Image via Angélica Echeverry
by Shilpa Bhim
Most of us Zovers would consider ourselves to be pretty skincare savvy with our carefully curated skincare collections and routines.
But how many of you are mindful of what you put in to your bodies?
While what we put on our skin plays a crucial role in its health and happiness, it’s probably equally as important to consider what we eat and drink and its link to the overall health of our skin. After all, the old saying ‘you are what you eat’ must be a saying for a reason, right?
These questions have no doubt piqued your interest. Fortunately for you, we caught up with Sydney based dermatologist, Dr Burcu Kim, and dietitian, nutritionist and founder of Dietitian Edition, Millie Padula, to get the low-down on the relationship between what you eat and skin health.
DOES MY DIET AFFECT MY SKIN?
In short, yes, what we eat is one of the factors that impact the quality and health of our skin.
In fact, Millie highlights that inadequate nutrition can alter the structural integrity and biological function of the skin (we dive more into this in the next section).
In addition to diet, Dr Kim notes that other factors that can impact the health of your skin include genetics, skincare and other external factors such as stress, smoking, pollution, sleep deprivation and dehydration.
HOW EXACTLY DOES DIET AFFECT MY SKIN?
Turns out what you eat creates the building blocks for your skin and affects its overall health.
Or as Millie explains: “the cells in the outer layer of our skin (also known as the epidermis) are constantly being shed and replaced by new ones. The new cells are essentially the result of a breakdown of the foods we consume. A poor diet may therefore lead to skin abnormalities and complications.”
Similarly, Dr Kim highlights that “nutritional deficiencies can cause skin dryness, fragility and impair healing.”
She also notes that while diet alone probably won’t cure all your skin problems, it is an important source of essential vitamins, proteins, healthy fats and antioxidants that keep your skin healthy.
So, you want to eat the foods that give your skin the nutrients it needs to thrive.
WHAT TYPES OF FOOD SUPPORT HEALTHY SKIN?
We’d love to say that all it takes is an apple a day and your skin will have that ethereal glow we all dream of! But, that’s not quite the case.
Both Dr Kim and Mille share that it ultimately comes down to a well balanced diet that incorporates a mix of vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and healthy fats.
“It is important to remember that there is no one miracle food, drink or supplement that will solve all of your skin problems,” says Millie.
That being said, there is a range of nutrients you need to be feeding your skin, and there are certain things to look out for in your food to support healthy skin:
Also known as sources of Vitamins A, C and E. Dr Kim notes that antioxidant rich foods can help protect your skin from free radicals which cause premature ageing.
So which foods are rich in antioxidants? Millie suggests looking out for the following for:
- Vitamin A, to support maturation of new skin cells, eat sweet potato, carrots, red capsicums, spinach and liver-based products;
- Vitamin C, to support collagen formation and reduce dryness in the skin, eat berries, oranges and other citrus fruits, kiwi fruits, tomatoes and red capsicums; and
- Vitamin E, to reduce skin inflammation, eat almonds, sunflower seeds and peanut products.
Another powerful antioxidant is Lycopene which is most commonly found in tomatoes and can also be found in watermelon, grapefruits and papaya.
Low GI Carbohydrates
“Carbohydrates that are highly refined and processed generate a rapid spike in our blood sugar levels which trigger a release of the hormone called insulin. High levels of insulin in the blood may increase sebum and oil production and therefore our risk of associated skin conditions,” says Millie.
To avoid high levels of insulin being produced in your body, it’s important to eat low GI carbohydrates such as wholegrain (like quinoa or brown rice), lentils, legumes, fresh fruit and beans.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Often referred to as ‘Healthy Fats’, omega 3 fatty acids can help to treat and manage inflammatory skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
So how does one get their omega 3 fix? Eat oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel regularly.
Not a fan of fish? Not a problem! Dr Kim and Millie both highlight that nuts (particularly walnuts), flaxseeds (including flaxseed oil) and chia seeds are excellent sources of omega 3.
“Consuming these foods regularly can also increase the suppleness in your skin by enhancing moisture retention,” says Millie.
Also known as the good bacteria in our gut, probiotics can help reduce inflammation in your body which is linked to clearer skin. One of the best foods to get your probiotic fix is yoghurt, but take Millie’s advice and “always opt for a variety that has minimal or no added sugars.”
Selenium is a mineral that helps to maintain elastin, a protein that keeps the skin smooth and tight.
Millie suggests eating 2 brazil nuts a day to get your daily recommended intake of selenium. If you’re not a fan of brazil nuts, oily fish (like salmon), wholegrain and some dairy products also have small amounts of selenium in them.
Commonly found in wholegrain cereals, like oats, silica supports collagen and elasticity in our skin which helps with more youthful looking skin.
Zinc is especially helpful if you’re dealing with blemishes and can assist with wound healing, which helps blemishes clear faster.
Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, fibre, healthy fats and protein and are a great food to incorporate into your diet.
Millie’s pro tip when it comes to pumpkin seeds? “Try sprinkling them onto warm porridge, baking them into breads and slices, using them as a yoghurt topper or mixing them into a salad. From a texture perspective, they also add a delicious crunch!’
SHOULD I BE AVOIDING ANY FOODS TO KEEP MY SKIN HEALTHY?
Avoiding, or limiting your intake of highly processed foods and high GI foods such as refined grains, dried fruit, fruit juices, confectionary and baked goods is recommended by Dr Kim and Mille.
Both women also agree that alcohol should be consumed in moderation. “In regards to our skin, alcohol can have an effect on our blood sugar levels, hydration status and how well we absorb and metabolise the nutrients from the food we eat. It can also have a negative effect on the health of our gut which can lead to inflammation throughout the rest of our body,’ says Millie.
Millie also notes it’s important to be mindful of eating food that you are allergic or intolerant to. These can affect your gut health and may create an inflammatory response within the body and/or the skin.
ANY OTHER TIPS FOR HEALTHY SKIN?
We might as well ask while we’ve got the experts in the room!
There are some key tips for healthy skin that Dr Kim and Millie highlight:
- Get adequate sleep, around 7-9 hours per night
- Protect your skin from UV rays (we’re all about daily sunscreen here!)
- Stay well hydrated by drinking around 8 glasses of water a dat
- Manage your stress levels. As Millie notes, “high stress levels can cause an array of issues within the human body, most commonly those associated with our gut and our immune system.”
Finally, always choose quality over quantity and consult with the professionals.
“It is important to use quality skin care that is tailored to your skin concerns,” says Dr Kim.
“If you suspect an underlying illness or hormonal condition, always consult your doctor and if you require specific dietary advice, consult with an Accredited Practising Dietitian,” says Millie.
Be sure to follow these expert tips to help your skin live its best and healthiest life, Zovers. And, don’t forget to share your thoughts on these tips with us via the little icon on your right, via Instagram or email us!