By now, you probably know what happens to your skin when your diet goes astray. We learned the hard way in high school that a late-night pizza indiscretion could result in next-day zits, but according to dermatologists, that's not the only food to be wary of if you want great, glowing skin.
Sure, we're a little older and hopefully wiser now, but it turns out that a ton of common foods and drinks might be the root cause of a dull complexion and even premature lines. Here, we tapped dermatologists Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Debra Luftman, a Simple Skincare advisory board member, to find out how to improve your skin (and your health) with a few smart food swaps.
Scrap your shopping list: This is exactly what dermatologists eat for next-level glowing skin.
Foods to Try
"Fruits that contain high levels of antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories help fight free radical damage and premature aging of skin—which all lead to glowing skin," explains Nazarian. Her grocery store go-to? Pomegranate. "My favorite source for these skin-boosting ingredients is pomegranate. Even a small amount of pomegranate packs a dense amount of antioxidants, making it an effective source for better skin," she says.
Don't be fooled by flavored products, though. Nazarian says it's important to eat the actual fruit to reap the benefits. This "helps ensure that you're not drinking skin-aging sugar and diluted amounts of antioxidants."
There are ways to firm your skin without using serums or creams. Luftman recommends adding more citrus fruits to your diet to reap the benefits. "Lemons and oranges are foods rich with vitamin C—they keep the skin firm and fight free radicals," she tells MyDomaine. Research suggests that vitamin C supplementation might increase collagen protein synthesis, thus helping repair damaged skin.
Not all dairy wreaks havoc on your complexion. "Probiotic foods such as yogurt are naturally full of skin-calming bacteria that help maintain the ideal pH balance and ultimately improve the quality of your skin," explains Nazarian. "More evidence proves that skin has a very narrow ideal pH, which helps maintain the delicate microbiome and natural bacteria. Harsh products, such as washes, scrubs, or even non-pH balanced products can tip this balance, as can bacteria-disrupting oral medications and stress—all leading to inflamed, irritated skin and the flaring of conditions like rosacea."
Tossing carrot into your salad could have a host of skin benefits, says Luftman. "Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which helps reduce oil production, acne, and prevents wrinkle formation." She recommends adding it to a regular diet of two to three servings per week to promote better skin.
Ditch your morning latte in place of the skin-saving drink, which is one of Nazarian's favorites for great skin. "The reasoning here is twofold: Tea itself is great for hydration, which is paramount for skin health. Hydrated skin looks healthier, less dull, and reflects fewer wrinkles than dehydrated skin," she says. "The added benefit of green tea, rather than just water, is taking in the remarkable polyphenols it contains that neutralize free radicals and help maintain collagen and elastin, which are the foundation for healthy skin." It's a win-win.
Foods to Skip
Nutrition experts and dermatologists agree: If you only scrap one food from your diet, it should be soda, which is both high in sugar and has a high glycemic index. "Although the studies are not firmly conclusive, it has been shown that high-glycemic-index products can cause hormone levels to spike, altering the quality of oil in the skin and potentially causing acne breakouts," explains Nazarian.
She also points to research that suggests these foods "can lead to a buildup of something called 'advanced glycation end products,' which attach to vulnerable fibers in the skin, such as collagen and elastin. These proteins are very important to keeping skin plump and youthful looking, and when they become damaged through products of high sugar diets, skin is left with more wrinkles, more bagging, and more sagging." The take home: Skip the soda.
"Some research has also shown that dairy products may worsen acne due to their trace growth hormones," she explains. That doesn't mean that all dairy is bad for your skin though; she points out that whole milk products might be better than skim milk, and probiotic-rich yogurt has other benefits. "To avoid natural growth hormones that may trigger skin to produce unnecessary oil, look for non-hormone-based drinks, such as almond milk."
If you're fastidious about drinking plenty of water throughout the day but still reach for salty snacks, you're doing yourself a disservice. "High-sodium or high-salt foods cause dehydration and for water to be drawn out of skin," she explains. "Foods like salty pretzels or salty potato chips leave skin dull and dehydrated, with enhancement of fine lines and wrinkles. If you’re looking for something to snack on, reach for the low-sodium versions."
Have you tried any of these radiance-boosting foods?