Written by Talia Cecchele
Have you ever wondered why some days you have smooth and blemish-free skin, then other days it’s as if you’ve time traveled back to high school and have blemishes pop-up overnight? There is a lot of talk about skin health these days with topics such as collagen supplementation, gut health, jade rollers and elimination diets all over the media. It can be really confusing! It is extremely disheartening when I see people without any health qualification recommend to others that they need to change their diet, like eliminating dairy or chocolate is the magic cure for everyone (it's not- vegans get acne too).
Is there a diet for healthy skin? Sorry to say, but a normal balanced diet IS a healthy skin diet. It’s not sexy but it works. Skin is our largest organ. It protects us from the sun and internal damage, produces vitamin D and houses many bacteria and viruses a.k.a the skin microbiome. The health of our skin is influenced mostly by genetics and hormones (yep, that time of the month can lead to a break-out) but diet, pollution, stress (this causes inflammation and change to hormones) and our skin care routine can all play a part.
So what dietary changes can I make to maximise my skin health?
1. Eat a balanced diet including:
Include omega 3 fats which help to alleviate dry, itchy skin and suppress inflammation. Omega 3 fats are found in oily fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, eggs, avocado and almonds.
Fibre to keep you regular as constipation can lead to a build-up of toxins. I wrote a blog about fibre here.
Vitamin C which assists collagen formation. Collagen is a group of proteins that help provide skin, hair and nails with strength, durability and shape. There is no conclusive evidence to support taking collagen supplements yet (how does the body know to target the skin cells on your face once it’s digested?) but the choice is yours. Regardless, focus on a balanced diet from wholefoods including vitamin C rich foods like berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, kiwi and pineapple.
Vitamins A and E are antioxidants that help to protect the skin from damage, therefore maintaining quality hair, skin and nails. Food sources include nuts, seeds, olive oil green leafy vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables (e.g. carrot, dried apricots) and grains.
B Vitamins. A deficiency in these can lead itchy skin. Food sources include eggs, organ meats, legumes, wholegrains and salmon
Zinc for skin health. Zinc helps to connect collagen fibres and plays a vital role in immunity. Foods high in zinc include cashews, pumpkin seeds, eggs, oysters, meat and legumes
Silica is needed for keratin production in our hair, skin and nails. It is found in foods including banana, raisins, legumes and wholegrains
2. Stay hydrated! Our body is 50%-80% water by mass and it has a huge role to play in skin health by removing toxins and keeping our skin supple. Drink mostly water and minimise coffee and alcohol as these place increased stress on your liver.
What about dairy and chocolate?
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that links dairy as a cause of acne, however some studies support that it can exacerbate symptoms. Eliminating dairy, or specifically milk can be helpful for a small number of the population. There is also clinical evidence that supports full fat dairy over low fat dairy for skin health. If you think that dairy, milk or skim/low-fat varieties are a contributing factor to you, try removing it for 6-8 weeks. If there is no improvement in your skin health, then include it back in your diet.
The same goes for high sugar foods and high GI foods. Reducing processed and high sugar foods and eating more wholefoods and mostly low GI can not only help your skin, but many aspects of your health.
What are some non-dietary strategies I can try?
1. Reduce stressors which cause inflammation including poor sleep, smoking, excessive exercise and sun exposure. Wear sunblock containing both UV-A (protects the skin from aging) and UV-B (protects the skin from burning) protection if you plan to spend time in the sun.
2. Have a good skin care routine that works for you.
If you are really worried about your skin or have questions about a skin care routine that works for you, please talk to your GP and/or a Dermatologist. Please don’t use Dr Google.
Talia is a registered dietitian working in private practice and as an eating disorder specialist dietitian in London's leading private mental health hospital. As a freelance dietitian, Talia not only offers 1:1 consultations but can present at your workplace, create recipes or articles or host a cooking demonstration. To enquire please fill out a contact form.