You are what you eat
It might be a cliche, but it’s also a saying that’s endured from the early 1800s because it’s true.
The idea that what you consume is linked to the health of your skin has been around for centuries and across many different cultures. For example - in my Indian household, we were always told that eating too many mangoes causes zits (which is probably due to it being relatively higher on the glycemic index relative to other fruits rather than being anything mango-specific). We were also given Amla (Indian gooseberry) for inflammation and Ashwaghanda (a green herb) to ease PMS breakouts.
It’s no big secret that good eating is an important part of good health - but when it comes to the skin, are the benefits merely incremental or significant?
The weight of clinical studies would suggest the latter - in other words, what you ingest is very important to maintaining good skin, and can’t be made up by an airtight skincare routine (no matter how great or expensive the products).
When I was 16 and dreaming of getting older so I’d no longer have to put up with the scourge of teenage acne, I went to France on a student exchange. I flew all the way from Melbourne to a tiny town deep in the French countryside where the population was less than 500. All the food was sourced locally and organically - before organic became fashionable. Most of the houses had large backyards with vegetable plots, and the local market stocked produce from small, family-owned businesses. My diet became very wholesome - and while I didn’t deny myself (many) visits to the patisserie (hello French desserts), eating food made from scratch meant nothing was pre-packed with added sugars, salts and preservatives. After 4 weeks, my skin was smooth, radiant and VERY un-teenage like. The subclinical acne had disappeared and my T-zone was far less oily. I celebrated, thinking I’d finally passed the pimply stage of my life (ohhh how innocent I was). But when I returned to Australia and resumed my diet of Pop Tarts and chicken nuggets, my skin once again gave up on life and the pimples made a come back. I longed for my ‘French skin’. I realised then, that the only notable change in my life was my diet - and what I ate really, REALLY mattered. Diet alone thoroughly defeated teenage acne better than any face wash, and improved my moods.
Of course, sticking to a wholesome diet is hard, even when it appeals to our vanity and good skin awaits. Organic diets are expensive, not always accessible, sometimes time-consuming - and let’s be real: what’s more satisfying than Nutella and something deep-fried when you’re on your period? Yes, it takes discipline, and to be honest I have very little when it comes to food. But there is still hope for those of us who count the day’s highlight as deciding what to eat for dessert.
If cutting out questionable ingredients don’t work for you, try cutting down on them instead. I personally find cold turkey an impossible task when it comes to food, but gradually limiting intake and finding healthier substitutions have been the key to sustainability.
The biggest culprit is sugar - but damn I love myself too much to never eat chocolate again. However, I’m reducing the number of servings I have in a day, as well as replacing refined sweeteners with lower GI alternatives (e.g. raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugars and dates). For some, dairy can also cause inflammation. I’ve found switching to plant ‘milks’ has made a palpable difference to my rosacea. Excess salt, alcohol and animal fats are other foods that have been linked to premature ageing, redness and dark under-eye circles. Not to mention what these foods can do to your other organs!
Try upgrading your diet for a month and see how you feel and look. While skincare products are incredibly effective, they are meant to complement rather than compensate for your diet and lifestyle. Combining diet and skincare (rather than pitting them against each other) will give you that “someone just switched a lightbulb inside me” glow. It can also be the key to simplifying your regimen and giving your skincare supplements (like collagen powders) the best base from which to work optimally.
A blog post by our babe Anura Logan