Like this article? We’ve got more! Check out the rest of our articles on skincare innovation, skin health, and combatting environmental stressors.
This post is part of a series about environmental stressors and skincare. Read the rest of the posts in this series:
- What are environmental stressors, anyway?
- How does UV radiation harm our skin?
- How does pollution harm our skin?
- How does stress affect our skin?
- How does sleep help skin?
We hate to tell you this, but...that box of Valentine’s Day chocolate is bad news for more than just your teeth. We already know that topicals aren’t enough—you have to treat your skin from within. And diet is an important piece of that puzzle.
The bad news is that diet can be an environmental stressor in the same way as the sun, smog, and stress. A poor diet may be associated with dull skin or even acne. Plus, emerging research suggests the quality of your gut microbes might make all the difference for happier, healthier skin.
The good news is that achieving a healthy skin diet is a relatively easy fix!
In this post, we’ll discuss how what we eat impacts our skin and how clean eating can augment your simple skincare routine.
How does a poor diet affect skin?
First, let’s address what you’ve probably already noticed: your skin doesn’t like it when you eat junk food.
When we’re not eating enough vegetables and fruits, our skin isn’t getting the antioxidants it needs to fight environmental damage from the six environmental stressors we encounter year-round: sun, smog, stress, lack of sleep, smoking, and poor diet.
Of course, the quality of our diet isn’t just about the good things it lacks. Eating too much inflammatory “junk” food is also bad news. Sugar, in particular, seems to trigger some of our least-favorite reactions.
Researchers refer to the visible signs of aging caused by sugar as the “sugar sag” (yikes).
Emerging research suggests high-sugar diets age our skin thanks to something called “advanced glycation end products (AGEs).” These compounds are present in high-sugar diets, and when they react, they damage tissues in our bodies.
What is a healthy skin diet?
A healthy skin diet is antioxidant rich. That means getting adequate servings of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables each and every day. We’re talking five as a lower limit and as many more as you’d like.
Antioxidants are our skin cells’ first lines of defense against free radical damage caused by environmental stress. These plant-based compound are densely concentrated in things that grow. See our post How do antioxidants for skincare, anyway? for more.
Vegetables are also our skin’s best friends because they’re rich in phytonutrients and prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics feed probiotics, the “good” bacteria famously found in yogurt.
Whether you prefer a glass of kombucha or a probiotic supplement, it’s probably a good idea to add probiotics to your healthy skin diet. One study found that a specific strain, Lactobacillus johnsonii, promotes healthy skin and increases its ability to deal with stress. Another found probiotics might even help inflammatory skin conditions like eczema. See our post How does stress affect our skin? for more.
Finally, it’s important that you make hydration part of your healthy skin diet. Hydrated skin is healthier because it's more equipped to perform all its vital barrier functions, like keeping out pathogens and keeping in nutrients. See our post How hydration helps dry winter skin for more.
A few small (dietary) steps for skin kind
If you’re committed to fixing your skin from within, our best advice is to take only a few small steps at a time. Chances are that small shifts will add up to bigger changes over time. The following are some of our favorite small, actionable steps for improving your diet for healthy skin!
Add one serving of veggies to each meal. Don’t underestimate the cumulative effects of 3 extra vegetable servings each day (over half your recommended servings!). Try slipping a handful of greens into a morning smoothie, snacking on vegetables or fruit in the afternoon, and picking two vegetable dishes at dinner instead of your typical single side.
Invest in a water bottle you actually want to use. Buying (and loving) a water bottle is a simple way to stay hydrated. When you have an empty bottle with you at all times, you’re more likely to fill it up and sip at will. There are no hard and fast rules, but drinking half your body weight in ounces is probably a good goal.
Cut back on sugar. We know that high sugar diets damage our skin, deplete our collagen stores, and wreck our guts. If you’re experiencing lingering skin conditions, consider how much processed sugar you’re consuming and find ways to cut back. Don’t forget that many processed foods are packed with sneaky sugars, so becoming an ingredient detective is key.
Turn to smoothies. Maybe vegetables just aren’t your thing. If so, try blending fruits with fresh or frozen vegetables for a sweeter approach. While we know that too much sugar can harm skin, fruit offers a nutrient-dense alternative. You can hide a surprising amount of spinach in a well-blended smoothie! For an easy alternative, we like Smoothie Box’s skin-loving collagen smoothies.
Don’t rely on diet alone. We know it’s tough to squeeze in all those fruits and veggies. That’s why we created The Base Layer! It’s a simple addition to your healthy skin diet, filling the antioxidant gaps so you can confidently fend off environmental stressors. Subscribe today and get your skin in shape for spring!