Oftentimes, patients who want to improve the tone and texture of their skin make an appointment with their dermatologist and expect to be given a magic cream or cosmetic treatment that will wipe away years from their complexion. As a doctor, you understand that many factors contribute to skin health and dietary choices are a major factor.
One way that you can help your patients enhance their results from skin care products and treatments is to provide advice for making simple dietary adjustments that can have a big impact on the health and appearance of their skin. Here are a few of my personal favorite pieces of diet advice for patients who want better skin.
1. Antioxidants Fight Skin Aging
Antioxidants are key nutrients when it comes to preventing and reversing signs of skin aging like lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. These molecules work by donating an electron to unstable free radicals and therefore stopping the damaging process of oxidization. Otherwise, free radicals oxidize other molecules such as proteins, lipids, and DNA by taking an electron from them. If not reversed by an antioxidant, this process damages collagen and elastin proteins within the skin, causing lines and wrinkles to form prematurely.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants include blueberries, pomegranates, raspberries, pecans, red wine, green tea, coffee, and dark chocolate.
2. Vitamin A Is a Retinoid
If you’ve prescribed a topical retinoid such as retin-A or retinol, your patient might already be familiar with the many benefits these ingredients can have on their skin. Essentially, retinoids “turn on” the cells that manufacture collagen proteins, while simultaneously “turning off” those that create enzymes like collagenese, which break down collagen.
While topical retinoids can be a very effective addition to many skin care regimens, patients can also reap these same benefits by eating more foods that contain vitamin A, including carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale. Because vitamin A is a retinoid, it can help to improve the overall look and feel of skin similarly to using a topical retinoid product.
3. Vitamin C Boosts Collagen
Vitamin C has become known as a “jack of all trades” in the vitamin world, thanks to its many different functions and benefits for the body and skin. First, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, so it can work against free radicals to prevent premature aging. Secondly, vitamin C plays an important role in the process of collagen production within the skin, and increased collagen is needed for younger-looking skin. Research has also shown that vitamin C can help to brighten the skin’s appearance and reduce hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and other signs of discoloration.
Foods that are high in vitamin C are red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. In addition to loading up on these foods, patients can also use a topical antioxidant serum such as SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic or Phloretin CF to help brighten the skin and keep it protected from signs of aging.
4. Linoleic Acid Combats Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is one of the top internal causes of free radicals, which means that inflammation can also contribute to skin aging. One way to protect against inflammation and the detrimental effects it can have on the body and skin is to include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods and/or supplements in the diet. Linoleic acid is an example of a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient and can be found in ingredients like argan oil, sunflower seed oil, and grape seed extract.
It is important to remind patients that while many processed foods like potato chips, pizza, and French fries also contain linoleic acid, these “junk” foods are not advisable to eat because they cause glycation and have empty calories.
5. Sugar Causes Skin to Age
Sugary and starchy foods (like the chips, pizza, and fries mentioned above) are some of the worst foods to eat, as far as the skin is concerned. These foods trigger a chemical process within the body known as glycation, in which sugar molecules attach to and damage other molecules around them, including proteins and lipids. When this process affects the collagen and elastin proteins in skin, fine lines, wrinkles, creases, and sagging skin can result. Therefore, encourage your patients to limit sugar intake as much as possible to help improve their skin’s health and appearance.
Giving patients advice on diet and lifestyle changes that they can make, in addition to finding the right products fo