We never stop battling with our skin. Just as it seems we've finally conquered acne, it's already time to fight fine lines and wrinkles. And all the while we're navigating SPF and vitamin D -- skin care is certainly tricker than those face wash commercials would have us believe.
Try as we might to find the perfect product for our own unique combination of problematic skin, it turns out we may want to approach skin care from the inside out.
"Every dermatologist will attest that a well-rounded diet will better support a healthy immune system," says Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist in practice in New York City, "and will therefore result in fewer dermatologic conditions of all types."
Yes, what you eat -- and drink -- can keep your exterior in excellent condition. There are foods to keep skin hydrated and soft and foods that protect skin cells from damage (i.e. wrinkles). And there are even foods that might hurt our skin.
However, they may not be the ones you're thinking. "We've all heard of the allegedly 'forbidden' foods that supposedly trigger acne breakouts, such as fried foods, fatty foods, caffeine, nuts, chocolate and even red meat," says Dr. Neal B. Schultz, a dermatologist also in practice in New York City. "The reality is that in well-controlled statistical studies, these foods do not cause acne breakouts."
However, there are still a few culprits to watch out for. In the slideshow below, you'll find the foods the experts suggest to steer clear of. Let us know in the comments if you notice changes to your skin after eating these or other foods.
Ever wake up feeling a little puffy around the eyes? Too much salt can cause some of us to retain water, which can lead to swelling, say New York City dermatologist Dr. Neal B. Schultz. Because the skin around the eyes is so thin, he explains, the area swells easily -- and leaves you cursing last night's popcorn when you catch your reflection the next morning. "These effects of salt are definitely age related," he says, and become more common in middle age.
Shrimp, crab, lobster -- and also certain leafy greens like seaweed and spinach -- are naturally high in iodine, and a diet with too much of this element can lead to acne, says Schultz. However, "these breakouts are based on an accumulated amount of iodine over time, so there's no relationship between eating high iodine foods one day and breaking out the next," he says. Instead, he advises that people who are particularly acne-prone consume these foods a couple of times a month rather than a couple of times a week.
Although its effects are probably still pretty small, according to Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist also in practice in New York City, some dairy products may contribute to skin problems. A 2005 study linked higher milk consumption to presence of acne. While the study had certain flaws, including the fact that participants were asked simply to recall how much milk they drank rather than record it in real time, more recent research, including a 2012 study in Italy, found a connection specifically between skim milk and acne. This is likely because of "a higher amount of bioavailable hormones in skim milk, since they cannot be absorbed in surrounding fat," explains Buka, which can then overstimulate the group of glands that produce our skin's natural oily secretions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In some people with rosacea, dairy products can also trigger the condition's tell-tale redness, Schultz says.
Starchy picks like white breads, pastas and cakes, and even corn syrup, Buka says, are best avoided for dewy skin (and maybe even for maintaining weight loss). Foods that are considered high glycemic can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. A small Australian study from 2007 found that eating a low-glycemic diet reduced acne in young men. But Schultz says there will need to be more research before we truly understand the relationship. However, if glycemic index does prove to be related to skin problems, and you find yourself breaking out after eating something like French fries, it may be due to the starchy insides rather than that greasy, golden exterior, according to YouBeauty.com.
If starchy foods that break down quickly into sugar are an issue, it's no surprise that straight sugar can be problematic for the skin in much the same way. High blood sugar can weaken the skin by affecting tissues like collagen, according to Daily Glow, and leave you more vulnerable to lines and wrinkles. Which is why it's likely not anything particular to chocolate, a rumored breakout culprit, that's giving you trouble, but the high sugar content of that sweet treat. If you're worried about breakouts, but dying for a nibble, stick with the dark stuff -- it packs the most health benefits, anyway.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, which means the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. It saps the natural moisture from your skin as well, which can make those wrinkles and fine lines seem like bigger deals, according to Woman's Day. It can also trigger rosacea outbreaks, Schultz says.