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The Clear Skin Diet: Does It Work?


Aside from a skincare regime that works for your specific skin type and needs, your daily habits play a massive part in determining the overall health and quality of your skin. 

For some acne sufferers, the issue is hormonal, so going to a dermatologist is the best way forward. However, for the rest of us, factors like diet, the weather, stress, activity levels and sleeping habits can all contribute to your quality of skin. 

We’ll dive into how diet affects skin, what foods to eat and avoid to maintain good skin, and what foods to eat to help get rid of break outs.

Does Diet Affect Skin?

The answer is plainly: yes. What you eat affects how your body functions and how your organs are working, including your largest organ, your skin. Skin is the channel for how your body communicates with you. 

Any time you break out, you probably break out the acne-fighting skin products, masks, topical treatments, anything you can think of. But there’s a reason as to why you may be breaking out, and to stop it at the source, you should examine what you’ve been putting into your body.

(For acne sufferers, it’s not always so cut and dry and many dermatologists start with your diet and might also put you on a round of medication.)

But for those of us who are dealing with breakouts, if you want to know how to get clear skin through your diet, we’ll show the foods and ingredients to include and what to avoid.


What Foods Help Clear Skin?

Water: Your mom has nagged you on this one since you were little, but we’re going to say it again – drink enough water! Skin is made up of 64% water and getting in your 8 glasses a day will maintain healthy skin by flushing out toxins and keeping your skin hydrated.

Omega-3 fatty acids: The best foods for skin foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to reduce inflammation, improve acne symptoms and even improve your skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s damaging UV rays.

  • fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines)
  • eggs
  • soy products
  • kale
  • walnuts
  • almonds 
  • mustard seeds
  • wild rice

Antioxidants: chances are, you already have a few of the next food items in the fridge. Upping your antioxidants is easy when these foods are super available and convenient to snack on. Antioxidants have been shown to reduce sun damage and improve your skin’s natural defences against UV rays. Incorporating these nutrient dense foods will also increase cell replication and repair. Better yet. throw it all in the blender and make yourself a superfood smoothie for the skin. You’re welcome. 

  • avocado
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • goji berries
  • Cherries

Zinc: Adding zinc to your diet will help maintain healthy body functions as well as maintain healthy skin.  A 2012 study found that it was effective in reducing acne and shown to reduce inflammation.

  • oysters
  • pumpkin
  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • mushrooms
  • legumes
  • meat and poultry

Beta carotene: If you’re at the grocery store, don’t forget to pick up your orange produce! These foods are rich in beta carotene which is then converted into vitamin A when ingested, this antioxidant supports maintaining healthy skin by acting like a natural sunblock against the sun’s harmful UV rays. It helps prevent sunburn, cell death, and dry, and anti-aging. 

  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • oranges
  • papaya
  • Spinach

Green tea: swap out those sodas and juices for green tea and your skin will reap the benefits. Green tea is rich in polyphenols which increase blood-flow and oxygen to the skin, slow DNA damage, stopping inflammation, and increase your natural skins defences for protecting against sun damage and burns.


Foods to Avoid for Clear Skin

High-Glycemic Foods: A hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is produce in heavier quantities during puberty. Studies have shown that IGF-1 actually increases the production of sebum and worsen acne symptoms. Sebum is the oil created for the skin to help it from drying out and excess sebum production also contributes. Certain foods have been identified to raise IGF-1 levels so knowing what these are and eating in moderation can help with reducing acne and breakouts. Processed carbohydrates often have a high glycemic index (GI) and are known to increase IGF-1 levels.

  • white breads and bagels
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • instant oatmeals
  • enriched pastas
  • pretzels
  • popcorns
  • rice cakes

Dairy: For those of you who are lactose intolerant, this is an easy one. Dairy is also known to be a trigger for IGF-1 and not only that, but dairy contains hormones and proteins that actually cause acne in your skin. A 2018 study found that people aged 7 to 30, eating dairy was associated with 25% greater odds of having acne compared to people who completely avoided dairy.  Luckily, dairy alternatives are abundant so pick what works for you, and see your skin improve.

  • milk
  • cheese
  • ice cream

What Foods Clear up Skin?

Probiotics: the good bacteria are not only good for your gut, but are helpful with clearing bad skin. Probiotics help with reducing breakouts and inflammation and when added to the fermentation process of milk which turns it into yogurt, actually decreases IGF-1 in milk, making yogurt a safe dairy to eat if you’re experiencing bad skin.

  • kombucha
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • kimchi
  • Yogurt

Brazil nuts: Eating brazil nuts when you are breaking out will help reduce the acne because of its high content of selenium. Selenium is a specific antioxidant that is proven to decrease acne and protect skin from free radicals.

Papaya: I remember being a child and for some reason, I hated eating papaya but my mother would always say “eat your papaya, it’s good for your skin”. I seriously thought she was just saying that to get me to eat it but turns out she was right all along. This delicious fruit contains a powerful digestive enzyme called papain which is known to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Papaya is also rich in vitamin A, aka retinol in its topical form, which aids in treating breakouts and promoting cell regeneration. Another antioxidant that papaya has a high content of is lycopene. Lycopene is known for its ability in fighting free radicals and anti-aging properties.

Clear Skin Diet: Key Takeaways

The fundamentals of clear, healthy skin really comes down to the fundamentals of your overall health. You could have the best skincare routine in the world but if you don’t mind what you’re putting into you body, it will all go to waste. 

However, good skin won’t come from your diet alone, making sure you’re getting enough rest, managing your stress, and keeping active are the other variables in this equation. The diet part is just the most delicious.

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