The following post was written by the registered dietitians of C & J Nutrition, Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh. We turned to them for their expert advice to answer a FitSugar reader's question on the relationship between diet and skin care.
I need some help with my skin and breakouts. Are there any foods you recommend avoiding to decrease acne? Any foods you recommend to improve the quality of my skin overall? Thanks!
— Edible Skin Tricks?
Research is really varied as to how diet may affect acne. You’ll often hear people cite dairy as a cause of acne, but again, research really hasn’t been able to back this up solidly. If you think a specific food might be triggering breakouts, keep a food journal to see if there’s a correlation. According to some researchers, spiked insulin levels from eating too many refined carbs. Sugary, processed foods can cause inflammation in the body (including skin cells) that leads to premature aging and wrinkles. Make sure to choose whole grains and whole grain products, beans, fruit for your carb choices most often.
In general, for the healthiest-looking skin we recommend:
- Not smoking and avoiding spending time around smoke and do wear sunscreen/hats when spending time outside.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants – they destroy free radicals – research says vitamin C, E, A (beta carotene), and selenium nourish and protect skin, which can help keep it looking better for longer! (P.S. Retin-A, Renova are high potency vitamin A creams.) Here's more on those vitamins.
- Vitamin C: involved in collagen production — bell peppers, citrus, strawberries, white potatoes, kiwi, sugar snap peas
- Vitamin E: protects cell membranes and protect against sun damage get it from food not supplements (recent research has raised questions about safety of vitamin E supplements) — nuts and seeds, nut butters, avocado, wheat germ, ground flaxseed/flaxseed oil, greens (collard, Swiss chard, spinach), broccoli, red bell peppers
- Vitamin A (beta carotene): growth and repair of body tissues; might protect against sun damage — carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, apricots, mango (orange foods!), cabbage, greens, watercress, watermelon, red bell pepper (P.S. You can make a great face mask with honey, yogurt, and mashed pumpkin!)
- Selenium: protects skin elasticity; protects against sun damage (get it from food not supplements . . . supplements have been shown to be dangerous for people at high risk of certain skin cancers) — tuna, crab, oysters, shrimp, cod, tilapia, lean beef, turkey, brown rice, whole wheat products (bread, pasta, crackers, etc.), eggs, mushrooms, fat free cottage cheese
- Zinc: protects cell membranes, maintains collagen (to keep skin firm), important for skin renewal — oysters, turkey, lean beef, nuts and seeds, reduced fat cheese, nonfat milk, low fat yogurt, beans, lentils, peas
- Omega-3s: keep cell membranes healthy so your cells hold in more water and nutrients (and keep toxins out!); might also protect against sun damage — salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, Pacific oysters, fortified eggs, walnuts, ground flaxseeds (and oil), seaweed, soybeans
- Water is your skin's best friend: proper hydration makes every system in your body work better, including detoxifying organs like liver/kidney. Water also ensures delivery of nutrients to cells and hydrated cells are plump – which can help your skin look firmer.
- Eat watery foods – fruits and veggies like: melon, apples, oranges, pineapple, celery, cucumbers, pumpkin, peppers, etc. Lots of veggies are three-fourths water or more!
- Spruce up your water with cucumber slices, lemon, mint, basil, lime, etc.) or drink iced herbal tea
- Drink green or black tea – polyphenols found in tea and applied topically might help increase collagen production and decrease skin cancer cell growth. While research is still out on the effects of drinking tea for yours kin, it’s a good way to stay hydrated as well and the antioxidants in green can have other health benefits (after brewing up a cup of green tea, use the warm tea bag to rub over your face as toner in the morning or night, or a mid-day refresher if not wearing makeup).
- Not sure if you’re hydrated? Check your pee . . . it should look like lemonade not apple juice.
- Also, if you’ve been given antibiotics to treat acne, eating yogurt that contains active probiotics can help replenish some of your body’s natural good bacteria that the antibiotics may have destroyed.