5 Ways to Improve Your Skin Through Food

By M. Elizabeth Sheldon |
FWX WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR SKIN

5 Ways to Improve Your Skin Through Food © iStockphoto

As anyone who's broken out after a late-night drinking and pizza binge can attest, diet is clearly linked to skin condition. But there's so much conflicting information about how to manage your diet for the most beautiful skin possible, as well all kinds of wacky DIY recipes (we'll pass on the mayonnaise face mask, thank you very much). To get some clarity, FWx spoke to nutrition expert and esthetician Britta Plug, who helps clients overhaul their diets and skincare routines at Brooklyn’s Treatment by Lanshin. Here, she debunks beauty myths and calls out natural health trends to look for in 2015.

1. Eat Less Inflammatory Foods
The biggest culprit are inflammatory foods like dairy, gluten and sugar. If you’re having issues with your skin, those are foods to experiment with eliminating. Try taking them out for two weeks and see if that has any effect. Also, when you bring those foods back in your body will have a more heightened reaction, so you can see how they affect you—gas, bloating, headaches, whatever the symptoms are for you. If you’re eating them all the time, your body has more of a low-grade reaction. We all have varying tolerance levels, but those foods are the general culprits.

2. Only Eat High Quality Dark Chocolate 
I used to think the advice about chocolate [making you break out] was a myth, but since I’ve started working with an acupuncturist, I’ve been incorporating a lot of Chinese medicine into my practice, and there is something behind the idea that chocolate can be inflammatory. But we’ve also been exploring the benefits of high quality dark chocolate for cystic acne. It depends on the person.

3. Invest in a Good Probiotic
Gut health and skin health are really tightly linked. Probiotics are huge. High quality probiotics, in capsule form, are great, as are fermented foods like kimchi. People often say to me, “Well I eat a lot of yogurt.” But you have to be eating whole milk, low sugar yogurt to get the benefits, and you first want to make sure you’re not sensitive to dairy. That’s why I really recommend sauerkraut and kimchi.

If you start taking a high quality probiotic, you’ll usually notice a pretty big difference—you will go to the bathroom more often! You want to start with just once a day, and then work up to the recommended dosage. All probiotics are labeled by what they contain, but it can be tricky to make sure you’re getting quality ones, even from a health food store. It’s best if you can pay a visit to a functional medicine practitioner. I don’t officially endorse them, but I use Dr. Mercola probiotics often in my practice.

4. Use Food on Your Face
While eating yogurt can by iffy if you’re sensitive to dairy, it’s great for using as a mask. It’s a little acidic and it’s nourishing, plus strengthens the flora of the skin.

I am a huge fan of using honey on the skin. It’s an amazing cure-all. Any honey is great, but Manuka honey in particular just works miracles for any skin type. It’s full of vitamins so it’s great for acne and anti-aging. I especially love it for after sun-care. To make a mask, mix about half a teaspoon of honey and mix it with half a teaspoon of warm water, and just spread it onto your skin and leave on for as long as you can before rinsing off. I’ve definitely fallen asleep with honey mask on and woken up stuck to my pillowcase. Manuka honeys are all labeled with a UMF rating, the Unique Manuka Factor. The higher the UMF, the better. I think 16+ is the highest I’ve seen.

5. Experiment with Charcoal and Sandalwood
Charcoal has always been big for the skin, but I’ve been seeing a lot of charcoal drinks coming out, like charcoal lemonades. It can be helpful if you need a detox. For example, if you’re gluten intolerant and accidentally ingest gluten, you can take a charcoal capsule to rebalance your gut.

Sandalwood is also something we’re going to be seeing a lot more of, in things like skincare oils. All essential oils are healing, and sandalwood is especially helpful for getting circulation going for healing. In Chinese medicine it’s referred to as a “blood mover,” so it can be great for congested or acne prone skin.

One Important General Tip: Don't Strip Your Skin
I think one of the biggest mistakes I see people making is overwashing and scrubbing their skin. I recommend just cleansing once a day, at night, to remove any makeup and pollution from your skin. Then, just rinse with water in the morning. And keep your routine fairly simple.

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