Beauty Q&A: Can You Eat Your Way to Better Skin?

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Dear Megan,

I’ve heard that chocolate causes acne, as does greasy food, etc. Does your diet really affect your skin?

– Ashley W.

The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ is something I heard a lot growing up but never really understood until I was much older. Basically, if all you eat is junk, you are going to feel like junk. There is a reason you can’t live off of fast food (remember Supersize Me? *shudder* Wrong question; I mean, how could you forget?!). What we eat plays a huge part in our overall health and wellness, but can it affect the appearance of our skin too? Let’s take a look:


Is Water really a #MajorKey?

A wise man once said “moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty,” and while I’m not one to disagree with the great Derek Zoolander, I might have to call bull on this one. I’ve heard it said by many people and online blogs that drinking water will help hydrate your skin. According to dermatologist Dr. Katie Rodan that is not the case, “humans aren’t like plants. Our skin doesn’t perk up when we consume water.” She says when you ingest water it “doesn’t go straight to the skin, it goes through the intestines, gets absorbed into your bloodstream, and is filtered by the kidneys. Then it hydrates cells.”

And other professionals agree! Esthetician Renee Rouleau adds, “Your skin cells need water to live. But did you know that drinking water is the least efficient way to hydrate the skin? The hydration levels of your skin have more to do with how you treat your skin topically.”

Whoooaaaa! Mind blown.

Turns out a great moisturizer and face oil (like Shine) is the best way to get hydrated, dewy skin (source).

Sorry Derek!


So What About Food?

Food is another story. What we consume can have a huge impact on the appearance of our skin, and this is backed up by scientific studies. In dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu’s book, Feed Your Face she examined how diet affects the skin of individuals living in various cultures and found some interesting results;

  • The Inuit (in Alaska):  Amongst Inuit people who consume a traditional diet, there is almost no acne. Those who start to consume a more “American” diet, with lots of fried foods and refined carbohydrates, start to break out.
  • The Zulu (in Africa):  Like the Inuit, the Zulu only started to get acne after adopting a western diet.
  • Rural Brazil:  Brazilians in cities get acne at rates typical to the rest of the world. Yet a study of nearly 10,000 preteens and teenagers found acne in rural Brazilian communities at less than 3 percent. The likely reason? A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, wild game, and other foraged foods – and a lack of access to flash-fried, packaged, and overly-processed foods. (source)

Dr. Wu suggests readers’ diets should include limited or no dairy products, food with a low glycemic index (which means it doesn’t contain a lot of sugar), and limiting your consumption of iodized salt.

She also recommends loading up on foods that contain zinc and omega-3’s! So start adding things like fresh fish, vegetables, lentils, nuts and whole grain to your diet.

What that sounds like to me is a great excuse for looooots of sushi (and tobiko!). Yum!


So…You Actually ARE What You Eat?

Yes! You seriously are.

While water may not help hydrate your skin much, the foods we consume actually do have a HUGE impact on the quality of our skin. I’m not saying DON’T drink water; drinking more water will definitely improve your digestion, mood, energy levels and a whole lot more. It just won’t plump up your skin instantly like one would hope.

Don’t just take it from me – some great resources I’ve found on dieting for your skin are Today show nutritionist Dr. Joy Bauer’s Food Cures, Dr. Jessica Wu’s Feed Your Face and Eat Pretty by Jolene Hart. These are all awesome books for those who want to start eating their way to better skin!

Show the World Just How Committed You Are to Your New Flawless-Skin-Lifestyle, With These Adorable, Unnecessary Items:

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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