Diet and how it affects the skin is perhaps one of the most fiercely controversial and heavily researched topics around. Here’s what we know.
1. Diet and Acne
It’s official: Mom wasn’t always right. Chocolate and fatty foods (including french fries!) have not shown a link to acne in 4 large multi-centered, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Although there are many other reasons not to fill your diet with high-fat foods, acne isn’t one of them. What has emerged, however, is a link between milk and acne. When dairy products and acne studies were expanded to include various forms of milk, such as skim, 2%, and organic, the relationship held. These studies were never fully able to quantify the amount of milk one would have to drink to create an acne outbreak, but it appears to be quite a bit. Therefore, while I typically ask patients about their dairy intake, I have never once counseled a patient to stop drinking milk.
Additional data has emerged linking high-glycemic foods to acne as well. Foods with high levels of processed sugar like soda and candy can contribute to more severe acne. It is again difficult to quantify how much candy will result in more acne, but the relationship between the two is irrefutable.
2. Diet and Aging
Is there a “fountain of youth” food? Proabably not, but there is plenty of focus on anti-oxidant foods whose benefits might be transferrable to the skin. Foods that contain high levels of the amino acid, cysteine, can actually help decrease the amount of oxidative stress your skin sustains from sun exposure and airbourne pollutants. A diet high in foods like red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprouts, oats, granola, wheat germ can actually reduce the amount of free radical damage, resulting in stronger and healthier collagen.
3. Diet and Eczema/Psoriasis
The best studied link between diet and the skin is the relationship between omega long-chain free fatty acids (commonly found in fresh fish) and psoriasis or eczema. Researchers have yet to agree upon a mechanism of action here to explain why this occurs, but it’s most likely related to normalizing the rate of skin regeneration. Normal epidermis takes nearly a month to regenerate; psoriatic skin turns over in only 7 days. Patients with psoriasis who eat a diet high in fresh fish have been able to better regularize this epidermal turn-over and experience fewer flares because of it.