12 ways to protect your skin cells

So yesterday, I showed you that the saying “beauty is more than skin deep” rings true. Even scientists at Beiersdorf laboratories, who created the NIVEA VISAGE DNAge Cell Renewal range to stimulate healthy skin cell renewal, agreed that 80% of skin aging is a result of external influences such as diet, lifestyle, pollutants and exposure to sunlight which lead to damages at the skin cells. I have no idea if their products really work in terms of improving the skin’s cellular renewal process but today, I’ll like to examine how we can control those external influences to improve the health of our skin cells and make ourselves look better.

1. Avoid an inflammatory diet
I’ve indicated yesterday that inflammation at the cellular level causes free radicals to form, which damage collagen and elastin in the skin leading to wrinkle formation and sagging skin. Obviously, the best approach is to take on an anti-inflammatory diet but I know from my personal experience that this is not an easy approach. So instead of telling you to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, I’ll just tell you to avoid eating inflammatory foods and these include refined sugars, processed food, common table salt, red meat, diary, caffeine and alcohol. If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know I’ve successfully eliminated my adult acne issue without consulting any doctors or dermatologists. A large part of my success is because I avoided eating these stuff – cakes, pastries, sweets, tidbits, fast food, soft drinks and even milk.

2. Increase your intake of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
All cells in our body have cell walls to separate each cell. Fats, in particular omega 3 fatty acids, are the most important part of these cell walls by making sure nutrients enter the cell and waste products are removed. So our skin cells require a steady supply of EFA’s to retain their youthful quality as these EFA’s prevent water from easily escaping through the barrier so that our cells would not become dehydrated. Unfortunately, our body can’t make these fatty acids and so we have to replenish them from our food intake or supplement.

3. Take a good probiotic supplement
Two-thirds of the body’s immune receptor cells are found in the gut; hence, a dietary probiotic supplement is important to enhance cellular immunity. If the health of your gut is unhealthy, or you’re suffereing from constipation, chances are, you are having an inflammatory reaction and your skin condition is not ideal. My acne issue was also resolved in a large part due to the probiotic supplement I have been taking.

4. Increase your intake of vitamins & minerals
Like it or not, we need vitamins and minerals to manufacture and protect our cells. Skin cells are no exception. Hence, we are always encouraged to take more fruits and vegetables because these contain most vitamins and minerals. These will help provide our cells with the right antioxidants to mop up the free radicals caused by the various external influences and prevent oxidative stress that is commonly linked to skin aging as well as many common diseases of aging.

5. Manage your level of stress
While we cannot keep stress away completely, it is good to keep it under control as a high amount of stress can lead to more cortisol being secreted. And as mentioned yesterday, a high level of cortisol can affect the immune cells in the epidermis, disrupting the skin’s barrier and weakening the skin’s defenses against UV light and other pollutants and infections.

6. Regulate your beauty sleep hours
Needless to say, sleep is important. When we sleep, our sleep hormone melatonin acts as an indirect antioxidant, increasing the activity of the main antioxidant enzymes and other chemicals that protect cells against free radical damage. However, it is not enough to have just 8 hours of sleep. You need to be sleeping at the right time (by 10 or 11pm nightly) in order for your cells to be fully repaired.

7. Drink enough water
I don’t think I need to elaborate more. Water is important for our survival and each day, humans must replace about 2 litres of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods eaten. Water helps to hydrate our cells and well hydrated cells that function well can help maintain youth. In fact, you might want to know that healthy cells increase their production of collagen which is largely responsible for skin strength and elasticity.

8. Breathe in fresh air
Oxygen is important for us because all of our cells need a constant supply of oxygen in order to live. Hence, polluted air is bad for us and smoking is even worse because these deprive the skin cells of oxygen, increase free-radical activity, and damage our skin.

9. Exercise to increase our blood circulation
A number of you mentioned how your skin benefited from regular exercising. Why is that so? Exercise increases your blood volume, thereby increasing the oxygen in your blood and improving the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to our skin cells. As such, the immediate effect for some people are a rosier complexion. Additionally, exercising can help to eliminate toxins through our lymphatic system. However, be aware that excessive exercise can cause free radical damage as well and from what I’ve read, exercise between 20 to 30 minutes a day is about right.

