Beauty is More than Skin Deep

Beauty is More than Skin Deep
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Some foods appear protective against the development of skin wrinkles—while others may make them worse.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The skin is the largest organ in the body—about 20 square feet—and, the most vulnerable organ in the body, exposed to both the oxidizing effects of UV radiation from the sun, and the oxidizing effects of oxygen in the air.   

And, years of oxidant stress can take a toll. Over the years, skin becomes thinner, more easily damaged; loses volume, elasticity, and can sag and wrinkle.

What can we do about it? “Skin wrinkling: can food made a difference?” They measured healthfulness of skin using a microtopographic method. It’s cool; they make a mold of the back of your hand with a silicone rubber, peel it off, and then look at it under a microscope.

This is what young, tight, healthy skin looks like. But, then, as we age, our skin can get all coarse and flaccid. How can we stop it? Well, three things contribute to the aging of skin: “Oxidative stress…induced by [sun]-damage, inflammation and ischemia [lack of adequate blood flow].”

Oxidative stress means we need antioxidants. “Under these circumstances, many skin antioxidants undergo depletion…and must be replaced continuously in order to delay the otherwise inevitable deterioration which would lead to skin aging.” So, plant foods would presumably help.

And then, inflammation and lack of blood flow. And so, one might predict that saturated fat (inflammation) and cholesterol (ischemia), might be associated with adverse effects on our skin.

Let’s see if our predictions hold up. “In particular, a high intake of vegetables, [beans, peas, lentils, soy] and olive oil appeared to be protective” against skin wrinkling, whereas “a high intake of meat, dairy and butter” appeared to have an adverse effect.

Prunes, apples, and tea appeared especially protective. A recent study, for example, found that green tea phytonutrients were able to protect skin against harmful UV radiation, and help improve skin quality of women. After a few months on green tea, there was a 16% reduction in skin roughness, and a 25% reduction in scaling. Here’s micrographs showing the reduction in scaling, as well as improved skin elasticity and hydration.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to shawnandrewr; and WhiteCreek via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The skin is the largest organ in the body—about 20 square feet—and, the most vulnerable organ in the body, exposed to both the oxidizing effects of UV radiation from the sun, and the oxidizing effects of oxygen in the air.   

And, years of oxidant stress can take a toll. Over the years, skin becomes thinner, more easily damaged; loses volume, elasticity, and can sag and wrinkle.

What can we do about it? “Skin wrinkling: can food made a difference?” They measured healthfulness of skin using a microtopographic method. It’s cool; they make a mold of the back of your hand with a silicone rubber, peel it off, and then look at it under a microscope.

This is what young, tight, healthy skin looks like. But, then, as we age, our skin can get all coarse and flaccid. How can we stop it? Well, three things contribute to the aging of skin: “Oxidative stress…induced by [sun]-damage, inflammation and ischemia [lack of adequate blood flow].”

Oxidative stress means we need antioxidants. “Under these circumstances, many skin antioxidants undergo depletion…and must be replaced continuously in order to delay the otherwise inevitable deterioration which would lead to skin aging.” So, plant foods would presumably help.

And then, inflammation and lack of blood flow. And so, one might predict that saturated fat (inflammation) and cholesterol (ischemia), might be associated with adverse effects on our skin.

Let’s see if our predictions hold up. “In particular, a high intake of vegetables, [beans, peas, lentils, soy] and olive oil appeared to be protective” against skin wrinkling, whereas “a high intake of meat, dairy and butter” appeared to have an adverse effect.

Prunes, apples, and tea appeared especially protective. A recent study, for example, found that green tea phytonutrients were able to protect skin against harmful UV radiation, and help improve skin quality of women. After a few months on green tea, there was a 16% reduction in skin roughness, and a 25% reduction in scaling. Here’s micrographs showing the reduction in scaling, as well as improved skin elasticity and hydration.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to shawnandrewr; and WhiteCreek via flickr

Doctor's Note

Those same three factors—ischemia, oxidation, and inflammation—also contribute to our leading killer. See Arterial AcneBlocking the First Step of Heart Disease; and The Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation. More on the power of prunes in Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol and To Snack or Not to Snack? For an extraordinary report on green tea and skin health, check out Treating Gorlin Syndrome With Green Tea.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer RiskThe Anti-Wrinkle DietBest Dried Fruit For CholesterolTreating Sensitive Skin From the Inside Out; and Diet and Cellulite.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

41 responses to “Beauty is More than Skin Deep

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  1. So a vegan diet with lots of high anti oxidant/inflammatory food, stay out of the sun and exercise. Sounds like the same recommendation for many of health benefits from a whole plant based diet. Right on!




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  2. Thank you so much dr greger for these amazing video tips! Our family has seen tremendous change in our health, for the better, from simple changes we made in our own diet. Whole plant based diet is the way to go! Thanks again..




