by Sue Bond
(Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Beauty may be only skin deep, but skin is deeper than you think: it is marvelously sensitive to goings-on inside the body and is quick to break out in a rash of protest when it disapproves.
Few beauty blemishes are harder to bear than unsightly skin. Yet pimples, eruptions, rashes, scaliness, dryness and changes in color do not often originate in the skin itself.
Usually they reflect some disorder of nourishment (in other than specific disease processes) that affects the general health.
Except for certain food allergies, such as the propensity of strawberries to cause hives, skin troubles are caused not so much by the foods you eat as by the foods you don’t eat.
The essentials of skin health, and consequently of general health, are deficient in the diet, or the nourishing bloodstream is carrying substances that the skin resents.
One of the first signs of vitamin shortage is unhealthy changes in the skin. Often both the causes and symptoms are vague and obscure.
Persons who go on regulated diets for other reasons than beauty are frequently surprised to observe that blemished skins become soft and clear on balanced food intake.
Indispensable to healthy skin is Vitamin A. It is the great regulator of epithelial tissue, the stuff your skin and the linings of your body cavities are made of.
When Vitamin A intake is diminished, an early sign is roughness and extreme dryness of the skin. It is a special kind of dryness, not relieved by ointments.
Especially on thighs and arms, the skin becomes rough with goose-pimples. The hair follicles are plugged with cornified epithelium.
“Cornified” comes from a word meaning “horn” and it means that your skin is on the way to becoming the same stuff that makes a bullfighter watch his step. In more advanced cases the skin may break out with eruptions similar to those of acne except that they are not pustular.
Not only the skin but the external layers of organs such as the eye become hard and dry in absence o£ Vitamin A. In fact, the eye can dry up so completely that blindness results.
If you remain dry-eyed at a grand weepy movie, it may not be a sign of emotional inertia but simply an indication that the tear ducts are becoming dammed up from lack of Vitamin A. Absence of perspiration may mean that the sweat glands are becoming plugged.
Hair and nails are modified forms of skin. Just as the skin becomes dry from lack of Vitamin A, so does hair become brittle and lose its luster. Brittle nails are often improved by high-vitamin diets.
Brittleness in nails is also chargeable to the overenthusiastic use of some types of lacquer and polish that abstract natural oils.
Vitamin C deficiency can also cause papular eruptions of the skin, as well as patchy areas of vaguely darkened color.
More characteristic of C shortage is the tendency of the skin to bruise easily, developing ugly black and blue spots from causes hardly more severe than being spoken to sharply. In fact, the skin can become black and blue entirely on its own initiative.
Small red pinprick spots can occur spontaneously. These phenomena arise from the fragility of the blood vessels, characteristic of Vitamin C shortage.
Among the B vitamins, riboflavin and nicotinic acid are most commonly associated with skin disorders. The disease of pellagra, involving the skin, is caused by a dietary lack of nicotinic acid.
In early cases the skin looks as if it were severely sunburned; it is burning, tender, and dark in color. Later the skin becomes thick and scaly and pigmentation deepens. Riboflavin (Vitamin G) deficiencies show up in painful fissures of the skin at the corners of the mouth.
The tragic skin curse of adolescence is acne, which peppers the face with unsightly pimples at the very age when personal appearance becomes supremely important to boys and girls. The irresistible impulse to dig and gouge at the eruptions may leave permanent beauty blemishes in the form of scarred skin.
In part, at least, acne is a skin response to the adjustment of the glandular system to maturity. Yet dietary management has a place in treatment. The mere restriction of fat, greasy, and sugar-heavy foods is often helpful.
Recently it has been demonstrated that Vitamin D is sometimes beneficial. Regular daily doses of 5,000 or more units of Vitamin D have reduced the number of acne eruptions in many cases.
Although not a specific cure, enough work has been done to prove that Vitamin D is a highly valuable agent in acne treatment.
Psoriasis, a skin ailment manifested by a curious silver scaliness, has also proved moderately amenable to Vitamin D. It is a mysterious disease, however, with spontaneous remissions, and dermatologists are very cautious in making any promises about it.
Some soaps and cosmetics contain slight amounts of Vitamins A and D, and ballyhoo this virtue out of all reason. It is true that these vitamins can be absorbed to some extent through the skin. The advisability of taking them in this fashion is another matter.
If the cosmetics are sold at the same prices as standard creams and ointments your druggist can show you, there is no need to avoid them; but if they are decked out in fancy prices, you can suspect that some canny manufacturer is aiming to cash in on public gullibility.
Indeed, it is amusing to consider that some soaps, bill-boarding their Vitamin D content, may actually restrict your intake of that vitamin by washing off the skin oils from which you manufacture Vitamin D with the cooperation of sunlight or ultra-violet irradiation.
In general, the avoidance of heavy, rich foods and greater dependence upon milk, eggs, liver, lean meats, fruit and fresh vegetables is a sound principle in building good health and consequent skin beauty.
The elimination of foods to which you suspect you are hypersensitive is best left to the offices of a dermatologist, who can usually determine the offender swiftly with simple tests and thus save you from possibly eliminating from your diet the very foods that protect against deficiencies.