercise to get your circulation going

•    Watch your stress levels to help reduce premature ageing

•    If you smoke it can make you look around nine years older than you really are, so all the more reason to stop smoking and enjoy a younger looking skin

Written by Kay Bellingham

Kay Bellingham is a practicing Naturopath with over 14 years’ experience in natural medicine, with a special interest in herbs and nutrients for health and wellbeing.

References

Braun, L and Cohen, M, 2010, Herbs and Natural Supplements: an evidence-based guide, Elsevier, Australia.

Bridgman KE (2001), We are what we eat, Naturopathic Nutrition, Vol. 6, Amino Acids, KE Bridgman, Sydney.

Chemical and Physical Behaviour of Human Hair, Retrieved 21 July 2014 from http://www.springer.com/978-3-642-25610-3

How to Get Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails, Retrieved 23 July 2014 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/174136-how-to-get-healthy-hair-skin-nails/#ixzz2EckteoLw

In-Tele-Health©, 2008 (from Hyperhealth Pro).

Integumentary system, Retrieved 22 July 2014 from http://www.innerbody.com/anatomy/integumentary

Marieb, EN (2000), Essentials of Human Anatomy and Physiology, 6th Edition, Benjamin Cummings, California.

Mosby’s Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary, 6th Edition, Mosby, St Louis. http://www.naturalnews.com

Naturally healthy skin inside, Retrieved 23 July 2014 from http://naturalsociety.com/naturally-healthy-skin-inside/

Pizzorno, JE & Murray, MT, 2006, Textbook of Natural Medicine, Elsevier, Missouri.

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