Like with most things related to wellness, skin health should be considered holistically. Stress, hormones, sleep, the products you’re using, your diet — these are all factors contributing to your skin’s current state and appearance. The bad news? There is no one magic food that will rid you of dark spots and blemishes. But there are foods that have been proven to have dramatic effects on the skin when eaten, and when avoided.
Dairy: Of course, not everyone will breakout after eating a piece of cheese, but there is a confirmed link between consuming dairy and acne. In fact, a number of clinical studies show that for many people, if you keep including dairy in your diet, no amount of acne-fighting product will help. Think of it in the same vein as if you splurge on $200 anti-aging creams yet refuse to wear sunscreen; you’re creating damage at a faster rate than any product can fix.
Sugar: The same study also noted that foods with a high level of the sweet stuff and carbs can promote acne. Just another reason to opt for a diet low in carbs and high in healthy fats.
Food sensitivities: Just like dairy and sugar, gluten, caffeine, fatty foods, processed foods and eggs are commonly associated with acne—if you have a food allergy. But it’s important to remember that food allergies are individualized and can vary greatly from person to person. Again, the healthier your diet is overall, the healthier your skin is likely to look, but keep these common food allergy triggers in mind.
Spicy food: Anything you eat that is hot and spicy will raise your body temperature and dilate blood vessels, which may irritate your skin.
Fruits and vegetables: Eat what’s in season to ensure that you’re not only getting the most cost-effective produce, but the best-tasting ones (thereby encouraging you to actually eat them). Across the board, fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that have anti-inflammatory effects, making them key for healthy skin.
Anti-inflammatory fats: Load up on foods with omega-3 and omega-6 anti-inflammatory fats. Omega-3 fatty acids come mostly from fish (salmon, sardines and cod are all good sources), while omega-6 fatty acids can be found in seeds and nuts, both of which also contain biotin, essential for healthy hair, skin and nails (pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, Brazilian nuts and walnuts are particularly great options).
Probiotics: If you find that you are perfectly able to tolerate dairy, load up on probiotic-rich yogurts, otherwise try raw sauerkraut or take a supplement.
Tea: Acne and stress often go hand-in-hand. Opt for either chamomile or mint, which have been shown to help fight stress. Matcha or traditional green tea are both particularly high in skin-boosting antioxidants.
Fennel: An antioxidant-rich root, it can help protect your skin from the free radical damage that causes fine lines and wrinkles.
Ginger: Dermatologists and nutritionists often tout the benefits of ginger for its ability to help even skin tone and fight age spots.
Water and water-rich foods: Hydration is key for great skin, so make sure you’re getting enough water and loading up on hydrating foods (namely the fruits and vegetables listed above — think cucumbers).