Want to have glowing skin? There may not be any quick fixes, but proper nutrition and care can work wonders, says Aparna Karthikeyan

“Ma, did you take my face wash again?” Every evening, my daughter storms into my room and demands I return her face wash for acne-prone skin. But what am I to do? I feel ridiculous, at my age, to buy pimple creams and oil-free wipes; so, I swipe the daughter’s; besides, I seem to need them as much as her. “Don’t worry,” my mother tells me soothingly, whenever I crib to her, “your skin will be fine when you’re fifty-five; mine improved dramatically around then.” As if that’s some consolation. So I run to my beautician. But she only purses her lips, shakes her head and asks, “What did you do ma’am? Why is your skin so bad today?” Do you blame me for losing faith in miracle products that promise flawless skin?

“Clear skin is determined by both nature and nurture,” says Dr. B.Srinivas, consultant dermatologist. The outermost layer of skin (epidermis) is 20-cell deep and 30 per cent of it is water, he explains. When there’s a significant reduction in the water content, the skin cracks and becomes dry; the other extreme is skin that’s oily, shiny, and prone to break-outs.

“Genes influence the nature of skin. But with proper care, you can improve it. It’s important to wash the skin to remove surface dirt/ oil, and use a moisturiser if you have dry skin.” But, I’m told, it’s equally important to look beyond just cosmetic/superficial interventions. “Nothing beats exercise to improve the way your skin looks. Drinking 2 to 3 litres water, controlling anaemia, eating a balanced diet with adequate proteins and micro-nutrients will reflect well on your skin,” he says.

Ageing affects skin

“Skin is the largest organ in the body, and it ages, just like the heart and hair, says Dr. G. Ravichandran, senior consultant dermatologist, Apollo hospitals. And yet, 50-year-old ladies want the skin of a 25-year-old; and just about everybody wants “oil-free, wrinkle-free, pore-free, pigment-free, pimple-free skin,” he says.

But, wind, sun, heat, environmental pollution, besides bad genes, come in the way of clear skin. The UV rays of the sun, both doctors agree, cause considerable damage, resulting in wrinkling, pigmentation and even sagging. A good sunscreen, therefore, is vital, even on cloudy days, in Chennai’s so-called ‘winter’, and especially in hill stations.

“There is a lot of awareness about skincare now,” says Dr. Srinivas. “It’s not just the advertisements in the media; thanks to the improved economy, people are more willing to spend on skincare,” he says.

Except, ‘glowing skin’, currently the most aspired for skin type, is, as I’m fast realising, never going to come exclusively out a bottle. In other words, none of the filched creams and washes are going to make my zits vanish, not unless I stop treating chocolates as my best friend and exercise, my sworn enemy.

“Adult acne, that typically affects the middle-aged, can negatively impact self-esteem,” agrees Dr. Ravichandran. “Sufferers can feel low, some even end up getting depressed.”

But, bad skin, I’m told, can thankfully be treated, and the damage is, to some extent, reversible. “Exercise, especially aerobic work-outs, improves skin health by promoting circulation,” says Dr. Srinivas. Diet plays a big role in the upkeep of good skin, says Dr. Ravichandran. Low-fat, high-fibre foods work favourably, whereas those with a high glycemic index can result in flare-ups.

Hormonal trigger

“Middle-aged acne could be the result of hormonal changes; so it’s important to consult a dermatologist as well as an endocrinologist,” he adds. And while glycolic peels — which exfoliate the outermost layer of the skin and improves its appearance and promotes regeneration — can help, it’s always a good idea to have realistic expectations.

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