Seasons, mood fluctuations, and air pollutants are three seriously underrated conditions that could show up as acne on your face. The breakouts seem to come out of nowhere, they’re awkward and painful, and they often stick around for days. What’s especially frustrating is the lack of control you have over it all — it’s not as if you can tell your stress to just go away!
There is, however, one condition you can control — your diet. We consulted top dermatologists and discovered that the foods you eat really can have an impact on the look and feel of your skin.
“Your skin is what you eat,” confirmed Dr. Bobby Buka, a leading dermatologist in New York City, “so beware the dietary impact foods can have on your largest organ.”
When choosing our dinners, we often think about the health of our gut, the effects on our blood pressure, and the calories that could count. But we don’t think much about our skin. The experts have spoken — there are some foods that just aren’t great if you want a clear complexion.
If you want to stay warm this winter, protect your skin (and your liver) by going easy on the booze. “In cold weather it is important to avoid or minimize alcohol intake,” instructed Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, to The Daily Meal, “because it will tend to make you lose heat more readily from blood vessel dilation.”
She also advised that if you’re using an “alcohol blanket” against the cold, your skin is not going to be happy. The dehydration you experience could lead to dry skin and, in some extreme cases, frostbite, she said.
Deep frying really any food can make it taste incredible — but it’s going to do a number on your complexion. “Deep fried foods lead to excess oil production within the skin,” Rhonda Klein, MD/MPH, told The Daily Meal. No one wants the oil from their food showing up on their face. But the dangers don’t stop there.
“Hydrogenated trans fats found in deep fried food will also have a negative impact on your complexion,” Klein explained.
Cheese is actually a superfood — so it is healthy for you. However, as Klein pointed out, “Dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, milk chocolate) all will increase oil production and lead to blocked pores,” which can cause blackheads and breakouts. If you’re experiencing some acne, maybe pass on the loaded mac and cheese.
Trying to ward off aging? Do your skin a favor and take it easy on the bologna sandwiches. Those slices of meat are absolutely loaded with sodium. “High-sodium diets will cause water retention, swelling, and puffiness, particularly around the eyes,” said Klein. Puffy eyes are a steep price to pay for some processed protein.
Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified NYC dermatologist, unfortunately explained why these plush, doughy treats are off the table. “It’s important to avoid sugary treats like doughnuts, cookies and other high-glycemic foods,” Jaliman said. “Sugar glycates collagen. It stiffens it and ages it prematurely.” We’re reluctantly adding doughnuts to the list of foods that cause wrinkles. But not all sweet treats are off-limits. If you’re looking for dessert that’s as age-defying as it is delicious, try one of these no-sugar-added cookie recipes.
Though fruit juice has been lauded as a great option for kids and a “cleansing” agent for adults, it’s actually loaded with sugar and not much else. All the fiber from the fruit gets extracted, leaving behind a dense concentration of insulin-spiking sugar.
“Research finds those who keep a low-glycemic diet have half the amount of acne than those who eat high-glycemic ones,” Dr. Anna Avaliani, MD revealed. Fruit juice has an insanely high glycemic index for being a plant-based beverage.
While most people are perfectly fine eating gluten and carbs of all kinds, there are a select few members of the population who have an allergy or intolerance to the compound and don’t even know it. The intolerance could make itself known by causing inflammation — like the kind that shows up as acne on your face. “If you are acne-prone, have acne, or have any autoimmune skin conditions, you might want to give yourself a trial off gluten to see if your skin improves,” said Evans.
Low-fat dairy was a major complaint of multiple experts we queried. “As both a nutritionist and dermatologist I recommend avoiding low-fat milk if you have an acne tendency,” said Prystowsky. “These foods can aggravate acne with a dramatic negative effect.”
Prystowsky and Klein both pointed to the high sugar content in these low-fat foods, often added to make up for the deficiency in taste that occurs when you remove the fat. Plus, eating fat doesn’t make you fat — so why take it out?
Got milk? Your skin hopes not. David Lortscher, board-certified dermatologist, CEO and founder of Curology, explained to us the dangers of this drink for your complexion.
“Milk contains precursors to testosterone and other androgens, which influence the hormone receptors in the skin to turn on the process that causes acne,” he said. “The likely link involves insulin-like growth factor 1 as a general stimulant, synergized by the steroid hormones present in milk. Although the mechanism is unclear, the association with acne is marked more with skim milk than with whole milk and in those consuming more than three portions per week.”
“High glycemic index foods like pastas make it hard for the body’s immune system to attack the bacteria that causes acne,” Bobby Buka, MD, told The Daily Meal. There are, of course, healthier ways to eat the stuff than just loading it with Parmesan and butter. But even still, the glycemic load could cause an unwelcome breakout.
While a big box of greasy pie is a delicious late-night treat, you should avoid eating pizza too often if you’re trying to avoid a pizza face. “To add to the different health reasons to avoid greasy food, skincare is one of them,” said Dr. Alain Michon, medical director at the Ottawa Skin Clinic. “Ingesting a lot of fatty acids can result in oily skin, and even in acne.”
You are what you eat, are we right?
“Don’t be fooled,” said Michon. “Even if you have finished going through puberty and are a fully grown adult, you can still get acne breakouts from junk food.”
Americans are finally catching on, it seems — our soda consumption is lower than ever. But even still, soda has crazy amounts of added sugar and can wreak havoc on your skin. “[Added sugar] is the most aging food that we consume,” Dr. Anna Avaliani, MD, told The Daily Meal. “It can make your skin lackluster and speed up your body’s production of wrinkles.” Of all the foods that can speed up aging, unnatural sources of sugar are some of the worst.
“This is because it damages your collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep skin soft and supple,” said Avaliani.
While legal restrictions have limited the amount of trans fats allowed in our diets, some of the deadly nutrient has been allowed to slip through to shelves. “These inflammatory fats will raise cholesterol, increase risk of heart disease, and increase inflammation of the skin,” said Klein. Watch out for these compounds hiding in shelf-staple foods, even ones that say zero grams on the label. Check the ingredients to be sure.
Protein powders of all kinds have been a big hit for health-conscious consumers everywhere — whey protein, the less expensive, animal-based variety is the most common. There’s no denying that whey is a convenient way to add more protein to your day, but Lortscher tells us this benefit could come with consequences.
“Although weight training alone is not thought to result in significant hormonal changes that could lead to acne, supplementation with whey proteins have been shown to flare acne,” Lortscher explains. “These can have similar effects on the skin as drinking too much milk, as they also trigger insulin release from the pancreas and raise insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels.” Plus, while we all need protein to sustain a healthy diet, Americans are always eating way too much.