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Experts Reveal Best and Worst Foods for your Skin

posted in: Fitness & Health, Skin Care
April 15, 2014

Homemade, prescription, drugstore and high-end… there are so many different remedies for blemishes and problem skin. If you haven’t found a treatment that works for you yet, you may want to start the clearing-up process from the inside out.

As the largest organ on your body, one of the skin’s roles is to act as the backup organ for the kidneys and liver, says certified nutritionist Lauren Talbot. “When these organs are at capacity, and are being worked overtime to neutralize and rid the body of unwanted toxic waste byproducts, the skin becomes the easy access channel for elimination. In other words, what comes through our pores is our body’s way of cleansing out what it does not want inside.”

So what doesn’t the body want inside? Across the board, estheticians and dermatologists agree that foods with a high glycemic index can cause and aggravate acne and inflammation. The Glycemic Index measures a food’s impact on blood sugar. High blood sugar stimulates excess cell growth around pores, causing pimples and systemic inflammation, according to Laurie Neronha, esthetician and acne specialist.

To make it less overwhelming, I asked experts what were the best foods to eat and to avoid in order to facilitate healthy, clear skin. Keep reading for the best additions to your grocery list and the ones to cross off.

Experts Reveal Best and Worst Foods for your Skin

The Best Foods for Your Skin:

“Olives (and extra virgin olive oil) are one of the healthiest fruits, and one of the best-kept beauty secrets. Their high-antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal properties treat a large number of diseases and ailments, and can improve the look of your hair and skin, giving you the glow! Olives are a rich source of vitamins A and E, both of which protect the oils on the surface of your skin from free-radical damage. Olives also help strengthen connective tissues, improving skin tone and protecting against UV radiation. In addition, used topically, olive oil’s antibacterial and anti-fungal properties can treat acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It helps repair cells, protects against damage, and soothes the skin, helping it renew and regenerate,” says nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos, author of Kitchen Cures.

Dark Chocolate
“Dark chocolate is a skin-friendly ingredient that helps keep your skin healthy, glowing and flawless. With great sun protection properties, it shields your skin against detrimental UV rays and thus helps preventing conditions like sunburns and skin cancer. Regular consumption of dark chocolate helps you achieve a smooth, problem free complexion. It also keeps your skin moist and well nourished. Stress is a huge beauty bummer. Dark chocolate boasts wonderful stress-relieving qualities and works wonders in getting you glowing skin by reducing elevated stress hormones,” says dermatologist Dr. David Bank, founder of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, NY.

“Walnuts are used in the makeup and beauty industry now more than ever. Their rich stores of omega-3 fatty acids not only keep your skin healthy and glowing, but also reduce inflammation. And, since inflammation leads to breakouts, walnuts make a nutty, tasty anti-acne treatment. Coupled with omega-3, walnuts are also rich in vitamin E and other powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, reducing inflammation. Plus they provide moisture to the skin and prevent sun damage,” says Kotsopoulos.

Sweet Potatoes
“In just one sweet potato you will find more than 200% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for having amazing skin, because it promotes the growth of new skin cells and increases the rate at which this happens, which leaves you with vibrant skin. From one sweet potato, you’ll get three grams of fiber which keeps your digestive tract healthy and functioning properly, helping to keep your breakouts to a minimum,” says Dr. Bank.

The Worst Foods for Your Skin:

Sugar and Refined Foods
“Sugar, refined grains, and processed, high-glycemic foods like cereals, baked goods, pasta, and fruit juice, all speed up the aging process of our skin and can also cause acne. These foods cause a spike in blood sugar, which forces a spike in insulin— one of those hormones that hang in a precarious balance. A bump in insulin means a bump in the production of sebum, and that means more bumps on your face. Additionally, sugar feeds yeast and candida (a type of fungal yeast infection) in your body, resulting in an imbalance of gut flora and inflammation which manifests in a puffy, lack luster complexion and a breeding ground for acne,” says Kotsopoulos.

Avoiding sugar not only helps ward off acne, but also wrinkles!

“High blood sugar/insulin is associated with cross-linking of collagen fibers in the skin and throughout the body. Basically this means that the more sugar you eat, the faster you wrinkle. It’s a nasty process called glycation, and it’s  believed to be a prime cause of inflamm-aging,” adds Neronha.

“Dairy contains loads of lactose, which is essentially sugar. But even worse than the insulin spike lactose causes are the naturally occurring hormones in milk. Think about it: cows make milk to feed their calves so they can grow into enormous cows. What do you think makes them grow? Those hormones increase testosterone and other androgens while also triggering inflammation. In study conducted by Harvard University, a direct correlation was established between high-school dairy intake and acne, where the more milk was consumed, the higher the incidence of acne. Those who consumed more milk during high school also experienced more acne later in life, especially if they drank skim milk! This actually makes sense, though, when you consider that skim milk includes a higher concentration of sugar to compensate for the loss of flavor caused by taking out the fat. And where there’s more sugar, there’s more insulin, and ultimately more acne,” says Kotsopoulos.

Highly Processed Foods
Talbot stresses that one should avoid “ingredients you cannot pronounce. If your body does not recognize it, it considers it a poison and tries to eliminate it through the skin.”

