There is a growing focus on healthy living, with natural remedies being all the
hype. And just as ginger aids in treating nausea and peppermint essential oil
helps relief headaches – there has been significant talk about how diet remedies our skin.
To help us separate the fact from the fiction, we asked Dr Dilshaad Asmal,
MBChB MMed Derm and Certified Dermatologist for a breakdown on how the
foods we consume affect our skin.
Note: This is a general discussion surrounding diet and skin health and does not substitute getting a diagnosis from your local healthcare professional or dermatologist.
Our Skin is a Reflection of Diet
Our skin is a vital organ for several reasons – the vast blood supply regulates
body temperature. It allows us to sense and touch things in our surrounding
and, it protects us from infections. (1)
In the past, many experts agreed that the food a person ate had little effect on
their skin and did not attribute to acne breakouts or bad skin. In contrast, modern research has shown that diet and nutrition affect the overall well-being of our skin. We know that eating greasy, highly processed foods lead to acne breakouts and other skin ailments, but other unsuspecting food items can cause more harm than good. (2)
Foods to Avoid
High levels of Calcium and an array of Vitamins, Dairy products have been cherished by health experts for its benefits. But an opposing argument of its potential dangers and harm has put Dairy at the focus of controversy for years. (3)
Dr Asmal adds that there are theories that suggest a dairy-rich diet can cause acne flare-ups or change one’s skin texture. On the flip side, drinking skimmed
milk is not a healthier alternative for your skin because of the increased levels of sugar.
The sugars we consume turns into glucose, which our bodies use as an immediate energy source, or stored in the body for later use. (4)
Constant, high levels of sugar in the body can lead to inflammation, which in turn affects the appearance of your skin. Dr Asmal agrees that “eating foods with a high glycaemic index can lead to inflammation in the body, hence why this can influence skin”. Another risk of living a sugar-rich lifestyle is glycation. Glycation is a process where the highly artificial sugars attach themselves to the collagen and elastin proteins, breaking them down, causing the skin to lose its elasticity and form wrinkles. (5)
Foods to Eat
“Eat a diet rich in antioxidants…” For many years, skincare experts have been looking for the fountain of youth and apparently, antioxidants might be it. Antioxidants protect against many factors that damage the skin. It limits free radical production, calms skin inflammation and provides the skin with hydration and increases moisture retention for revitalised-looking skin! (6)
Foods high in antioxidants include red cabbage, spinach, berries and dark chocolate. (7)
One of the most studied antioxidants on the market is Vitamin C. It brightens dark spots and protects against UV damage. Dr Asmal suggests that you eat “foods rich in Vitamin C (like) oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, red and green peppers and broccoli”. (8)
Foods that contain good, healthy fats are essential for glowing skin. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help in slowing down the ageing process and retain or restore moisture to your skin. Their anti-inflammatory properties help heal the skin from beneath the surface. (9)
Foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids include “…fish, flaxseed, walnuts, eggs (and) seed oils…”. Dr Asmal adds that eating foods rich in monosaturated fats are vital for good skin health. Foods like avocados, olive oil, sesame oil and nuts.
And as always, hydrate your skin. Drink lots of water! Our skin is made up mostly
of water, and it naturally loses some of that water as we go about our day. So, if we don’t replace that water-loss by rehydrating, it can be dry and flaky. Dr Asmal adds that “drinking water hydrates skin cells and (tries) to plump them up. It also flushes impurities and improves circulation and blood flow, helping your skin glow. By flushing toxins from the body, drinking lots of water aids heal skin ailments such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Even assist in healing sunburns. (10)
Some foods lend to the hydration of the body and skin: sweet potato, cucumber, watermelon, and avocados. (11)
Dr Asmal adds that making balanced diet choices will get you closer to your glowing skin goals.