You are what you eat. That’s a famous adage in the world of nutrition. Is it also true for your skin? Can diet affect your skin and influence the appearance of melasma, sunspots, or acne marks? These are questions that many people with hyperpigmentation conditions ask. As dermatologists, we believe in understanding the science-backed reasons behind many popular skin care recommendations. In this short guide, we use a scientific lens to analyze the connection between diet and your skin health.
After reading this Guide, you will know whether to eat food for clear skin, whether to go on a melasma diet, and if the whole diet for skin health is a fact or myth.
Let’s start with the basics: “Does diet affect skin health?” The answer is yes. Your skin is considered the largest organ in your body for a good reason – it covers up all the rest of you. When you eat, a sizable amount of nutrients goes towards nourishing your skin cells. What this means is if you put low-nutrient foods in your body, your skin gets low-nutrient resources for growth and repair. Similarly, high-nutrient foods rich in vitamins, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and other vital nutrients give your skin high-quality resources to work with. So, yes, your diet plays a significant role in your skin health.
A healthy diet for clear skin is one that’s full of skin-healthy nutrients. Clear skin is made up of healthy, elastic, and vibrant skin cells. For cells to get this way, they need a constant source of high-quality nutrients. If you maintain a poor-nutrient diet, your skin cells will soon get starved and start to appear dull, aged, and non-vibrant. Some of the best foods for clear skin are green vegetables like kale and spinach, oily fish like salmon, strawberries, broccoli and citrus fruits rich in vitamin C.
Skin problems can include acne and hyperpigmentation conditions like melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Diet can play a role in managing these problems. One thing that triggers most of these conditions is cellular stress. When your skin cells get stressed through exposure, hormonal imbalance, and infection, one of the effects is bad skin. Eating a diet for skin health can help reduce the effects of these factors.
Some of the best foods for fighting skin problems are kale, sweet potatoes, lemons, pumpkins, berries, fatty fish and legumes. For example, fatty fish contains loads of zinc, which helps fight inflammation, support new skin cell growth and support overall skin health.
In general, eating a balanced diet should help promote overall skin health. However, this is only good for maintaining already-healthy skin. If you need to improve the health of your skin, you will need to eat a more skin-healthy diet.
Find ways to incorporate the following foods into your diet:
Several foods are notorious for causing skin problems. These include:
A helpful rule of thumb in picking skin-healthy foods is looking at where the food lies on the food processing spectrum. On this spectrum, you have foods ranging from whole natural foods like grains and vegetables to highly processed foods like chicken nuggets and processed snacks like Twinkies and Ho Hos. In general, the closer a food is to its natural state, the healthier it is. However, for “natural” foods like dairy, alcohol, coffee, and soy, moderation is recommended for the reasons we discussed above.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by the excessive production of melanin in the skin. Can diet help with this? Yes. Eating a hyperpigmentation diet rich in antioxidants can help reduce skin darkening. Such a diet works by encouraging production of melanin, reduction of free radicals and support of skin turnover, three things that help grow healthy skin and diminish dark spots. In this category of foods, the best options are citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, foods with beta-carotene (orange color) like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots, and seafood rich in copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc.
Yes, diet can help make melasma and other hyperpigmentation conditions better. If you are currently eating a skin-unhealthy diet, switching to a skin-healthy one can have a significant impact on your skin health. You can also substitute your current foods for food for hyperpigmentation reduction.
While diet is a great place to start in treating melasma and other hyperpigmentation conditions, it is best to think of eating food for melasma as a way of supporting skin health gains. This is because hyperpigmentation can be caused by factors like genetics and injury that cannot be influenced by diet.
Some foods are known to cause hormonal changes in the body. Foods such as milk, coffee, soy, refined carbs, and salt can alter your hormonal balance. For example, milk may contain synthetic hormones carried over from cows while the caffeine in coffee is known to spike cortisol (stress hormone) and estrogen levels. When regularly consumed, the resulting hormonal imbalance can cause skin problems.
In some cases, eating just one meal can result in a skin breakout, which illustrates the strong connection between diet and hormonal skin problems. If you stop the diet, will the problems go away? In most cases, switching to a skin-healthy diet will significantly improve your overall skin health, if there are no underlying causative medical conditions or genetic factors.
Diet is excellent for overall skin health. However, if you need more targeted results, you may need to apply topical medication. Why is this? Because with a diet, it is difficult to aim for a specific part of your skin. If you have melasma, for example, it is impossible to create a diet that specifically treats the affected areas. That is where customized prescription medications come in.
Diet for hyperpigmentation is a useful and effective way to promote skin health. Avoiding foods that stress your skin and adopting a skin-healthy diet can reduce skin problems. As the diet helps your skin from the inside, you can also help it from the outside. Kirsch Dermatology dermatologists can analyze your skin type and condition and specially formulate a skin medication for you. Find out how we can help brighten up your skin by signing up for a consultation today.