How Does diet impact your skin?

Dr.Omeed Ahadiat | November 21, 2022

Diet and Skin

One of the most common questions encountered by any dermatologist is how diet can help improve the skin. This is a broad topic that will require multiple discussions but in this talk we will go over the known, stone-cold, evidence based facts. In the future we will have separate discussions going over newer research and potential dietary benefits.

Having a healthy, well-balanced diet is critical for healthy skin. There is no denying that. There are a variety of skin diseases that present due to nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies include vitamins and minerals such as: vitamins A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamins D E K, biotin, selenium, zinc, essential fatty acids, and these are just to name a few. Now if you have a normal, healthy diet, you shouldn’t encounter any of these deficiencies unless you have a rare genetic condition that makes you susceptible. The only time dermatologists truly worry about nutritional deficiencies are with strict elimination diets, anorexia/bulimia, alcoholism, or intestinal absorption issues. It’s also important to mention, excessive vitamin/mineral intake can also cause skin issues, but this is rare unless supplemented at high levels.

This raises the concern for certain fad diets and skin issues they can cause. A fad diet that has been reported commonly to cause skin issues is the keto diet. Keto diet has been shown to be linked with an inflammatory skin condition called prurigo pigmentosa. The exact mechanism hasn’t been discovered but studies have shown reintroducing carbohydrates into the diet have resolved the rash. The majority of people on a keto diet won’t develop this rash, but the fact that the keto diet has this strong link to a particular rash makes me wary about this diet being healthy for the skin.

Elimination diets in general have been shown to create problems for the skin. Oftentimes elimination diets limit individuals to eat only certain types of foods and avoid others, which creates the risk for a nutritional deficiency. In fact, very limited evidence has shown benefits from elimination diets for the skin. There are particular skin diagnoses that have evidence support for limiting or eliminating certain dietary products, but these diagnoses need to be made by a dermatologist. For example, patients with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis should have a gluten free diet. Patients with rosacea will have flares with alcohol, spicy foods, tomatoes, chocolate, citrus, aged cheese, and processed meats and, therefore, should consider limiting them. Patients with acne should limit sugary foods/drinks and whey protein. Most recently, studies have shown modest improvement in eczema severity and itchiness in patients with various elimination diets. More studies are needed to further support this. Speak to your dermatologist about your particular skin issue and dietary recommendations, but until then I wouldn’t do extreme elimination diets or have expensive allergy food tests performed in regards to your skin health.

Numerous other studies have shown diets rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and polyphenolic-rich foods have a positive effect on skin health. Other studies have shown diets high in antioxidants have led to less photoaging. Healthy fats such as those in avocados, olive oil, nuts have shown to provide more desired skin results. All in all, a healthy, well-balanced diet is beneficial for your skin and your overall health.

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