We all know the benefits of eating a healthy diet. Among them, heart health, better mood, increased energy and memory, and strong bones. But, did you know that what you eat plays a role in the health of your skin?
In the past decade, a significant amount of research has been done on nutrition and how it affects the skin. Not surprisingly, the findings show that there is in fact a connection between the foods we eat and the health of our complexion. Diet alone can’t solve skin problems. But, some conditions such as acne and inflammation can be improved with good nutrition.
So what does it look like to eat in a way that is good for the skin? Keep reading to learn all about foods to eat, foods to avoid, common skincare and diet myths, and more.
Why Your Diet Matters
Healthy skin is about so much more than just the products you put on it. As the age-old saying goes, beauty comes from within.
The health of our skin is essentially a reflection of our inner well-being. Eating a well-rounded diet and drinking plenty of water is likely to promote healthy, youthful skin, while eating a poor diet can lead to dull, dry, and older-looking skin.
Scientists have found that a number of skin conditions have the potential to be linked to diet, such as eczema, psoriasis, or even acne. For example, recent research has found a link between high glycemic diets and the development of acne.
Additionally, diet plays a role in the aging process of our skin. Sagging skin and a loss of elasticity are related to the collagen and elastic fibers of the skin, which are both impacted by diet. Consuming a lot of sugar, for example, promotes cross linking of collagen fibers and can accelerate signs of aging.
Whether you’re currently struggling with particular skin conditions or not, it’s important to know that eating a healthy diet is a preventative measure for your skin. The earlier you start taking care of your body, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
While we unfortunately can’t turn back the clock, nourishing your body with the right nutrients is a proven way to maintain a glowing, more youthful complexion. Here are a few key nutrients to ensure you’re always including in your diet:
Vitamin C: Provides protection from environmental stress and firms skin by undoing sun damage to elastin and collagen.
Vitamin A: Encourages skin cell production, keeping skin firm and healthy.
Vitamin E: Saves skin from inflammation and sun damage.
- Omega-3s and Omega-6s: Makes skin smoother and protects its natural barrier to lock in moisture.
- CoQ10: Supports healthy cell function, and when applied topically, can diminish signs of aging.
- Selenium: Protects skin from free radicals, which cause signs of aging like dry skin, wrinkles, and tissue damage.
- Antioxidants: Slows and prevents skin damage caused by free radicals.
Foods for Glowing Skin
In order to nourish your body from the inside out, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Some foods that offer amazing benefits for the skin include:
Brazil nuts: These nuts contain a mix of healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are also high in selenium, which protects cell membranes against inflammation, pigmentation, and UV damage. Another benefit of brazil nuts is their ability to prevent free radical damage, which keeps premature wrinkles from forming.
Salmon: A nutritional powerhouse, salmon is an amazing source of selenium, CoQ10, and omega-3s and 6s. The combination of these nutrients helps to repair damaged skin, hydrate the skin, and keep out toxins.
- Berries: Berries are high in antioxidants, which help to fight cell-damaging free radicals that can cause premature aging. Specifically, blueberries have been linked to better heart health and improved circulation, which is important for healthy skin.
Tomatoes: While tomatoes have become a popular ingredient in skincare products, eating them can also provide benefits to the skin. Tomatoes are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, which both support healthy skin by fighting cellular damage.
Beets: Due to their high vitamin C content, beets have been linked to several skin benefits, such as fighting signs of aging, acne, and inflammation.
Squash: Yellow squash is rich in manganese, a trace mineral that is essential for collagen formation in skin cells. Collagen provides your skin with structure, keeping it firm!
- Leafy greens: Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, which strengthen the skin’s natural barrier and support recovery from sun damage and even scarring.
- Flaxseeds: These tiny brown seeds are rich sources of omega 3-s and 6-s, which have been linked to many benefits. These include reducing acne, keeping skin moisturized, protecting against sun damage, and even boosting hair growth.
Green tea: Rich in antioxidants, green tea can be beneficial for the skin when consumed or applied topically. In fact, a 2016 study found that green tea has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It may improve acne and oily skin by keeping sebum levels balanced.
Do You Need Supplements?
The best way to get the nutrients you need for healthy skin is through a well-rounded diet. However, if you are low in certain nutrients, supplements may be a great way to give your body an extra boost.
Beauty supplements contain targeted ingredients like biotin, collagen, and various vitamins. These nutrients work together to nourish your hair, skin, and nails. Essentially, they support healthy cell regeneration, which can boost hair growth and reduce hair loss, strengthen nails, and support glowing, youthful skin.
While companies often advertise supplements as being ‘magic,’ it’s important to take these claims with a grain of salt. Supplements are not replacements for key nutrients that your body relies on to function—rather, they are simply meant to supplement a healthy lifestyle and diet.
