These days, body image issues are only growing in significance. It is more commonly thought that negative body image is mainly attributed to weight issues. However, skin related concerns are a major contributor to negative body image, with skin diseases affecting as many as 1 in 3 Americans at any given time.
Those affected by common skin conditions like acne or aging skin are eager for new approaches. What many fail to realize is that when it comes to our bodies, change starts on the inside and works its way out. Meaning in order to change our bodies, we must first change what we put in our bodies. A diet supporting overall health will also support healthy skin.
Although everyone’s skin concerns are unique, good nutrition is a great universal form of skincare no matter who you are. Here are 4 major considerations when switching up your diet to achieve a healthier-looking complexion:
Water and Hydration
Without water, our organs wouldn’t function properly or at their best, and our skin is no different seeing as it’s the body’s largest organ. If your skin is not getting a sufficient amount of water or hydration, it can result in dry skin which is more prone to wrinkling. In some cases, a lack of hydration can cause acne because the skin will produce more oil to make up for the missing moisture.
Every day the body loses water through breath, perspiration, and excretion, so it’s imperative to replace it. You may have heard of the 8×8 rule; the recommendation that a person should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. The 8×8 rule is a good place to start when increasing water consumption, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for fixing skin conditions.
As a matter of fact, the drawback to drinking water for healthier skin is that water will reach all the other organs before it reaches the skin, so, additional means of hydration may be necessary. One of the best ways to hydrate the skin from the outside-in is to use a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid holds 1,000 times its own weight in water within the cells of skin giving it the moisture-binding power to keep skin hydrated when applied topically.
Super-foods and Nutrients
Staying hydrated goes beyond beverages. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, foods make up about 20 percent of your total fluid requirements each day. So if you’re looking for further hydration, add foods with high water content to your diet, such as: watermelon, cucumbers, berries, and celery.
Aside from foods high in water, nutrient-dense foods are also essential for healthy skin because the food we eat is digested and broken down into nutrients that can be absorbed by the body which are then used to help with various processes.
For instance, beta-carotene is a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments found in certain plant-based foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and even dark leafy greens. “Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which regulates cell production and turnover (the process by which old cells are shed and replaced by new ones) so skin’s surface is smooth,” according to Valori Treloar, M.D., coauthor of The Clear Skin Diet. Experts also suggest eating foods with zinc and iron such as lean meat and poultry. Zinc contributes to the natural shedding of dead skin which keeps skin from looking dull, and red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen to the skin, helping give you a glow.
Don’t assume that a diet means you need to deprive your sweet tooth. After all, they don’t call it a well-balanced diet for nothing. Realistically, healthy eating requires balance and moderation. Many people shoot for the 80/20 rule; a diet should aim to include 80 percent of healthy food choices and the other 20 percent can include less healthy food or treats.
That’s right — you don’t have to completely forego your favorite dessert for the sake of your skin. Even the popular claim that chocolate contributes to breakouts can be dispelled as no studies have shown a direct link between chocolate and acne. Rather, acne is caused, in general, by overproduction and buildup of bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells. So instead of depriving yourself of chocolate by chalking it up as the source of your acne, seek out medicated acne treatments whose ingredients help to stop acne-causing bacteria from reproducing and keep pores clear.
But, for those who are still wary about indulging in their chocolate cravings, implement moderation and modification by choosing dark chocolate made with at least 70 percent cocoa, as it is less processed and contains more antioxidants and minerals than milk chocolate.
For some, their guilty pleasure is dessert, for others, their sweet tooth might desire something a little more mature, like a sweet, adult beverage. As with most other things, alcohol too has its pros and cons when it comes to skin health.
Alcohol is associated with increased rates of sunburn as it expends much of the antioxidant protection in your skin, according to a recent publication from U.S. News & World Report. On the contrary, they note that tomato paste and fruit juice can counteract some of the harmful effects of UV light exposure and sunburns. So consider swapping out that can of beer for a bloody mary or screwdriver.
It’s important to remember that everybody’s skin is different. Those with skin concerns should talk to a dermatologist, dietician, or other medical professionals before changing their eating habits to make sure they are still receiving all the necessary nutrients their body needs and to rule out any other potential causes of skin irritations, like food allergies. Here’s to healthy and radiant skin!