New UK research has found that if you want to achieve a natural glow, then a healthy lifestyle with exercise, enough sleep, and not too much stress can all add a healthy, golden tone to your skin. Previous research has already linked a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables to ‘skin yellowness’, which the researchers say is an indicator of health, as fruit and veggies are packed with antioxidant coloured pigments called carotenoids, such as orange carotene from carrots and red lycopene from tomatoes. These coloured pigments then accumulate in the skin, giving it a yellow tone which can indicate good health as it suggests that a person's body has enough antioxidants and low levels of oxidative toxins.
However, for the new study, led by the University of St Andrews, the researchers wanted to look at the link between skin yellowness and exercise. To do this, the team recruited 134 university students of various ethnicities, and measured their skin colour using a spectrophotometer, which records illumination and the rainbow of colours reflected from the skin. The participants also had their heart rate measured while walking and running on a treadmill to assess their fitness levels and had their body fat levels recorded.
The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, showed that both a high level of fitness and low body fat were associated with a higher skin yellowness, which makes the skin look healthier and more attractive. The team say that the 'yellower' skin was not due to a suntan or even diet. Instead, they believe that exercise could boost the body's own antioxidant systems, and so instead of needing to use up the carotenoid pigments which we ingest from our diet, they are free to accumulate in the skin, giving us a yellow tone.
To investigate further, the researchers then looked at whether experiencing a change in health would also result in a change in skin appearance. After following 59 students who were members of sports clubs, the researchers found that an increase in fitness or losing body fat were both linked with an increase in skin yellowness. On the other hand, an increase in stress and a not getting enough sleep were both associated with a reduction in skin yellowness. Once again, the researchers say changes in skin colour change were not due to suntan or from training outdoors.
The team say the findings now suggest that in addition to eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, other healthy lifestyle factors such as exercising, losing excess body fat, reducing stress and getting enough sleep could all boost skin color. As skin colour is also linked to attractiveness, they added that this could help motivate people to follow a healthier lifestyle.
Lead scientist for the study, Professor David Perrett, also added that, “We were surprised to find that the skin colour changes accompanying change in health occurred quite quickly and within eight weeks. This means that any effort to improve lifestyle will benefit appearance within a relatively short time.”