The outcome of taking supplements depends on whether you’re deficient in the nutrients they contain. For example, if you’re low in biotin, then consistently taking a biotin supplement may strengthen your hair and nails. However, if your body already has enough biotin, taking it through a supplement unfortunately won’t provide you with drastic results.
As with anything, consult your doctor before incorporating supplements into your routine. A doctor can help to identify nutrients you may be low in and provide specific recommendations for ways to get your body back in balance—whether it be changes to your diet or taking a supplement.
Foods to Avoid for Healthy Skin
While there are plenty of nourishing foods to choose from, there are also a handful to be careful of when it comes to your skin. Research shows that the following foods may compromise your skin health, but don’t worry—you can enjoy everything in moderation!
- Refined carbohydrates: Refined carbs are stripped of their fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The body digests them very quickly, and they have a high glycemic index (GI), which leads to a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. Research shows that people with acne tend to consume more refined carbohydrates than those with little to no acne. Some foods high in refined carbs include white bread, white rice, pastries, and sweeteners like table sugar, agave, and honey.
- Sugary foods and drinks: On a similar note, any food or drink that is high in sugar can cause that dreaded blood sugar spike. Not only will this leave you feeling depleted, but it won’t do any favors for your skin. A recent study found that those who drink soft drinks daily are more at risk for acne.
Processed meats: Meats like hot dogs, salami, sausage, and bacon are high in sodium and fat. Consuming too much of either has the potential to harm your health and cause inflammation. The high amounts of sodium in these meats can also cause puffiness, bloating, dehydration, and even breakouts in some cases.
- Unhealthy fats: Saturated fats have been linked with high concentrations of insulin growth factor, which has the potential to increase acne production. Butter, processed and fatty meats, sweets and baked goods, and certain dairy products contain high amounts of saturated fat.
- Dairy: Several studies have shown that dairy may cause acne in some cases, but more research needs to be done on the topic in order to prove this. However, some acne-sufferers have had luck with cutting dairy products such as milk out of their diet.
Alcohol: Alcohol is a diuretic, which flushes fluids out of your body. This can dehydrate the skin, which in turn may enhance wrinkles, fine lines, and large pores. It can also slow the cellular repair process, which is essential for maintaining a plump, dewy appearance.
Myths About Diet & Skincare
A lot of research has been conducted on the connection between diet and skincare, but this unfortunately comes with quite a few myths.
For example, some sources say that eating oily foods can lead to oily skin, while science proves that there’s no direct connection. Oily, fried foods aren’t good for your health, but they aren’t the source of oily skin. Some people are more genetically prone to having oily skin than others, and the best way to address this is most likely by following the right skincare routine.
Another popular myth is that all fats are bad for the skin. While saturated fats, or unhealthy fats, have been linked to acne, healthy fats are essential for your body to function. Specifically, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the health of the skin and hair. They have even been shown to protect skin against sun damage, fight acne, and keep skin moisturized.
At the end of the day, it’s important to do your own research and listen to sources you trust. When in doubt, consult your doctor or a skincare professional who can separate facts from fiction.
What About Skincare Products?
In addition to eating a healthy diet, it’s important to follow a skincare routine. Using the right products on a daily basis can help to prevent acne, target signs of aging, and keep your skin looking and feeling its best.
A good skincare routine doesn’t have to be incredibly complex. At a minimum, make sure you’re following these steps:
Cleanse: The first step of any routine should always be cleansing. If you wear makeup, use a double-cleanse method to ensure your makeup is removed and your skin is fully cleansed. This is especially important to do in the evening, as you don’t want any makeup, dirt, or grime sitting on your face overnight. This also creates a clean canvas so your skin can reap the full benefits of other products.
Exfoliate: Proper exfoliation removes dead skin cells, which can clog pores and cause acne. It also allows your skincare products to penetrate fully. Aim to exfoliate 2-3 times per week to keep your skin fresh and clear.
Moisturize: Keeping your skin hydrated is critical, no matter your skin type. Using a good moisturizer will prevent dry skin, slow signs of aging, and reduce the risk of skin problems like acne from developing. For those with oily skin, moisturizing will actually help to keep excess oils at bay by keeping the skin balanced.
Apply SPF: Using sunscreen is essential to keeping your skin youthful, radiant, and healthy. Sun damage not only leads to wrinkles and fine lines, but it can lead to more serious issues later in life, such as skin cancer. Be sure to wear an SPF of at least 30 every day—rain or shine!
This is a basic skincare routine, but if you want to take it to the next level, you can always experiment with different toners, eye creams, masks, and serums targeted to your specific skin concerns.
As you can see, taking proper care of your skin is a commitment. However, it’s one of the best long-term investments you can make in yourself. Whether you have young skin or mature skin, there’s no better time to start caring for it than now. You’ll thank yourself later!
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