I am here with an exciting interview for my readers. HFDV has been getting a lot of queries regarding what food is good for skin and hair. I have posted a few general skin and hair nourishing foods in the past but I thought it will be great to bring a dermatologist to talk on the subject.
Dr. Rushika Gadani is a Dermatologist based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. A post-graduate in Dermatology (MD) from Government Medical College, Rajkot, Gujarat, she has been further trained in the fields of clinical and cosmetic dermatology at the B.Y.L. Nair Hospital, Mumbai. Her special area of interest is Pediatric Dermatology in which she has received training at AIIMS, New Delhi.
She is currently practicing as a consultant adult and pediatric dermatologist at her own clinic, ‘Mohana Skin Clinic’ at Ahmedabad. She has a keen interest in spreading awareness regarding her chosen field and frequently conducts lectures to pediatricians as well as the general public.
I asked her a few queries for all of you. Read on...
Me : What is your experience with your patients. What kind of food habits result in skin and hair problems. Is there a connection between skewed levels of cholesterol and skin ailments? What about other deficiencies like Iron, Calcium and protein and a few other micro nutrients ?
Dr. Rushika : One’s skin, hair and nails surely reflect whether everything is ship-shape within one’s body as almost all nutrient deficiencies do have cutaneous manifestations. You see, skin and its appendages - i.e. hair and nails - are rapidly dividing tissues, so they depend on an optimum level of nutrition... An individual’s diet may be determined by so many factors - his/her socioeconomic status, likes and dislikes, religious beliefs, ethical stand, and most importantly, the attitude towards food in general. Just to cite a single example, hair fall is extremely common in Indian ladies. Almost always, a deeper probing in the dietary habits of the patient shows us the reason. Strict vegetarians/vegans may require supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12; Vegans require additional supplementation with calcium.
Coming to proteins, here to vegetarians and vegans need to stay conscious about meeting at least the recommended daily allowances. Supplements may be required, but should be taken only in consultation with a qualified person.
Me : Do you think healthy fats are essential for our body? How would you correlate industrially produced refined and hydrogenated oils to skin ailments? Or these affect the system on an internal level only.
Dr. Rushika : By ‘healthy fats’, we generally refer to fats containing an appreciable proportion of unsaturated fatty acids rather than saturated fatty acids. A skewed balance of these may be contributory – if not causative – to inflammation anywhere in the body, including many skin conditions. So it is advisable to include more of mono-unsaturated fats, which means more of nuts, peanuts, olives, avocados, etc. It is best to consume MUFAs from whole foods, as compared to oils or supplements as a source. ALA (alpha lipoic acid) is another substance which is a healthier fat; flaxseeds, hempseeds, walnuts and soy are good sources. Other essential fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are found more in fish and eggs.
ALA, DHA and EPA all are integral to maintaining the structural integrity of a skin cell, and are very much essential for a healthy, supple skin. Psoriasis is one skin condition wherein it has been conclusively proven that these healthy fats have an anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effect. There are studies to indicate that ALA, DHA and EPA may have a role in protecting skin from the harmful effect of UV rays, and may even help in preventing skin cancers.
Trans fats have not been conclusively implicated as direct causative agents for any skin condition, but it is best to avoid these in view of their impact on general health.
Me : Junk food and carbonated drinks are seen as a main culprit for skin problems and breakouts. Have you noticed this in your patients? And have you seen your patients recovering when they give up junk from their diet?
Dr. Rushika : You will agree that what we term as ‘junk food’ roughly translates as overly processed or deep-fried food. Though there are no conclusive studies to prove that such food items are implicated in direct causation of pimples or any other specific skin conditions, common wisdom suggests that processed food in excess may be harmful. It is important that one makes a healthy choice, the advertizing blitzkrieg notwithstanding. What I might advise a patient suffering from pimples would be to try and include as much as raw or minimally processed food in his/her diet as is feasible.
Me : One more question. External application of Olive oil , Almond oil and Sesame oil is considered good for skin and hair. Is it practical in modern life to follow application of such natural oils and not the Sunscreens, the Sunblocks, moisturisers and nourishing creams?
Dr. Rushika : All the three oils you mentioned - and coconut oil in addition – fall under the broad gamut of occlusive moisturizers. The word ‘occlusive’ here is important, as they effectively minimize water loss through the skin, which means the skin tends to lose its hydration at a slower pace. Now this is desirable in cold and dry climates, especially for the skin on the body. Our facial skin is equipped to produce a lot more of the natural oily substance called sebum, so much so that massaging oil might be counter-productive in many cases and can lead to break-outs. Also, keep in mind the fact that many commercially available moisturizers to contain some manner of oil in them – may be a natural oil like above, or mineral oil – while making the overall product significantly more user friendly and non-messy to use. So, in conclusion, for someone having no skin related problems, the above oils can be considered as a part of the skin care regime, provided one is not affronted by the sticky feel.
Sunscreens in my opinion are irreplaceable. Considering the amount of solar radiation an average Indian bears in her/his lifetime, the cumulative damage is significant enough to cause early photo-ageing, at the very least. No plain moisturizer or oil can replace a sunscreen. Yes, there are some foods which one can consume as dietary sun protectors – they may or may not avert tanning, but do contribute towards minimizing the deleterious effect of the UV rays. This includes beta carotene (carrots, mango, papaya), lycopene (tomatoes), etc.
Me : For someone who wants to steer clear of cosmetics and relies on natural real, whole food as an overall nourishment for body, mind and soul and of course the skin as well, what do you say about the possibilities?
Dr. Rushika : By all means!!! I would like to broadly divide the available FMCG products in two groups – cosmetics and ‘skin care products’. Now the former class is more of an adornment, and are entirely a matter of personal preference, whereas consuming a healthy, balanced diet is going to enhance the health of one’s skin irrespective of whatever other skin-care regime is the person following.
A few additional points:
Eat right for your skin type:-
- A person with dry skin can benefit from including more of healthy fats in their diet, in the form of nuts, fish, flaxseed, hemp seed, olive, olive oil, peanuts, etc. Though conclusive proof is lacking, evening primrose oil may also be beneficial.
- Oily skin benefits from a vitamin A rich diet.
- Someone with excessive pigmentation, should have a vitamin C rich diet
- For a youthful skin, as natural anti-ageing compounds, one should have a diet rich in antioxidants like polyphenols (green tea and pomegranates are especially rich sources, among others) as well as omega-3 fatty acids.