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By: Sarah Kester

In our quest to achieve the most glowing skin ever, many of us go full throttle. We start meditating to reduce stress, up our spin classes from two to four times a week, gladly accept the challenge of catching more beauty sleep each night, and splurge when it comes to skincare products.

What we often forget to consider, though, is the old saying, "you are what you eat." So, while we’re well aware that a steady diet of junk food isn’t helping skin matters, all too often we forget to consider what foods that are deemed “healthy” are actually doing to our skin. This can include dairy, cereals, a glass of red wine, and even our beloved smoothies.

Of course, it’s easier said than done to completely rid our diets of these foods. While we’re not asking you to put a stop to weekly Taco Tuesdays (we know how important they are), moderation is a great place to start. When you are ready to take control of your skin, however, start by ditching these 5 foods.

Dairy

Growing up, many of us might remember those popular “got milk?” posters or simply the sound of our parents’ voices urging us to drink two to three cups of milk per day. But there was very little to be said on what it was actually doing to our skin.

Thankfully over the past few years, multiple studies have shed light on the connection between dairy and blemishes. Dr. Yoram Harth, Board Certified Dermatologist and Medical Director of MDacne explains to Lively why this is. “Milk products — especially cow’s milk — cause a spike in blood sugar and later insulin growth factor that may cause more [breakouts]." 

five worst foods for skin

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Sensitivity to dairy might also be to blame, explains Laura Jones, an esthetician and Practitioner of Chinese Medicine who specializes in dermatology. “Some individuals may be sensitive to dairy products and find that it aggravates their skin conditions,” she says.

At this point in your life, incorporating milk might be a daily habit. You use it in cereal, in your morning coffee, or just drink it straight. If you can’t ditch it completely, focus on at least reducing your intake and paying attention to whether this makes a difference to your skin and overall health. Using dairy-free alternatives, like Vital Proteins Collagen Creamer, is also a great step to take if you want to limit your dairy intake. Helping to support stronger hair, skin, nails, and joints, Vital Proteins Collagen Creamer is packed with healthy fats, energy-boosting MCTs, and is free of artificial sweeteners. Add it to your coffee, baked goods, and more.

It’s also important to keep in mind that milk and ice cream have been shown to cause the most skincare problems, whereas yogurt and cheese are relatively safe. Test the different dairy products to see if you have varying levels of sensitivity. Follow this process until you’re fully able to say goodbye to the days of “got milk?” and hello to confidently saying, “don’t got milk but I’ve got great skin.”

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Alcohol

Nothing can be more relaxing than curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine to decompress after a long day. Even Stanley from The Office said that he had a glass of red wine every night. He said he did it for the antioxidants, which, according to Dr. Harth, can be true. “Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that is good for the skin. Any more than one glass per night, however, and you could be putting your skin at risk."

five worst foods for your skin

So clearly, moderation is the name of the game when it comes to consuming alcohol — both for overall health reasons and, of course, for the skin since alcohol transforms into sugar in the body.

Too Much Caffeine

While ground coffee is often used as a skin scrub, it’s actually doing more harm than good to our skin when a lot of it is ingested. “Coffee acts as a diuretic and drinking a lot of coffee means dehydration,” explains Dr. Harth. “As our skin cells are made of water, dehydrated skin will lose its glow and plumpness.” He advises drinking more water to counteract this effect.

Certain teas can also contain caffeine. “Caffeine has a drying and dehydration effect on the skin, which can lead to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. That being said, green tea, while it contains caffeine, also has a lot of antioxidants that are of benefit to the skin,” says Jones. "So, everything in moderation and just be aware that if you overindulge, you will eventually see those effects on the skin."

If you find yourself unable to function without reaching for caffeine, it might be a good time to cut back anyways — or eliminate it completely. To start, swap your cup of coffee for Vital Proteins nutrient-rich Matcha Collagen, which contains L-theanine, an amino acid that delivers an “alert calm” in users instead of a jolt and eventual crash. 

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Junk Food

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Taco Tuesday is everything. That’s just one day a week, though. For some of us, consuming junk food has become a daily habit, causing problems to our overall health that become apparent as weight gain and dull skin.

five worst foods for skin

“Junk food is usually rich in toxic unsaturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and salt. Just like coffee, too much salt will dehydrate your skin,” says Dr. Harth. Even the salt we use to add flavor to our meals is attributing to this, one shake of it on our plates at a time. “If you’d like to have better-looking skin, try to replace salt with other condiments such as thyme, pepper, garlic, and basil."

"Healthy" Food Alternatives

When it comes to skincare, all the foods we’ve listed so far might make total sense as to why they affect the skin negatively. For example, if your diet is poor, you lack the essential nutrients that enable your skin to repair itself, therefore increasing the appearance of blemishes, explains Jones.

So, if you’ve turned to healthier alternatives, such as rice cakes, cereals that claim to be healthy, and even smoothies, you might be surprised to learn that these food choices are also causing breakouts.

five worst foods for skin

"Foods with a high glycemic index, such as rice cakes and 'healthy' cereals, give your body a blood sugar spike that increases blood hormones, mainly insulin growth factor that, in turn, cause breakouts in teens and young adults," Dr. Harth explains to Lively. “In older people, the sugar will attach to collagen fibers, which will cause the body to identify them as damaged goods ..." Yikes.

Even that green goddess smoothie you whip up every morning could be causing problems. "Too much sugar can break down collagen and elastin, making your skin look dull …" he says. "Smoothies have a super high content of sugar and will cause sugar rushes in the blood. These may lead to more insulin growth factor, more breakouts, and later in life, faster skin aging." 

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The Bottom Line

Are any foods safe for our skin? That answer is yes and, of course, it all comes back to moderation. If you can’t ditch these foods completely, aim to cut back gradually. When you do consume them, replenish your body and skin with lots of water and don’t stress too much over slip-ups as stress can only exacerbate things.

best foods for your skin

As for the foods that are good for the skin, Dr. Harth recommends these as his top three skin-savers: “I recommend fish that will provide proteins and Omega-3s. Food like watermelon seeds, roasted pumpkin, dried squash, roast beef, and wheat germ that contain a lot of zinc and foods filled with antioxidants that can protect the skin from environmental stress.”

The skin is the largest organ in our body and therefore, it’s really no surprise that it requires all this work and sacrifices to keep it looking great. The best part is, all that hard work eventually pays off, so you can feel good about flaunting your best skin ever.