Beauty Rx: Foods To Cure Your Beauty Woes

Can’t sleep? Breaking out? Gaining weight? Chances are your diet is to blame. In fact, nutritionist Cynthia Sass says, “I always tell my clients ‘you are what you eat’ is literally true.” Eeks.
Since whatever you put in your body is going to negatively or positively affect it, it stands to reason that many common beauty issues — acne, insomnia, cellulite, dry skin, and more — can all be addressed just by changing up your diet. We asked a panel of experts to share their best kitchen fixes for some of your worst beauty woes. Read on to learn how to eat your way to looking better.
Illustrations by Naomi Abel
1 of 10
Dull Skin

Combating tired, dull skin is as simple as upping your fruits-and-veggies intake. "A recent study from St. Andrews University found that people who upped their intake of produce for six weeks were rated as more attractive," says Sass. "The scientists tracked the diets of 35 people, took photos of them, and asked others to rate the pictures. Volunteers who ate an average of 2.9 more portions of fruits and vegetables each day were rated as healthier looking, and those who downed an extra 3.3 portions per day were rated as more attractive."

According to Sass, this isn't the first study of its kind — a previous one led by researchers at the University of Nottingham found that participants who ate a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables were rated as more attractive. There's no real downside to a produce-heavy diet, so this is just one more reason of many to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables.

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
2 of 10

For those struggling with persistent breakouts, look to the ocean for your food cure. "When our blood sugar and insulin levels rise, whether from a poor diet or from stress, we experience a serious increase in inflammatory chemicals at a cellular level. This causes inflammatory diseases such as acne to worsen dramatically," says Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a board-certified dermatologist and nutritionist and author of Forever Young.

Says Perricone, cold-water fish like wild salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which reduce levels of stress chemicals and help decrease inflammation (acne is an inflammatory disease, after all). Perricone also suggests detoxing with a watercress salad daily, taking omega-6 supplements to raise your linoleic acid levels, and adding fiber to your diet via apples to keep your colon cleansed.

There are certain foods that Perricone considers acne triggers, so to avoid making your breakouts any worse, make sure you've removed these from your diet: trans fats, margarine, hydrogenated oils, coffee, starchy and fried foods, and foods containing sugar or high fructose corn syrup. "These foods will encourage clogged pores resulting in new breakouts," he says.

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
3 of 10
Dry Skin

If your skin is drier than the Sahara, start stocking up on oils. "Dry skin is actually a manifestation of chronic subclinical (invisible to the eye) inflammation," says Perricone. "Make sure that you have adequate intake of healthy fats, such as those found in fish, fish oil, and extra virgin olive oil. While topicals can do wonders [for dry skin] it is critically important to not forget the dietary component, which can both cause and worsen all of these conditions."

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
4 of 10

They don't call it beauty sleep for nothing. "A good night’s sleep will ensure that you awake refreshed, looking radiant and youthful," says Perricone. "Adequate sleep is vital to avoiding eye area puffiness and maintaining vibrant skin. Sleep turns down the negative effects of cortisol and the 'bad' neurotransmitters, like epinephrine and norepinephrine that can be elevated during stress. Growth hormone — the youth hormone — is released during sleep."

Where pills can make you dependant or loopy — anyone who has awoken from an Ambien stupor to find they had inexplicably devoured the contents of their fridge or walked their dog in the middle of the night knows just how crazy they can make you — it turns out that whole "turkey makes you sleepy" thing is not only true, but a saving grace for those who suffer from insomnia.

According to Perricone, foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan — salmon, halibut, turkey, beans, and lentils — should be added to your diet ASAP. "Tryptophan acts as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter important in helping the body regulate appetite, sleep, and mood," he says. "Tryptophan can actually raise levels of this important neurotransmitter, making it a wonderful treatment in insomnia, anxiety, and depression."

In addition, Perricone says that people who exercise enjoy improved sleep quality — they fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, awaken less often, and sleep longer. So if you're having trouble getting your full eight hours, hit the gym regularly to help improve the quality of your snoozing.

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
5 of 10

Cellulite really is the great equalizer of all women. It doesn't care how old you are, what your weight is, or how much you work out; it's indiscriminate about who it strikes.

To help your body fight those lumps and bumps, Perricone recommends adding lots of tart citrus to your daily diet. "Lemon is rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C, and acts as a natural diuretic to help the body shed excess water," he says. "Lemon is also a natural detoxifying agent and many experts believe detoxifying the body helps eliminate the lumpy and bumpy appearance of cellulite."

Adds Sass, "Fatty fish like wild salmon or sardines provide omega-3s, which form cell membranes. The stronger the membrane, the better the cell can hold moisture, and plumper skin cells may help mask the bumpy appearance of cellulite." We know what we're having for dinner tonight.

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
6 of 10
Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Fine lines and wrinkles are a natural byproduct of the aging process, so while you may not be able to completely erase them from your visage, there are things you can do to help minimize their appearance.

"A recent study found that tomato paste and olive oil boost pro-collagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm and youthful," says Sass. "Scientists think that lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes, is the key — it's at its highest when tomatoes have been cooked, and olive oil boosts its absorption from your digestive system into your bloodstream. I use sundried tomato pesto as a seasoning for steamed veggies, or a dip for raw veggies, and tomato paste and olive oil are my base for vegetarian chili."

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
7 of 10
Undereye Circles

We've already told you why kale is great for getting rid of dark circles (all that vitamin K!), but according to Perricone, vitamin C foods should also help as you fight the undereye scourge.

"Dark circles under the eyes can be caused by a variety of factors. As we age, our skin becomes thinner, making the blood vessels appear more noticeable, thereby giving the appearance of the dark circles. They can be caused by our lifestyle, heredity, allergies, sinus problems and nasal congestion, sun exposure, and diminished fat pads."

"To help lessen the appearance of dark circles, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties — especially those that are highest in vitamin C, including red and green hot peppers, red and yellow bell peppers, kale, strawberries, and guava."

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
8 of 10
Dull Hair

The general consensus from both our experts is that salmon is the most beneficial beauty food around. "If women understood that eating a simple can of sardines or salmon would give their hair and skin an unrivaled radiance, softness, and suppleness — like nothing else in this world — these foods would fly off the supermarket shelves. You would see a stampede toward the fish aisle," says Perricone.

For your hair in particular, salmon is genuinely amazing. It's chock-full of protein, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital to scalp health and shiny hair. "They will also keep the scalp healthy and the hair strong and shiny," says Perricone. "When we are lacking in these healthy fats, we can be assured that both our skin and hair will be dull, lacking radiance and glow. The high-quality protein found in these fish will accelerate cellular repair, keep hair strong, and promote hair growth."

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
9 of 10
Weight Gain

While it might seem obvious that you need to avoid the doughnuts and extra cheese on your pizza if you want to lose weight, there are also some foods that you should be eating in order to make slimming down a little easier.

"Healthy fats are key to successful weight loss," says Perricone. "Good fats are those found in salmon, sardines, anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. These 'good' fats will help us absorb nutrients from our vegetables and fruits, and are key to weight loss because we also need dietary fat to burn fat."

Illustrations by Naomi Abel
10 of 10
Irritated Skin

If your skin is highly reactive and prone to irritation, Sass says yogurt and kefir are your solution. "Both are rich in probiotics — 'friendly' bacteria linked to better digestion, immunity, and also a reduction in skin sensitivity and inflammation."

Lactose-intolerant? That's okay, Sass says the same bacteria are used to make soy and coconut milk yogurt, so even if you don't do dairy you can still reap the benefits.

Illustrations by Naomi Abel