Every night I apply my carefully-crafted, thoughtful skin routine comprised of various serums, oils and more— and then I sit and stare in the mirror waiting for miracles to happen. Tragically, they never do.
Years of spending a significant amount of time and money on my skincare routine have only reinforced a lesson we all know, but tend to ignore: No matter how much we love that Drunk Elephant serum, our skin health and clarity responds much more to what is going on inside our bodies.
The good news is, rather than spending our hard-earned money on that expensive serum, the best skincare products are much more affordable and available at your local grocery store: Healthful foods.
They do say, after all, that “you are what you eat” and this could not be more true for your skin health. If we are focused on achieving bright, clear skin (and I’m pretty sure we all are), then the journey must begin on the inside. Dr. Nadia Musavvir, ND, a Naturopathic Doctor (@_drnadia_), agrees and provided some much-needed insight on how we can eat our way to healthy, clear skin.
It might be time to have “the talk” and break up with your vigorous acne wash. Your skin, after all, is a mirror of your internal health, rather than your beauty cabinet (even if yours deserves a spot on Into The Gloss). Dr. Musavvir explains that best way to understand the connection between your skin and your diet, is to remember that your skin is a detoxification organ. This simply means that the waste and toxic substances we put into our bodies eventually have to come out— and they often do so through our skin (hello, pimples).
“When we nourish the body adequately without overwhelming the body with toxins, then our skin is usually healthy, however, if the body is overwhelmed with toxins or not eliminating them well, we often see rashes and skin outbreaks.”
To summarize: The less junk you put in your body, the less that has to come out, the less time you’ll find yourself staring in the mirror trying not to pop that pimple. When we focus on nourishing our bodies, we nourish our skin as well.
If you’re reading this, you already know that we love whole foods— and this is no exception. Dr. Musavvir suggests focusing on a balanced diet consisting largely of whole foods, but these three dietary elements will really help boost your skincare game:
Foods: Eggs With Yolk, Nuts, Seeds, Olives/Raw Olive Oil, Avocados
Benefits: Healthy fats (yes, they exist!), like Omega-3 Fatty Acids, are the building blocks of cell membranes. These kinds of fats can help prevent dryness to maintain healthy and hydrated skin, as well as reduce inflammation in your body, which can often lead to redness and acne.
Foods: Berries, Tomatoes, Kale, Sweet Potato
Benefit: Fruits and veggies are high in Vitamin C, which helps promote radiant skin and heal blemishes. Fruits & veggies are also high in Vitamins A, D and E— all of which are great for our skin, with Vitamin E potentially improving our skins defense against skin cancer!
Foods: Green Tea, Dark Chocolate, Spinach
Benefit: By reducing inflammation in your body, antioxidants can help your skin repair itself and correct visible damage. In addition, some antioxidants can also stimulate collagen production, which is great for your skin’s elasticity and glow.
We will never tell you that you ‘can’t’ or ‘should never’ eat certain foods, or to cut an element out of your diet entirely (unless you’re allergic, of course). We do believe, however, that everything should be consumed in moderation, and that we should have full knowledge of the effects of different foods on our body. That way, if a certain food isn’t benefitting our bodies, we can consider reserving it for when we want to treat ourselves (which we all deserve from time to time)!
Dr. Musavvir filled us in on some examples of these kinds of foods that aren’t helping your body live its best life. In fact, all of them can lead to inflammation in the body and a disturbance of blood sugar regulation, possibly leading to skin flare-ups and breakouts that we’re trying to avoid.
When sugar is broken down in your body it raises your insulin levels, leading to inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a very complicated term, but it can inflame acne and eczema.
The argument as to why dairy may affect your skin is long and complex and better explained here. But to summarize, dairy is thought to increase the hormone levels in our bodies, as well as our insulin levels, which can lead to stimulated oil production and breakouts of hormonal acne.
Fried foods contain those other fats that we don’t love as much. These potentially harmful fats come from the oil the food is fried in and are also linked to creating inflammation in your body… Which you already know can inflame acne and eczema!
You might be reading the majority of this information and wondering how on Earth you’re supposed to figure out which foods might be negatively affecting your skin, and which are just fine. We got you. It requires a little trial and error, to be sure, but Dr. Musavvir recommend a 3-week elimination diet. This just means that you cut out common allergens for a period of three weeks (we’ve listed them below), then re-introduce them one at a time and keep track of how your skin reacts. If you’ve cut out these allergens for 3 weeks and notice your skin is clearing up, then you re-introduce dairy and immediately notice some of the old problems, this might be a great cue that dairy isn’t your BFF.
Dr. Musavvir recommends considering the following allergens: