The quest for great skin often takes some unexpected turns. Whether it's trying the latest fad in moisturizers (caviar, bee pollen, and algae to name a few) or test-driving the newest diamond encrusted microdermabrasion, chemical fillers, and enzyme peels, there's not a lot women won't try for wrinkle-free skin.
Sometimes, the answer isn't always what you'd expect. Dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, MD, whose eponymous skin care line has been a go-to since it launched in 1997, urges that good skin begins at the grocery store. Considered 'The Godfather of the Inflammation Theory,' the quest to find better ways to fight aging and disease through diet, Perricone has been at the forefront of eating healthy foods for your skin.
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ELLE.com sat down with the skin expert to hear his take on healthy eating for better skin.
ELLE: You're known for eating incredibly healthy. What are some of the foods you recommend for better skin?
Nicholas Perricone: There are so many good super-foods that benefit the skin. Some of my favorites are:
Fish: Wild salmon and other cold water fish (sardines, herring, trout, etc…) are great sources of protein, necessary to maintain and repair the body, including the skin, on a cellular level. They are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, which keeps skin radiant, supple and wrinkle free. Wild salmon's pink or red color, owes its pigment to astaxanthin, a super carotenoid anti-oxidant with potent anti-inflammatory properties. What does that mean for your skin? Astaxanthin improves the elasticity and reduces the appearance of fine lines.Olives and olive oils: We need a source of good fats in our diet to help us absorb nutrients from our vegetables and fruits, keep our cells supple, our skin glowing and wrinkle-free, our brains sharp, and our mood upbeat. We also need fat to burn fat. Extra virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, which helps us to absorb the omega-3s and other vitamins and nutrients from our foods.
Watercress: Watercress has high potassium content and therefore it is considered useful in treating acidity and purifying the blood. By cleansing the blood, watercress has been useful in treating skin eruptions, eczema, acne, rashes, and other skin infections.
Turmeric: is a superb anti-inflammatory thanks to its superior antioxidant properties and its high levels of the super antioxidant curcumin. It also increases blood levels of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, an important antioxidant and vital in the body's detoxification system, to keep skin clear, firm, toned, and radiant.
Blueberries: Like all of the foods on this list, blueberries are an outstanding source of many phytochemicals including the anthocyanins that act as antioxidants (in addition to many other benefits). They work around the clock to protect skin from premature aging and damage and protect the cell from DNA damage. Blueberries also have great anti-inflammatory properties-remember inflammation is not just linked to disease-it is a major cause of wrinkling and sagging in the skin.
Dark Chocolate: A chemical from cocoa protects skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure and prevents the skin from aging. Go for extra dark chocolate-at least 70 to 85% cocoa content. By weight, cocoa has more antioxidants than blueberries, green tea, and red wine! Chocolate and cocoa protect the cardiovascular system, significantly reducing the incidence of atherosclerosis.
Cantaloupe: Vitamin C, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, and vitamin A have all been shown to prevent sun damage and to improve skin quality. Cantaloupe is also wonderfully hydrating to the skin.
Coconut: They help strengthen the skin's connective tissues to help keep skin soft, smooth and supple. Both coconut oil and coconut water increase skin radiance and antioxidant protection to prevent infection and fight off free radical.
Avocados: Avocados are antioxidant powerhouses-but as you will discover, they have truly unique regenerative properties. Avocados contain oleic acid, the chief fatty acid in olive oil, which has been shown to dramatically cut the levels of a gene involved in the development of breast cancer.
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ELLE: It sounds like a lot of those are fresh, natural foods. What are the foods that will do the most damage to your skin?
NP: Foods that are high in sugar or saturated fats can cause inflammation, which will only accelerate aging. Those foods include: bacon (except turkey bacon), bagels, breads, candy, cereals (except slow-cooking oatmeal), cornstarch, corn syrup, doughnuts, fast food, flour, fried foods, hot dogs, ice cream, frozen yogurt, jam and jelly, margarine, molasses, muffins, noodles, pancakes, pasta, pita break, popcorn, potatoes, relish, rice, soda, white sugar.
ELLE: A lot of diets warn against the damage of dairy to your body. What do you think about dairy for your skin?
NP: I cannot urge you strongly enough to include several servings of yogurt and/or kefir in your daily diet. Many people do not realize how these foods can help to build and preserve bone, critical functions as we age.
When choosing dairy products, I recommend that you select products from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals. And don't forget to always choose plain, unsweetened yogurt and kefir! The sugars and other additives detract from the health benefits-add your own fresh fruit!
However there is also a down side to dairy products such as milk. Milk and milk products can boost insulin levels and hormones, both of which contribute to the development of pimples.
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ELLE: Since fruits naturally have a lot of sugar, are there some that should be avoided?
NP:No. Just make sure to save fresh fruit for the end of the meal to avoid any spikes in blood sugar. Also, avoid fruit that is over ripe so that the glucose level isn't too high.
ELLE: What are some foods that will help add moisture to dry skin or control sebum in oily skin?
NP: Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and water rich fruits. When we consume a poor diet, this causes inflammatory diseases such as acne to worsen dramatically.
By sticking to a diet rich in fish, protein (which will aid in cellular function), fruits, and vegetables, you'll give your skin the dose of antioxidants it needs to stay healthy, clear, and balanced. Taking care of your body will translate to your skin as well.
Eating a diet heavy in sugar, starches, high fructose corn syrup, fats, hydrogenated oils, and fried food can cause the sebaceous glands in your skin to increase their oil production and make your pores appear larger. These foods will encourage excessive oil production, which will clog pores and result in breakouts.
ELLE: What can you do if you occasionally like to indulge in sweets or alcohol?
NP: Make sure that you do add plenty of the anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and take high quality nutritional supplements.
ELLE: Are there foods that are good for the skin but don't necessarily help with weight control or energy?
NP: No. The foods that are good for the skin are good for all organ systems. They'll help increase energy and are not fattening. Foods that are greasy, starchy, and sugary will deplete energy, ruin your skin, and pack on the pounds.
ELLE: What would a perfect diet look like for healthy skin and body?
NP:An anti-inflammatory diet is the cornerstone of a healthy diet and the one I follow in the Perricone Program. It consists of eating high-quality protein (like fish, poultry, or tofu), low-glycemic carbs like colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains (like old-fashioned oatmeal, beans, and lentils), and healthy fats (yes, those exist!)-think fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Make sure to drink lots of water and drink anti-oxidant rich drinks like green tea.
These foods and beverages act as natural anti-inflammatories and help to maintain normal levels of insulin and blood sugar. You'll notice a visible difference in your body and skin in as little as three days. When you take care of your body, you take care of your skin too.
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