Eat your skincare

Eat your skincare? No I don’t mean to ingest those lovely bottles of concoctions formulated for topical use like a lemon drop shooter. Definitely DO NOT eat those. I repeat. I am not advocating to eat your topical skincare. For a whole host of reasons that’s a bad idea, namely they could be toxic.

That giant disclaimer out of the way, what I am advocating for is that you think outside the box on how to take care of your skin. Topicals and skincare treatments are incredibly important to the arsenal to keep skin functioning at its best. But much like a garden’s yield is the reflection of the quality of its environment to grow (proper nutrients, quality soil, adequate energy and protection from the elements), so is your body, and ultimately your skin. I will note that I am not a dietician, doctor or physical trainer. This is not meant to be medical advice but is only my experience as a nurse, health enthusiast and skincare professional. I’m merely here to pique your passion. Check with your healthcare professionals before embarking on a health plan.

The skin does a lot of heavy lifting for health

To understand just how important your skin is as a barometer to your health, it’s helpful to understand the skin’s basic role and function. The skin is the largest organ of the body. It helps protect your internal organs, regulate temperature, produce sebum to moisturize, detoxify, provide sensory feedback, and kill off invaders. Did you know that the skin’s pH is slightly acidic on purpose? This is to help thwart any intruders before they make it into your body. As a side note, this is a key thing to know when using alkaline products; overdoing it is not a good thing. Sometimes it’s really not good to be basic.

The role of the golden gut

Why do I call the gut golden? There is so much research out there on the importance of a balanced gut and the entire digestive tract to overall healthiness. Need a reminder on how much the gut affects you? Think about how you feel after a fat-heavy meal, dipping into the kid’s Halloween candy stash, unable to use the restroom for days (or weeks), or bloat like the Good Year Blimp after a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. An angry gut can definitely deliver a punch to your day.

The gut is an incredibly volatile environment. It goes from highly acidic with hydrochloric acid, enzymes that break down food, cells that deregulate the acid and make it basic, squishing and moving through peristalsis…your food has a wild ride. It has its own ecosystem of bacteria and organisms that’s role is to process the foods and liquids we digest. It extracts what it can and sends off the good stuff to the cells of the body and the rest gets processed for waste through various avenues. If you’re only giving it junk to work with, you’ll see (and feel) the affects of lacking nutrients and hydration on your skin. Foods high in water and fiber also help to move waste through to the appropriate exits. Did you know, when you reach a level of dehydration the body will pull from any reserves (including the waste it has already created) to provide critical hydration? If that isn’t enough to make you gulp some fresh sparkling H20 I just don’t know what is. The skin also has its own microbiome which research is finding more and more evidence that it is related to the gut microbiome. When these two systems are given the right foods to keep them happy, every [organ system] wins.

Eat your skincare

When you think of food, the old adage of “too much of a good thing is bad,” still rings true. At the end of the day you can skip the candy bar for fruit but still ingest too much sugar if you’re eating fruit all day long. It is possible to ingest too much vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin (and means it hangs around in the body much longer). The idea, much like with a healthier diet, is to eat healthy foods in moderation that help to support healthy, younger skin.

Add these superfoods to your arsenal to support skin health

Citrus Fruits (think bright yellow and orange)
High in vitamin C and antioxidants which help protect the skin from free radicals and UV/UVA.
Provides a healthy glow and reduces discoloration.
Vitamin C helps synthesize protein which creates more effective collagen and muscle production.
Oranges, peaches, nectarines and tangerines: high in fiber and vitamin C. I love the little Cuties that are easy to transport and peel so easily.
Pineapple: high in fiber, vitamin C and has bromelain which is a natural anti-inflammatory. This is great pre and post procedure or trauma to the skin which helps with healing and bruising.
*Grapefruit: high vitamin C, high in water, low calorie and said to boost metabolism. (Grapefruit interferes with absorption of some medications. Talk to your doctor).
A polyphenol and antioxidant that helps with free radicals and supports younger looking skin.
Red grapes: a great source of resveratol and high in water content.
Red wine: note that red wine also carries sugars and alcohol which are skin-health deterrents, but if you have to chose a drink with dinner, this is an option.
Note that the research is still out on the effectiveness of resveratol. The research has found promise, and in my opinion even if it is a small amount of helpfulness, that is better than none at all. As you can see, however, group resveratol is quite the fun “(un)healthy” foods that need to be consumed in moderation.
Dark Leafy Greens
High in iron, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin E, fiber, and potassium
Low in calories
Kale, spinach, collards, bok choy, chard.
If there is a wonder-food, I believe it is dark greens. High in fiber and low in calories, it will keep you satiated while pumping you full of important vitamins, electrolytes and antioxidants. The blood needs iron to oxygenate tissues and deliver nutrients throughout the body, and potassium helps with removing excess water and muscle contraction. If you reach for retinoids like tretinoin or retinol (aka derivatives of vitamin A) and vitamin E oils with success, this can help provide the boost from the inside, out.
Critical to building strong foundational structures to the skin, hair and nails.
Helps skin remain bouncy, supple, and strong.
Protein supports the production of collagen, elastin, fibrin, muscle and keratin.
Lean meats/seafood: chicken, turkey, shrimp
Legumes, beans, tofu
Eggs: an INCREDIBLE source of skin-healthy nutrients such as protein, vitamins A/D/E/K, folate, lecithin, B vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids. A hard-boiled egg is where it’s at. Egg whites are so packed with goodies, but you’re missing out on this wonder food if you’re tossing the yolk (just watch out for the cholesterol content).
Collagen supplements like Vital Proteins or shakes like from Beverly International
Greek yogurt, cottage cheese

