Whoever said beauty is only skin deep didn’t have all the facts.   As much as we like to attribute young and glowing skin to fancy facials and anti-aging treatments, beautiful and healthy skin starts with your diet. The foods you consume play a huge role in how your skin looks so be sure to avoid, or at least limit, foods that actually accelerate the aging process.

This list will help guide you to foods that are good for your skin – and those that aren’t:

1. Salt: Too much of anything is always a bad thing. Look no further than the effects of too much salt in your diet. It can lead to disruption in collagen levels, weakening the structural integrity of your skin. This ultimately leads to wrinkles, especially around your eyes.

2. Sugar: Too much sugar blocks the insulin pathway responsible for breaking all foods into glucose molecules, raising insulin levels. This produces enzymes that break down both collagen and elastin, ultimately leading to sagging skin and wrinkles. Craving something sweet?  Consider some fresh, ripe fruit.  The larger and more complex sugars in fruit are processed at a much slower rate and won’t clog the insulin pathway.

3. Coffee: How many cups do you drink a day?  Are you addicted to your morning latte?  Caffeine, one of coffee’s main ingredients, dehydrates your body and dries out your skin. This is especially noticeable around the eyes. Have one cup per day, if you must, but try green tea instead.  With less caffeine, it’s a healthier alternative.

4. Alcohol: Like coffee, alcohol dries out your skin and leaves the skin around your eyes looking puffy and wrinkled. Drinking also increases your appetite for both salty and sweet snacks, which we know do nothing to improve the quality of your skin.

5. Red Meat: Love your steaks? You might want to consider scaling back. Increased and compounding levels of Carnitine, a protein commonly found in animal proteins, stiffens blood vessels and results in premature and permanent skin creases. The solution? Try substituting other sources of protein and vitamins such as fish or beans for red meat.

6. Simple Carbs: Much like sugar, simple molecules do more harm than complex ones. Simple carbs such as white bread and pastas overload pathways because they are broken down at such a fast rate. This leads to bloating and inflammation by breaking down collagen and elastin, which are essential to healthy and radiant looking skin.

7. Spicy Foods: Spicy food might be tasty, but if you’re a woman going through menopause or you’re prone to rosacea (enlarged blood vessels), think about lowering the heat. Spices dilate blood vessels and when capillaries are enlarged, skin looks less clear and therefore older.

8. Hot Dogs and Cold Cuts: Look out for sulfites used to preserve meat. They are pro-inflammatory molecules, which once again work to break down collagen and elastin, giving skin a yellowish hue or a reddish tinge. Try an alternative source of protein such as tofu in your salads and sandwiches.

9. Soda: If you thought soda was just bad for your teeth, you were wrong! Soda, like coffee, is responsible for dehydrating the body and creating cravings for additional sugary drinks and foods, leading to terrible skin. If you really feel like you need a sweet drink, try a fruit infused water to stay hydrated.

Remember the old adage, “You are what you eat.”  By choosing wisely, you’ll look – and feel – young, healthy and beautiful. For more information please visit www.dc-dermdocs.com.