Importance of Diet in Skin Care
A good diet can make or break your efforts at improving skin damage. Many people overlook the impact that nutrition has on our skin. If your skin isn’t getting what it needs nutritionally, it will be unable to repair itself no matter what topical treatments you use. There is a lot of debate about what makes the perfect diet. It is easy to get overwhelmed and confused from all the nutritional advice out there. Don’t get caught up on following a special diet exactly if it isn’t convenient for you. Eating real, whole food and avoiding processed garbage will take you a long way. Don’t be afraid of actually eating. Our culture’s obsession with thinness leads many people to survive on a diet low in nutrients, which is disastrous when you are on a skin remodeling regimen. This isn’t a diet course, so it doesn’t go into the technical details, but instead gives a few guidelines to help you enhance your results.
If you’d like to do more research about good diets for skin care, read more about Anti Inflammatory diets, Paleo nutrition, and low glycemic foods. Dr. Weil has good recommendations for an anti-inflammatory diet.
Dietary changes can help improve sensitive skin. There is often an underlying nutritional cause to extreme skin sensitivity, including food allergies to wheat, eggs, dairy etc. If your skin is excessively sensitive to the point where you cannot tolerate regenerating skin care products, you should consider overhauling your diet for a month or longer before you start trying to use skin care actives. A low-glycemic diet full of nutrients has been very helpful for many with sensitive skin. Many people with sensitive skin do best going gluten-free and/or dairy-free. Consider trying an elimination diet if you suspect these foods may be problematic for you. Skin care supplements are also recommended.
A diet high in carbohydrates is not ideal for your skin. Excessive carbohydrate intake leads to unhealthy amounts of inflammation in all body tissues. Chronic inflammation is damaging to the entire body and is a major contributor to the aging process. When you use invasive skin resurfacing methods like chemical peels or needling, your skin will already be experiencing inflammation from the controlled damage. Acute inflammation from skin damage is part of the wound healing process. Chronic inflammation is problematic, and one way to reduce it is by controlling your carbohydrate intake. Conventional wisdom and government guidelines recommend consuming up to 300 grams of carbohydrates daily. Many scientists and nutritionists now think that 100 – 200 grams a day is a better range. These carbohydrates should come from vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and whole grains. Refined flour and sugar should be consumed as little as possible, especially while skin remodeling.
Another skin care concern pertaining to carbohydrates is a process called glycation. Excess sugar in your body produces advanced glycation end products or AGEs. The sugars cross-link with the proteins found in your body tissues, causing them to become stiff and malformed. In your skin, the result is glycated collagen. This rigid collagen contributes to wrinkling and a loss of skin elasticity. Reducing sugar will help keep glycation to a minimum. Eliminating high fructose corn syrup is especially helpful, since studies show that it leads to a 10-fold increase in glycation compared to plain sugar. Luckily, stimulating collagen production with effective skin care products and exfoliation allows your body to replace glycated collagen with normal collagen.
You should also consider reducing the amount of cereal grains in your diet. Gluten has an inflammatory effect for many people, even if they don’t have the severe symptoms of celiac disease. Gluten is found in large amounts of wheat, barley and rye. Grains like oats, rice, corn, millet, and quinoa are better have very low amounts of gluten and are less likely to produce an inflammatory response.
Balance Omega Fatty Acids
The Omega essential fatty acids are necessary nutrients that the body cannot produce and must come from food. You may have heard about the benefits of fatty fish and fish oil, which are rich in anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids. Most diets are deficient in omega 3, but deliver an abundance of omega 6 fatty acids. The body needs a balance of these fatty acids where the Omega 6’s are no more than 4 times the omega 3’s, but most western diets give ratios that are between 11:1 to 30:1. Much of the omega 6 in our diets comes from corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and soybean oils. Avoid cooking with these oils; use extra virgin olive oil instead. Walnut, flaxseed, and hempseed oils are also good alternatives.
Try to consume 2 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids daily, preferably from food instead of supplements. Salmon, sardines, herring, flaxseeds and walnuts are good sources of Omega 3. Animal sources of Omega 3 are especially helpful because your body has to convert omega 3 from plant sources into a usable form. Choose organic, pastured or Omega 3 eggs, and grass fed beef over their conventional counterparts, because they are higher in omega 3 and lower in omega 6.
