As the owner of a skincare studio in Breckenridge, Colorado, I am not only interested in using the best topical treatments to retain youthful, healthy skin but also in understanding which foods benefit the skin from within. What we eat affects every organ in our bodies, and skin is no exception. The latest studies warn against eating sugary foods and high-glycemic carbohydrates because they trigger cellular-level inflammation, allowing free radicals to damage our cells. The theory is that a quick rise in your blood sugar will release inflammatory chemicals that contribute to the aging process. When blood sugar goes up rapidly, sugar can attach itself to collagen in a process called “glycation,” making the skin stiff and inflexible. Losing this elastic resilience of young skin will give you deep wrinkles and make you look old. This is not good!
I’m a big fan of cheat sheets so I created some to take with you to the grocery store.
Foods to limit or avoid:
Sugar: Weakens collagen bonds! (Fructose, Corn Syrup, Glucose, Dextrose, Maltose and Sucrose, etc.)
Starches: Pasta, Bread, Potatoes, Rice (White flour, white bread, and white rice are not as healthy as their whole-grain counterparts; if you eat potatoes, baking them with the skins on is best. Make sure to eat nutrient and fiber-rich carbs instead of empty “white” varieties.)
Trans Fats: Hydrogenated oils found in almost every pre-packaged food; they slow metabolism and fat burning, and cause accelerated aging.
Note: Anything you put into the bloodstream has a toxic affect on the liver and skin. Alcohol and caffeine are two examples.
Caffeine: When applied topically to the skin, can prevent the occurrence of skin cancer caused by UV radiation. It has also been found to be an effective antioxidant, scavenging OH radicals, thus producing another mechanism for its anticancer properties. Conversely, the production of DHEA, melatonin, and other vital hormones start to decline and caffeine speeds up that downhill drop. Caffeine increases cortisol, a stress hormone, levels in the blood for up to 18 hours. Caffeine dehydrates the body and contributes to the aging of the skin and kidneys. It has been shown to inhibit DNA repair and slow the ability of the liver to detoxify foreign toxins. Caffeine also keeps people from sleeping properly.
Alcohol: Causes small blood vessels in the skin to widen, allowing more blood to flow close to the skin’s surface. This produces a flushed skin color and a feeling of warmth.
Tip: Gaining and losing weight causes skin to sag and wrinkle. Maintain a healthy weight via diet and exercise. Exercise regulates hormones, reduces cortisol (which has been proven to lead to acne) and insulin levels.
Foods for optimal skin:
Water: Always drink lots of water to keep skin hydrated and to flush out toxins. Here’s how to figure out how much water you need each day: Take your body weight and divide by 2. Divide this number by 8. The resulting number approximates how many 8-oz. glasses of water you need each day. If intense activity is performed, add 2 extra glasses to that number.
Whole Foods: Foods as close to their natural state as possible without additives or processing minimize inflammation and oxidation “rusting.”
Artichokes: Rid the digestive system of toxins and carcinogens; a great source of folic acid, which can help ward off cervical cancer and is beneficial to women who plan to have a baby.
Enzymes: Break down complex food molecules into small molecules, and releases energy from food; acts as a catalyst in many cellular functions. (Pineapple, Papaya, etc.)
Leafy Greens: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, collard greens, kale, bok choy, cauliflower, mustard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, spinach
Orange Foods (rich in beta-carotene): Cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, mangoes, butternut squash; dark leafy greens are also rich in beta-carotene. (Rich in fiber, anti-inflammatory)
Garlic: High in antioxidants; promotes circulation
Good Fats: Avocado, nuts (almonds, etc., rich in Co-Q10, an antioxidant that boosts cells turnover), seeds, olive oil (has a high level of Vitamin E, reduces age-related diseases and gives a youthful appearance from the inside out.) Fats are used to produce the materials in the sebaceous glands that lubricate the skin. They also assist in the absorption of fat-soluble Vitamins A,D,E,K.
Grains: Quinoa, barley, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, rye, millet, yellow corn, amaranth, spelt, cous cous, wheat germ, flax seed, wild rice, brown rice, oats.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits/Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. (high in antioxidants); red grapes
Herbs: Rosemary (boosts liver function, reduces inflammation, has high levels of Vitamin E), ginger (boosts metabolism), tumeric (antioxidant, cancer-fighting), licorice (helps with digestion and removal of toxins)
Agave Nectar: Low glycemic sweetener to replace sugar
Proteins: Used by every cell of the body to make other usable proteins. They duplicate DNA and make muscle tissue and keratin. Collagen is made from protein. (Fish, Eggs, Dairy, Beans, Meat, Soy). Amino Acids are obtained from eating proteins.
Green Tea, White Tea, Rooibos Tea: Rich in antioxidants and low in caffeine.
Soy: Anti-inflammatory, balances hormones.
Wheatgrass: High in antioxidants.
Tomatoes: Rich in lycopene, a cancer fighter.
Cocoa Powder/Dark Chocolate: High in phenols (antioxidants) and flavanoids (antioxidants)Cold Water Fish: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which improves cellular function and reduces the body’s production of inflammatory substances that can damage the skin. Salmon, halibut, herring, snapper, bass, sardines, and trout. Salmon also contains high amounts of protein and Coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant that boosts cell turnover, plus it’s rich in dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), which increases tone in the skin.
bot waters are naturally flavored and provide B vitamins as well as hydration.
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Christina Komeshian is a Licensed Esthetician practicing in Breckenridge, Colorado. Her background includes working as a freelance beauty writer for newspapers and magazines, including Nylon. As a high school student she worked at a health food store and an organic farm in Putnam County, New York. This is where her appreciation of natural foods began. She recently created a line of bite-sized organic cookies with health benefits.
E-mail Christina Komeshian at Skindrop Facial Studio.