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Protect Your Skin From the Inside Out

By JENNIFER CASSETTA

Your skin is your body's largest organ and absorbs around 60 percent of everything we put on it. Your skin is also a good clue as to what is going on inside your body. Are your pores clogged? Is your skin dry or flaky? Or do you have issues like acne or psoriasis? If so, your body may be trying to tell you something.

Protecting your skin

Here are some ways to help protect your skin, not only from sun damage, but other environmental factors as well.

Eat for Skin Health
Our skin cells need water to function optimally. Staying hydrated can give your skin a more radiant glow if you've previously been dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water can also help clear up certain skin issues like acne. Cutting back on sugar and, in some cases, dairy may also help.

Besides water, here are some nutrients our skin depends on for good health: Vitamin E contains antioxidants that help protect against UV light, which contributes to sun damage. Next time you're heading to the beach, ditch the chips and grab some raw almonds for a little added sun protection.

Cooked tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, which is another antioxidant that helps prevent the breakdown of collagen -- aka the glue that keeps our skin together. Load up on tomato sauce (sans sugar) for your next bowl of spaghetti squash.

Catechins, found in green tea, are anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds, so drink up!

Biotin, found in eggs, oatmeal, bananas and rice, is a member of the B vitamin family and is important for skin, hair and nail growth.

Avocados and coconuts contain healthy fats that can help keep your skin soft. The polyunsaturated fats in avocado can even help protect your skin from sun damage, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

Eat avocados and use extra virgin coconut oil to bake or cook with at high temperatures. You can even replace your skin moisturizers with these two foods. Pick one and rub it on your face or body and feel how soft your skin gets after a week.

Detox Your Beauty Products
Parabens and phthalates are just two examples of harmful ingredients found in many skin-care products that sometimes aren't even labeled (and yes, that's legal). These chemicals can be hormone disruptors and may lead to tumor development.

When buying sunscreen, look for brands that don't use PABA, avobenzone, benzophenone and ethoxycinnamate, as these are all known free-radical generators -- which is what sunscreen is supposed to protect against. Use brands that list zinc oxide as their main active ingredient. Not sure how your sunscreen ranks? Use the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database to research what toxic chemicals can be hiding in your favorite products.

Take the Makeup-Free Challenge
Because most makeup contains parabens and other harmful chemicals, give your face a break and take the makeup-free challenge. Not only will you be doing your skin a favor by letting it breathe, you'll also remember how great going natural can feel. Remember, makeup doesn't make you beautiful; you already are!

--Jennifer

Readers -- Do you eat particular foods for skin health? Do you use sunscreen on a regular basis? If not, why not? What kinds of products do you use to protect your skin? Do you ever go makeup-free? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Jennifer Cassetta is a third-degree black belt, clinical nutritionist and personal trainer. She loves kale, chocolate and wine. She loves to punch, kick, lift weights, meditate and dress up in stilettos. She empowers people to be strong, safe and sexy through nutrition, fitness and self-defense. You can read more at jennifercassetta.com.

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