When I stopped birth control pills, my acne flared up to its worst in my life. For months, I was too embarrassed to go outside for any reason. I tried all the “miracle cures” and “promised remedies”, like ProActiv and Neutrogena, spot treatments, masks, you name it…It wasn’t until I discovered that eating the right food for healthy skin that I finally saw the improvements that I wanted.
And, boy, were they massive improvements! I am still astounded by the difference the right food for healthy skin makes!
The Story of Your Skin
Unfortunately, many of us know that a bunch of things can go wrong with your skin: dryness, redness, blemishes, cystic acne, rosacea, etc.
Your skin actually tells a very honest story about what’s going on inside your body. Skin is one of the 5 main detoxification organs. Your first major detox organ is the liver, where most of the detoxification of hormones, chemicals, foods, etc. happens. If the liver can’t take care of it all, though, the kidneys, lungs, lymphatic system and skin pick up the slack.
So, if your skin is less than clear, smooth and beautiful, it means there is an underlying issue inside your body. This is why most spot treatments and masks really don’t do much beyond extracting gunk from pores or drying up blemishes. You need to address the issue from the inside.
Your Face is a Storyteller
For example, your face is amazing storyteller. Acne or blemishes on your forehead indicate a blood sugar imbalance (or possibly just too much sugar in your diet). It can also indicate that you’re under a lot of stress.
Around your nose usually means digestive issues, specifically related to gas and bloating. This indicates to me that your gut flora is imbalanced and a good probiotic is needed.
If your acne shows up around your temples, your high-fat diet may be the cause. Either you’re eating too many unhealthy fats OR your healthy high-fat diet is causing your gallbladder some grief. If you fall into the former category, well, you know what you need to do! If you’re in the latter, a good digestive enzyme with ox bile can really help.
Skin issues that show up on your cheeks indicate a number of things. Stress, allergies to certain foods (this is where gluten and wheat show up for me if I eat them), overburdened liver, and digestive issues are common.
And, finally, if your skin issues are mainly around your jawline and chin, you have a hormonal imbalance.
How to Use Food for Healthy Skin
Let’s first talk about what foods to avoid!
Anytime you eat an allergenic or inflammatory food, your body is going to react. You may not know which foods are causing your skin issues, so I’ve put together a list of the most common culprits.
Start by eliminating these entirely from your diet for at least 2 months. It sounds hard, but it gets easier over time – trust me! I’ve been avoiding these foods for years and have never felt or looked better.
The first food category to avoid is processed food. To make this a little easier, start with anything that you know is ‘junk’ food and anything with more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Learn to read nutritional labels, too, so that you can recognize ingredients and develop patterns.
Next up is dairy, even raw dairy. Dairy is the most pro-inflammatory food in North America. Plus, it’s full of hormones that create a state of estrogen dominance in a lot of women. You don’t need dairy for its calcium – get calcium from broccoli, spinach, sesame seeds and salmon bones.
Third is gluten. There is a small number of people who are seriously allergic to gluten (i.e. celiac disease) but most of us have a sensitivity to it without realizing. Gluten is a protein found in a number of grains. If your digestive system isn’t healthy, chances are gluten is a problem for you.
And finally, sugar. Ditch as much refined sugar and artificially sweetened foods as you possibly can. Stevia is really the only sweetener that won’t affect your skin.
Foods to Stock Up On
While any whole foods diet will help improve the look and feel of your skin, there are a few specific foods to focus on.
Known to improve skin health due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, green tea is an excellent food for healthy skin. Drink 3-4 cups daily (preferably before 2 pm so it doesn’t impact sleep). Or, feel free to choose decaf versions. They’re just as effective.
Plus, the extra water will boost hydration.
Wild-Caught Salmon, Halibut and Mackerel
These fatty fish contain one of the most important nutrients for health skin – omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory; plus, vitamins A and D help reduce blemishes and improve skin tone.
And, healthy omega-3 fats boost skin hydration too. Included in this category of food for healthy skin are walnuts, extra virgin olive oil and ground flaxseeds.
Bell Peppers and Citrus Fruits
Did you know that you need vitamin C to make collagen? And that as you age, collagen production declines?
Collagenis the protein behind the suppleness and moisture of your skin. This helps improve skin tone and reduce wrinkles. Plus, personally, I find that a collagen supplement a few times a week really helps reduce blemishes.
Make sure to not overcook your vitamin C-rich foods, as this destroys the vitamins. Instead, eat these foods raw or only lightly steamed.
This amazing superfood contains not only collagen but an amino acid, glycine. Glycine helps promote collagen production too, and it improves the speed at which you skin heals.
This is a personal favorite for anytime my skin starts to act up.
Lemons are a gentle liver detoxifier. When your forehead or temples start to break out, add the juice of half a fresh lemon to a glass of water each morning and drink this until your skin clears up. This food for skin health can be included in your daily diet if you love it! There is never anything wrong with keeping your liver healthy.
I know I mentioned them earlier, but these little gems also help reduce hormonal acne. Women with estrogen dominance or low estrogen may experience cyclical acne. Depending on your unique hormonal balance, you may experience acne around your period (estrogen dominance) or mid-cycle (low estrogen).
A tablespoon of ground flaxseed per day can help improve both conditions. It’s a unique adaptogenic food that will figure out what your body needs and either increase or decrease estrogen.
Plus, the healthy fats make this the perfect food for skin health as it boosts hydration.
The Lifestyle Factors
We can’t forget these, too, when it comes to holistic nutrition and health.
Earlier, I told you that stress can manifest on your face too. So, make sure you’re managing your stress, exercising moderately most days, and getting a good night’s sleep.
If your stress is overwhelming, you may need some nutritional support to get you back on track. Stress hormones promote inflammation and reduce collagen production, both of which lead to premature aging.
One More Trick
If you have those little annoying red bumps on the back of your arms, this is an overproduction of the protein keratin. Liver-cleansing foods help but one of the best ways I’ve found to reduce those is to use coconut oil as a body lotion on your arms. I haven’t figured out why this works, but it makes a HUGE difference.
I put the coconut oil on in the shower and just let it soak in.
It’s not what you put on your skin that matters (at least, not very much).
Improve your skin look and feel with the right foods. Food for skin health is really your best option when it comes to addressing any type of skin condition. All of the foods and tips I listed above help with eczema, rosacea and other common skin ailments too, not just acne.
A whole foods diet rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and adequate protein, plus lots of filtered water, will really help improve your skin from the inside.