Our skin is the biggest organ of the body and protects us from our environment. It needs to constantly carry out maintenance and repair and smoking, alcohol, temperature extremes and exposure to the sun all take an additional toll. Keeping hydrated and eating the right amount of nutrients is vital if you want glowing, healthy skin, hair and nails.
Vitamin A ensures the skin is neither too oily nor too dry and is an antioxidant along with vitamin C, E, selenium and zinc. Vitamin C helps collagen production which might be helpful as the body’s ability to produce it reduces as you age and vitamin c also aids blood circulation which stimulates healthy hair growth. Oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli are all rich in vitamin C.
Essential fatty acids are also key to supporting healthy, supple skin, oily fish, pumpkin and flax seeds and walnuts are a rich source.
The term ‘I need to get my beauty sleep’ is bandied around like any old-wives tale, but there’s science that proves it’s much more than just that.
We tend to sleep in five-stage cycles, which last from 90 – 110 minutes and recur throughout the night. During stages 3 and 4, when you are in ‘deep sleep’, there is a surge in the secretion of growth hormone which assists with the repair and rebuilding of skin cells.
Cell production is also increased and cell protein breakdown decreased during this part of the sleep cycle. So reaching deep sleep is a vital process in repairing the damage caused throughout the day by factors such as stress and sun exposure.
When we're stressed our bodies increase their production of adrenaline and cortisol, which creates inflammation, reduces the skin's firmness and causes an increased production of sebum. This is an oily substance which ensures our skin and hair is waterproof and not dry. In excess amounts, however, sebum can leave the skin oily and increase your risk of acne or other skin irritations.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important in reducing stress because when we are deprived of sleep, the amygdala, which labels information coming into the brain as threatening, becomes much more reactive, adding to stress. So sleep can help to reduce the body's stress response and avoid those negative beauty effects.
Collagen has many roles in our bodies – it’s the main protein in our body’s connective tissues and bones, for example. But it also keeps our skin plump, our hair glossy and our nails strong.
Persistent stress throughout the day damages the molecular structure of collagen in our skin, but while you sleep, levels of certain stress-related hormones reduce, allowing more collagen to be produced. So the longer you are awake, the more damage is caused to the collagen, and the more you sleep, the more collagen is produced.
Sleep deprivation can also have negative impacts on our ageing process at a genetic level. At the end of each DNA strand is a telomere, which acts as a cap to protect our chromosomes in a similar fashion to the plastic coating you find at the end of shoelaces. These caps play an integral role in protecting our DNA structure from any damage. Although these caps shorten as a natural process of ageing, this shortening can accelerate as a response to stress or inflammation, the effects of which reduce when sleep quality is good.
As a result, good sleep quality can help to decelerate the ageing process and help us to stay looking younger for longer.