The best thing you can do for the overall health of your body is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. But the relationship between diet and aging is very complex! Other lifestyle choices and genetics can play a role in how we age. And if you’re hoping to improve signs of aging, changes in your diet probably won’t be enough.
What foods should you avoid for good skin?
Eating too many sweets can be bad for your skin. It may accelerate signs of aging (and can make breakouts worse). When we eat high-sugar foods, the sugar in our bloodstream can combine with a protein or fat via a process called glycation. The glycation process leads to the formation of AGEs, which stands for advanced glycation end products. AGEs promote the cross-linking of collagen fibers. This weakens our skin structure in a way that can’t be effectively repaired. Simply put? The less sugar you eat, the less damage you do to your skin.
You might think to avoid fried, greasy foods — but grilled and roasted foods aren’t off the hook, either. These methods of food preparation can also produce AGEs! When we eat foods prepared with these methods, the AGEs may cause damage to the collagen in your skin. Although there has not been a lot of research on the role of diet and aging skin, if your goal is to minimize AGEs in your skin, try steaming or boiling your veggies rather than grilling them!
Some people assume that drinking alcohol makes you look older. There’s actually no strong evidence that moderate alcohol consumption accelerates skin damage. But let’s be clear: consuming too much alcohol can certainly impact our skin. Ever found you look red-in-the-face after a drink? That’s because alcohol can trigger flushing (especially in those with rosacea). Alcohol is also a diuretic. This means that it signals your body to get rids of lots of water as your body tries to break down and get rid of the alcohol. Although dehydration does not generally have a direct impact on your skin, adequate hydration is key for an overall healthy body (and skin!). According to the CDC, if you’re doing three things: making water your main choice of drink, drinking water when thirsty, and drinking water with meals, you shouldn’t need to worry about dehydration.
But what foods are good for the skin?
Aging skin loses collagen over time, so it makes sense to assume that eating collagen is good for your skin. If only things were that simple! The truth is, there isn’t sufficient medical evidence that proves collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity, firmness, or wrinkling. Collagen is also a large protein, so applying it directly to your skin won’t help either. Instead, it may be helpful to seek out antioxidants for skin benefits (like vitamin C and green tea, which I’ll get into next).
If you want to boost your collagen, vitamin C serums are a great place to start. But can a diet high in vitamin C help to slow down aging? Maybe! Taking a daily multivitamin and eating your daily servings of fruits and veggies is great for your overall health. There is some evidence to suggest that oral intake of vitamin C through food or supplements may help to slow signs of aging such as wrinkling and age-associated dryness. But only a small fraction of the vitamin C we eat is biologically available and active in the skin.
Green tea may have skin benefits when applied topically, including anti-inflammatory and UV-protective effects. It’s rich in antioxidants, so drinking it is likely good for your overall health. There is not, however, enough evidence to conclude that drinking green tea has a direct effect on slowing the skin aging process. Instead, try skincare products with green tea extract, like Green Atelier Nude Body Lotion.
Linoleic acid is one of two essential fatty acids for humans. We need to obtain it through our diet — the human body can’t produce linoleic acid on its own. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and eggs are all high in linoleic acid, as well as beef, poultry, and pork. Good news: medical evidence suggests that eating foods rich in linoleic acid may help to slow signs of aging (specifically age-associated dryness and skin thinning). So if you want to practice an anti-aging diet, it may make sense to focus on foods with this ingredient.