What to Eat For Skin Health
Skin. It’s your largest and most visible organ and something that a lot of people are self-conscious about. Whether it’s a small blemish, wrinkles, acne or anything else, at some point, everyone has felt wary of something skin-related.
There are many different types of skin; normal, oily, sensitive, dry and combination, and while genetics are a large contributor to skin type, your skin type can be exacerbated by your diet and general lifestyle.
“The type of skin you have can be down to a combination of genetics, hormones, and environment.”
Firstly, what kind of skin do you have?
- Normal – ‘normal’ skin is not too dry, or too oily, and doesn’t require any type of ‘special’ treatment.
- Sensitive – sensitive skin is more prone to reactions from stimuli than ‘normal’ skin is. It can be easily irritated, is more likely to become infected, and can often cause discomfort, such as heat, tightness, itchiness, dryness and redness. It can require a little bit of extra care, especially in extreme weather, and caution with skincare, and general household products (e.g. washing powders).
- Dry – dry skin is mostly caused by weather, for example, very low air humidity or cold weather. Dry skin is also more prone to cracking, which can leave it more exposed to bacteria, which can cause other skin disorders such as eczema. It can be identified by a feeling of tightness and roughness, sometimes with small cracks, redness and itching, and in extreme cases, bleeding.
- Oily – oily skin can be porous, humid and bright, and is caused by excessive far production by sebaceous glands. Unfortunately, oily skin is mostly genetic and/or hormonal. People with oily skin are also likely to have, or have had acne, and is most common in people under 30.
- Combination – combination skin can present both dry and oily characteristics. The skin on the cheeks is generally normal or dry, whereas the T-Zone (forehead, nose and chin), tend to be more oily.
As can be inferred, the type of skin you have can be down to a combination of genetics, hormones, and environment. These are, unfortunately, things we have little control over. However, your diet and lifestyle can also impact the appearance of your skin, and luckily is something we do have control over.
There are five key vitamins that help aid skin health:
- Vitamin A – Vitamin A can be found in dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yoghurt, but also in eggs, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads and liver – generally foods higher in fat.
- Riboflavin (aka Vitamin B2). Riboflavin can be found in products such as milk, eggs, fortified cereals, mushrooms and plain yoghurt.
- Niacin (aka Vitamin B3). This can also be found in eggs, as well as meat, fish and wheat flour.
- Vitamin C – famously found in citrus fruits, but did you know that a red bell pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange? It is common in other fruits, like strawberries and blackcurrants, but also abundant in broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes (so chips aren’t so bad after all!).
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E is largely found in plant oils (e.g. vegetable, sunflower, soya, corn and olive oil), as well as nuts and seeds, and various wheat germ products, again, generally foods higher in fat.
Therefore, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables (there’s a surprise!), fish and meat-proteins, eggs, plant oils and dairy, can aid in keeping your skin healthy. As well as drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and ensuring you wash and moisturise your face (especially if you have sensitive, dry or oily skin).
But dairy and gluten are bad for me?
It is commonly thought that dairy products and gluten can cause skin problems, leading to them being cut out of many diets. Strangely, there is no sufficient evidence to prove this, despite it seeming to be a well-established ‘fact’.
There are some studies that show a link between acne breakouts and consumption of leucine (an essential amino acid). There are links, although tenuous currently, that show foods with a higher leucine content may exacerbate acne. Such foods include rump steak and high-fat cheeses (such as gouda). This is somewhat compounded by non-Westernised societies having a much lower incidence of acne (<3%), compared with Westernised societies (~85%). However, white people are significantly more likely to have a variation in the IGF-1 gene that predisposes to acne.
These studies have not been conclusive enough to definitively prove the association, and furthermore, these findings are only applicable to those with acne – if you or none of your relatives have acne, you needn’t worry! Even if you do have acne, there’s still no need to completely eliminate dairy from your diet. It is possible that you could potentially benefit from foods lower in leucine, but such decisions should be made carefully, with a dietician.
If your skin is something you’re self-conscious about, and you feel like you perhaps could have a slightly healthier diet, give it a go for a week or so and see if it makes a difference!
It’s been said thousands of times, but eating meals that are balanced (i.e. a good amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat) are imperative to good health. If you’re unsure what a balanced meal should look like, why not give our 5-day trial a go! We’ll be happy to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction.
If you need any advice beforehand, don’t hesitate to book a call with our team of qualified nutrition experts here.