“Foods that contain chemicals, pesticides, artificial additives, and highly processed oils act as toxins in your body,” comments Kotsopoulos. “Some toxins promote inflammation as well, like highly refined vegetable oils (and the foods fried in them), trans fat, animal-based saturated fats, and even omega-6 fatty acids. Inflammation encourages bacteria to grow in the blocked pores, giving rise to a nasty case of breakouts and stressed looking skin.”

Also Read: 7 Reasons You’re Breaking Out You Never Thought Of


40 Responses

  1. Sue
    | Reply

    I recently went dairy and gluten free for a short term diet–I was shocked by how great my skin looked in only about 4-5 days! I’ve been thinking about trying it permanently. Seriously, my skin was glowing!

    • That’s amazing! It would be so hard for me to cut it out entirely… mostly because of cheese and ice cream haha. Although, there *is* ice cream that is made out of rice milk that tastes great!

  2. Glamour-Zine
    | Reply

    I wish this was true for my skin! I eat sweet potatoes almost daily as well as pure cacao powder and walnuts on occasion and never eat the other ones and I have terrible skin :/

  3. Kelly G
    | Reply

    Thank you! I don’t like drinking milk on its own, but I still add it to my tea and coffee. It’s a habit that I’m trying to break! xo Kelly http://msdioraddict.blogspot.com/

  4. Beth and Beauty
    | Reply

    Great post! I have been hearing a lot of stuff about how dairy effects your body lately. My daughter has had to go dairy and egg free since she is breastfeeding my 9 month old granddaughter who is allergic to dairy and egg. So bad that my poor little grandbaby has to have an epi pen with her.

  5. Anastasia
    | Reply

    Great post! I stopped eating/drinking dairy products for other reasons, but I’m glad that it’s helping my skin, too.

  6. Melody Robinson Wright
    | Reply

    Surprised to see dairy on that list. Plus lots of sugar isn’t just bad for your skin it’s bad period.

  7. beautybymissl
    | Reply

    Great post! I really should try to eat less dairy products, but I just Love yogurts 🙁

  8. Betzy Carmona
    | Reply

    Giving up proccess food is probably the hardest thing for me to do

  9. Nidia Doherty
    | Reply

    I have this enormous zit on my chin. I wonder if I can blame it on my breakfast cereal? Dairy and refined sugar! lol

  10. Justina
    | Reply

    Being pregnant my cravings are all over the map. I need to be eating a little better to keep my skin looking nice!! These are great tips, thank you!

  11. Naomi Ganzu
    | Reply

    Less dairy now! More walnuts and sweet potatoes.

    Thank you for sharing.


  12. FabZilla_Kath
    | Reply

    I eat all the good stuff you mentioned. Too bad, I like sugary too 🙁

  13. EBBlogAshley
    | Reply

    Kind of shocked about dairy. I also think genetics plays a huge roll in your skin as well.

  14. Ingénue Coquette
    | Reply

    i had no idea dairy was bad for you rskin!

  15. PrimeBeauty
    | Reply

    Of course all the foods I love are on the bad list!

  16. Mai
    | Reply

    Oh it’s a good thing I like chocolate!

  17. Dairy is the devil!!! And not just for your skin. Lactose isn’t the only issue with dairy, there are so many preservatives and hormones pumped into it that our body was not designed to process. You also need to be aware of hidden dairy – things like pre-packaged food, sauces, even frozen herbs at your supermarket can contain dairy. Always check the labels!

  18. mynewestaddiction
    | Reply

    You totally just made me hungry!

  19. Honeygirlk
    | Reply

    I have had to stop eating Dairy as much – which sucks because I’m a cheese and ice cream lover… but it doesn’t agree with my skin. Love this round up 😉

  20. Kelly R
    | Reply

    Walnuts and dark chocolate. Yay!

  21. Stephanie Louise Telford
    | Reply

    You just told me to eat dark chocolate. I’m doing that immediately.

  22. Kim Porter
    | Reply

    I love all of the good foods listed. I need milk in my tea that’d be a hard one to cut out.

  23. Norah Salazar
    | Reply

    Diary is a hard one but I only do it very little. Sugar is also a tough one 🙁

  24. Sheila Arkee
    | Reply

    I need to cut out dairy, but I love butter and cheese!

  25. Erika
    | Reply

    This is a great article. Very informative. 🙂

  26. Allison @neversaydiebeauty
    | Reply

    Glad that I already eat the stuff on the good list and avoid the stuff on the bad list

  27. Cosmetics Aficionado
    | Reply

    They are not kidding about dairy. I actually did a post on my experience with acne and dairy, and cutting it out does WONDERS for your skin.

  28. Phyrra
    | Reply

    Walnuts and dark chocolate are two of my favorites 🙂

  29. Brooke @ Blushing Noir
    | Reply

    Dark chocolate FTW!!!

  30. Eugenia
    | Reply

    GREAT TIPS. Why is sugar so bad for you but so good?!

    • Right?? If you’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s always better to stick to natural sugars, which break down differently (in the liver vs. stomach) than white sugar. Plus vitamins!

  31. Noelle
    | Reply

    Yummmm. Sweet potatoes are my fave. Good stuff to know!

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