Hydration & Detox
Important for flushing toxins, activating hyaluronic acid, and keeping the skin plump.
Melons: watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew are high in water content and low in calories. They also contain a nice kick of antioxidants and vitamins.
Berries: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries are sweet, pack a giant punch of antioxidants and are high in water content. Cranberries help to detoxify the urinary system.
Bone broths are high in collagen and water
Veggies like cucumber, zucchini, squash and celery, tomatoes (fruit? veggie?)
Shakes (toss your goodies in with some water, skim or almond milk for some extra hydration)

Easy ways to sneak in more

For most of you, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of these items, but what gets tricky is in today’s world of always on the go, is how you can get creative by incorporating more into your day without spending hours in the kitchen. I’m no chef (I’m absolutely as far away from one as you can get and consider oneself still able to cook something). I happen to like Southwest style things a lot because they incorporate vegetables in an easy way that still is tasty. Here are some ideas:

  1. Black coffee + collagen powder. Scrambled egg with sautéed onions and bell peppers with a sprinkle of cumin and paprika. Wrap it up in a low-carb spinach wrap.
  2. Homemade minestrone or vegetable soup with beans, veggies, and bone broth.
  3. Shake made with protein powder, skim milk, berries of your choice, spinach and Oikos Triple Zero flavored Greek yogurt.
  4. Multigrain pasta topped with shrimp, bell peppers, spinach, onions and tomatoes. Dash with some garlic, red pepper flakes.
  5. Sparkling water blended with your favorite fruit and a sprig of mint or fruit garnish.
  6. Cottage cheese with pineapple (or fruit of your choice), or tomatoes.
  7. Spaghetti squash or zoodles topped with mushrooms and grilled chicken.
  8. Birds Eye Steamfresh. They make small bags of all sorts of vegetables and protein blends. It makes it easy to tell yourself you need to slap one of those on your plate with the other maybe not-as-healthy options renting space and tempting you to take another heap.
  9. Instapot lasagna subbing fat-free ground chicken for beef, low-fat cheese for full-fat, and Greek yogurt + lemon/oregano for ricotta.
  10. Taco salad with ground turkey, spinach, tomatoes, salsa, Greek yogurt, peppers, onions and black beans

Don’t undermine your progress

While talking about the things that help the skin, I should also mention the things that will undermine all your hard work. Skip these things when it comes to skin health (Surprise! These are unhealthy in large amounts, anyway).

Alcohol, refined sugars, high fats, high triglycerides, smoking, UV/UVA rays, smoking, high impact exercises (opt for lower impact which put less stress on the supporting structures of the skin), too much exfoliating, prolonged diets or detoxes that restrict nutritional foods that would be healthy (e.g. zero carb, no fat), yo-yo dieting and extreme fluctuations of weight.

I would also caution you on getting your “good” fats and proteins from nuts, peanut butter, avocados and shakes/milk with a lot of lactose. The challenge is that these items are hard to eat in moderation and to get enough of the good stuff (for instance protein from peanut butter) you’ll need to ingest a whopping amount of fat and calories to get the protein. I’m not saying don’t eat them, but I’m saying make sure to track your intake because you’ll be surprised that many other delicious items carry a lot of other great nutrients at much lower calorie rates. Milk and dairy also have hormones which can disrupt the body’s processes, causing acne and angry skin.

I hope you found some good options to explore on your next trip to the grocery store. If anything, eating healthier needs to be rooted in whatever motivates you. You’d think that being generally more healthy would be mine, but when I break it down to my passion for skin it really helps me to make better choices. I’m also able to link back my breakouts or dull skin to a lacking diet. Maybe for you it is hair growth, or a more muscular physique. Whatever it is, you do you and remember food is fuel, but it’s also meant to be fun. Your body needs a whole host of building blocks to function optimally. Explore different flavors with the main ingredients and see where your creativity takes you, including on the path to brighter, healthier skin.

Do you have a favorite food or recipe? Share it in the comments.

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