Your diet has a huge impact on your skin. Debate. *winks* You might be happy to take that statement as truth straight away, I mean we are what we eat ‘eh! If you give a finely tuned diesel engine petrol, it’s not going to be smoothly cruising down the no.1 skin health highway.
You might be surprised if I tell you the consensus is out on if, how or even why diet effects skin.
Some dermatologists and medical books will tell you that diet does not impact skin conditions. This is generally an out-dated view that many, many scientific studies are proving incorrect.
The challenge is this, when you treat ‘the skin’ you are treating a whole host of conditions. It’s one organ, it looks so simple, but its effected by pretty much everything your body does. If your skin is suffering from chronic inflammation (like in rosacea) then there could be a number of different causes, it could potentially be something on the surface of your skin (skin mites look like a promising cause of rosacea) or it could be your internal health trying to give you a visual clue to what a’ happening on your insides (SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth also looks like a promising cause of rosacea).
This means sometimes it’s hard to study skin conditions and the effects of diet change. There are so many different types of acne, there are different types of rosacea, different triggers of dermatitis and not only do we not know all of these, but we also can’t necessarily pick the difference of one type of skin condition from another – they can look the same but with different causes. The cherry on top, is that our bodies are very similar but also have very different ways of dealing with the ‘fuel’ we put into our bodies.
That means what works for one person might not work for another. There is a little bit of trial and error in finding diet changes that work for your skin. Here are 4 key diet changes that have big potential to improve the condition of your skin.
1. Dairy Detox For Better Skin
Dairy is a BIG food group (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, milk chocolate, ice cream…), it makes up a BIG part of a lot of diets. Especially cereal lovers (breakfast and dinner right *winks*)! The thing is, milk is relatively new to our grown-up diets, sure as little un’s it’s naturally what our bodies are designed to grow-up on, but as we get older our ‘back in the day’ diets would not be high in dairy.
That means our bodies didn’t until recently evolve to eat dairy as adults.
There are 3 ways this can effect your skin. Firstly dairy is full of hormones, secondly dairy is high in sugars and lastly dairy contains pro-inflammatory proteins (caseins). This is just a summary and if you want to know more about the skin effects of dairy there’s a full ‘low-down’ in this post, ‘Why Dairy Could be The Cause of Your Acne’ (also relevant for other inflammatory & hormonally triggered skin conditions).
This is a trio of factors that can impact your skin health.
If you want to see weather dairy is a dietary factor that might be effecting your skin, give a dairy detox a whirl and watch out for pesky dairy traps like milk chocolate. You should start to see changes within 2 weeks and absolutely by 4-8 weeks (depending on your age) as this is the time it takes for newly born skin cells to debut *winks*.
Diet changes that effect skin: Reducing or completely detoxing from dairy.
2. Decrease Your Carbohydrate Intake For Better Skin
Carbohydrates can effect your skin in 2 key ways. First the ‘refined carbohydrate’ team (foods like white bread, cakes, white pasta, basically a carbohydrate that’s been processed a lot by us, making it super easy for your body to break down) can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and fall, spike and fall, they knock your body onto a blood sugar roller coaster which you can imagine is pretty stressful *winks*.
(although interesting fact coming attcha, re-heated refined carbohydrates like white pasta are healthier for you because they become ‘resistant carbohydarates’ which take your body longer to break down – crazy ‘eh, the effect gets better the more you re-heat)
Next and the one we will focus on because I’ll talk about sugar & skin later on, carbohydrates provide easy food for bad gut bacteria.
This is a ‘thing’, it’s called SIBO for short and ‘small intestinal bactieral overgrowth’ for long.
SIBO effects your bodies general health in a lot of ways and if your body is struggling then your skin is going to tell you ALL about it! SIBO is one of the suspected causes of rosacea which is a long-term state of inflammation in the skin.
Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates causes inflammation in your body, because where there’s bad stuff, the inflammation ambulance goes. The problem is long-term (chronic) inflammation is bad.
Diet changes that effect skin: Cutting down on carbohydrates especially refined carbohydrates like white pasta, cakes, pastries, battered foods.
3. Increase Your Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Foods For Better Skin
You might of clicked onto the ‘I’ word that’s been spread around these dietary factors effecting skin like Nutella should be spread on toast (how ironic… *winks*). Inflammation is a key symptom of most skin conditions. So upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods is a great way to improve your skin health.
Omega 3’s are a super healthy source of dietary fat that is also great for skin and anti-inflammatory. You can grab your skin a dose of these by upping your intake of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines and seeds like flax, chia and hemp.
This is a great Pin from Harvard health that gives you the 101 on the key anti-inflammatory foods you can feast on in your diet. It’s also saved on to the ‘Eat Well For Good Skin’ HFYS Pinterest board where you can find a library *winks* of healthy food advice.
Diet changes that effect skin: Increasing the amount of anti-inflammatory foods in your diets like fatty fish, tomatoes, olive oil and leafy greens. On the flip side, limiting the amount of pro-inflammatory foods will also be super skin friendly.
4. Cut Down on Sugar & High GI foods For Better Skin
Sugar and high GI (glycemic index – which is basically just another term for high in sugar) foods like pineapple, white rice and white potatoes get your blood-sugar rollercoaster rocking.
When your body has an excess of sugar about town, it can react ( a.k.a get it’s lovin’ on) with proteins in your body. To flip to the end of this romance novel, having a diet high in sugars & high GI foods causes damage to your skin’s collagen and elastin. Two super important proteins that are behind healthy looking skin.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 11 May 2016
Fast forward a diet with a load of sugar and high GI foods and you have skin that will be looking older than it naturally would have. These dietary factors can cause your skin to age prematurely.
For the whole story, head to this post, ‘Why Sugar Can Cause Premature Skin Ageing’ which opens the book on the whole story behind sugars link to prematurely aged skin.
Not only that but these types of foods tend to be pro-inflammatory, can effect your hormonal balance (every felt grumpy because of a sugar low?) and have been linked to skin disorders such as acne.
Get a gander of this pinnable for a 101 on the GI index of some common foods
If you do have a pesky skin condition that is beginning to get frustrating then try out these dietry changes and see if they have an effect for you. I’d also say find which one has the best effect for your skin and let yourself have some treats from the other groups once in a while! Everything in moderation ‘eh!
For me eliminating dairy from my diet finally got rid of my cyctic chin acne, but I do still allow myself a treat or 2 of milk chocolate here and there. A little my body can handle. A lot and it’s going to be kicking up a fuss on my face!
Have you seen any changes to your skin with diet? Have you figured out a link or are you still experimenting?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.