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  3. Another great video. No surprise that a vascular system compromised by high cholesterol will not get enough oxygen and nutrients to the skin…or that anti-oxidants help the skin. Exericise must also help oxygenate the skin of course.
    I’d like to see some studies done on vision. I’m now 50 and since going onto an all plant based diet nearly two years ago, combined with lots of minimalist and barefoot running, my vision has improved at an age where it should be getting worse. My bifocals are around here somewhere collecting dust. :~)




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  4. Hi …any thoughts on how to help with menopausal woman who are starting to lose elasticity and tone on arms/inner elbows and forarms? for alot of woman this is a problem. Ones face can look toned and vibrant into the 50’s& 60s,70s but something about the arms start age and become loose and gelatinous before the rest of the body…any thoughts on this???




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    1. Dr. Greger does not recommend added fats in the form of non whole plant foods. Olive oil is empty calories and in fact, may cause health maladies “In a clinical study, olive oil was shown to activate coagulation factor VII to the same extent as does butter. Thus, olive oil does not have a clearly beneficial effect on vascular function.”
      http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/17/11/2904.long

      See Dr. G’s video on the healthiest sweetener here.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-healthiest-sweetener/




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    1. s noor: Get the one you will drink! I suggest experimenting. I find that I don’t like plain green tea, but the flavored ones are pretty good. One of my current favorites is Moroccan Mint Green Tea by Stash. You also might look at something like Lemon Ginger green tea by Yogi.

      Good luck. I hope you find something that you like.




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    2. I like Republic of Tea’s Double Matcha Green tea. It’s such an awesome value for the high quality product it is. And it’s organic.




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    1. a healthy whole foods plant based diet with lots of antioxidants. Topically, there are many essential oils that help even out skin tone. You might want to read about sake (rice wine) too as that is supposed to be really effective at lightening (getting rid of dark spots and discoloration) the skin. I once read hemp oil is helpful for that and I think shae butter as well. As for essential oils, there are many but I know bergamont is said to be good for this (but don’t wear in the sun or use spf if you do) as well as frankincense and I think I remember reading vetiver oil was useful for this as well. There’s so many.




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  5. Can nutrition prevent or reverse the skin thinning out and getting more fragile as commonly happens when people get in their 60’s?




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    1. It may. I feel proper nutrition always plays a role in health and even if skin cannot be improved by a healthful diet other organs will benefit. Dr. Greger has a page on skin health and many videos. Let me know if any of these help answer your question? Thanks, David.




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    2. Absolutely. We literally are what we eat. If you read Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die, before you even get to the chapters you’ll read about what incredible things a plant based diet does to our bodies. It’s truly amazing. Also you’ll notice it in your skin after a few months of a healthy plant based diet. I’d suggest adding flax to your diet if you don’t already. The healthier your diet, the healthier and better looking your skin will be. There have been studies, such as a study done on people who ate watercress, that showed reversal of some of their sun damage and fine lines and other things. Nature is amazing and our body is made up of living cells constantly rebuilding themselves. What you put in your body has everything to do with how healthy every organ is, including and absolutely the skin.




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  6. I like to swim for exercise. One downside, especially in winter, is
    that it dries my skin. To moisturize, I have been using olive oil, or
    coconut oil, or over the counter skin care products. Does the use of
    these oils with fats pose problems in terms of cardiovascular health?
    Are there better alternatives?




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    1. Pat – I think the bigger concern for you is absorption of chlorine. Chlorine, a huge oxidant, is absorbed through the skin, I would recommend taking 1 TBSP of Amla before and after the swim to counter the oxidation effect of the chlorine. I have my own pool and I use little to no stabilizer. I put the clorox, liquid chlorine, after sunset, I put a third of bottle for a 30000 gallon pool and then by afternoon the sun will burn off the chlorine and I can swim chlorine free and I doubt anything will grow in the few hours that there is no chlorine. btw my pool looks amazing and never any problems like when I used stabilizer and tablets.




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      1. Billy – Thanks for your reply and the Amla suggestion. What form of Amla is most readily available to the body? Unfortunately, I swim at a public hot springs pool — http://www.hotspringspool.com/swim — so I don’t have control over the water treatment. Will the Amla help with dry skin that can feel itchy if I don’t moisturize? Any oil or lotion suggestions? Thank you.




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        1. I use Terrasoul amla from amazon, it tastes like bitter mud, but it is a super antioxidant. My comment was not related to your dry skin issue, but rather oxidation of saturated fats leading to heart disease. I would suggest continuing to use your coconut oil for the dry skin, but take the Amla before and after to increase your antioxidant levels, as I believe that swimming in chlorinated pools will decrease the antioxidant levels. Taking Amla which Dr Greger talks about in better than Goji berries video, will reduce the damage caused by the chlorine. What I was saying was that the coconut oil is not as big a concern as the chlorine that you will absorb thru your skin. I do not want you to stop swimming but rather take Amla to mitigate the chlorine.