10. Regular exfoliation to encourage skin regeneration
It is good to exfoliate at least once a week because exfoliation helps to speed up the process of cellular shedding, by taking off the uppermost, dead layer of cells to expose the finer, more translucent tissue underneath. In fact, regular exfoliation keeps skin healthy by encouraging skin regeneration and the growth of new skin cells.

11. Protect your skin against excessive UVA rays
Yesterday, I cited a new study by researchers at NYU School of Medicine that UVA radiation damages the DNA in human melanocyte cells, causing mutations that can lead to melanoma. This is why it is important to avoid excessive sun exposure. If you have to head out under the hot sun, use a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection against both UVB and UVA rays .  You may want to read my entry on the best and safest sunscreen ingredients for an idea.

12. Choose the right topical actives that can regenerate your skin cells
I put this last because if you can put all the rest in place, this is a bonus. In addition, I’m not too sure of some of the claims in terms of topical penetration. But my experience tells me that vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic works to some extent. Others that I may or may not have tried include emu oil, argan oil, retinol, peptides, alpha lipoic acid and coenzyme Q10, just to name a few.

My personal experience
I know some of these come across as no-brainers.  However, the bigger question is whether we can put these into practice because frankly, most people don’t give a heck to these pointers until they start experiencing skin problems. I try my best to practice what I preach – aside from 5 & 9, I’m doing the rest rather diligently.  I admit that diet is a big deterrence for many because we are unwilling to forsake our existing lifestyle.  For example, I personally hate green leafy vegetables and I do find it hard to take them as frequently.  In fact, to take the easy way out, I began hunting for the alkalinizing cocktail of greens, fiber, calcium and probiotic supplements mentioned by Dr Jeanette Graf in her book “Stop Aging, Start Living” because it has 10 plus servings of fruit and vegetables. I might have found something else that is possibly better and am in the midst of trying it out now. I will be reviewing it soon so keep a lookout if you’re interested.

By the way, if you haven’t already noticed, all that I’ve written here are actually good for your skin, as well as your health.

Related entry: Youthful skin starts from healthy skin cells


  1. pf1123 says:

    Nice….I start to eat salad for lunch abt 2 or 3 times a week. Found that I like it, with the right combi of veges. ?

    I think fresh air is great but we can hardly get because I get stuck in air con office for long hours.

  2. chenyze says:

    hmm i was just wondering, is there a difference between probiotics in supplements and say, yoghurt or yakult? Besides the added sugar of course!

    i can’t remember if i shared this with you but i tried to take green smoothies for a month with this company (http://linssmoodees.wordpress.com/smoodee-package/). i had to stop cuz they revised their prices after the pilot trial, and it was a bit expensive on my student budget! But if you can afford it, do give it a try! Most of the times the smoothies taste great, and you can always give feedback if you’re quite averse to certain concoctions!

  3. Swathy says:

    Well, we can not always manage stress. But, yes, exercising is something in our hands. A 30 minute walk anytime int he day especially in the early morning in fresh air is really good for the body and gives enough of exercise if one does not want to exert themselves too much. There is one thing I would say – do not rely on supplements. They are designed to complete your nutritional needs of the day not replace them. So, if you are already eating enough of your veggies and fruits, you really do not need them because even the vitamins can harm your body in excess. Always take supplements after consulting your doctor and getting a blood test to know whether you really need the supplement or not.
    Lastly, for people who hate any kind of veggies, they can make amazing smoothies with the vegetables which are filling and appetizing.

  4. sesame says:

    But at least your office isn’t polluted…most important is do not smell 2nd hand smoke.

  5. sesame says:

    I think the level of beneficial probiotics in those drinks and yoghurt are much lower.

    Not into green smoothies…don’t quite like the look of the color. ?

  6. sesame says:

    I have to disagree about nutritional supplements. Many pple think that we can get a lot from the fruits and vegetables but it’s not true. There are a lot of issues with their cultivation and even if they are organically grown, you got to consider what sort of minerals they actually absorbed cos fruits and vegetables from different regions differ. So something grown here might be lacking in some minerals and nutrients because the soil isn’t as fertile. Additionally, I just learnt from a specialist in cells that food we consume takes 3 days to be completely absorbed. Sometimes in the absorption process, something may actually go wrong like the nutrients being oxidized.

