Is beauty only skin deep?

`WHO IS the fairest of us all?' is a question, which dogs each one of us, especially when one is young. Skin, which is the outward manifestation of beauty, has been the matter of much thought and debate for centuries. In fact many have lost sleep over the skin that covers them.

Pollution is one of the major problems faced by mankind in modern time. Skin is the body's largest organ covering between 15 - 30 square feet (1.5 - 3 square meters). It's washable, waterproof, and self-repairing but is also a major route for the elimination of wastes. There is a growing concern that the many artificial chemical substances and pollutants in today's modern world could be the reasons for the increased incidence of skin diseases. Because of its ability to rid the body of unwanted substances, the skin is sometime referred to as the third kidney. Toxins that are not removed via the kidneys, the bowel, or the lungs may find their way out through the skin. Blocking the skin could chase the waste back inside the system.

Excessive oiliness, flaking, blotchy patches, cellulite, roughness, spots, and pimples are signs of skin under strain. In some cases the white skin may show red blotchy patches and a greyish pallor, dark skin can become dull and take on a greyish tone. Many nutritional deficiencies will quickly show up on the body's exterior in the form of the dry skin and flaking skin.

Nutrients for a good skin

Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to help clear skin infections. Researchers have found that supplements of zinc are just as effective as these drugs. This essential trace element is found in shellfish, wheat germ, Bengal gram dhal, cowpea, rajmah, bajra, spinach, fenugreek leaves, and nuts. Vitamin A and C are other important nutrients that help the body to fight against infection and other skin damages. Patients with acne have been found to have low level of Vitamin A in their blood. Vitamin A is required for the building of the epithelial layers of the skin and will help to prevent the pores from getting clogged. Orange, carrot, dark green vegetables, wheat germ and cod liver oil are good sources of Vitamin A, B, C and E. These must be included in the diet for a good skin. Yeast extract in the form of marmite is rich in Vitamin B. Especially beneficial is brewers yeast, which also contains chromium, known to be effective against skin ailments. Lime and other citrus fruits are a rich source of Vitamin C, which should be taken daily.

Liberal amounts of fluid are needed by the skin, which can be taken in the form of filtered water, herb teas, fruit, and vegetable juices. Essential fatty acids are an integral part of the structure of the skin, and there is considerable evidence to suggest that eczema sufferers may have difficulty in metabolising these. When tested, patients are frequently found to be short of gamma linoleic acid. Since evening primrose oil is a rich source of this substance, those who suffer from dry patches may take this.

Those who wish to see their skin glow and be free from all blemishes are to follow a balanced diet instead of confectionery, chocolate and fried food, which bring unwanted weight and skin problems. Prefer fresh fruits, steamed vegetables, salads, soya products, nuts and sprouted pulses, whole grains, fish, a little poultry and liberal intake of fluid. Increase the intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated plant oils by eating more nuts and using olive oil, safflower, or sunflower oils for cooking and as salad dressing. Sulphur present in eggs, onions and garlic is an important cleaning and detoxifying agent while yoghurt would contribute to growth of friendly bacteria.

Thus a balanced diet is essential for a healthy and glowing skin.