By Julie Upton, RD
Is your skin dry and itchy this time of year? Is it feeling tight or windburned? I feel your pain.
I just returned from a business trip to Chicago and Minneapolis and it was cold—very cold.
After a few days out and about in the cold, dry air, combined with the heat blasting in the hotels, I ended up with parched, chapped, itchy, painful skin. So when I got home to California, I vowed to find out what diet steps I could take to build up and keep the natural oils in my skin.
We normally have a natural layer of oil that helps keep our skin soft and protect it from the environment, but harsh winter weather can suck the moisture right out of it. When your skin gets dry, it's generally a sign that you're doing something that's stripping its natural oils. The good news is that you can keep your skin glowing all winter with a few changes to your diet.
- Drink more water. The body loses more fluid with each breath when it's cold and dry, so it's fairly easy to get dehydrated in the winter. Try to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
- Eat a balanced diet. Several nutrients, such as protein, vitamin A, zinc, and essential fatty acids, are important for keeping your skin healthy. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, and healthy oils are the foundation of a diet that's good for your skin.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables, and skip the sugary desserts. In a study that looked at the diets of U.S. women, those who had the most vitamin C in their diets had the healthiest skin. Too much sugary food has been shown to have the opposite effect. Get more vitamin C by eating at least five servings a day of fruits and veggies.
- Focus on healthy fats. Although research is still ongoing, preliminary evidence suggests that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help keep your skin hydrated. Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados are good sources of omega-6s, and fish, walnuts, and flax seed contain omega-3s. If you're taking an omega-3 supplement, be sure it provides DHA and EPA.
- Enjoy lean protein. The amino acids in lean protein (poultry, seafood, lean meats) are essential for radiant skin. Try to add a little to every meal and you'll look more youthful (and have more energy!) in no time.
- Ramp up your skin-care routine. There's a lot you can do on the surface, as well, such as applying a heavy moisturizer while your skin is damp, turning down the thermostat, and protecting your skin with hats and gloves.