With summer around the corner and the uncertainties of the pandemic lingering, many of us have struggled with weight gain due to stress eating and bouts of inactivity. Many chose various crash diets or extreme detoxification programs to treat the problem, ultimately creating a shift in their nutritional intake and dramatic changes in their skin.

Changes in nutritional intake while dieting can have an adverse impact on the skin, and results that can be achieved with topical skincare have plateaued. Traditional products can only go so deep.

Let’s look at nutrients that work from the inside out. Skin aging falls into two categories: chronological aging and extrinsic aging. Chronological aging is simply a result of living a temporary life on this earth. Extrinsic skin aging is the result of external factors and environmental influence such as sun exposure, smoking, alcohol consumption, pollution, sleep deprivation and poor nutrition.

Vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, antioxidants and fatty acids play important roles in maintaining healthy skin and bodies. To fight extrinsic aging, the body needs a variety of B vitamins; vitamins A, C, D and E; zinc; lutein; lycopene; and omega-3 and omega-6. Skin regeneration requires these nutrients throughout life, and in increased amounts under certain conditions, such as exposure to free radicals and UV radiation.

Skin is the largest organ in our immune defense system and our first line of defense. The two main types of damage from the sun are UVA and UVB radiation. UVA penetrates more deeply to the dermis, and it plays a substantial role in photo-aging. UVB contributes to immune suppression, premature skin aging and skin cancer.

Eating right for clear skin

We can increase our skin’s sun protection factor (SPF) just by eating certain foods. Following are a few examples.

• Carotenoids. These natural pigments, found in fruits and vegetables, are known to protect against sun damage from sunlight. Beta carotene is a carotenoid that is deposited in the skin and prevents the production of particular enzymes that destroy collagen after being activated by UV light, in addition to reducing redness from sunburn. Food sources of beta carotene include sweet potatoes, spinach and carrots. It is best to obtain beta carotene from food sources and not supplements.

•  Lycopene. A potent antioxidant found in tomato foods and watermelon, lycopene has been studied and shown to increase the skin’s natural SPF. In a study of 20 healthy women ages 21-47, participants ingested lycopene from tomato paste to test its ability to protect from UV radiation. Compared with the other women, the tomato-eating group had 33% more protection against sunburn in the form of less redness. The most potent form of lycopene comes from cooked tomatoes that have been prepared with olive oil.

• Lutein. Lutein acts as a filter, absorbing the blue light that penetrates the entire depth of the skin, potentially damaging every layer, leading to wrinkles, brown spots, redness and loss of elasticity. Topical products can’t offer protection against this deep damage, so ingestion in diet is crucial for protection. Dark green veggies are the best source of lutein.

Balance is key

When people choose a Keto diet and increase their animal-sourced protein intake, it can lead to a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids consumption if not balanced with omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and flax seeds, and can cause systemic inflammation. The skin needs both fatty acids for optimal barrier function and to keep moisture levels intact.

“Keto rash” is when the skin reacts with symptoms such as bumps, redness and itching as the body moves in an acidic state from animal protein intake and lack of fiber in the diet. Lack of fiber means a lack of detoxification and waste removal from the digestive track, which could lead to dermatitis as well as acne.

Balance and moderation are key, rather than extreme limitation. Be your own health advocate and follow a low-saturated-fat, low-sugar diet and consume large amounts of good fat source such as almonds, walnuts, olive oil and fish.

Protect the skin by applying a sunblock with high concentrations of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Marjan Kashi, a Los Altos resident, is a licensed medical esthetician and electrologist and the founder of Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center.

For more information, call 999-7873 or visit pureserenityskincare.com.