April 4, 2020 Diet For Hyperpigmentation: All Your Questions Answered
You are what you eat. That’s a famous adage in the world of nutrition. Is it also true for your skin? Can diet affect your skin and influence the appearance of melasma, sunspots, or acne marks? These are questions that many people with hyperpigmentation conditions ask. As dermatologists, we believe in understanding the science-backed reasons behind many popular skin care recommendations. In this short guide, we use a scientific lens to analyze the connection between diet and your skin health.
After reading this Guide, you will know whether to eat food for clear skin, whether to go on a melasma diet, and if the whole diet for skin health is a fact or myth.
Does Diet Affect Skin Health?
Let’s start with the basics: “Does diet affect skin health?” The answer is yes. Your skin is considered the largest organ in your body for a good reason – it covers up all the rest of you. When you eat, a sizable amount of nutrients goes towards nourishing your skin cells. What this means is if you put low-nutrient foods in your body, your skin gets low-nutrient resources for growth and repair. Similarly, high-nutrient foods rich in vitamins, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and other vital nutrients give your skin high-quality resources to work with. So, yes, your diet plays a significant role in your skin health.
What Is A Healthy Diet For Clear Skin?
A healthy diet for clear skin is one that’s full of skin-healthy nutrients. Clear skin is made up of healthy, elastic, and vibrant skin cells. For cells to get this way, they need a constant source of high-quality nutrients. If you maintain a poor-nutrient diet, your skin cells will soon get starved and start to appear dull, aged, and non-vibrant. Some of the best foods for clear skin are green vegetables like kale and spinach, oily fish like salmon, strawberries, broccoli and citrus fruits rich in vitamin C.
The Best Diet For Fighting Skin Problems
Skin problems can include acne and hyperpigmentation conditions like melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Diet can play a role in managing these problems. One thing that triggers most of these conditions is cellular stress. When your skin cells get stressed through exposure, hormonal imbalance, and infection, one of the effects is bad skin. Eating a diet for skin health can help reduce the effects of these factors. Some of the best foods for fighting skin problems are kale, sweet potatoes, lemons, pumpkins, berries, fatty fish and legumes. For example, fatty fish contains loads of zinc, which helps fight inflammation, support new skin cell growth and support overall skin health.
What Diet Promotes Overall Healthy Skin?
In general, eating a balanced diet should help promote overall skin health. However, this is only good for maintaining already-healthy skin. If you need to improve the health of your skin, you will need to eat a more skin-healthy diet.
Find ways to incorporate the following foods into your diet:
- Avocados: Avocados are not only delicious, they are full of healthy fats and antioxidants, which protect the skin from premature aging and sun damage. They have vitamins E and C, vitamins shown to significantly improve the skin through collagen support and resistance to oxidative damage.
- Fatty fish: Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 has been shown to promote thick, supple skin, reduce inflammation and lower skin sensitivity to harmful UV rays.
- Sweet potatoes and carrots: Both foods contain high levels of beta carotene or provitamin A. When eaten, the compound gets integrated into your skin and acts like natural sunblock.
- Seeds and nuts: Seeds and nuts are a great source of micronutrients like selenium and zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Citrus fruits: Fruits like grapes, oranges and lemons are rich in vitamin c, which helps promote thicker, younger looking skin. In addition, red grapes contain resveratrol, a compound thought to have anti-aging properties.
- Water: Drinking enough water flushes out toxins (including free radicals) from your cells, including your skin cells. It also helps keep your cells hydrated, so they can easily resist the effects of sun exposure.
What Diet Causes Skin Problems?
Several foods are notorious for causing skin problems. These include:
- Dairy: Milk, cheese, and other dairy derivatives because they are naturally pro-inflammatory, often contain synthetic hormones and are poorly digested in the gut, things that lead to poor skin.
- Sugar: All types of sugary treats and foods like cake, candy, chocolate, ice-cream, donuts, soda, and energy drinks because sugar is at the very top of the glycemic index, meaning it is a top inflammatory food.
- Fried foods: Fried anything, including fast food, because the oil and chemicals in the food contribute to poor skin.
