Your skin is a vital barrier that protects your internal organs from the environment, keeping pathogens and toxins out. Many factors play a role in the health of your skin, such as genetics, hygiene and smoking. Diet’s role should not be underestimated as it can play a huge part, leading to a detrimental effect on your skin, or contribute to a glowing complexion.

Blame salt for puffy eyes

A shocking 90% of American children and adults consume too much salt in their diet, not including salt added at the table, according to the CDC, which is directly linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Excessive salt also leads to water retention, which can lead to swelling, particularly around the eyes, affecting the skin’s appearance and comfort. The skin around the eyes is one of the thinnest areas, which is why it’s so susceptible to swelling. Salt also causes dehydration throughout the body and your skin will be one of the first places to show this, turning dry and flakey.

The scary effects of dairy

Skim milk is one of the biggest dairy culprits for causing acne and cutting it out of your diet can help your skin to clear up in just a couple of weeks. Skim milk is packed with whey protein, which is pro-inflammatory, and can be the direct cause of your acne and other skin conditions, such as rosacea. It’s also full of added sugars and hormones that are bad news for your skin.

These added sugars lead to a high glycemic index, known to cause acne flare ups. In fact, one study found that these added sugars were linked to a 30% chance of developing acne, compared to a 20% risk if your consume pastries and cakes.

Sweet, sinister sugar

Sugar attaches to proteins in your bloodstream, which results in new molecules forming, known as advanced glycation end products. These damage both collagen and elastin, which are necessary for good skin. When they’re damaged they result in fine lines, wrinkles and dehydrated skin that is prone to redness, irritation and rashes.

One study from the British Journal of Dermatology found that these effects worsen from 35 years old and continue rapidly with age. Another study found that people with high blood sugar levels had a noticeable older appearance than those with lower levels. For every 1mm/liter that the blood sugar level increased, people were perceived to be 5 months older.

Fruits and veggies

It’s well known that fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins that are good for your health, but they’re also packed with antioxidants that help to protect your skin from cellular damage that’s caused by free radicals.

Free radicals, along with smoking, sunlight and pollution, can all cause wrinkles and age spots. Eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day can help to fight these effects.

Carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin contain beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant, along with lutein, which is found in kale, papaya and spinach. Antioxidants are necessary for normal skin development and a healthy skin tone.

Anti-inflammatory omega’s

Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that need to be obtained via diet as the body can’t make them. These omegas are found in oily fish, linseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil. They encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which is ideal for inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. Omega’s also play a key role in the structure and appearance of the skin.

Diet plays an important role in the health of your skin. Some foods can contribute to acne, eczema, aging and dull skin, while fruits and veggies are full of vitamins and nutrients that are not only good for you skin, but can even fight off free radicals that have the potential to damage your skin. A good, balanced diet will benefit both your overall health and your skin.