Bottom Line/HEALTH: There is no question at all that we are obsessed with looking and staying young. But the fact of the matter is, time marches on, and we’re going to get older. So the question is, what are the five things that you can do to stay and look younger?
This is Sarah Hiner, President of Bottom Line Publications, and this is our Conversation With the Experts, where we get the answers to your tough questions from our leading experts.
Today I’m talking to Dr. Holly Lucille, a leading naturopathic physician and expert in integrative medicine. Dr. Lucille was listed in Time Magazine’s ALT list as one of the top 100 most influential people and is the author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Safe Natural Hormone Health. You can learn all about her at www.drhollylucille.com.
Welcome, Dr. Holly.
Holly Lucille, ND, RN: Thank you.
Bottom Line: We are obsessed with being young, and yet we are doing so many things wrong that makes us look old. Besides the smoking, the drinking, the lack of sleep, what else are we doing wrong that’s just taking a process that’s going to wrinkle us anyway and making it even worse? We’re setting up our own problems.
Dr. Lucille: Yeah. I always say that skin, a lot of times it’s an inside job. And that’s really where we have to go. So five things that we want to think about – and sometimes I feel like a broken record, but digestion is so extremely important, because digestion is actually, first of all, how we assimilate nutrients that are skin-healthy.
We’ve got to be able to take in nutrients, digest, absorb, assimilate them, let our bloodstream take them into the cells, and get that proper nourishment for our biochemistry. A lot of people think that vitamins and minerals are just a couple aisles in your local health food store; that’s not true at all.
Bottom Line: I really want to emphasize that, because digestion is truly, as you say, so important, and people take it for granted. It goes in; it goes out. That’s how all the nutrients, all the everything that goes on in our body – and yet everybody just thinks about it as a plumbing tool.
Dr. Lucille: Yeah. It’s gas in the tank, quite honestly. We used to have a saying in school called, “heal the hole,” and it’s the hole that starts here and the hole back there. Because so much of your overall health, including your glowing, glorious, youthful skin, has to do with you being able to absorb those trace minerals and those skin-healthy nutrients for sure. And so it’s not “you are what you eat” anymore; it is you are what you digest.
Bottom Line: Okay, so that’s number one. Besides hydrating, are there other foods or drinks that can help?
Dr. Lucille: Oh, sure. There’re some actual clinical studies, but a couple of them – and you could even make a salad out of them – but we think about Swiss chard. Swiss chard actually has been studied; it’s really high in vitamin C, of course, that great collagen-building vitamin. Goji berries. Walnuts, high in omega-3 essential fatty acids. And avocados, they’re high in monounsaturated fatty acids with one bond. All have been linked to really having great effects when it comes to youthful skin.
Bottom Line: There’s been a lot of talk about vitamin C and skin, so can you talk about that a little bit more?
Dr. Lucille: Yeah. I am almost 50 years old myself, and I looked down – I was actually looking at my arm. I think I wrote a Facebook post that said something like “Could anybody tell me where my collagen went?” You start seeing your skin naturally losing a little bit of its elasticity.
When we think about vitamin C, it’s such a wonderful water-soluble antioxidant, but it is in the infrastructure of our collagen. So having a diet full of vitamin C, and also supplementing with vitamin C, is extremely important if we want to keep those fibers, those networks that keep our skin nice and taut.
Bottom Line: So we’ve got digestion, we’ve got vitamin C, we’ve got omegas; what else should be people be doing?
Dr. Lucille: You have to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. We know about safe, natural sun protection from harsh UV rays from the sun. But we also need protection from the abrasive things that you’re putting on your skin, almost counterintuitively. A lot of times people reach for toxic chemicals to put on their skin, and it actually is doing more harm than good. So being able to have a clean environment when it comes to your skin is extremely, extremely important.
Bottom Line: All right, let’s talk about the things that people put on their skin, because you can’t turn on the TV or you can’t go into a department store without the lotions and potions that are just going to make you look healthier, younger, plumper, whatever it is. So what are the optimal topicals to put on your skin to keep it looking younger?
Dr. Lucille: If you think about it if it’s eco-friendly or phthalate-free, paraben-free, it’s going to be body-friendly, and it’s going to be better for your skin as well. So extremely, extremely important. There are some great absorbable hyaluronic acids; once again, those help that matrix of collagen in your skin, so you can use those.
But you want to look for – and I’ve said this before – EWG.org has a cosmetic database. You can actually see what things you’re using on your skin and see if there’s anything that’s toxic in there, that’s actually doing more oxidative damage, more free radical damage. Free radical damage anywhere on your skin is going to create fine wrinkles and signs of aging.
Bottom Line: How about something like coconut oil? I’ve heard a lot of talk about people just using coconut oil.
Dr. Lucille: Yeah, coconut oil, avocado on your skin. There are plenty of things that you can use right from your kitchen topically. You can use a Bentonite clay mask; you can get that at any health food store. Make a little poultice with it with water. It’s very drying, so watch out. You should only do it maybe once a week, but it’s drawing, too. It draws out toxins. It really makes such a great difference.
Sometimes simply a nice dry skin brushing – not with a harsh loofah. Apricot seeds have been used to give that exfoliation. You rub away that dead part of your skin so those live cells turnover, and you have that vibrancy about you as well.
The last thing I want to talk about that’s really important is hormone balancing. A lot of times people don’t often think about this, but cortisol people know is a stress hormone, but DHEA – that’s one of our androgens; when we think about androgens, build up – is also a hormone that’s secreted from the adrenal glands – those are stress glands. So if you are overly stressed, sometimes there’s a deficiency in DHEA, and that can certainly lead to that sagging, prematurely aging skin. So we think about a small supplementation with that as well.
Bottom Line: Supplementing DHEA. And how about on the other side of it is the classic, again, reduce the stress, manage the stress, all those lifestyle things that we do that just wear us down?
Dr. Lucille: That goes without saying. Those are foundational pieces for almost anything anybody has as far as a healthcare desire. Whether you want to lose weight, whether you want better skin, whether you want to decrease that cholesterol, mitigating stressors, stopping the sympathetic loop of fight-or-flight is up there as a priority, 100%.
And sleep. Sleep is where you rest, relax and repair. So skin repair, tissue repair, human growth hormone. Got to get to sleep and stay asleep, too.
Bottom Line: Perfect. Thank you, Dr. Holly Lucile. The bottom line on healthy-looking skin? It’s not so hard to do it. We just have to take good care of ourselves. We have to not live in a stressful, toxic environment that we create ourselves with foods that we ingest and with the lifestyle that we have.
So what are the key things that you can do? You need a healthy digestion. That’s how you get the healthy nutrients from a healthy diet all the way up to your skin. What does that diet include? It includes vitamin C, it includes omegas, and it includes healthy fats like in avocados. Get plenty of sleep. Keep that stress down, because all those stress hormones actually eat away at your skin. It makes you tired; it makes you sallow.
So take the sleep. Take time for the stress. And as far as the topicals that you can put on, you can put some coconut oil, you can put hyaluronic acid. And there’s a website, EWG.org, where you can check out the healthy ingredients in the topicals that you’d like to put on. This is Sarah Hiner with Bottom Line.