Taking care of your skin is about more than lathering on the correct combination of cleansers, moisturizers, toners, and serums. While that's not to say these topical treatments aren't important (we love a good face mask as much as anybody else), healthy, clear skin actually starts with what you put inside your body—not just what you put on your face.
"Poor nutrition is as bad for your skin as it is for the rest of your body," says New York City–based dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, MD. The biggest offenders to look out for are foods high in sugar, dairy products, and foods with antibiotics. Sugary foods and dairy products tend to produce inflammation in the body, which can make skin conditions worse, Goldenberg explains. Additionally, foods containing antibiotics can kill normal gut flora, which also produces inflammation.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Gary Goldenberg is a medical and cosmetic dermatologist, researcher, and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Goldenberg is also the former Medical Director of the Dermatology Faculty Practice at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
That's why—along with your favorite skincare products—it's important to think about the foods you put into your body in order to take care of your skin. Curious what foods to stock up on and which to avoid for glowing, healthy skin? Ahead, Goldenberg names 17 of the worst foods for skin and what foods you should fill up on instead.
"Sugar, especially refined sugar, is pro-inflammatory," Goldenberg explains. A diet high in sugar can worsen many common skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis and has also been associated with higher rates of skin cancer and signs of aging skin, he points out. Steer clear of foods like white bread, soda, candy, fruit juices, sugary cereals, and snack bars to avoid the insulin spike that stimulates inflammation.
Dairy and non-organic meat and poultry can change the hormonal balance in your body because they may contain hormones and antibiotics. "I advise all my patients with acne and rosacea to avoid milk, cheese, ice cream, and non-organic meats unless they are hormone- and antibiotic-free," Goldenberg tells MyDomaine. He also points out that antibiotics in foods have been associated with reducing gut bacteria, which is anti-inflammatory and reduces oxidative stress—all things that are vital for skin health and anti-aging.
Foods Grown With Pesticides
Foods containing high levels of pesticides have been associated with skin cancer and advanced signs of aging. That's why Goldenberg suggests avoiding foods that are a part of the dirty dozen and likely to contain pesticides. This includes apples, berries, grapes, celery, spinach, peaches, and nectarines. However, there's no need to cut healthy fruits and vegetables from your diet. Simply go for organic produce instead.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring all make Goldenberg's list of foods to eat in order to achieve healthy skin. "They are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining skin health and are great for reducing inflammation, keeping skin supple and moisturized," the dermatologist says.
Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Organic fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet that benefits both your body and your skin. Goldenberg advises filling up on avocados, sweet potatoes, peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes. "These contain high doses of vitamins and, let’s face it, you feel great when you eat healthy foods like this," he says.
Lastly, Goldenberg tells MyDomaine that he's a big fan of dark chocolate thanks to its high content of antioxidants, which can lead to healthy skin. Indulge in a taste of the bitter dessert when you need a small treat.