Dr Andrew Greenland (Functional Medicine Doctor) and Dr Qian Xu of Skin Aesthetics share skincare advice:
The link between a healthy diet and good skin is well studied, but it is not widely known about or practiced. When most people have problems with their skin, whether it is breakouts, sensitivity or wrinkles, they tend to turn to skincare products first. While using good quality skincare products can make a lot of difference to your skin, these may not be as effective if you have a very unhealthy diet.
Having a healthy diet is not simply a matter of getting the balance right, it is also about eating the foods that will promote healing and regeneration instead of eating foods that will cause inflammation and irritation. Taking a more holistic approach to skin rejuvenation, here are our top 3 tips on how to improve your skin through your diet:
1. Cut down carbohydrates and reduce sugar intake. Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in the body, and the excess sugar in the body will bind to proteins and fats producing advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These AGEs then cause cross-linking of collagen reducing its function and therefore causing pre-mature aging of the skin. With our modern diet, it can be quite difficult to cut out sugar as it is often hidden in many different foods we eat. The naturally occurring sugars in fruits also adds to this sugar count. So when trying to control your sugar intake, watch out for hidden sugars and don’t go overboard with fruits.
2. Get your omega-6: and omega-3 ratio down to less than 4. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential for the barrier function of the skin, as well as having vital roles in the immune system, blood clotting and liver function. They are known as ‘essential fatty acids’ because they cannot be produced by the body, so they have to be taken in through the diet. Omega-6 fatty acid is pro-inflammatory while omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, so having the right ratio is very important. Although the recommended ratio is 4 or less, the modern Western diet is giving people a ratio of between 10 and 50. This has resulted in more skin issues such as breakouts, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. The easiest way to resolve this is to switch the vegetable oil for olive oil and eat more oily fish or take an omega-3 supplement.
3. Eat more local fruit and veg of different colours. There is a wide range of powerful antioxidants, vitamins and minerals contained in fruits and vegetables which are essential for skin health and collagen production. There is no need to try to memorise what food contains which nutrients. If you have a colourful plate of food on a regular basis, then you can be sure that you are eating the right things. Fruits and vegetables that are ripe, freshly picked and eaten raw have the highest nutritious value. For this reason, it is best to source local produce and eat them in season. If you need to cook them, then try steaming or lightly stir-frying them to try to preserve as much nutrients as possible.