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          1. I use the same amla powder and I really love it. If you add it to a berry smoothie, it makes it taste fantastic. Almost like an amazingly healthy sweet tart, or sour patch kids, beverage! I have one every day and even my young daughter likes the taste…and has no idea what is in it, haha.




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    2. No, you have to digest fats. Fat doesn’t get into your bloodstream through skin. If our bodies were that sensitive, we would have been extinct a long time ago.




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      1. I’m not so sure that i agree. Can you provide some research supporting your claim? I ask because we know that the skin is definitely a pathway for entry into the body. Nicotine patches for quitting smoking rely on transdermal transport into the body as do certain path drugs for chemotherapy nausea. Hormone patches are applied transdermally and of course we know to follow the rules of covering the body head to toe when applying pesticides because they, also, transport into the body via our skin. So I would love to see some documentation that fats applied to our skin do not transport transdermally – so many other products do.




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        1. Keep in mind that those patches are designed specifically to penetrate the skin and have ingredients in them to help them do so. Even with chemicals, like BPA for example, it doesn’t penetrate into the blood or at least significantly through skin alone. I agree that we should not put toxic things on our skin (or use them in general due to environmental concerns) because it’s not only unhealthy for our skin but things are bound to be absorbed on even a superficial level, plus you have cuts and scrapes being a factor and/or handling food.
          I don’t have any links but the research I did in the past all led to this conclusion. Plus it’s just a matter of common sense too. Think of all the saturated fat people put on their skin. I’ve used SO much topical coconut oil, got my cholesterol checked (not because of the topical oil) and the results came back fabulously. We’d be keeling over if there were any sort of absorption of fats into our blood stream through skin. People use cocoa butter which is extremely high in fat and it’s a regular ingredient in many skin products that add extra ingredients which causes the aforementioned ingredient to absorb even deeper, and it doesn’t come with heart risks. Not to mention palm oil in so many skin care products which is just so unsustainable and so unethical. But when ingested, palm oil is known to raise bad cholesterol levels, so with that alone being in so many products, unfortunately, I think something would have been noted if it had an impact on fats in our blood stream. With all the fats and skincare products depending on and containing fats, people have been religiously using for decades and really since ancient times, we would have noticed something by now and it would have inevitably been addressed.
          Fat does absorb on a superficial level though and helps protect our skin.




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          1. Science shows a small % absorption of sat fats via oil like coconut oil on skin. U can find the reference yrself if u care to. Cheers!




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            1. Dr. Greger bases his presentation on objective peer-reviewed, published literature. This is science. Anything else is just theory or hype that often ends up being wrong. There is no peer-reviewed published literature that supports your assertion. If you are aware of a citation, and would like to post it, we’d be happy to review it for validity and clinical significance.

              Dr. Ben




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  7. What Topical applications are best for your skin? Such as Coconut oil or Almond oil? I now understand what’s best internally for my skin but not externally.




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    1. Both of those are good for your skin, lots of different oils have various benefits though. Sea buckthorn berry oil is really good for the skin though it’s bright orange and takes a while to fade and can also stain material. Shea butter and cacao butter are also both really great for skin. Lots of essential oils have various benefits to skin and you can us the above mentioned oils (as well as others) to make your own blends. I hear argon oils is awesome for the skin as well as hemp oil. What’s also cool about hemp oil is that it’s so sustainable! A bit expensively because of ridiculous laws making it hard to farm it unfortunately, which is just insane considering what a nutritious and resourceful plant it is and one of the most sustainable crops.




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    1. why do people always say this? Well ok I know why, it’s because it’s all over the internet thanks to everyone thinking they should blog their opinions and confidentially and sometimes aggressively state them as facts. Yes, extracted oils are isolated fat and if/when used should be done in moderation, but there are antioxidants and nutrients in certain fats. Extra virgin olive oil actually has significant amounts of antioxidants and vitamin e, which of course is also an antioxidant. Plus it does contain healthy fats which are good and protective to our skin. So there are benefits, but because it’s still pure fat, you obviously don’t want to over do it because that would be bad for the arteries. I like to drizzle a minimal amount on salads usually paired with red wine vinegar (Napa Valley because it’s organic and vegan), it also helps you absorb the antioxidants in the veggies in your salad. I used to use way too much though. I actually stopped (over doing it) after learning from this site :)




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  8. Hi,

    Eating healthy foods, proper workout routine, and supplements with natural skin care products will complete your healthy lifestyle for a healthy glowing skin. Thanks for the video.




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