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.
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 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.
“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.”