7 Everyday Foods To Avoid For Healthy Skin

By Simone Sydel
·  9 min read
shutterstock 2191576183 (1)

Acne, irritations, redness, and itching are all skin problems that should prompt you to take a look at your diet.

The foods you eat play a significant role in the health of your skin, so it's important to be aware of which foods can cause skin problems. While different foods affect everyone differently, there are some that are more likely to cause skin problems than others. So if you're struggling with skin problems such as frequent breakouts, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, consider avoiding the following seven foods:

1. Sugar

Sugar is one of the main reasons your skin starts showing premature signs of aging and develops inflammatory conditions such as acne. The effect of sugar on the skin was first observed when a group of researchers noticed that people with diabetes also tended to develop wrinkles and other age-related skin problems at an earlier age.

Sugar damages your skin through a natural process called glycation, which basically means that sugar molecules attach themselves to and damage proteins in your body, including collagen and elastin, which are the main skin-supporting components responsible for keeping your skin smooth, plump, and elastic.

Sugar doesn't stop there; it also increases the levels of inflammation in your body, which can further lead to skin problems such as acne. This is because insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, also plays a role in regulating the levels of androgens, which are the hormones that can contribute to increased oil production, pore-clogging, and acne.

Therefore, if you want to keep your skin youthful and healthy and not have to deal with stubborn conditions such as acne, it's important to limit your sugar intake and be more mindful of the sweet foods you're consuming on a daily basis.

2. Coffee

Well, it’s not technically food, but coffee is still a big part of what many of us consume daily and something that might not be the best for our skin health. For one, coffee is a mild diuretic, which means it makes the body excrete more fluid, which can, in some cases, lead to dehydration, and this can show on the skin by making it appear dull, dry, and sallow.

However, the more significant concern of consuming too much coffee is the part where it triggers our hormones to produce a stress reaction. Caffeine causes neural excitation in the brain, which the pituitary gland perceives as an emergency and stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, a stress hormone that makes us more awake, alert, and ready to fight or flee. Coffee actually stresses our body to give us a false sense of energy by stimulating our stress hormones, which can be a problem for the skin because these hormones influence the skin's inflammatory response.

Consuming too much coffee triggers our hormones to produce a stress reaction. 

So, what does that mean? When our stress hormones are activated, they can cause inflammation in the skin, leading to inflammatory conditions such as breakouts, hives, rashes, eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, and even slowing down the skin's ability to heal itself after an injury. So if you're struggling with any inflammatory skin condition, it might be worth cutting back on coffee or at least trying to switch to healthier caffeine alternatives that will give you a similar effect of awakeness and alertness without the damage, such as green tea.

3. Dairy

Dairy alone might not be the direct cause of skin problems, but it can contribute to a few of them in different ways. Dairy contains high levels of growth hormones and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), both of which can stimulate the skin's oil glands to produce more "unhealthy" oil that doesn't have a good balance of fatty acids, lipids, and antibacterial components, and can become hardened inside the pores, which can then lead to clogging and acne.

Additionally, dairy is often linked to intolerances and allergies, which can also cause skin problems such as hives, rashes, and allergic reactions. However, the research in this area is still far from conclusive, and while some people may have dramatic improvements in their skin after cutting out dairy, it all boils down to how our individual system reacts to dairy and how our body deals with potentially inflammatory compounds found in dairy.

While some professionals point out that the dairy we have access to today can be problematic because of the artificial hormones cows are being treated with that affect their milk supply, this can still be ruled out as a case-by-case issue. Therefore, if you’re dealing with some skin conditions that might be triggered by dairy, consider experimenting with a dairy-free diet or switching to raw milk for a few weeks to see if there's any improvement.

4. Refined Grains

Refined grains are a group of foods that have been stripped of their natural nutrients, fiber, and germs during the processing stage. They include white flour, white rice, pastries, cakes, and biscuits, and these can potentially lead to gut issues that can then transfer to the skin.

