Diet And Skin Aging: What's The Deal There?
Aging skin isn’t just a result of getting old and spending too much time in the sun. What you eat also has a major impact on how fast your skin ages…
When it comes to skin aging, you can’t stop time (AKA intrinsic aging), but there are many other ways for you to control the rate in which fine lines, wrinkles, poor texture and sagging skin strike. Everything from pollution and sun damage through to stress, lack of sleep and of course, your diet are totally at your command and they’re major players in the look, feel and health of your skin.
We like to think we’re pretty thorough with our skin education and have already covered most causes of extrinsic aging (the fancy term for all the external stuff that affects the youthfulness of your skin). But one topic that’s passed us by is your diet.
Eating a well-balanced, rounded diet that’s high in fibre and protein, yet low in carbs and fat is kind of a given. But knowing what you should or shouldn’t be devouring and actually putting this knowledge into practice are two very different things. However, if you’re anything like us, understanding what some of the biggest culprits are doing to your skin will make you question whether that second helping of key lime pie is really worth it.
To follow are five of the biggest dietary sins for skin aging, plus how to choose better alternatives. Don’t fret, we don’t expect you to completely cut these out of your diet for good (we’re not total savages). Just try to be mindful of what you eat. And that, we know you can do…
Skin Sin #1: Sugar
Research shows that excess sugar leads to the accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are harmful compounds produced by the skin through a process called glycation. They form when you bombard your body with sugar and it attacks your skin cells, latching onto fats and proteins such as collagen and elastin, causing them to stiffen, weaken and performing poorly. This onslaught of sugar damage shows up on your skin’s surface in the form of lines, wrinkles, sagginess and dullness. No fun.
When you’re young, your body has the ability to fight oxidative stress caused by AGEs by producing plenty of fresh collagen and fighting off free radicals. However, as you get older, your body can’t keep up which is why a sugar-high diet causes your skin to age up lightning fast
Make The Switch: Cut down on refined white sugar and corn syrup, swapping it out for honey wherever possible. And snack on fruit to help curb your sweet cravings – go for antioxidant-rich options like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
It's also wise to add some topical antioxidants into your daily skincare routine to further fight free radical damage. We have many favorites, but a great place to start is Niacinamide Facial Serum which is super gentle but no less effective than some of its more potent friends like vitamin C and retinol.
Skin Sin #2: Salt
A diet that’s laden with salt is a fast-ticket to eczema flare-ups, acne breakouts and puffy, under eye bags. It’s also terribly dehydrating for your poor complexion. Excess sodium literally sucks all the moisture out of your skin which completely ruins your barrier function and results in dryness, itching, irritation and flakiness. It also causes inflammation and weakens collagen which, as you all know, is essential for plump, youthful-looking skin.
Make The Switch: Don’t get us wrong, salt is vital in small amounts for your health and well-being. Plus, avoiding it completely would be impossible. Instead, avoid adding salt when cooking, cut down on cheese and processed meats, and next time you’re tempted to throw a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in your shopping cart, go for unsalted nuts, instead.
Skin Sin #3: Fried Food
Fried, processed foods like burgers, fries and brats not only raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol, but they also increase the number of AGEs in your skin. They’re a little different to the ones sugar plague you with, however. How so? Well, these AGEs are not created inside your body, but form within the food when it's cooked at especially high, dry temperatures.
Studies have shown that dry heat may increase the amount of AGEs in food by up to 100 times their levels before cooking. Baking, broiling, roasting and barbecuing all cause AGEs to form in certain high fat/high protein foods (especially red meat), but frying is undoubtedly the worst for your skin and health. For example, fried bacon contains around ten times the number of AGEs as microwaved bacon. Dang.
Make The Switch: If you can't say no to fried foods, at the very least swap regular fries for sweet potato fries (preferably baked). Also, choose lean, white meat such as chicken and turkey above fatty, processed meats like hot dogs and beef patties.
Skin Sin #4: Refined Carbs
Again, this is all about AGEs – yeah, we know, those pesky devils get everywhere, don't they? As with sugar, your body turns refined carbs like white bread, pasta and rice into glucose, causing a serious amount of glycation and all the skin damage that comes with it. Say no more.
Make The Switch: When digested, all carbs are converted into sugar, but good carbs like wholemeal bread and brown rice produce way less and do it in a much slower fashion. This makes them much better for maintaining younger-looking skin. Furthermore, ‘good carbs’ retain more fibre and B vitamins, so nutritionally they’re far superior.
Skin Sin #5: Dairy
Dairy’s a controversial one because it’s a key source of potassium, calcium, zinc and vitamins A, B12 and D, so it's essential for the health of your skin. It’s also perfectly fine for many people and causes few problems for their skin. That being said, there are a significant number of people who are lactose intolerant and find that dairy increases inflammation which leads to free radical damage among may other things. As you know, free radicals break down collagen and elastin, accelerate skin aging and give your skin a general feeling of ‘meh.'
Make The Switch: If you think dairy could be causing your skin problems, try alternatives like almond milk, vegan cheese and coconut yoghurt.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Of course, a balanced healthy diet is always key and completely eliminating any essential foods (fried food aside – we said essential!) can have serious health implications. Therefore, always visit your doctor or a dietician for advice before doing anything drastic.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.