One of my readers asked a question that many of us have either thought of, googled, or tried…can I eat differently to help my complexion? The answer is…possibly! What we eat feeds every cell in our body. We are either eating to help our cells or what we are eating may actually be hurting our cells. There are a few questions we need to be asking: what should I eat to help my complexion and what foods could I be using topically (meaning on your face) to help my complexion?
Let’s start with what to eat. Here’s a list of the top 5 things you should be eating to help you complexion:
- Fats…but not just any fats! UNSATURATED fats, especially omega-3 fats. Unsaturated fats are found mostly in plant sources (olive oil, canola oil, olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower). Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in plants as well as cold water fish. High sources of omega-3 fats are found in canola oil, walnuts, pecans, GROUND (and then refrigerated) flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. Eat up!
- Foods with vitamin C: citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli/cauliflower, and leafy greens. Vitamin C is one of the building blocks for skin cells and it also helps to protect yourself from sun damage when you eat it.
- Foods with vitamin E: this wonder vitamin works similar to vitamin C in protecting your skin cells from damage. Nuts, seeds, oils, greens, and asparagus are all great sources of vitamin E.
- Foods with Biotin: Biotin is a B-vitamin and just like C and E is used as a building block of skin cells. Fun fact: your body makes a small amount of biotin! Cool right? But we still need more through our diet so shoot for foods like bananas, oatmeal, eggs, almonds, and peanuts/peanut butter.
- Foods with zinc: just like the rest of them we need zinc for upkeep on those skin cells. Research also shows that people who have a zinc deficiency are also more prone to acne. Zinc is found in animal sources like shell fish, red meat, and poultry.
IMPORTANT: I do not recommend taking a supplement for these vitamins or minerals unless you talk to your doctor or a dietitian. It is much better to get these vitamins and minerals through food because your body uses them more effectively. Remember that vitamins and minerals in supplement form are usually made in a laboratory with synthetic material not food.
Top 5 things you may want to limit to help your complexion:
- Processed foods: boxed, highly processed foods have less nutrients than whole foods like grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, meats, and oils. Although it may fill your belly it may be emptying your nutrient reserves.
- Sugar: diets high in sugar and too high in carbohydrates may bring blood sugars up which releases insulin. Studies have shown that the more insulin released the more prone people may be to acne. Cut back on sugar (flavored creamer, candy, cookies, cakes pies, sodas) and eat carbohydrates in moderation (because they are definitely good to eat but eating too much of anything isn’t a good thing).
- Saturated fats: fats found in animal meats, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and other animal products have saturated fats. These fats are what we call “inflammatory” fats meaning that they cause inflammation in the body. Too much inflammation can cause skin issues as well as other problems inside the body. Get more “good fats” and less saturated fats.
- Food irritants: some foods like strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, vinegar, avocado, some pit fruits, and others have been known to cause topical dermatitis meaning that if these foods touch the skin it can irritate it. If you think you may be affected by different foods it may be worth a trip to a dermatologist or an allergist just to make sure.
- Food allergens: shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten can all cause skin irritations. If you feel you have a food allergy please contact your doctor immediately to get tested.
Feel like a spa retreat right in your own home? Here are some foods that you can actually put on skin to help improve your complexion.
- Apple cider vinegar: some people think this magical wonder is a cure all. The jury is still out for me but I use it every single day and it does have anti-bacterial/viral/fungal properties. I think it is important to use the apple cider vinegar with “mother” which is a film of good bacteria that helps in digestion and may help topically on your face. Mix the vinegar with water (1:3 vinegar to water ratio) and apply to your face as a cleanser.
- Lemons with oil: mix freshly squeezed lemons with your favorite oil (canola, almond, even coconut) and place on your face. You’ll be getting both vitamin C and vitamin E directly on to your skin which has shown to be beneficial.
- Avocado: this wonderful fruit is great for eating and for wearing! Smash up the avocado and apply it directly to your face. It helps if you puree it (add some lemon juice too).
- Anti-microbial foods: yogurt, honey, cinnamon, garlic, tea tree oil (not a food but a super anti-microbial) are all good for your face. One note about garlic and tea tree oil is they need diluted or they may cause more irritation on your skin. You can dilute them with an oil.
- Baking soda: it is a natural antiseptic meaning it can clean skin of bacteria. Mix a little baking soda with water, apple cider vinegar, or lemon and go to town. This will also help to exfoliate dead skin cells which could help to clear pores.
The take away from this post is that yes, some food can help your complexion while some foods can potentially hurt it. Eating better is always the best recommendation I can make to anyone. Start where you are and make it better step by step. The facial masks are fun but you’ll be better off helping your skin from the inside out!