    However, the type of nutritional supplements you take is important. Some are useless. I also learnt that the tablet of vitamin C doesn’t contain 500g as stated as only 90g is allowed so we don’t know what others stuff they include.

    And I’m sorry to say, I don’t trust doctors these days.

  7. valerie says:

    Since reading your blog I’ve put a lot of these into practive although they are somewhat on and off.. Recently ive been more strict on making sure I follow them too… though I do still suffer from insomia.. since I stay up late to get my studies done. It’d be great if you could write up an article about how to get good sleep but thanks for this one. time for me to start on my fruits again.

  8. Sarah says:

    Great list! Thanks for taking the time to put all this together ?

  9. rachel says:

    hmm…but i learnt in school that the nutrients and vitamins in supplements may not be absorbed by the body as well compared to taking fruits and vegetables..

  10. stella says:

    i gotta agree that nutritional supplements are important, particularly in a busy urban environment. of course, ideally, you should take everything through your daily food and meals, but who has time to plan those properly? even tho’ i’ve someone cooking proper meals at home, i often eat much less than what i should be for proper nutrition…since i’m at my desk the whole day, i really need to eat so much; and i cannot find it in me to workout everyday!

  11. sesame says:

    Rachel: what you learn is right. It still depends on the technology used in creating the supplement. Most take 3 days to absorb…that’s if they’re ever absorbed.

  12. sesame says:

    You’re welcome Sarah. ?

  13. sesame says:

    Haha…so this is a bit of a reminder to you? ?

  14. jen says:

    My personal belief is that if you eat a well balanced diet, there’s no need to take supplements unless you’re suffering from some kind of autoimmune disease or whatnot. You actually don’t need as much vitamins as health food stores would like to lead you to believe. Eating more doesn’t lead to more benefits, most of it gets flushed out in your urine anyway. As long as you’re keeping a good diet in the long run, it doesn’t really matter if it takes longer to absorb. Plus I think fruits and veges offer more nutritional benefit overall, providing fibre and antioxidants, not just vitamins exclusively. I think it’s great that you’re so pro-active in your health, but just from my experience with parents and their kids, I think it’s quite easy to go a bit overboard whilst being health conscious. One common example I unfortunately see is when kids with severe vit D deficiency are brought in, suffering from bone malformations, just because the parents don’t let them play in the sun, or smother them in sunscreen so they can’t get the natural vit D from sunlight. But I digress, I really like what you write here, and your well rounded approach to health&skin care- I’m just not one for supplementing vitamins unless you have to.

  15. rachel says:

    wait, i just realised u said milk?! oh no! i tot milk is actually good for us! have been taking milk since i was a baby haha. i think the hardest step for me is to sleep at 10/11pm. SO HARD.

  16. edrienne says:

    i agree…. LOL. I even tried veggie smoothie… but sleeping, ahhh!

  17. sesame says:

    I don’t know where you live but over here, the sun is very strong so definitely no issue of a lack of vitamin D even if we use sunscreen diligently. ?

    Agree about diet but not fully. I guess it all depends on individual and age. I’m still not so convinced that we can get everything from the just diet. Just that when we’re young, vitamins and nutrients are probably not so much a concern and the signs are not obvious.

    * I should also qualify that the reason I stress on vitamins and supplements is probably more because of my own lifestyle. I doubt I’m having a really balanced diet even though I try. ?

  18. sesame says:

    Diary is not that good but it may not affect everyone in the same way. You can read my entry about why it’s not so great here:


    If you can drink organic milk, that’ll be good.

  19. sesame says:

    It’ll be great if we can take everything through normal food but like what you mentioned, quite hard to dish out balanced meal all the time especially if we eat out. Also, the horror stories about how the animals are reared and how fruits and vegetables are cultivated so that they can quickly harvest scare me. I wish I have the money to go organic all the way but it’s not possible too.

  20. Jessie says:

    Thank you for the tips, I am having oily skin problem for years, will try your advise to see if it help

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