Diet and Dermatology: Do Food and Drink Actually Affect Your Skin?


You’ve probably heard the expression, “you are what you eat”. And since 71 percent of Americans believe that they could be eating more healthfully, that could be cause for alarm. Not only can what you eat and drink increase your risk for diseases, but the things you consume can also have a profound effect on your appearance. You might assume your diet impacts only your weight, but it can also be responsible for noticeable changes in the look and feel of your skin.

Food for thought

Even though many skin doctors might recommend a topical, oral, surgical or treatment to combat common skin conditions and signs of aging, there may be other ways for you to protect and restore your skin. It might come down to what you put into your body (and what you don’t).

Although some diet-related sentiments are nothing more than old wives’ tales, there is some scientific data to back up the idea that what we eat and drink shows up on our faces. That’s not to say that every skin ailment (like acne) can be solved with dietary adjustments.

Despite the fact that pizza is frequently blamed for skin issues like acne, many experts say there’s little evidence to suggest that this popular comfort food deserves its bad reputation. While eating pizza every day isn’t a healthy choice in general, greasy foods do not equal greasy skin.

Still, if you’re struggling with frequent breakouts, it is possible that your diet could provide some clues. Dairy and sugar tend to be two ingredients that exacerbate acne, especially because many of the foods that contain these ingredients may be considered high-glycemic index foods. High GI foods are believed to have an impact on the body’s oil secretions, making them less fluid.

Eating these foods can also cause oil production to spike. This causes more oil to adhere to cells under the skin, resulting in pimples. Therefore, sugar can actually lead to more breakouts for some people, and it can lead to premature aging as well.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut out all dairy and sugars from your diet. While the connection is there, there’s a lot more research that needs to be done before medical professionals can definitively say that milk and white bread cause acne. What’s more, cutting out certain foods from your diet can cause you to miss out on important nutrients your body needs to function at its best.

Generally speaking, foods that are good for the body are also good for the skin. Fruits and veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats typically get the seal of approval from doctors of all kinds, including dermatologists. If you suspect that diet may be playing a part in your skin dissatisfaction, it might be worth keeping a food diary. By writing down everything you eat on a daily basis, you may be able to find connections between foods that may have an undesirable effect on your physical well-being.

Keep in mind that your dermatologist is in the best position to recommend the best skincare treatments and routines for your unique needs. What’s more, he or she may be able to pinpoint any dietary changes you should consider making for the sake of your skin.

Drink it in

One of the best beverages you can consume (for total body health and especially for your skin) is good old H2O. Obviously drinking more water lowers your risk of dehydration, but it can also help you with weight management. It’s also a great idea if you want to improve the look of your skin.

Many experts believe that acne development is more likely when the body has a greater number of toxins in the system. Because drinking water helps to flush out those toxins, it stands to reason that your skin will look better when you consume more water. What’s more, dehydration can accelerate aging and negatively affect your skin’s ability to heal properly.

If you rely on coffee or tea to put some pep in your step, you might want to slow down. Because caffeine has a significant impact on your body’s stress response — and acne can be made worse by increased stress — it’s possible that your coffee fix might be making matters worse. Plus, too much caffeine can cause sleep disruptions, leading to added stress and more acne. And if you’re adding milk and sugar to your coffee, you could have a recipe for disaster.

However, contrary to popular believe, coffee and tea do not actually dehydrate you. And to make matters more complicated, there are antioxidants in coffee that have been shown to improve the skin. In short, you don’t have to give up coffee to improve your skin. But you might want to consider switching to decaf, using non-dairy milks, and cutting down your coffee intake in general.

And if you’re a soda drinker, keep in mind that the combination of caffeine and sugar probably isn’t helping your skin. Although fruit juices aren’t nutritionally much better than sodas, you could try seltzers or fruit-infused waters as a welcome substitute. Though they don’t contain caffeine, they’re a much healthier choice that you might end up enjoying even more.

What about when you want to wind down? A lot of Americans like to indulge a bit with an alcoholic beverage in the evening or at the end of a long week. Alcohol does lead to dehydration, which can cause your pores and wrinkles to become more visible. And because many of the alcoholic drinks we love are loaded with sugar, drinking can also lead to breakouts.

Although none of this means that you have to bypass your trip to the local liquor store from now on, it may change your drink order at the bar. Red wine has been shown to contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that can counteract the signs of aging, while margaritas are typically a poor choice if you’re trying to preserve your skin. Be sure to pick high-quality alcohol, drink lots of water, and moderate your drinking for best results.

It’s unrealistic to believe that we’ll give up all of the foods and drinks we love, even if there’s a chance that this could cause our skin to improve. But having a better understanding of how our diet could result in skin issues can allow us to make better choices when dining out or eating in.