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Edinburgh Evening News

Edinburgh Evening News
Mon 11 Aug 2003
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Beauty really is skin deep

Sarah Howden

YOUR face or your figure? It’s that simple. Experts stress that while more and more celebrities are losing weight, they could be sacrificing their good looks in the pursuit of thinness.

We are a figure-fanatical nation - the pursuit of the perfect body is becoming more important than long-term health. For many, stars and models epitomise perfection with their toned, lean bodies or pumped-up pecs which fit the latest catwalk trends seamlessly.

But although their figures may well be faultless, their faces tell a different story.

Courtney Cox, Geri Halliwell, Renee Zellweger and Calista Flockhart all made headlines with dramatic weight loss.

Renee in particular was regarded as being perfectly pretty in Bridget Jones’s Diary, but her dieting regime has had an effect on the appearance on her face and neck which becomes obvious when compared to Chicago co-star and fellow 34-year-old Catherine Zeta Jones.

Courtney Cox, who has continually dieted to remain as far from her "fat child" character in Friends as possible, looks gaunt compared to French actress Juliette Binoche, who seems to love the good things in life. They are both 39.

Madonna has dedicated her life to the pursuit of thinness, but at 45, she and Geena Davis could be ten years apart facially.

It is possible to go too far in dieting and exercise and lose the glow and sparkling eyes of good health. But why does your face sometimes suffer if you diet? And, more importantly, how can it be prevented to ensure we stay looking young and beautiful for as long as possible?

Daniel Kemmett, a dermatologist at the BUPA Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh, says that while there is no scientific evidence of premature ageing, women who diet excessively for long periods of time do tend to look significantly older than their peers. "With a short diet there is little chance of any serious problems," he says. "However, dieting for a long time could well lead to nutritional deficiencies and an unhealthy look. Such women look a lot older and unhealthy as their skin does not shrink, so there are extra folds of skin on the face." Healthy facial skin, he stresses, relies on more than a good skincare routine of cleansing and moisturising. Diet plays a huge part in making our skin shinier and plumper, which in turn creates a youthful look. Extreme dieting puts the skin under more pressure, leaving it tired and stressed out, and lacking in the nutrients it needs.

Cox and Halliwell both decided to put on weight after medics reportedly warned them their bodies would struggle with pregnancy and healthy weight gain was the only answer. Now they have healthier figures and more youthful faces - and Cox is expecting her first child.

But it’s not just stars who must face facts. Leanne Capra, a retail manager from Bruntsfield, saw her looks disappear along with her weight. "I had always wanted to be thinner, and when I finally achieved my ideal target weight after serious dieting, I was elated," she said. "I felt great and looked good in clothes.

"But others were worried, saying I looked ill. I thought they were jealous. It was only when I saw a picture of myself that I realised I didn’t look good at all. My face was almost muscular and gaunt - my skin was dull and my hair lifeless."

Dr Graeme Todorov, a US medical researcher who specialises in cell biology and anti-ageing medicine, highlights that weight loss equals skin sag.

"In your 30s and 40s the skin is far less forgiving as elasticity changes. At this age, the face cannot withstand the fat loss and therefore wrinkles much more easily, resulting in a haggard, gaunt look which adds years on. As you lose weight the skin loosens, hollows out and fine lines form. Fuller skin always looks more youthful." And London expert Joan Eglash emphasises that what you put inside your body is a reflection of your outside, and an unbalanced diet damages the appearance of the skin and ages the face. It’s important to ignore faddy diets in favour of healthy weight loss which benefits body and looks.

Leanne Capra chose to change her dieting ways in favour of her looks. "I decided to sort myself out, and slowly put some weight back on. By eating well and exercising regularly, I went back to looking my old self again. Through my new healthy regime, I actually looked better than ever before and felt great."

So, forget about obtaining the perfect figure, because for a lot of women it only comes at the expense of their looks. Face facts and get face friendly. Beauty does indeed come from within.

Face the facts

Don’t crash diet, it’s that simple. Your face will too lose muscle mass, resulting in a gaunt look. Eat healthily, and slowly reduce fat intake to ensure weight loss is gradual and you are kind to your face as well as your body.

Don’t avoid carbohydrates. By curbing our carbs intake we involuntary produce inflammatory chemicals which kick start the ageing process. Healthy carbs such as beans, broccoli, cabbage and non starchy vegetables are ideal.

Drink water throughout the day as any additional loss of moisture will make the skin shrivel, resulting in a haggard look. A well-moisturised face is less prone to wrinkles. At least two litres of water is necessary to maintain a healthy balance, and you should drink more if exercising. Water is essential to keep the collagen levels optimal and your skin plump.

Fend off anaemia by stocking up on green leafy vegetables, healthy dairy produce, oily fish and nuts. Anaemia can be caused by eating a poor or restricted diet that’s low on iron and vitamins, often absent in the majority of faddy diets.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables to keep your skin condition at its best and help it glow with radiance. The antioxidants in these food types are particularly important for anti ageing. Your eyes will also sparkle with health and your hair shine with vitality.

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