There’s no question that using high quality, natural skin care is only half of the solution to complexion concerns. The other half is what feeds your skin from the inside, which is, of course, your diet!
Every single thing you put in your mouth, chew up and swallow will make its way through your body and eventually, out onto your skin. That mug of herbal tea you drink every afternoon? You can thank it for playing a part in your dewey skin. The daily candy bar you snack on after lunch? Yup, that'll present on your face too, and probably not in the way you want.
And while there's no standard set of rules that will work for everyone, a good rule of thumb is to focus the majority of your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods aka superfoods. Things like leafy greens, healthy fats and organic protein will benefit your complexion today and for the rest of your life. (Your insides will benefit too!)
But as much as we focus on what we should be eating for great skin, we sometimes overlook the things that aren't so great for us. If you want healthy, youthful skin, be good to your body and avoid these inflammatory foods.
1. Processed Sugar
According to the British Journal of Dermatology, excess sugar in your diet may contribute to the degradation of collagen and elastin, leading to loss of firmness and elasticity of the skin, which basically means it'll age your skin way faster than nature.
Additionally, spikes in blood sugar cause your insulin levels to spike, which leads to inflammation. In turn, inflammation can make skin conditions like acne and rosacea worse. Cut back on the sweet stuff and try to eliminate packaged foods with added sugar.
Swap: Rely on fruits and a small amount of honey to satisfy your sweet tooth. Personally, I love to snack on a tiny bit of dark chocolate when I’m having a sugar-craving; it satisfies that urge but isn’t too processed.
2. High Glycemic Foods
Processed foods like white bread, pasta, baked goods, cereal and even white rice are all considered high glycemic foods, which means they're high on the glycemic index — a number that indicates a food's effect on someone's blood sugar level. In other words, food that are "high glycemic" convert to sugar quickly in your body and cause spikes in blood sugar.
As discussed above, these spikes lead to inflammation, which attacks skin's collagen and elastin, leading to an acceleration of the skin’s aging process. The result is more fine lines, wrinkles and dullness.
Swap: Go for healthy natural carbohydrates and grains like sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa. These foods are much lower on the glycemic index, will keep you full for longer, and will actually improve your skin. For example, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C, which produces collagen, helping to maintain your skin's elasticity.
3. Non-Organic Dairy
Some dermatologists suspect that all dairy contributes to acne, but there's not much scientific evidence that shows a direct link between dairy consumption and skin health. Either way, it's a good place to start if you're looking to experiment with how what you eat affects your skin.
And if you're not ready to make the switch to almond milk, at least change to organic dairy. Non-organic milk often contains added hormones, and since your body's naturally-produced hormones are already playing tricks on your skin, it's a no brainer that any additional hormones (from dairy or other sources) will also wreak havoc.
Swap: Organic dairy is a good place to start, but you can also go the nut-based route. Try DIY almond milk or if you're feeling really adventurous, you could try your hand at making your own raw cheeses.
4. Fried Foods
While there's no science to prove fried foods cause acne, what we do know is foods cooked in oil at high at high temperatures contain compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGES), which increase inflammation and can cause redness, dullness and wrinkles. AGES also occur in oily meats cooked at high temperatures, so indulge in grilled red meat in moderation.
Additionally, while your skin does need fat to help keep it plump and hydrated, frying foods results in oxidized, saturated fat — not the kind you want in your body. This saturated fat can cause damage to the cellular structure of the skin, which can lead to dull, prematurely-aged, acne-prone skin.
Swap: Opt for "good" fats like walnuts, avocados and organic salmon.
It’s a good idea to limit caffeine intake to keep the skin as healthy and youthful as possible. Caffeine acts like a diuretic, dehydrating our bodies and drying our skin from the inside out, causing the skin to look dull and hollow. Caffeine also kick-starts our adrenaline glands, which produce stress hormones that can lead to excess oil production, and a higher risk of blackheads and breakouts.
Swap: There is caffeine in green tea, so your body will still get the energy boost it's used to, but your skin will benefit from green tea's catechins and polyphenols, which help maintain elastin and keep skin hydrated. Green tea also contains compounds that have antimicrobial properties, which will help with clogged pores and breakouts.
If you want skin that looks youthful and healthy, treat your body right! Load up on fruits and veggies, which have important antioxidants and vitamins that your skin needs. When your body is happy and functioning at its best, your skin will look radiant in return.