You’re hearing it from every source possible: Wash your hands!
It’s more important than ever that we see to our personal hygiene, in particular, our hands.
While most of us are self-isolating at home, we still receive packages and mail, order take-out or get food delivery, go grocery shopping, and take long walks, all of which are activities that provide ample opportunity for transmitting bacteria and viruses. Plus, there is still quite a few essential personnel actively partaking in the workforce and interacting with the public on a regular basis.
Therefore, no matter if you’re social distancing, sheltering-in-place, or still working, we all absolutely need to wash our hands!
With that said, there’s a slight caveat to the hand-washing guideline.
While you’re killing that nasty virus and protecting yourself, you’re also waging a continuous war on the healthy bacteria that naturally live on all of our skin. It’s common knowledge that our bodies are teeming with bacteria, both good and bad, that keep our bodies healthy — this is called our microbiome — yet not everyone is aware that our skin is also crawling with bacteria that is responsible for that healthy, non-irritated, moisturized feeling you’re so accustomed to.
Along with practicing good hygiene, it’s probably also a good idea to start thinking about incorporating skin-nourishing regimens as well!
Your Skin and Bacteria
I’ve mentioned the term microbiome — referring to the unique ecosystem of “trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota or microbes) of thousands of different species” that lives within our bodies — yet, what exactly is the skin microbiome?
Your skin microbiome refers to the specific ecosystem of “trillions of bugs that live on our skin.”
While most of the body’s microbiota live within our digestive system — around “1,000 different bacterial species and up to 80 different fungi species” — there is a handful that keeps our skin healthy, protected, and moisturized, such as “Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.” The skins microbiome is a creation dependent on a variety of factors including “the amount of light and whether the area is moist, dry, hairy, or oily,” as well as “age and gender.”
This is why, when destroyed, the microbiome is so difficult to replenish without natural agents.
Yet, the health of our skin’s microbiome isn’t just about the health of our skin, but our entire body. The skin microbiome plays a variety of roles in the human body including communicating with our immune system, protecting us against infections, reducing inflammation, and even protecting us against environmental aggressors.
Best Practices for Over-washed Skin
When your skin’s microbiome has been compromised, — referring to an imbalance of that healthy bacteria called skin dysbiosis — it can manifest in a few different including “psoriasis, allergies, eczema, contact dermatitis, acne, poor wound healing, skin ulcers, dandruff, yeast and fungal infections, rosacea, and accelerated skin aging.”
This imbalance or skin dysbiosis is highly researched, yet scientists have found that it’s oftentimes caused by “excess use of antimicrobial hand sanitizers and soaps.”
Of course, in our current predicament its imparative to keep up with using these agents, so what’s the balance?
Here are a few ways to help protect your skin, while also following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handwashing guidelines.
1. Incorporate Anti-Bacterial Gel
While antibacterial soap and hand washing should be your go-to for this hyper-hygienic times, if your hands start to get chapped then it may be time to incorporate anti-bacterial gel as a substitute for handwashing on occasion. Hand sanitizers with at least 70 percent or higher alcohol content are very effective at killing those unwanted viruses. With that said, it’s recommended to stick with handwashing for “before eating, after [going to the] bathroom, [or] when hands are visibly soiled.”
2. Opt for a Moisturizing Soap
Just because a soap is effective at killing a virus doesn’t mean it can’t also be gentle!
Choose a hand soap that also incorporates a moisturizer. This also means avoiding soap bars and opting for liquid soap. Turns out that the “binders that hold a bar of soap together naturally have a high pH, which will cause unnecessary dryness.” On top of that, practice gentle scrubbing. Being overly aggressive with scrubbing your skin can lead to aggravation, more dryness and cracking, and lots of irritation.
When choosing a moisturizing soap, you’ll want to keep an eye that they also have those antibacterial compounds that actually kill viruses such as triclosan, triclocarban, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. Not all soap contain these agents!
3. Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!
Of course, if you’re hands are irritated from over washing, then it’s time to amp up your moisturizing regimen! All that hand washing is actually zapping the moisture from within the deep layers of your skin. This means the more you wash with antibacterial soap, the more moisture you’re loosing from your skin.
With that said, an actual moisturizer may not do the trick.
It’s recommended to opt for a balm, salve, or ointment over a lotion. Apparently, lotion contains “too much water content, and therefore [it won’t] block water from escaping the skin.” Adding a moisturizing agent to your skincare regimen will help restore the “barrier function of the epidermis,” protect “small crevices between scales,” help to increase the water content, and will soothe irritated skin.
