Two of the questions I get asked all the time is if what you eat (good or bad) really affects your skin, and whether “beauty” skin diets really work. It’s not surprising when you consider that on a daily basis we hear about the hottest new superfood that banishes wrinkles, how dairy gives you acne, or how 10 pounds of fish collagen will boost the growth of our own. So, to help you cut through the untruths, I’m here to help decipher sound advice from the nonsense.
Just like Grandma told you
We are what we eat, and the skin is not a separate entity from your body. At Dermalogica, we like to think of the skin as a mirror for everything that’s going on inside. Just by looking at your skin, I can tell if you are ovulating, a smoker, a runner, or get occasional bouts of constipation (but we’ll save that for another post). The same way a healthy, nutritious diet and lifestyle positively impacts your overall health, it show on your gorgeous face, too. Nutritionists, Chinese medicine subscribers, and skin pros alike have long appreciated this fact for centuries. And, now thanks to a few conclusive studies, the medical community no longer thinks it’s all rubbish.
Before you veto milk or buy chia seeds by the pound, consider that everyone is different when it comes to triggers and their skin. Once your various enzymes, digestive juices, and organs have had a go at what you eat, the skin is often the last place to get nutritional benefits. For example, eating collagen doesn’t give you more collagen; in fact, eating too much protein can give you puffy, dull skin. And, it turns out, rubbing in vitamin C might be more effective than ingesting it if you want greater impact on your crow’s feet. When it comes to taking “beauty” supplements, beware the hype and claims, as there’s little proof of them working. And, before we get ahead of ourselves, rather than dropping your hard-earned dollars on a jar of synthesized fruit pulp, you're still better off eating the fresh kind.
As it’s that time of year to cleanse and reset everything in your life, I need to warn against extreme fasting, liquid-only, zero-fat detoxes. Not getting adequate nutrition not only does a number on your energy levels, but can also cause hair loss, super-dry skin, peeling nails, and seriously messes with your metabolism for life. The spiking and crashing insulin levels can also cause breakouts, and in the long term, will give you saggy skin and wrinkles as your collagen and elastin get all stiff in the process.
Clean, fresh, and simple
The best nutrition advice on what to eat is simple: Eat a clean, fresh, non-processed, non-refined, and balanced diet that’s higher on the plant side, favors lean proteins and healthy fats, and is packed with skin health-boosting antioxidants and minerals. Lowering your sugar, salt, and dairy intake while not going overboard with the protein will reduce breakouts and prevent dull, sluggish, puffy-looking skin due to sludgy lymph.
Sugar + milk = acne?
There are many myths surrounding breakouts, but it’s not as simple as eliminating chocolate and greasy burgers to clear up your skin. Acne is, instead, a genetic skin issue that’s due to multiple factors. If you have oily, acne-prone skin, certain foods might trigger breakouts and increase oil production. Refined, sugary, high glycemic index (GI) comfort foods (cookies, candy, cereal, pasta, bread) can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels by spiking your insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor.
What does this mean for your skin? These guys bind to your sebaceous glands, and in one study indicated a spike in your oil production by as much as 60 percent. Yikes! Intensifying this issue, sugar and milk can also increase blood levels of our androgen hormones by decreasing a specific androgen-regulating protein. Because our oil glands are super sensitive to androgens, the result is a thick, sticky type of sebum, which clogs your pores, or sebaceous follicles, therefore leading to more pimple development.
Salmon, mackerel, sardines are packed with omega-3s and omega-6s that help fight inflammation. While at the fishmonger, also stock up on oysters and crabs, as these are high in zinc and this can slow oil production. Crimini and Shiitake mushrooms, as well as spinach, are all alternative sources. While at the veggie stand, add some fennel, which can improve digestion, reduce swelling, and help to flush out excess fluids and toxins. Brazil nuts will provide selenium to help skin repair, while a probiotic aids in preventing the harmful acne kind.
Acne fighting topicals
Double results by fighting acne head-on with your products. Look for products formulated with Zinc Gluconate, which slows oil production, and Zinc Sulfate to fight bacteria. Cinnamon bark, green tea and licorice work wonders on your skin as well as in your diet, too.
So there you have it, a very brief intro to eating for your skin’s best health. I could talk about this for days, so if you have a question, Tweet me! I’d love to hear your biggest skin-related concerns @annetking.
As Dermalogica's in-house skin care guru (oh, and their Director of Global Education), Annet King is an invaluable trove of beauty know-how. Luckily, she's letting us pick her brain on everything from hyperpigmentation to the best supplements for your visage. Prepare to get schooled.