You may also want to include a Gamma Linolenic Acid, or GLA supplement. It’s technically Omega 6, but behaves differently than the other fatty acids and is not common in our diet. It is used to reduce skin dryness, inflammation, and dermatitis. Avoid Omega 6 supplements, or combinations of 3-6-9, and look for supplements that only contain Omega 3.
You’ve heard it before: drink more water. And you should, especially if you are trying to take care of your skin. Dehydrated skin is sunken, dry, and unhealthy. The old advice of 8 glasses a day has been replaced with drink when you are thirsty. Unfortunately, the thirst mechanism in many people is weak, so it may be better to intentionally consume 4 to 6 glasses a day to make sure you’re getting enough.
Don’t Be Afraid of Fat
Inadequate fat intake is bad for your skin. Skin needs dietary fats to produce the lipids in the skin barrier. Sugar, not fat, is more likely to make you gain weight and have difficulties losing it. Yes, fat has a lot of calories, but it is also an essential component of a healthy diet. Fat is also filling, so it can help regulate the appetite.
Try to get most of your dietary fats from “good fats.” Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the most beneficial. Olive oil is a great source. Trans fats, mainly found in excessive amounts in commercial baked goods that you should avoid any way, are the most damaging type of fat. Avoid anything that contains the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated on the ingredient label, and don’t cook with shortening. Do not completely shun saturated fat. It shouldn’t be consumed in excess, but some saturated fat is necessary for many biological functions, including hormone production and cell membrane health.
Antioxidants and Nutrients
If you’re consuming a lot of vegetables, chances are you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals for general nutrition. It may not be optimum, however, especially for skin regeneration. The nutrient content of our produce has plummeted over the past few decades. The recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of vitamin and nutrients given by the US government is considered inadequate by many nutritionists. Those levels are based on old studies done on rats. They are basically survival levels, but not enough to thrive. A diet containing the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables will typically provide you with much more than the RDA of most nutrients. That basically tells us that you need more than you’ll get from a diet of iceberg lettuce and jello supplemented with a multivitamin, which is a nutrition profile unfortunately common in the beauty community.
Organic produce often has a better nutrient profile than conventional fruits and veggies, so it’s probably the best choice if you prefer to get all your nutrients from food. But most people will find that supplements, combined with actually eating real food, will enhance the results of their skin resurfacing efforts. If you don’t want to take a bunch of pills, a “skin” multivitamin and an antioxidant mix will give you a good boost with minimal inconvenience. If you’d like to take a more advance approach, here is a compilation of supplement recommendations given by many prominent dermatologists and anti aging researchers.
|Vitamin A, as mixed carotenoids||Mixed||With meals|
|Vitamin C||1000 mg||Divide doses|
|Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C ester)||500 mg||Morning|
|Vitamin E, as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols||Mixed||Morning|
|Calcium/Magnesium||1000 mg / 400 mg||Divide dinner, bedtime|
|Zinc||15 to 30 mg||Once|
|Acetyl L-Carnitine||500 – 1500 mg||Divide breakfast, lunch|
|Alpha Lipoic Acid||100 mg||Divide breakfast, lunch|
|Co Q10, Ubiquinol form for ages 45+||30-100mg||Divide breakfast, lunch|
|L-Glutamine||500 mg – 2 grams||Divide breakfast, lunch|
|Omega 3, fish oil||1.5 – 2 grams||Daily|
|DHEA, age 45+ only||15-50 mgs||Daily|
Helpful Skin Diet Guidelines
There isn’t a specific diet plan to follow, but here are some general daily recommendations to help you design your own menu. Minimizing carbohydrates from fruit and grains is more important when skin remodeling than at other times in your life. Don’t be afraid of eating real food!
Your daily diet should include:
1-2 cups dark leafy green vegetables
1 serving berries
1 serving fatty fish, walnuts, or flaxseeds or 1-2g Omega 3 from fish oil supplement
5-9 servings vegetables daily
adequate protein and fat
25-40 grams of fiber
Eliminate or minimize:
wheat or other cereal grains
starchy vegetables and potatoes
conventionally farmed red meat and eggs
exceeding 150g of total carbohydrates a day