The ancient phrase ‘let food be thy medicine is a mantra that we should all live by. Sometimes, it’s best to keep it simple. In the contemporary climate of product and information overload, we often need to remind ourselves that it’s best to use our intuition. And what’s more intuitive than listening to your body and feeding it the right foods? Let’s remember that beauty shines from the inside out and look at what we’re putting inside our bodies as well as on the surface.
Food directly influences the appearance of the skin and the ageing process through its effect on our hormones. Our skin can reflect our diet almost immediately. Often you can wake up the morning after consuming sugary, processed and fatty foods with inflamed, puffy and dry skin. So, which foods are important for healthy skin?
What is a skincare diet?
The term ‘skincare diet’ is known in the media to be a stripped back skincare routine in which you use minimal products. Funnily enough, the ‘skincare diet’ has nothing to do with actual foods. Instead, it’s like a detox from all of your skincare products to cleanse your skin from the possible harm that an overload of products can cause.
Layering a lot of different skin products can cause their ingredients to interact with one another and sometimes cause more harm than good. The ‘skincare diet’ is therefore for people that are using a lot of products but aren’t seeing the results they deserve.
What diet is best for the skin?
Nutrition is the most important thing for health. It affects our metabolism, our hormones and our organs, and our skin is the largest organ we have. The best diet for the skin is rich in nutritious, unprocessed foods and focuses on ingredients in their natural forms.
In short, the Mediterranean diet best for the skin. Rich in nuts, beans, fish, olive oil, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet is nutrient-dense and low in meat and dairy, which is ideal for skin nutrition.
Foods like dairy, gluten, refined sugar and saturated fats are classed as ‘allergens’ for the skin by dermatologists, which means that they are commonly linked to skin issues like acne, dryness and inflammation.
This is all because of the effects of food on our hormones.
Dairy cows are treated with artificial hormones to keep them pregnant all the time so that they can produce milk. When we drink this milk, we ingest some of these hormones, which can throw our own hormones off balance. You don’t need to cut dairy completely out of your diet, but the best option for your skin are plant-based alternatives (almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, margarine, vegan cheese etc.)
Refined sugar is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which rapidly raises blood sugar levels and insulin levels. Insulin makes androgens more active, increasing the production of sebum and leading to skin problems like acne.
Reducing your intake of refined sugar will come easily when you switch processed foods for whole foods and will help improve skin complexion.
Saturated fats are found in meat, poultry, dairy, fish, eggs, corn, sunflower oils and coconut oil. If we pair a diet rich in saturated fat with a diet that lacks omega-3 rich foods (fish, nuts, seeds and plant-oils), this causes an imbalance that triggers insulin levels to rise. Like with refined sugar, this makes androgens more active, which increases the production of sebum and can lead to the formation of acne.
Gluten has also been linked to poor skin health because of its inflammatory properties. The elimination diet would work well for gluten; cut out gluten (bread, pasta, cereals etc.) for a little while and see if it has any effects on your skin.
What can I drink to clear my skin?
Water is the key to a healthy body, mind and soul. The benefits of drinking a lot of water cannot be hailed enough, and sadly, most of us are not drinking enough.
We should be drinking 2 litres of water per day, which equates to about 7 cups. However, drinking more than that is beneficial, I promise. Once you start increasing your water intake, your body will start to crave it more.
Water keeps your body hydrated and helps to maintain skin elasticity – reducing the appearance of wrinkles, scarring and pigmentation. Water is also key for flushing all of the toxins out of your body, in case you’ve had a bad day or week of eating foods high in saturated fats, salt and refined sugar.
In terms of clearing your skin, water is key. A great tip is to keep a water bottle with you at all times and tracking how much you’re drinking. Feel free to add things like lemon, cucumber, berries or juice to make it taste a little sweeter!
What food improves skin complexion?
Although the products you use on your face of course have a huge effect on your skin complexion, you’d be very surprised to see the results you can get from simple foods!
There are a number of superfoods packed with vitamins and minerals that have long been praised for their skin clearing properties.
These are 10 super ingredients that you should eat for glowing skin:
Firstly, avocados are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids which will regulate the skin’s oil production, improve hydration levels and reduce the signs of ageing!
Secondly, avocados are rich in vitamin E, C, K, B-6, riboflavin, magnesium, folate, potassium…the list goes on!
Vitamin E is known to boost the skin’s vitality and luminosity, so prepare to make avocado toast your new breakfast!
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are fantastic for your overall health. They are SUPER high in magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, folate and betaine. This means they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that protect against UV radiation and fight free radicals. They also boost skin hydration and elasticity, which fights against the signs of ageing!
