The Good Skin Diet


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Scientific research makes it abundantly clear that a healthy diet wards off many diseases and helps maintain a healthy body. What is not so well known is that a diet rich in beneficial foods can help keep our skin looking and acting younger, longer. Combined with a good skincare routine and being sun-smart, eating a skin-friendly diet can play a significant role in achieving the skin you want!

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Inflammation: From the Inside Out

If you use well-formulated products (including a sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater daily,) you’re already doing a lot to avoid the damage and irritating ingredients that generate inflammation in the skin, both of which damage collagen and elastin. In much the same way irritants and sun damage cause inflammation, eating unhealthy, processed foods can cause inflammation in the body—and you’ll eventually see the effects of this on your skin!

When we say “inflammation” in connection with your diet, we don’t mean how upsetting the bill can be after a trip to a high-end natural foods market; rather, we’re talking about the type of inflammation that occurs within our bodies. Chronic inflammation, whether from your diet or other sources, floods the body with stress hormones, stimulates pain receptors (so you feel worn down), destroys healthy collagen, limits cell renewal, slows your body’s ability to heal itself, and may even trigger acne breakouts.

Many of the foods people eat on a regular basis worsen chronic inflammation, especially when paired with other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as unprotected sun exposure, smoking, and not getting enough sleep. Because of this, it’s easy to see why using great skincare products is only part of the plan to keep your skin smooth, younger looking, and healthy regardless of your age.

Perhaps the most tempting, yet pro-aging and possibly pro-acne, food to avoid is sugar. Here’s why sugar isn’t as sweet as you think!

AGEs: the Bitter Side of Sweet!

Sugar in the body triggers a process known as glycation, and that’s not good news. Glycation is a chemical reaction that occurs when the sugar you eat interacts with your body’s lipids and proteins. This reaction forms advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which are destructive, inflammation-producing molecules that contribute to disease and increase free-radical damage, wrinkles, sagging, and, theoretically, acne (acne is an inflammatory skin disorder).

When an excess of sugary sweets makes a regular appearance in your diet, the rate of glycation increases, adding to the “AGE-ing” process.

Cutting Out AGEs and Chronic Inflammation

Eating the right foods and minimizing those that trigger inflammation and AGEs is an anti-aging MUST. In addition, a nutrient-rich diet helps reduce the risk of multiple diseases and other chronic health issues. Research has demonstrated that the following foods are the worst of the inflammation-promoting and AGEing offenders:

  • Excessive sugar consumption, especially refined sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup, but any sugar (including honey and, yup, agave nectar) causes the formation of AGEs.
  • Trans-fats (any oil listed as “partially hydrogenated” qualifies), which include margarine and most shortenings.
  • Processed or cured meats, including bacon, which contains nitrites and nitrates, which are an acute source of inflammation.
  • Red meat; if you won’t give up beef, at least choose the leanest cuts and avoid grilling, grilling with charcoal, or cooking it till it’s dark brown or black, which increases AGEs.
  • Highly processed foods, which include most of the items on the menu at fast-food restaurants and lots of the pre-packaged meals and snack foods in grocery stores.
  • White flour, which is the source of simple carbohydrates present in most baked goods, no matter how fresh.
  • Desserts such as cakes, pastries, and, yes, even that breakfast muffin, are often loaded with sugar, plus many of them are made from white flour.
  • Salty foods cause bloating, puffiness, and tired-looking skin, only a few of the consequences of too much salt. Consider using sea salt: It has more minerals and is thought to be more flavorful (so you’ll use less) than regular table salt.

The Best Anti-Aging Foods

Anti-aging foods are far from flavorless or boring, and they have been shown to reduce inflammation and the glycation process. The next time you’re jotting down your grocery list, be sure to add these anti-inflammatory, appearance-boosting foods (and leave the processed cheese doodles and sugared drinks on the shelf):

  • Green, black, and red teas.
  • Coffee, but most of us should limit consumption to 1–2 cups daily.
  • Deeply colored berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
  • Deeply colored vegetables, especially leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as red cabbage.
  • Red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and all types of hot peppers.
  • Salmon and other cold-water, oily fish are a bountiful source of omega-3 fatty acids; choose wild-caught rather than farm-raised.
  • Walnuts are considered the Superman of nuts, but most nuts have health benefits.
  • Grape seed oil, walnut, rice bran, and canola oils.
  • Whole grains boost your fiber intake, which reduces inflammation.
  • Spices such as ginger, turmeric, cardamom, curry, cumin, garlic, oregano, basil, and tamarind.
  • Flax, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds.

The Bottom Line

Start eating an anti-aging/anti-acne diet now! It’s never too late. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the more beautiful things you can do for yourself and your skin. Routinely eating the right foods can lead to the production of healthier skin cells, reduce dry skin, create a more radiant complexion, reduce the number of breakouts and wrinkles, and give your skin greater resiliency, so you look younger, longer.

This dietary approach complements the right skincare products and, of course, daily sun protection is an absolute must!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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