Plant-Based Foods That Boost Skin Health
Right now, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re following proper hygiene guidelines, but it’s also just as important to follow proper skincare tips. This includes investing in some high-quality, nourishing, vegan, and cruelty-free balms, salves, and lotions, as well as nourishing your skin from the inside out.
There are a host of plant-based foods that help keep our skin healthy and now is the time to make sure you’re getting enough of them! These plant-based compounds include foods rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, healthy fats, — especially omega-3 fatty acids — zinc, vitamin C, beta-carotene, — such as vitamin A and lutein — sulforaphane, and isoflavones.
When it comes to avocados, you’re getting a host of skin-nourishing agents all in one food!
First and foremost, avocados are rich in all the healthy fats including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and saturated fats. These healthy fat sources are “essential to help keep skin flexible and moisturized,” which was substantiated in a study “involving over 700 women.” The study determined that “a high intake of total fat — specifically the types of healthy fats found in avocados — was associated with more supple, springy skin.”
Secondly, avocados are rich in a plethora of nourishing nutrients, which have also been found to actually help protect your skin. Specifically, vitamin E — “an important antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidative damage” — and vitamin C — also an antioxidant that protects your skin from oxidative damage, plus it helps the skin “create collagen, which is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.”
Avocados also happen to be an incredibly diverse staple in a plant-based kitchen. From vegan pudding and ice cream to creamy soups, dips, and sauces, here are a few avocado-rich recipes to try out: “Everything” Avocado on Sweet Potato Toasts, Avocado Chocolate Cream Bars, Healthy Creamy Nacho Cheese Sauce and Nachos, or this Matcha Avocado Smoothie.
Nuts are a must-have in a plant-based kitchen, yet when it comes to a must-have for your skin, you’ll want to stock up on walnuts!
Walnuts are an excellent source of “essential fatty acids, which are fats that your body cannot make itself.” In particular, walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to “reduce inflammation in your body — including your skin.” On top of that, walnuts contain “[eight percent] of your [daily value] for zinc,” which is “essential for your skin to function properly as a barrier,” plus zinc is also a key part of “wound healing and combating both bacteria and inflammation.”
When it comes to cooking, you can get super creative with these oil-rich nuts, — such as these Chick’n Apple Walnut Bites or these Chinese Walnut Cookies — or take a more traditional, yet super healthy approach such as this Fig and Walnut No-Knead Bread or this Parsnips With Rosemary ‘Butter’ and Walnuts.
As is similar with nuts, you can’t really go wrong with seeds.
They’re all nutrient-dense, nourishing little morcels that are super easy to simple sprinkle raw on a salad, add to a soup, or even create a seed butter with.
Plus, seeds also contain an array of “skin-boosting nutrients.” Sunflower seeds, for example, contain that wonderful protective vitamin E and healing zinc. While they have smaller amounts of vitamin C, they are a rich source of healthy fat such as polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and omegas.
Sunflower seeds are great raw — such as in this Seeds and Greens Kaniwa Salad or blended in this Blueberry and Lemon Breakfast Bowl — or you can make your own seed butter and use it in a variety of recipes — such as this Sunflower Seed Butter and Chocolate Chip Energy Bites or this Sunflower Seed Butter Oatmeal Cookies.
This combination is like the holy grail in these health-conscious times!
Beta carotene is the compound that gives yellow, red, and orange veggies that vibrant color and when it’s consumed by humans this antioxidant “functions as provitamin A, which means it can be converted into vitamin A in your body.” This compound is also widely known as a skin protectant and “may help prevent sunburn, cell death, and dry, wrinkled skin,” while also giving your skin a “warm, orange color” that contributes to “an overall healthier appearance.”
When it comes to getting that beta carotene, there’s lots of colorful options in the plant-based world. A great place to start is with sweet potatoes. Only a half cup “serving of baked sweet potato contains enough beta carotene to provide more than six times the [daily value] of vitamin A.”
Sweet potatoes aren’t the only source of the skin-boosting beta carotene!
In fact, any veggie that has a bright yellow, orange, or yellow hue to its skin most likely has a healthy dose of that wonderful antioxidant. With that said, when it comes to bell peppers, you’ll also get a healthy dose of skin-nourishing vitamin C, which has been found to reduce the “risk of wrinkled and dry skin with age.” In fact, one cup of bell pepper “provides an impressive 211 [percent] of the [daily value] for vitamin C.”
Red and yellow bell peppers are a wonderful, juicy, and slightly sweet raw snack or tossed in a salad, such as this Southwest Salad. With that said, eating veggies raw can oftentimes be taxing on your digestive system, so try giving these skin-boosting agents a bit of cook time beforehand such as in this Italian Fried Potatoes With Peppers or this Vegetable Paella.
