The Connection Between Our Skin and Diet: Are You What You Eat?

Jhanvi Natarajan | SQ Blogs

Wherever we look, a new health trend seems to pop up. Celery juice, bee pollen, microgreens, A2 cow milk – these are just a few I have personally seen circulate through the internet and in my circle of friends and family. The main idea behind all these fads is the same: ushering in a new era of what we call “clean eating”. Specifically, how “clean eating” impacts our skin health.

But what exactly is “clean eating”? Clean eating focuses on foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, free from harmful chemicals and probably organic. A survey conducted by the Food Information Council showed that for “clean eaters”, they tend to consume foods that are not highly processed, sticking more to fresh fruits and vegetables as well as foods that have a short ingredient list with as little complicated names and terms as possible

Clean eating in moderation has wonderful benefits for our body. Personally, I have noticed a dramatic improvement in my skin health and overall mood when I cut down on refined sugars and junk food. The days when  I eat more sugar (read chocolate, chips and fried, greasy foods), my skin tends to have bigger, redder pimples over the next few days and seems to look more dull and thin. My mother and grandmother, since I was a kid, have stressed the importance of having a healthy, moderate diet. Especially growing up in India, my diet consisted of home-cooked foods made of organic fruits, vegetables and grains. Since coming to the US, I have noticed the incredible amount of delicious sugary snacks that are constantly available in every corner of the street, and how easy it is to indulge in them. With this uptake in sugar in my diet, I have noticed my skin gets more breakouts easily and more hyperpigmentation. (Hyperpigmentation is when our body overproduces melanin in a certain part of our body, causing it to appear darker. For example, after you have a pimple, the area where it was could appear darker due to this accumulation of melanin. )

When we cut out sugary foods, there is a decrease in inflammation (read: those pesky pimples and acne you’re trying to get rid of!). This is because high sugar foods cause an increase in insulin in our bodies, an enzyme that maintains  our glucose levels, which in turn, can cause an imbalance with our other hormones and trigger those red, bumpy friends of ours to come on our skin. When we eat more sugary/salty foods, our body gets dehydrated and produces  more oil to combat this dryness. Because of this, our skin’s sebaceous glands will secrete  more oil, clogging our pores and causing even more acne! The cycle seems pretty straightforward: the more junk food we eat, the more negative effects occur as our body goes haywire and tries to bring our hormone and oil levels to a normal level, and one of the ways we can see this is really through the health of our skin.

Now let’s talk about foods that can help our skin glow. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, as they help preserve collagen in our skin. These include flax seeds, fish and walnuts, so make sure to include those in your diet. Foods with Vitamin C are wonderful sources of antioxidants and help with fighting the free radicals that come in contact with the surface of your skin, which can damage your skin. Foods that have  vitamin C include oranges, bell peppers and strawberries. Overall, including a healthy mix of different fruits and vegetables will help your skin become  smooth, soft and plump. 

So all in all, if we cut out the sugar, we can potentially save ourselves from hundreds of dollars spent on the latest skincare, pimple patches and dermatologist visits. Our skin is a reflection of the things we put in our body and our internal environment. If we keep our internal body clean, our external body will showcase that. So the key, I believe, lies in the age-old mantra our parents and grandparents have peddled to us since we were kids: You are what you eat. So eat “clean” kids, take care of your health, and see your skin glow!