It's easy to become overwhelmed in the skin care section of a store—hundreds of creams and oils and gels for dry and oily and normal and "combination" skin, wrinkle lotions and "brightening" potions, with night creams and day creams and a separate moisturizer for each part of your face. Many cosmetics companies make entire skin care "systems" that can run hundreds of dollars. And in many cases, what you're really paying for is fancy packaging.
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Whether you're battling flaky dry skin, wrinkles or post-adolescent acne, it's better to put the costly ointments back on the shelf, and spend that money elsewhere—on a quality diet. The best way to get soft, healthy skin, especially in these winter months when dry, cold, windy weather can really wreak havoc with it, is to nourish it from the inside out.
The skin is often the external indicator of internal health, taking on a gray or sallow appearance when you're ill. Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson of the Mayo Clinic offers some good general advice.
"Remember, many of the best foods for healthy skin also promote good health overall," he says. "Rather than focusing on specific foods for healthy skin, concentrate on a healthy diet in general. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Include nuts, seeds and beans in your favorite meals. Opt for whole-grain breads and pasta. Limit sweets. Strive for variety as you're making healthy choices."
Here are some of those choices:
1. Eat your vegetables! Red, yellow and orange vegetables like bell peppers and carrots contain carotenoids that can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and make the skin look smoother. A variety of leafy green vegetables offers an array of vitamins and minerals that are vital for overall health—and that's reflected on your face.
2. Low-fat yogurt, like all dairy products, is full of vitamin A, another nutrient that's important for good skin appearance. But it also has live bacteria that help regulate the digestive system, which in turn is reflected in skin that glows.
3. In addition to drinking plenty of water (you are doing that, aren't you?), pour yourself some green tea. Not only does it warm your belly and give you a sense of well-being, it's got anti-inflammatory compounds that soothe the skin and may even reduce the risk of skin cancer.
4. Salmon contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids the body can't produce on itself own. They strengthen cell membranes, allowing for a better flow of nutrients and holding water in so your skin looks dewy.
5. Healthy oils also contains those fatty acids. So skip the heavy, gloppy dressing and finish your salad with a little olive oil and vinegar. Look for an extra virgin or cold-pressed oil that hasn't been overly processed, which removes essential nutrients. Oils like olive or coconut are also great moisturizers to slather on the outside, and much cheaper—and probably purer and more chemical-free—than something you pick up at the store.
6. Maybe you've passed up the pomegranates piled up in the grocery bins right now. If you've never tried the slippery seeds of this fruit, indulge yourself. They're one of the most antioxidant-laden fruits, packed with polyphenols that regulate the skins blood flow and give it a vibrant color.
7. Don't consider chocolate a guilty pleasure. Make the guilt go away by reminding yourself that the flavanols it contains make your skin look firmer and more resilient. Avoid the cheap candy bars; it's a rich dark chocolate that provides all the benefits.
In addition, you'll want to avoid foods that can make your skin look drab and lifeless. That includes anything highly processed and foods loaded with sugar, salt, preservatives and artificial coloring. And don't forget that water!
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