A good skincare routine is one thing, but as many of us are now aware, what happens on the inside is just as important as what we apply topically. That is why considering our diet, and all of the things we ingest, is key to ensuring skin is healthy and glowing, especially when in conjunction with a good skincare routine. “Science has demonstrated that poor eating habits and a lack of optimal nutrition are direct causes of skin ageing,” says Dr. Ashwin Soni, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at The Soni Clinic. “A good diet is imperative to maintain the health of our skin and to help slow down skin ageing.”
Many scientific studies have shown that diet is an important factor to consider when dealing with some dermatological conditions, whether eczema or acne, and others have demonstrated that those with balanced eating habits generally have better quality skin health. “Essentially our skin is our largest organ and a reflection of our inner health,” agrees skin expert Natali Kelly. “It's also our barrier to the environment we live in. If we don't have a good, balanced diet, we will never have glowing skin.”
One key symptom of a poor diet is inflammation, which, according to aesthetic doctor, Dr. Rabia Malik, is one of the main things that visibly manifests in our skin. “Internal inflammation can show up in the skin as redness, irritation, breakouts, acne and congestion,” she says, plus chronic conditions like eczema, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis are also inflammatory. “Dietary triggers for internal inflammation include dairy, gluten and sugar,” she adds.
If you are worried that any food (or drink) you are consuming is triggering poor skin, then Kelly suggests trying an elimination diet. “Remove any foods that you believe could be triggering your skin condition for four weeks, then slowly reintroduce them one by one, and monitor any reactions,” she advises. “Your body's response should be able to tell you if you have any sensitivity to them. Keeping a food diary can also help.”
So, what do we need to know about eating for healthy skin? Below, the experts share their key tips.
Eat a balanced diet
All the experts agree that a healthy and balanced day is essential for luminous skin, but what actually constitutes a balanced diet? “Variety is key and you should be looking to eat at least five fruit and vegetables a day,” explains Dr. Soni. “Eat more fruit, vegetables, grains, fish and nuts, all are high in vitamins and proteins that are essential for skin health.”
For healthy collagen levels, ensure you consume enough protein to help your cells build it, says Kelly, so “lean meat and eggs are also good”. She also recommends avocados for overall skin health because it is an excellent source of good fats, as well as extra virgin olive and coconut oils. Eating seasonally and organic will also ensure the fruit and vegetables you eat are as nutritious as they can be, for overall improved health and skin.
Get your omegas
Studies have shown that the fatty acids, like omega-3, in fish oil can improve all-important skin barrier function, reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation, boost wound healing and reduce dry skin. “Omega-3 fatty acids help preserve the collagen in your skin,” says Dr. Soni. “They can be found in fish or flaxseeds, chia seeds and nuts too if you do not eat fish.”
Eat with your gut in mind
“Research has demonstrated the link between gut health and healthy skin, which seems to be mediated by the immune system,” says Dr. Soni. “Therefore, if there is an imbalanced gut microbiome, this can negatively impact the skin and lead to certain inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and rosacea, to name a few.”
To help foster good bacteria in the gut, avoid highly processed foods and ensure you are eating your fair share of fibre and nutrients via vegetables, wholegrains, fruit, pulses, and nuts. But it is also wise to load up on fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi or sauerkraut, one 2021 study from Stanford found that a 10-week diet high in foods like these led to increased microbiome diversity and a decrease in inflammatory proteins. Good for the body, and the skin. Probiotics are also a great idea, more on which later.
Avoid the bad stuff
The key to healthy, glowing skin is to avoid the things that we know cause skin damage, explains Dr. Malik. These include smoking cigarettes, drinking excessive alcohol and ingesting a diet laden with processed or fried foods, they increase the amount of inflammation in the skin and additionally have very few nutritional benefits. Eat too many and you'll quickly notice skin becomes dull, sallow and lacklustre, not to mention puffy. Additionally, alcohol will dry out the skin, adds Dr. Soni, and “dehydrated skin is more likely to age faster”.
Excess sugar is also a culprit as it causes glycation, which essentially damages collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging, dullness, increased fine lines and a general lack of suppleness. From sugar and high fructose corn syrup to white bread and sweets, make sure you keep sugar intake to a minimum. “The one dietary change we know helps improve skin conditions like acne is to follow a low glycemic index diet, as high blood sugar levels lead to changes in hormone balance, which can contribute to acne and breakouts,” says Dr. Malik.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
You have heard it all before, but hydration really is everything for healthy skin that functions effectively. “Water is vital to maintain the balance and function of tissues in the body,” says Dr. Soni. “A lack of water can cause skin dehydration, plus issues such as inflammation and ageing. Studies have shown that the more water that we drink, the better our skin health.” Aim to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day to improve hydration levels.
Take your supplements
Of course, a balanced diet is all well and good, but no one is perfect, so it can be wise to take your supplements. “Probiotics for good gut health, omega-3, zinc and collagen peptides are all supplements I recommend for healthy skin,” says Kelly. “I love collagen coffee and chlorophyll water, which cleans the blood and detoxes, too. So much so that we give them out in the clinic.” Meanwhile, Dr. Malik advises working on improving your diet first and then moving on to supplements if there is a deficiency, somewhere along the line.