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Ideally, your skin should retain a moisture level of around 30%.
When hydration falls, the skin starts to feel dry and itchy, and the normal process of skin cell shedding is reduced so skin cells build up. By the time skin feels rough, dry, and develops scaling, the water level in your skin may be as low as 10%.
This can result from environmental factors such as exposure to harsh soaps, irritants or adverse weather, but can also be due to a lack of dietary essential fatty acids and vitamin A deficiency.
Foods that can help
Omega-3s provide building blocks for making skin cell membranes that retain moisture more readily. They also suppress the inflammatory response that leads to itching and reduced skin cell shedding. Aim to eat oily fish like sardines, salmon, tuna, mackerel or herring at least twice a week. Walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia and hemp are also good sources. Higher intakes of foods rich in vitamin C such as berries and mango, are associated with better skin appearance due to improved collagen production and moisture retention. Wheat germ oil is particularly valuable for treating dry skin – apply topically to leave it feeling soft and smooth.
Foods to avoid
Follow a low glycaemic diet by avoiding refined grains such as white rice, white flour breads, pasta and cakes, which raise insulin levels and promote inflammation.
Evening primrose oil provides essential fatty acids that moisturise skin when taken by mouth, producing significant improvements in scaliness and itching. You can also apply evening primrose oil directly onto patches of dry skin.