Healthy skin and hair

Your skin, hair and nails continue to grow throughout your life. They can act as barometers, as they reflect the quality if nourishment that you are giving to your body as a whole, and your general state of physical health. A good diet with plenty of water is one of the best ways to improve your appearance, as well as protecting it from the effects of harmful substances.

Looking good

Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It needs plentiful supply of nutrients because the outer layers, which are constantly being shed, have to be replaced by the division of the deeper cells. Some of these cells are specialized, and divide to form hair and nails.

Healthy skin is able to provide an effective barrier against the weather and infection. Keeping your skin scrupulously clean helps to banish any harmful bacteria that may be present on the surface of the skin.

Doctors and nutritional therapists may ask for an analysis of the minerals in your hair when they want to judge how good your recent diet has been. They may also examine the nails for evidence of poor nutrition. For example, iron or zinc deficiency can be diagnosed from the appearance of the nails (spoon-shaped nails indicate iron deficiency; white spots indicate zinc deficiency).

Beauty from the inside

SLEEP During good-quality sleep, the body replenishes the skin that has been shed.

SAUNAS Up to a third of body wastes can be lost through the skin in sweat, so a clear skin is a sign of a clean body:

MASSAGE The blood supply bringing nutrients to the skin is enhanced by massage and massage oil keeps the skin supple.

MOISTURIZERS Apply natural products where possible: these protect the skin by replacing water and natural oils that have been lost.

CANCER PREVENTERS Garlic, onions, linseed oil and walnuts are all thought to protect against skin cancer.

A generous intake of fruit and vegetables contains the variety of minerals and vitamins needed to keep your skin, hair and nails healthy. Wholegrain foods, seeds and nuts provide essential fats. The roughage in all these foods, together with at least a litre of water a day, helps to keep the bowel active and the skin clear. Protein is needed for the cells that are dividing in the deeper layers of skin.

Combating external damage

Protect your skin against the ageing effects of the sun with a sunscreen lotion strong enough for your skin type (but see vitamin D). Skin tone and elasticity can be reduced by sunlamps.

Smoking dries the skin and smoke contains a number of toxic chemicals that will increase age lines, especially in the vicinity of the mouth and the eyes.

Beauty boosters

The following minerals, vitamins and other supplements will help you to maintain a healthy skin, well-nourished hair and strong nails. VITAMIN F and other good-quality oils and fats nourish the skin and protect it from dryness.

VITAMIN A AND BETA-CAROTENE act to prevent acne, blemishes and dry skin. They may even help to prevent skin cancer.

VITAMIN C reduces the ageing effects of sun, smoke and other chemical pollutants.

VITAMIN E AND SELENIUM minimize the formation of scars and help to reduce the ageing effects of chemical pollutants.

ZINC helps to repair any damage to the skin and to fight any infection that might be present. Zinc is also vital for the health of all the tissues that continue to grow throughout life, such as hair, skin and nails.

SULPHUR the 'beauty mineral', is essential for healthy skin, hair and nails.

THE B-VITAMINS ensure that the new skin cells take up the correct nutrients.

SILICA is found in the skins of fruits and is thought to strengthen human skin. It is also present in HORSETAIL and ALFALFA

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