Broccoli is one of those plant-based foods that somehow ends up on every “good-for-your-body” list of vegetables.
And for good reason!
When it comes to keeping your skin healthy and nourished, it’s all about the super-packed profile of vitamins and minerals in this cruciferous veggie. Broccoli offers a one-stop-shop for zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, and lutein — a “carotenoid that works like beta carotene.” Lutein, in particular, has been found to “protect your skin from oxidative damage, which can cause your skin to become dry and wrinkled.”
Broccoli florets and broccoli sprouts are supercharged with another natural agent called sulforaphane, which is a “powerful protective agent … [which neutralizes] … harmful free radicals and [switches] on other protective systems in your body,” as well as helps to “maintain collagen levels in your skin.”
This hardy veggie can oftentimes be difficult to consume, so try a few of these creative and yummy broccoli-based recipes: Broccoli Veggie Dippers, Creamy Green Broccoli Soup, or this Baked Pasta with Broccoli.
Tomatoes are super juicy, slightly sweet, slightly savory, and also happen to be a great natural agent for keeping your skin healthy. These colorful plants are a “great source of vitamin C and contain all of the major carotenoids,” including beta carotene, lutein, and lycopene, which have “been shown to protect your skin” and prevent wrinkling.
Plus, when it comes to cooking, tomatoes can be used in a variety of diverse ways.
Sautee or cook them up with your favorite pasta or pasta supplement for a wonderful sauce, — such as in this Pasta Puttanesca or this Zucchini Spaghetti With Tomato Cream Sauce — boil them down into a rich soup, — such as this Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup, this Creamy Lentil Tomato Soup, or this Tomato and Mushroom Tortellini Soup — even create your perfect breakfast — such as this Perfect Breakfast Bagels with Tomato and Basil — or a topping, such as this Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes recipe.
If you suffer from acne, you may want to try the dark chocolate skin-boosting treatment very slowly, as dark chocolate has been known to cause outbreaks. With that said, if all goes smoothly, dark chocolate happens to be a great agent to also keep your skin healthy.
Definitely a two-sided coin for some of us!
The key in dark chocolate is the cocoa powder, which is “high in antioxidants.” In fact, one study, in particular, found that after “[six to twelve] of consuming a cocoa powder … participants … experienced thicker, more hydrated skin.” On top of that, it was found that “their skin was also less rough and scaly, less sensitive to sunburn, and had better blood flow — which brings more nutrients to your skin.” A handful of alternative studies also found that a higher intake of dark chocolate improved the “appearance of wrinkles.”
There are two caveats to your consumption of dark chocolate. First, make sure you choose dark chocolate that is at “least 70 [percent] cocoa to maximize the benefits.” Also, make sure you choose a dark chocolate product that has very little or no added sugars, which can have the opposite effects on your skin.
I don’t think any of us really have a hard time incorporating dark chocolate into our diet, yet if you’re looking for some more creative and healthy ways, here are a few recipes to give a try: 5-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bark, Healthy Toasted Coconut Almond Truffles, Garam Masala Chocolate Oat Cookies, or these Healthy Caramel Peanut Butter Apple Slices.
Just like broccoli and avocado, green tea is one of those grand slam, plant-based foods that winds up making a majority of the healthy food lists.
When it comes to boosting the health of your skin, green tea “may help protect your skin from [both] damage and aging” due to “powerful compounds found in green tea … called catechins.” These catechins “work to improve the health of your skin” due to the fact that they are a powerful antioxidant — a natural protectant against free radicals and oxidative stress. On top of that, it’s been found that green tea improves “the moisture, roughness, thickness, and elasticity” of skin.
Soy-based products — such as tofu, tempeh, and edamame — are all excellent plant-based sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Yet, soy is also a great source of isoflavones, a “category of plant compounds that can either mimic or block estrogen in your body,” which also happens to benefit your skin.
In a variety of small-scale studies, soy has been found to improve skin elasticity, reduce fine wrinkles, boost moisture, and even increase collagen, “which helps keep your skin smooth and strong.” It’s all about those isoflavones! Turns out that they “not only help to protect the cells inside your body from damage but also your skin from UV radiation — which may reduce the risk of some cancers.”
Get your soy on at home with a few of these soy-rich recipes: Butternut Squash Tacos With Tempeh Chorizo, Easy Sheet Pan Fried Rice and Tofu, 1-Step Edamame Basil Hummus, or this Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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