Because there’s no such thing as a dumb beauty question, we’re reviving our beauty Q&A series.
Question: Are there really foods I can eat to make my skin look better? And are they foods that actually taste good, or would I need to eat like a Victoria’s Secret Angel?
Answer: If the Evil Queen from Snow White had a fridge for beauty, this is what it would include:
A large jar of kimchee
Various rabbit food, a.k.a. dark leafy greens
Foods naturally high in biotin (eggs, almonds, salmon)
La Mer (probably)
You’ll notice what’s missing in there: baked ziti and the Tonight Dough ice cream. Both Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, dermatologist and director of Capital Laser and Skin Care, and Dr. Frank Lipman, Gwyneth Paltrow’s holistic doctor, agree that when it comes to beauty-nourishing foods, it’s more about what you don’t eat than what you do eat. Lipman describes your skin as “a window into your gut,” explaining that anti-inflammatory foods and those that are easily digestible will have your skin looking its best.
At the top of the list of things to avoid is sugar, which includes carbohydrates. Lipman also cautions against dairy, to which many people have an intolerance. Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi explains the depressing news by saying, “A high-sugar diet is very inflammatory to the skin. I see more breakouts and rosacea with it.” Inflammation activates your body’s stress hormones (the same way it did when you were taking the SATs), which increases breakouts and worsens redness. “It can even cause the face to get puffy and swollen and dull,” she explains. “There aren’t enough omegas 3s or salmon in the world to offset a high-sugar diet.”
As to what you should eat, Dr. Lipman praises fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchee, and kombucha, as they contain probiotics and can promote gut health. Also add avocados, walnuts, wild salmon, chia, and flax seeds into your grocery list as they are healthy fats that reinforce cell membranes and help nourish the skin. Water is also an obvious addition (doesn’t need to be lemon) that hydrates the skin and flushes toxins. He suggests that you drink half your body weight in ounces; so, for example, if someone is 140 pounds, they should drink 70 ounces of water a day.
More controversially, Lipman also recommends foods containing collagen, such as bone broth (though little scientific evidence exists showing that collagen-heavy vitamins or foods benefit your skin). Foods high in iron like dark leafy green and lentils, along with those high in biotin (sadly, not biotin gummy vitamins) like eggs and almonds, are also good for your hair. But Lipman believes that after two to four weeks of cutting out inflammatory foods, drinking more water, and loading up on the beauty diet, you should see results.
Does this mean you’re resigned to a life of blotchy skin and will never again be able to enjoy Italian meats and cheeses or your co-worker’s cake-batter chocolate-chip cookies? As you often hear in wellness interviews, life is about balance. Some days you’re the one with the Happy Desk Meal and other days, you’re the one with the Sad Desk Salad. At least avocados are good for you.