It’s no secret that too much sun exposure can wreak havoc on your skin over time, and by now, you know that having a daily skincare routine can help keep acne, blemishes, and dryness at bay. But did you know that your diet also impacts skin’s appearance?
As it turns out, there are certain foods that can lead to acne breakouts or may accelerate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. “We all know that the environment, our genes, and our skincare routines can influence the appearance of our skin. What’s lesser-known is that the food we eat plays a role in how our skin looks and feels, too,” explains cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD.
“When we take a closer look at the relationship between skin health and diet, there are some foods that may be doing more harm than we may realize,” Dr. Green explains. “Fast foods, dairy products, sugars and chocolates, and fried foods all have the potential to contribute to the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, acne, and uneven skin tone,”
“Processed meats contain high amounts of saturated fats and nitrates that lead to inflammation,” says Yoram Harth, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the medical director of MDacne. “Examples include hot dogs, bacon, and pepperoni.”
“Eating meat with a high content of saturated fat could contribute to the formation of acne,” Dr. Green says. “This is because fattier cuts of meat are associated with high concentrations of insulin growth factor. Insulin growth factor stimulates the production of sex hormones (androgens) that trigger an upswing in sebum production and ultimately, the formation of acne.”
Instead of fatty meats, Dr. Green suggests consuming leaner proteins. “Swapping out a fatty piece of meat for a leaner cut can help reduce the impact on the skin,” she adds. “Chicken, fish, and turkey can be good alternatives for fatty meats and may help curb acne breakouts.” For more, see The Best Forms of Lean Protein You Can Eat.
“Research shows that consuming a high amount of dairy (specifically cow’s milk) can cause acne breakouts,” Dr. Harth notes.
“Cow’s milk dairy products (like yogurt and cheese) have been shown to increase insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which causes an increase in the size of our skin sebaceous gland, more sebum production, and more acne breakouts,” he explains. “Interestingly, it seems that low fat/skim milk causes more acne breakouts than regular milk. The cause can be the higher sugar content in low-fat dairy.”
If you’re committed to keeping dairy products in your diet, make sure you’re eating The 15 Best Low-Sugar Yogurts, Approved by Dietitians.
According to Anna Guanche, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, celebrity beauty expert, and founder of Bella Skin Institute, whey protein can cause acne. “Whey protein has been shown to increase acne breakouts,” she says.
“Whey protein-based shakes can increase androgen production and this mimics testosterone. This can lead to the building of lean muscle mass but also creates a perfect environment for skin breakouts and acne, by increasing oil production and therefore increasing the chance of opportunistic acne bacteria coming in.”
If you need a substitute, try these Vegan Protein Powders for Your Muscle-Building Needs.
“Microwave meals are linked to skin damage because the plastics melt into your meal causing your body to intake the plastic toxins,” notes Laguna Beach dermatologist Adrienne O’Connell, MD. Microwave meals also tend to be salty, which can impact your insulin factor and have a negative effect on your skin.