- Alcohol: Alcohol naturally dehydrates your cells, including your skin cells, making your skin dry and exposed to sun exposure. Most alcoholic drinks also have lots of sugar.
- Plain carbs: Both refined and unrefined, including popcorn, white rice, white bread, carb snacks, pizza, and others because they deplete good bacteria in your body and increase skin oil production. The resulting imbalance and excessive skin oiliness allows acne bacteria to thrive.
- Salt: All salty snacks, including crackers, chips, beef jerky, and others because salt contains sodium, which at high quantities dehydrates your skin cells. Skin cells then compensate by overproduction of oil, a fertile breeding ground for acne bacteria.
- Soy: Soy contains phytoestrogens, which imitates natural estrogen, causing hormonal imbalances that can cause skin breakouts.
- Spicy foods: Spicy foods raise the body’s heat, causing inflammation that can trigger flare ups and make existing skin conditions like acne worse.
- Coffee and caffeine products: Caffeine causes an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can trigger or worsen skin conditions.
Processed vs. Unprocessed Diet For Skin Health?
A helpful rule of thumb in picking skin-healthy foods is looking at where the food lies on the food processing spectrum. On this spectrum, you have foods ranging from whole natural foods like grains and vegetables to highly processed foods like chicken nuggets and processed snacks like Twinkies and Ho Hos. In general, the closer a food is to its natural state, the healthier it is. However, for “natural” foods like dairy, alcohol, coffee, and soy, moderation is recommended for the reasons we discussed above.
What Diet Reduces Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is caused by the excessive production of melanin in the skin. Can diet help with this? Yes. Eating a hyperpigmentation diet rich in antioxidants can help reduce skin darkening. Such a diet works by encouraging production of melanin, reduction of free radicals and support of skin turnover, three things that help grow healthy skin and diminish dark spots. In this category of foods, the best options are citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, foods with beta-carotene (orange color) like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots, and seafood rich in copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc.
Can Diet Improve Melasma And Other Skin Hyperpigmentation Conditions?
Yes, diet can help make melasma and other hyperpigmentation conditions better. If you are currently eating a skin-unhealthy diet, switching to a skin-healthy one can have a significant impact on your skin health. You can also substitute your current foods for food for hyperpigmentation reduction.
While diet is a great place to start in treating melasma and other hyperpigmentation conditions, it is best to think of eating food for melasma as a way of supporting skin health gains. This is because hyperpigmentation can be caused by factors like genetics and injury that cannot be influenced by diet.
What Is The Connection Between Diet And Hormonal Skin Problems?
Some foods are known to cause hormonal changes in the body. Foods such as milk, coffee, soy, refined carbs, and salt can alter your hormonal balance. For example, milk may contain synthetic hormones carried over from cows while the caffeine in coffee is known to spike cortisol (stress hormone) and estrogen levels. When regularly consumed, the resulting hormonal imbalance can cause skin problems.
In some cases, eating just one meal can result in a skin breakout, which illustrates the strong connection between diet and hormonal skin problems. If you stop the diet, will the problems go away? In most cases, switching to a skin-healthy diet will significantly improve your overall skin health, if there are no underlying causative medical conditions or genetic factors.
Is Diet Alone Enough For Clear, Healthy Skin?
Diet is excellent for overall skin health. However, if you need more targeted results, you may need to apply topical medication. Why is this? Because with a diet, it is difficult to aim for a specific part of your skin. If you have melasma, for example, it is impossible to create a diet that specifically treats the affected areas. That is where customized medications come in. ClearifiRx formulates customized skin medications that target specific parts of your skin, helping reduce darkening and hyperpigmentation.
Diet for hyperpigmentation is a useful and effective way to promote skin health. Avoiding foods that stress your skin and adopting a skin-healthy diet can reduce skin problems. As the diet helps your skin from the inside, you can also help it from the outside. ClearifiRx dermatologists can analyze your skin type and condition and specially formulate a skin medication for you. Find out how we can help brighten up your skin by signing up for a consultation today.
About the author
Patricia S. Walker, M.D., Ph.D. is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical and aesthetic dermatology. She is an industry expert and has served in various leadership roles, including President and head of R&D for Brickell Biotech, Chief Medical Off...