If you’ve ever been to the doctors about a persistent skin condition, whether it be acne, eczema, or dermatitis you’ll probably have been told that “Your diet has nothing to do with skin issues.”. Right?
Last year I was left traumatised after a visit to the doctors about my out of control hormones. Halfway through my appointment, I made a casual comment about how my hormones must be really out of whack because even with my immaculate wholefood diet, my skin was still struggling with constant breakouts. The response I got was that yes, my hormones needed some major attention, but there was no point limiting my sugar and dairy intake as, according to her, there was absolutely no link between acne and these food groups. I was given a preliminary diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and told that my only option was to go back on the pill…
In truth, very few beauty products will give you the results you want, they may improve skin tone and texture initially but if you’re looking for beautiful, glowing skin – the sort of skin where you don’t need to even wear tinted moisturiser – then you’ve got to start nourishing your skin from the inside out.
Unfortunately, the opinion of my local doctor is not an uncommon one. The myth that diet has absolutely no link to skin health was created by dermatologists and doctors who often have little to no training in nutrition and would rather opt for the easy route and prescribe antibiotics, steroid creams, and birth control – or try to sell you thousands of pounds worth of beauty and laser treatments to ‘fix your skin’ when in fact, treating the root cause of the problem is the most effective solution to permanently solving your skin issues.
Generally speaking, searching for that perfect product or treatment that promises us beautiful skin is a costly journey full of disappointment. It’s easier to purchase the latest calming/rejuvenating/spot-busting cream than cutting down on refined carbs and bumping up your vegetable intake. In truth, very few beauty products will give you the results you want, they may improve skin tone and texture initially but if you’re looking for beautiful, glowing skin – the sort of skin where you don’t need to even wear tinted moisturiser – then you’ve got to start nourishing your skin from the inside out.
Unless you have a genuine intolerance or allergy to a certain food/food group then it’s unlikely that a small amount of “off-diet” food now and then will cause an unwelcome surprise the following morning. One of the few exceptions to this is salt. As we get older, too much salt can cause some of us to retain water. Ever wondered why you sometimes wake up with puffy, swollen eyes after you’ve indulged in a family sized bag of crisps the night before? It’s because you skin is so thin around this area that it’s easy for the tissue to swell and appear puffy. Cut down on the salt and you won’t need to spend fortunes on eye creams that cool, shrink, firm and tighten.
If skin problems are a regular nuisance in your day-to-day life, it won’t be just last nights pudding to blame, it’s more likely that your body has spent the last few years on the high carb, high sugar roller coaster and your digestive system, liver, and skin are now pleading for you to get off. Here are 4 food groups that wreck your skin, preventing you from walking down the street make-up free and feeling confident about it.
The 4 Food Groups That Wreck Your Skin
Sugar is the single most disastrous food type for your skin. Whether you’re struggling with eczema, psoriasis, acne, or you’ve just spotted the beginnings of crow’s feet – sugar is your skin’s worst enemy.
Enjoying too many sweet treats can speed up the ageing process faster than Mother Nature intended. A high-sugar diet can result in the degradation of elastin and collagen – the stuff that helps to make your skin plump, firm, and youthful!
If, like me, you’re an acne sufferer then you will see huge improvements in your skin once you quit the white stuff. Refined sugar, also known as sucrose, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, and glucose have absolutely no nutritional benefits and can make your blood sugar levels to go sky high. These spikes in blood sugar cause your insulin levels to increase, which trigger a release of androgen hormones, which results in inflammation and an over-production of sebum. Bad news for those of us with oily, acneic skin types!
SWITCH: I recommend enjoying whole fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth. I prefer to sweeten dishes and drinks with fruits instead of natural sweeteners (maple syrup and raw honey) as with whole fruits, you also get all the beneficial fibre which slows down the absorption of sugars. Don’t go overboard though, even natural sugar is still sugar!
If your hormones are troublesome and you’re suffering from persistent skin problems then milk, cheese, and yogurt are all foods you’ll need to cut back on. According to the American Journal of Dermatology milk contains, on average, 60 different hormones which are present in all varieties of dairy; pasteurised, grass-fed, homogenised, raw, organic, yogurt, cheese etc.
Cows milk is designed to grow calves very rapidly meaning milk contains androgens such as testosterone and IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor). These two androgens are now widely known to contribute to skin disorders such as acne and eczema. Not only does milk contain acne-causing hormones, dairy products can have a huge impact on your insulin levels too which can have a knock-on effect on your skin.
SWITCH: I recommend enjoying dairy-free alternatives using nuts such as almonds, hemp, and coconut. Look for nut milk brands that don’t add sugar and contain at least 7% ‘nuts’ for intensely creamy deliciousness! Many brands will only use 2-3% nuts so the final product can be very watery.
Flour is one of the most difficult food items to avoid. It’s becoming a staple ingredient for every single dish of the day. As a nation, for breakfast we have cereal, toast, or pastries. Lunch, it’ll be a sandwich or a wrap and for dinner it’s pasta, pizza, or breaded chicken. Not to mention the biscuits, cakes, and cookies we often indulge in during the day.
Refined grains have had all the vitamins, nutrients, and fibre stripped out of them meaning that they offer no nutritional benefits to our bodies at all. In fact, this foreign invader can cause a number of internal issues which can affect your skin health over time including:
- Weight gain
- Digestive issues
- Food allergies
White bread, pasta, and other high glycemic foods can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and an increase in insulin production which as discussed in the previous two points, spells bad news for our skin.
SWITCH: I recommend getting creative with vegetables instead of relying on the grains. Opt for a crunchy nut and seed based granola for breakfast, spiralized courgette as a pasta alternative at lunch, and blitzed cauliflower as part of your pizza base at dinner.
While there is very little evidence to show that drinking alcohol is a direct cause of skin problems, there are a few connections between skin health and alcohol which might have you thinking twice about that extra glass of fizz.
Alcohol can be problematic for you skin for a number of reasons, one being its sugar content. Many alcoholic beverages will contain sugar which can wreak havoc on your hormones (see above). Even if the alcohol is low in sugar (think spirits), the mixers that they’re often teamed with can contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar!
It’s a well known fact that the abuse of alcohol can lead to liver damage. The liver is one of the most import organs, not just for clear, beautiful skin but for overall health and vitality too. Your liver is responsible for regulating hormones, removing toxins, and balancing blood sugar levels so anything that compromises these functions is going to have a negative effect on your skin.
Alcohol dehydrates your entire body, including your skin. Hydration is essential for removing any inflammatory toxins from the body – toxins which could result in redness and irritation in your skin, whether it be a rosacea flare up or eczema outbreak. Alongside this, alcohol does nothing for our face as we get older. Dehydration sucks all the natural moisture out of your skin leaving fine lines and wrinkles looking more prominent.
SWITCH: If going tee-total isn’t an option then try to stick to low sugar beverages such as dry wine (the fermenting process removes a lot of the sugar content), spirits (without the mixers), and always alternate you drinks with a large glass of water to replace any water lost.
It may not be necessary to completely eliminate all of these food groups from your diet for the sake of your skin. We’re all different and our bodies may be more sensitive to one type of food than another, but for a truly radiant, glowing complexion that no amount of make-up can duplicate – it’s important to enjoy a nutritious, colourful diet that will leave you feeling great, and looking even better!
Have you ditched any of these food groups on the quest for glowing skin? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.