They are also extremely low in calories, which means they’re a great way of adding fibre to your diet without leaving you feeling too full.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Rich in vitamin C and E, sweet potatoes boost your natural complexion and help to keep the skin glowing. Vitamin C boosts collagen production, which reduces wrinkles and fine lines. Vitamin E protects your skin from oxidative damage and reduces inflammation.
4. Green tea
Green tea contains polyphenols, making it an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It speeds up the healing process of acne and acne scars, is great for digestion and boosts metabolism.
5. Salmon or mackerel
Fish is a high-quality source of protein and is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamins D, E and zinc. Salmon and mackerel in particular are loaded with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which combat acne inflammation.
6. Nuts and seeds (walnuts, sunflower seeds)
Nuts and seeds are a healthy source of fat, which is essential in any balanced diet. Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds all have great ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to balance insulin levels and prevent skin inflammation and acne.
They are also high in the rare amino acid arginine, which aids in the regulation of hormones (which control the skin), boosts the immune system, burns gat and lowers cholesterol levels.
7. Olive Oil
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with a higher intake of healthy fats had firmer skin tone and fewer wrinkles.
Extra virgin olive oil is a huge part of the Mediterranean diet and is great for the skin because of its omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and plant oils are an important part of the diet to keep hormones regulated and will also help you to stay fuller for longer.
The rare polyphenols that are found abundantly in olive oil are multi-faceted antioxidants and extremely efficient in terms of improving general appearance and health.
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C which boosts collagen and protects the skin proteins from damage.
Oats are a super food that are really high in fibre (making them the perfect filling breakfast option). The beta-glucan fibre in oats has beneficial anti-glycaemic effects, helping to stabilise insulin levels and reduce inflammation around the body.
Watermelon is not only extremely hydrating (it’s 92% water), it’s also high in vitamins A and C – fighting signs of ageing by boosting collagen production, protecting against UV damage and stimulating cell turnover. All of which are the key to glowing skin!
Which minerals are good for the skin?
Vitamins and minerals are all skincare ingredients included in many of the products we use on our skin. If we eat foods high in vitamins and minerals, it’s basically like a natural skincare routine.
A diet rich in nutrients and vitamins will increase skin elasticity by helping to protect and repair the skin.
Vitamins A, C and E are found in fruits, vegetables, eggs and plant-oils.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are found in fish, flaxseeds, nuts and plant oils.
Vitamins B2 and B3 are found in whole wheat products (bread, pasta), whole grains (rice), breakfast cereals, avocadoes, peanuts, mushrooms and potatoes.
What can I drink before bed to clear my skin?
Herbal teas are great for clearing your skin because they pair hydration with vitamins and antioxidants. Since they are very low in caffeine, a warm cup of herbal tea is a lovely way to end your day.
• Chamomile tea is relaxing and will lull you into a deep sleep, also reducing dark circles. It is also high in quercetin, which protects against UV damage.
• Green tea is full of polyphenols that fight free radicals and protect against UV damage. It’s also been proven to boost metabolism and improve aid digestion.
• Jasmine tea is bursting with antioxidants, boosts the metabolism and has calming, anti-inflammatory effects.
• Ginger tea is very good as an anti-inflammatory, which fights against acne and acne scars. It’s also great for digestion and reducing bloating.
What should you have in a skincare routine?
The ‘skincare diet’ is the most basic skincare routine that consists of the bare minimum steps.
The 4 steps of a good skincare routine:
Using a cleanser is the first and most basic skincare routine step. Gentle facial cleansers are the best, used to remove the surface dirt from your face at the beginning/end of the day.
Exfoliating is an essential process for healthy skin, in which the dead skin cells will be removed and fresh, new skin will be revealed underneath. The older we get, the slower the rate of cell turnover, which allows dead skin cells to build up, leaving the skin dull and leading to the formation of acne.
Exfoliators speed up the process of cell turnover, which helps the skin to look smoother and brighter. We recommend using chemical exfoliants called AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids).
Depending on your skin, exfoliation may not be necessary every day. It’s best to exfoliate once or twice a week to avoid dryness and irritation. If you feel you need it, increase the frequency of use over time.
Moisturiser is crucial for keeping the skin hydrated. A lack of moisture can cause oil production to go into overdrive in an attempt to compensate for the dryness, which can then lead to clogged pores and the production of acne. You should moisturise morning and night.
Of course, always wear SPF! This is the most important step, please don’t skip it. Many dermatologists say that failure to wear SPF on the face during the day prevents your skincare products from working properly.
Author: Megan Kerr