By Wendy McMillan
Certain foods can sap moisture and steal much-needed nutrients, damaging skin and helping to make you look older. Here’s what not to eat for a better-looking future.
Greasy, fried foods are often full of trans fats and saturated fats, both which contribute to inflammation, says Kristin Hoppe, a nutrition consultant and natural chef in San Francisco. Hoppe recommends swapping bad cooking fats—like margarine or shortening—for healthy oils, such as cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil and unrefined coconut oil.
Refined, sugary foods, such as juices, sweets, and white bread, pasta, and rice, can trigger chemical reactions in the body that prevent collagen from repairing itself, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a nutritionist in Sarasota, Florida. As a result, sloughed skin can clog pores and increase acne. Too much dietary sugar can also result in blood-sugar imbalances, leading to hormonal imbalances that cause blocked pores and acne.
Alcohol in excess can cause facial flushing and broken capillaries. “Alcohol causes dehydration and makes it difficult for cells to naturally detoxify and absorb nutrients,” says Hoppe. “This causes skin to be dry, dull, and irritated, and increases the likelihood of wrinkles.”
Excessive caffeine, especially in sodas with sugars or artificial sweeteners, can dehydrate and aggravate skin as well as contribute to eczema, says Hoppe. “Staying properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water and low-sugar and low-sodium fluids will remove toxins that build up in your skin, helping to prevent it from drying out,” she advises.
Heavily salted foods “can cause fluid retention that stretches the skin to make it look smooth in the short term,” says Gerbstadt, “but over time, water retention can damage connective tissue and recoil function, or the ability for tissue to spring back to its normal shape when stretched, which makes skin look wrinkled.”
Sensitivities or allergies to foods, most commonly gluten, dairy, corn, and soy, can contribute significantly to skin conditions such as acne, eczema, dryness, and psoriasis, Hoppe says: “Identifying foods you may be sensitive to and eliminating them from your diet can have dramatic effects on your skin.” Pinpoint your food allergies and intolerances with an elimination diet.