As with most health benefits, healthy skin comes down to lifestyle, rather than how many creams and serums you decide to slap on everyday. While the regular use of sunscreens and anti-aging creams are continuously proven to help slow down the skin’s aging process, what goes inside our bodies also plays a significant role in maintaining a youthful glow. In general, the things you can do to beautify your skin are remarkably similar to what you can do to strengthen your heart, control your weight, lift your mood and improve your overall well-being: Regular exercise, enough sleep and a balanced diet.
Your intestines are made up of approximately 25 feet of spongy tissue, which absorb nutrients into the bloodstream and transfer them to essential organs to be used for nourishment and energy. Without proper nutrition your largest and most visible organ, the skin, does not receive the essential vitamins and minerals required to fight aging and prevent skin conditions such as acne. Eliminating foods that are difficult for the body to digest, process, and eliminate is crucial for maintaining and improving our complexions.
Listed below are some of the worst foods that are likely taking a toll on your skin:
Several studies have found that milk, regardless of the fat content, is associated with increased acne. 80%-90% of milk comes from pregnant cows, and research has found that naturally occurring growth hormones found in cow’s milk is responsible for the stimulation of acne. Milk is solely intended to build the skeletal structure during development and becomes unnecessary once your body has developed enough to absorb whole foods on its own. We are the only living beings in the animal kingdom that not only drink milk past infancy, but drink another living creature’s milk as well.
By now the majority of us know that Vitamin A is like gold for our skin. Vitamin A that is derived from a plant source (like carrots) is very beneficial to the skin, however, animal sources of Vitamin A (such as milk) are far more acidic and have been linked to skeletal deterioration. Your skin’s pH is naturally on the more acidic side (5.5). Oilier, more acne prone skins are further along the acidic side of the pH scale than their dryer counterparts, and this added acidity from animal sourced Vitamin A can wreak havoc on our sebaceous glands.
For more reasons to avoid milk, check out our post on Avoiding Milk for a Clear Complexion.
Non-fish seafood is loaded with high levels of toxic mercury. Shellfish like shrimp and lobsters can be contaminated with parasites and resistant viruses that may not even be killed with high heat. These creatures, considered scavenger animals, consume foods that are not only detrimental to your skin, but harmful to your overall heath as well.
Crustaceans like shrimp, crab, and lobster are naturally high in iodine, and having too much of this element can lead to acne. Omega-3 rich fish, such as salmon, trout, and halibut, actually improve skin conditions like acne, so consider eating more of these sources of fish rather than shellfish.
Sugar has been shown to be just as addictive as stimulant drugs, like cocaine. It is impossible to 100% remove all sugar from diets, however, even the sugar found in fruit need to be eaten in moderation. Processed sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup, and sugar substitutes such as aspartame, should be eliminated altogether. Once its been metabolized, sugar leaves behind an acidic residue that lowers the body’s pH, which can be quite detrimental to the skin.
Research has shown that a diet high in sugars has a similar effect on the skin as a lifetime of lying in the sun. The particular process linking sugar and premature aging is called glycation, which is a chemical process that occurs when blood sugar levels spike. Sugar molecules circulate in the blood and bind to other components to form substances known as protein-sugar complexes – also called advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs. Molecules in your face that are meant to keep you looking young and taut are very vulnerable to sugar. Collagen and elastins are turned into AGEs, and their soft, supple fibres become rigid, leaving your skin saggy and wrinkled.
Salt (sodium) is a nutrient that is vital in order for your body to function normally, however, eating too much of it can lead to some pretty unpleasant side effects such as bloating and dehydration, which can be very detrimental to your skin. Salt makes us retain water, which leaves our faces looking bloated, puffy, and causes unsightly eye bags which make you look older and tired, even though you may not feel that way. Skin also becomes dry and cracked, and begins to produce overproduce sebum to make up for the lost moisture, which ultimately leads to breakouts and an uneven, blotchy complexion.
Aside from robbing your body of the nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that specifically help it to produce collagen and regenerate new skin cells, drinking too much alcohol also causes your facial blood vessels to dilate, causing uneven tone, rosacea and spider veins to appear. Because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes dehydration and limits your body’s supply of the oxygenated blood that keeps your skin glowing and moist. Drinking can affects hormone levels, which can stimulate excess oil secretion and make you break out more.
Alcohol can increase psoriasis flares, especially in women, and the dry skin patches associated with psoriasis worsen, due to alcohol’s dehydrating effect. Additionally, alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of certain psoriasis drugs.
Certain carbohydrates, like the ones with no nutrients in white bread, can cause acne and break down collagen. These types of carbs can spike insulin levels, leading to inflammation. When sugar enters the bloodstream, it attaches to proteins and forms molecules called advanced glycation end products (or AGEs) which damage collagen and elastin and also deactivate protective antioxidants.
Some loaves marketed as “wheat bread” can be just as bad. Oftentimes products will say they’re made from wheat bread, but will contain enriched flour, which is loaded with sugar and not good for skin health. Stick to bread that is 100% whole wheat.