Did you know that our skin is considered an organ? Not only that, but our skin is the largest organ in our body. This makes sense, as it plays a major role in keeping us safe and healthy. Our skin acts as a first layer of defense against the outside world, regulates our body temperature, and essentially holds all our insides together (anyone else get a little weirded out when they think too much about that…?)
Not only does our skin play an important role in our health, but also our appearance (although living in an image-conscious world probably makes you fully aware of that). Many of us have heard advice to avoid chocolate, dairy, greasy foods, or even grains to prevent acne and other skin conditions. It can be tricky to sort through the never-ending messages about skincare that surround us, which is why we’ve compiled a list of 5 key strategies for healthy skin. We’ve even enlisted the help of a dermatologist, Dr. Chang Cho (hi, Liana’s dad!), to provide some additional insight.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Our skin is made up of cells that require lots of water to function properly. The lack of proper skin hydration can lead to dry, tight, and flaky skin that is less resilient and more prone to wrinkling. The best way to tell if you’re hydrated? Take a peek at your pee! (Wait, what? No, really) Pale urine is a sign of good hydration, while dark amber, smelly urine indicates dehydration. Drink up, friends!
2. Enjoy your fruits & veggies
A diet containing plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide an abundance of vitamins, antioxidants, and other plant compounds that have been shown to promote healthy skin. Antioxidants can help to prevent damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable particles that damage tissue and can increase cancer risk. This can be especially important for those of us who are frequently in the sun or exposed to UV light, which (in excess) can cause long-term skin damage and increase our chances of developing skin cancer.
3. Enjoy added sugar and processed carbohydrates in moderation
Diets high in added sugar and processed carbohydrates can worsen acne and contribute to wrinkles and reduced skin elasticity. Dairy and gluten are also popular to blame for poor skin, with countless accounts from individuals who have reported improved skin after eliminating these items from their diet. Research has shown potential associations between dairy/gluten and acne/other skin conditions, but these relationships have not been proven definitively (click HERE to read more about the relationship between sugar and acne). Individuals with a diagnosed allergy or intolerance to these foods may see improvement with elimination, but this doesn’t mean that everyone will. If you have questions about how certain foods may affect your skin, or have any other questions about how food interacts with your body overall, we recommend working one-on-one with a registered dietitian (click HERE to check out our virtual counseling services)
4. Enjoy foods rich in these nutrients
- Vitamin C: found in most fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin A/carotenoids: found in carrots, sweet potatoes, milk, eggs, fatty fish, tomatoes, mangoes, and papaya
- Zinc: found in animal products, seafood, and some fortified cereals
- Selenium: found in Brazil nuts, fish, and ham
- Omega-3 fatty acids: found in plant oils (soybean/canola), fish and seafood, and certain nuts/seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts)
5. Reduce your sun exposure
You may be aware that some vitamin D can be naturally synthesized through the skin through exposure to sunlight. While this function of the body is INCREDIBLE (hello free vitamins!), the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) still advises the public to avoid prolonged, unprotected exposure to UV light from sunlight and tanning beds. You can still spend anywhere from 10-30 minutes safely in the sun for about 3 times per week (depending on your skin type and where you live) in order to achieve the natural vitamin D producing effects from sunlight. The AAD also recommends consuming vitamin D through dietary forms, such as tuna, salmon, or fortified foods.
You want to know the best part about all of these recommendations? Not only will they help contribute to healthier skin, but they’re also likely to help you feel better overall. Enjoy a balanced, varied diet, load up on those fruits & veggies, drink your water, and don’t forget your sunscreen. Be sure to check out the American Academy of Dermatology for more tips and information on caring for your skin.
Hungry for more...?
- Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):298-307.
- Vollmer DL, West VA, Lephart ED. Enhancing Skin Health: By Oral Administration of Natural Compounds and Minerals with Implications to the Dermal Microbiome. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(10):3059. Published 2018 Oct 7. doi:10.3390/ijms19103059
- Esther Boelsma, Henk FJ Hendriks, Len Roza; Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 73, Issue 5, 1 May 2001, Pages 853–864, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/73.5.853
- Can the right diet get rid of acne? American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/can-the-right-diet-get-rid-of-acne. Accessed March 25, 2019.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Can a gluten-free diet help my skin? Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-a-gluten-free-diet-help-my-skin. Accessed March 25, 2019.
- AAD comment on Institute of Medicine report on vitamin D. AAD comment on Institute of Medicine report on vitamin D | American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/aad-comment-on-institute-of-medicine-report-on-vitamin-d. Accessed March 25, 2019.
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