Written in association with Aveeno. Earlier this year I was invited by Aveeno and Aveeno Baby to Heckfield Place to participate in the launch of their Wellness Pioneer Programme. The programme included 14 influencers who would embark on a holistic beauty journey to take a closer look at their lives and routines and learn how their skin care routine and wellbeing impacts their skin health, and for some their babies, infants and children.
We heard fascinating presentations from the Aveeno Baby team on the science of the skin microbiome (did you know that 1 billion bacteria inhabit a typical square cm of the skin!) and the ingredients in the Aveeno ranges, such as prebiotic colloidal oatmeal and ceramides and how these ingredients can benefit the skin.
I was speaking on wellness and the skin. I introduced the wellness pioneers to a holistic, 360 degree approach to skin health. There are many genetic and lifestyle factors that affect our skin health, and alter it’s appearance, here are a few areas we covered:
Genetics / Epigenetics
We all inherit genes from our parents that are made up of DNA. Within our DNA (building blocks) we have Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP’s) and we contain roughly 4-5 million of these. Most SNP’s, and their variations, don’t affect us very much, however, some SNP’s can hugely impact our body and mind, and can create skin issues. We can’t change our genetic background, however, we can optimise the activity of our genes to improve our health, skin and wellbeing through a process called epigenetics.
Epigenetics allows us to influence how our genes are expressed every moment. Every time we do something positive for our bodies, we switch on the good genes and turn off the bad genes so through lifestyle choices we can reach our genetic potential and improve our wellbeing and skin health. Many people think that if an allergy, condition (including skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis) or disease runs in the family that we are destined to the same though this is not true. Our genetic background can predispose us with an increased risk and tendency towards developing them although with epigenetics it is possible to change our destiny and live happy and healthy lives.
Every moment of every day we are faced with choices and the effects of the choices we make are cumulative. In order to maintain wellbeing and skin health it is important to manage intrinsic and extrinsic lifestyle factors.
Exposure to adverse weather conditions can affect the condition of the skin, alongside environmental toxins, which can come from various sources including:
Atmosphere; atmospheric pollution plus radiation contributes to oxidative stress in the body, which in turn leads to inflammation that has a negative impact on cellular health including DNA replication and inflammation that causes ageing aka inflammageing.
Food; metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including pesticides, accumulate in high concentrations in fatty tissues and are biomagnified through the food chain. They can be acutely toxic, bioaccumulative, or persist in the environment for years.
Food Packaging / packaging; poisonous and toxic substances are released from chemical or biological sources including bisphenol A (BPA) and scientists are now concerned that the replacing chemicals are just as harmful.
Indoor Environment; chemical exposure can originate from a wide range of sources. Many paints, plastics, glues and flooring materials release toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well as electronics and flame retardants. Infants and children have the highest risk of exposure to toxic chemicals as they play on the floor and often put their hands in their mouth and they have an increased breathing rate.
Personal Care Products; some contain chemical substances like BPA, dioxins, and phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors.
Water; Lead ingestion is a primary concern for children as once ingested it can reach the brain (especially under 5 years) and damage the developing nervous system. Other toxics like mercury and medium chain length chlorinated paraffins (MCCPs) that are found in PVC plastics, paints, and leather goods are thought to be absorbed into our water supply and due to their bioaccumulative and biopersistent nature can affect health.
Diet / Digestion
Nutritionally our bodies all have individual needs, however, we all need a varied diet that is rich in micronutrients and antioxidants and to maintain hydrated for skin health. My particular area of interest is the brain – gut – skin connection, and what this means from a dietary perspective is looking at how what we ingest affects our gut microbiota, which in turn affects our system on several levels (e.g. physical and psychological). If gut health is impaired it can lead to a host of physical and psychological problems from impaired digestion and malabsorption of micronutrients to an exaggerated Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) stress response (more of this in the stress section). We know that sugar and high Glycaemic Index (GI) foods can trigger hormone imbalance and create inflammation in the gut, which changes gut bacteria and the intestinal lining allowing pathogens to come inside the gut and cause inflammation (also fluids can leak out e.g. leaky gut) as well as creating glycation end products (AGE’s) caused by non-enzymatic action of the sugars to the molecules they are meant to attach to and so the sugars attach to molecules they shouldn’t causing free radical damage, oxidative stress and inflammation and can lead to a host of skin problems including eczema and premature ageing. Dairy and protein sources can also negatively affect our microbiota as many animals are given hormones and antibiotics etc. The British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT) has some great resources on how much of each food group to consume daily.
Increasing cellular metabolism and the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body will keep your organs and tissues healthy and skin nourished. Exercise also stimulates digestion and detoxification and reduces inflammation to boost the immune system and give the skin a healthy glow. Regular exercise is proven to promote mitochondria production, which leads to increased energy. Exercise is also a great tool for stress management as it reduces anxiety and cortisol levels to improve mood and sleep. Depending on your genetic determinants you can tailor your exercise programme most effectively.
Certain medications can affect skin health and cause skin problems such as antimicrobial resistance, dryness, hypersensitivity, photosensitivity so always read the leaflet.
Sleep is crucial for cellular growth and repair of the skin as nighttime is when our skin detoxifies and repairs itself and the skin cell regeneration almost doubles during this time. The skin’s metabolic rate increases to promote cell turnover, which replaces damaged and dead skin cells. Adequate sleep, which is generally 7-8 hours per night, contributes to lower AGE generation to maintain healthy skin cells. In modern life blue light transmittance from everyday devices suppress melatonin and disturb our circadian rhythm and can contribute to poor sleep and cellular dysfunction so try blue light blocking and reducing devices.
It is important that everyone has an appropriate daily home skin care routine both in the morning and at night. As everyone has different skin needs it is key that a home skin care routine is prescriptive to meet these individual needs though there are some general skin care requirements that would apply to everyone such as using products that support skin barrier function and naturally active skincare ingredients.
Nicotine narrows blood vessels and prevents oxygen and nutrients arriving at capillaries in the dermis leading to premature ageing and hindering skin healing. Nicotine also encourages collagen cross-linking and reduces elasticity, which drives premature ageing. Nicotine also causes oxidative damage to the skin and DNA mutation, which can accelerate AGE and increase their deposition in skin tissues leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.
Stress is our biological and psychological response to events we don’t have the resources to manage. Our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulates chronic stress and if the HPA axis becomes over stimulated it leads to increased cortisol levels and over time neurobiological changes that can drive a host of health problems. Our sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) axis regulates acute stress. If the SAM axis becomes overstimulated it leads to increased adrenalin levels. As discussed earlier, neuroplasticity is how our brains change due to experience and it is this flexibility that allows us to create new neural pathways and expand neural networks in a positive way. Mindfulness is the process of bringing our attention to experiences occurring in the present moment and is a great tool to manage stress alongside work/life balance and if needed therapy can help us to manage emotional stress.
I hope you have found this information helpful, if you would like to explore any of these areas, and see how holistic beauty can help, contact me today.