The main problem with refined grains is that they're high on the glycemic index, which means they raise our blood sugar levels quite rapidly. And as we already mentioned above, when our blood sugar levels spike, it causes a release of insulin, which is a hormone that helps regulate our blood sugar levels. When too much insulin is released too rapidly in our system, it can cause inflammation, which can then show up on our skin in the form of breakouts, eczema, psoriasis, and even accelerated aging.

So refined grains are another thing you might want to consider cutting back on, at least for some time, as this would give you an indication of whether or not your skin is reacting to them.

5. Seed Oils

Seed oils have become quite a popular topic among nutritionists, health experts, and Twitter fitness connoisseurs over the past couple of years. And while there is a ridiculous number of opposing opinions on whether or not seed oils are good or bad for our health, the general consensus seems to be that they're not as healthy as we once thought they were.

Some of the most popular seed oils include canola oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil, and these are often used in processed foods as a cheap alternative to other oils. The main problem with seed oils is that they're high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for our health but only in the right balance. Our body needs a delicate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to function optimally, and because the Western diet is not only deprived of omega-3 but also high in omega-6, it's not that hard to notice the culprit behind the increase in inflammatory conditions and diseases that show up on our skin in the form of breakouts, eczema, psoriasis, and even accelerated aging.

In fact, many people are convinced that seed oil consumption can actually make your skin more susceptible to sunburns, which hasn't been proven yet, but it's not a farfetched thought, considering that seed oils attack our immune cells, which are responsible for skin repair.

Our body needs a delicate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to function optimally.

If you're struggling with some inflammatory skin conditions, it's a good idea to limit your seed oil intake and incorporate more omega-3-rich foods into your diet. A good place to start is a Mediterranean diet, as it generally has a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. And some studies show that people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet are less likely to develop heart disease and cognitive decline.

6. Spicy Food

Much like dairy, spicy food can be considered a trigger food for some people, and it seems to be a largely case-by-case basis due to how our body digests capsaicin, which is the main compound that gives hot peppers that spicy kick. When capsaicin comes into contact with our gut, it activates the transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1), which is a protein responsible for the sensation of heat, pain, and itchiness.

And while this might not seem like a big deal at first, it can actually lead to some gut issues, such as inflammation, which can then show up on our skin in the form of breakouts, eczema, psoriasis, and even more permanent conditions such as rosacea.

But despite this, not everyone who eats spicy food will experience gut issues, and it seems to be a largely individualized response. So the best way to figure out whether this might be the case with your skin is to monitor your skin conditions after eating spicy food and see if any flare-ups can help you conclude that this particular food group isn't suitable for you.

7. Trans/Hydrogenated Fats

Predominantly found in margarine, fried fast-food, shop-bought baked goods, some microwave popcorn, packaged snacks, vegetable shortening, ready-to-use dough, and coffee creamers (both dairy and non-dairy), trans fats are one of the unhealthiest fats you can consume.

They're created when manufacturers treat vegetable oils with a process called hydrogenation, which gives the oils a longer shelf life and makes them more solid at room temperature. But this process also changes the chemical structure of the fats, and as a result, they become more difficult for our body to break down.

Trans fats have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and they can also contribute to inflammation. And while the link between trans fats and inflammatory skin conditions like acne isn't as straightforward as with some other foods on this list, it's safe to say that they're not doing our skin any favors. So, if you want to keep your skin healthy, it's best to steer clear of foods that contain trans fats and instead focus on incorporating more healthy fats into your diet, such as mono and polyunsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, fish, meat, nuts, and seeds.

Closing Thoughts

While there's no magic diet that will fix all your skin issues, making some simple tweaks by avoiding trigger foods can definitely help improve the overall health of your skin. Of course, everyone is different, so it's important to pay attention to how your skin reacts to certain foods and make adjustments accordingly. But in general, following a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein and avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of dairy and spice is a good place to start if you want clear and healthy skin.

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