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You Are What You Eat: How Diet Is Affecting Your Skin

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

You’re probably already aware that eating a healthy diet has many benefits for your body including boosting immunity, keeping a toned look, sleeping well or even improving your overall mood. However, a less commonly talked about result of what you’re eating is its effect on skin. Many people strive for a bouncy, glowy skin but overlook the fact that what we are putting in our bodies may be the key to achieving the desired look. So are we really what we eat?


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The first key to understanding how our diet affects our skin is understanding what a reactive oxygen species (ROS) is. ROS are a type of unstable molecule that can react with our cells, causing damage to various cell components such as DNA, RNA, proteins and, in some cases, may even cause cell death. These species cause a stress in the skin we call oxidative stress and is one of the two main components of aging [1]. They also cause inflammation in the skin and various other undesirable effects.


An important thing to note, however, is that they are unavoidable. Unfortunately for us, ROS are formed when we are exposed to the sun, tobacco smoke, pollution, and many other outside sources out of our control. They also can come from eating a diet high in fat, sugars, carbohydrates, and processed foods. We can avoid these ROS by eating antioxidant foods such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, and many fruits such as berries, bananas, papaya, mango etc… Experts also recommend that several antioxidants should be taken into account for protection of the skin from the sun. [2]

Another major component of skin health, and one of the easiest for us to adjust, is water. Hydration, or simply the presence of an adequate amount of water in the stratum corneum (top layer of skin), is critical for the look of soft and

smooth skin. [3] Since our body is mainly composed of water, it seems

logical that increasing our daily intake of water allows the skin to do its main job of keeping water loss to a minimum. [4] Thus, having proper moisture in our cells makes our skin’s appearance plumper and softer. Furthermore, water plays a role in the transport of vitamins in our skin.


Vitamins are the last component to a healthy skin appearance. The skin is affected by Vitamins A, C, D, E and some other micronutrients found mostly in our diet. They function for different reasons and are found in different food groups.


Here’s a short summary [5]: [UNSPLASH IMAGE]

  • Vitamin A provides retinoids and carotenoids, which promotes new skin cells and repairs cell damage respectively. They are found in fish, eggs, dairy, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that combats aging and boosts collagen production. It is found in citrus, broccoli, spinach, and red peppers.

  • Vitamin D is responsible for regulation of calcium in the body and is found in the diet and later converted into its final form when exposed to sunlight. In the diet, it can be found in egg yolk, yogurt, orange juice, milk, sardines, salmon, and shrimp.

  • Vitamin E is used to counteract the effects of UV damage and keeps skin soft and supple. It may have some effects on acne as well. It can be found in nuts, seeds, seafood, spinach, broccoli, and some vegetable oils.

Different micronutrients are also being studied and the impact of nutrients on skin is a newly emerging field. Application of topical creams reinforced with nutrient as well as oral supplements are under research as well [6].

To sum up, not only is diet extremely important for the overall functioning of our body but can affect our skin in quite a significant way. Eating a healthy, balanced and varied diet can keep skin looking young and healthy as well as combat any outside damage which we cannot control. The expression we are what we eat has never been more true!


References:

[1]Cao, Changwei, et al. “Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition.” Nutrients, vol. 12, no. 3, Mar. 2020, p. 870. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12030870.

[2] Schagen, Silke K., et al. “Discovering the Link between Nutrition and Skin Aging.” Dermato-Endocrinology, vol. 4, no. 3, July 2012, pp. 298–307. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.22876.

[3] Boelsma, Esther, et al. “Human Skin Condition and Its Associations with Nutrient Concentrations in Serum and Diet.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Feb. 2003, https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/77/2/348/4689673?login=true.

[4] Boelsma, Esther, et al. “Nutritional Skin Care: Health Effects of Micronutrients and Fatty Acids.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 May 2001, https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/73/5/853/4739553?login=true. [5]Nutrition and Your Skin Health: Easton Dermatology Associates: Dermatologists. https://www.eastondermatology.com/blog/nutrition-and-your-skin-health

[6]“Skin Health.” Linus Pauling Institute, 7 Nov. 2016, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health.



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