As I sit here gorging myself on stolen chocolate from my 4 year olds Easter basket I am reminded of a question that comes up regularly at our clinic. Does what I eat have any bearing on my skin? If I eat sweets, fried foods or drink a lot of coffee, will it affect how I look?
Technically, there is no proof that foods in general can cause conditions of the skin. Of course the adage “you are what you eat” comes into focus and makes us wonder how food could possibly not make some sort of impact on our skin. For most people who eat a well-balanced diet and have no specific skin conditions, then, as for most things in life, moderation is the key.
But let’s look into a few skin conditions. For those suffering from rosacea, a skin condition where the skin is dry, often red and irritated, occasionally accompanied by red bumps and / or broken blood vessels, we do in fact know that some foods may trigger flare- ups:
• Spicy foods
• Hot soups
• Broad-leaf beans and pods, including lima, navy, or pea
• Dairy products like yogurt or sour cream
• Some citrus fruits
• Foods high in histamine such as cheese (except cottage cheese), eggplant, spinach, vinegar, and soy sauce
So, what about acne prone skin? Can foods, such as sugar, fried foods and soft drinks add to breakouts? It sure seems to make sense that they would. Before going on, I would like to stress that no foods are directly responsible for causing acne. However there are triggers. Like rosacea, there are foods and beverages that can lead to flare ups. Acne can be caused by blood sugar problems (insulin resistance), chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Many foods aggravate these conditions and can thus aggravate or even trigger acne. But what you eat is not the only thing that affects these conditions. For example, stress also plays a role in acne flare ups. Some foods best left on the shelf are:
• Milk and dairy- one of the worst triggers due to high fat content and messes with hormones leading to higher sebum production
• Foods high in fat- messes with blood sugar levels
• Refined carbohydrates
• Processed foods
And what about water? If we are dehydrated, do we just need to drink more water? Well, although water is essential to the well-being of our bodies as a whole, it only accounts for about 10% of the health of our skin. Yes, of course it is beneficial, however in order to trap water in the skin we need to use good quality topical serums and creams to get the benefit of hydration.
So, in conclusion foods and beverages may not be responsible for skin imperfections, but what goes in does come out. If you are a person dealing with a skin condition, keep track of what triggers your particular flare ups. Are they food related? If so, then the answer is simple; cut back or cut out. For most of us moderation is the key and we can go on nibbling on too much Easter chocolate as long as it is only once in a while. For others, it may take a little detective work to find out what your triggers are, but may be worth the effort if it can lead you to a healthier, happier skin.
~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre