Have you tried every lotion and potion under the sun to soothe your skin woes? I remember reaching for zit cream when pesky pimples showed up in my earlier years. Occasionally it worked, but never long-term. It wasn’t until I cleaned up my diet that I got the glow I’d always wanted, which is why I’m a big fan of Jolene Hart’s work.
Jolene got her start as a beauty editor while researching, testing and recommending products at InStyle Magazine. During this time, she was also going through a 10-year struggle with cystic acne and eczema. Jolene followed the advice of dozens of experts and tried countless editor-tested products, prescription antibiotics and topical treatments. Nothing worked until she turned to her diet for answers. Goodbye, products. Hello, food! Today she’s a health coach (certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition), founder of the pioneering coaching practice Beauty Is Wellness, co-founder and Director of Education of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance and the author of Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty and Health.
While talking to Jolene, I learned so much about how what we eat and drink impacts our skin, and I know you will too! Here are the juiciest insights and tips from our conversation…
Kris: Some folks think there’s no connection between what we consume and our skin health. Has that cray cray myth been disproved?
Jolene: I’d say an emphatic “yes!” But while this myth has been debunked time and time again, I still come across experts claiming that diet and skin health are unrelated. Did you know that for decades dermatologists were taught that there was no link between diet and acne? This misinformation was based on two outdated and flawed studies.
More scientific research in this area is needed to increase awareness, but there are already studies out there demonstrating strong ties between diet and visible signs of skin aging (study) and connecting a boost in fruit and veggie intake to a healthy glow (study). Not to mention the proof in the mirror!
Kris: What are the biggest trouble foods and drinks when it comes to skin health?
Jolene: I’ve got to point a finger at sugar. The sweet stuff can really be a beauty-buster, increasing our chances of developing wrinkles, breakouts, cellulite and more. The same goes for foods that act like sugar in the body, like pretzels, pastas, crackers and cereals made from refined ingredients, as well as sodas. This is because sugar messes with hormones, blood sugar and the immune system, and can even steal nutrients and hydration from our skin. Healthier sources of sugar, like maple syrup, are definitely better, but can still cause skin problems. I’d recommend that you choose whole, unrefined sources of sugar, and keep an eye on how your intake affects your skin—you may need to cut back.
Kris: On the flipside, what are the most beneficial foods and drinks for your skin?
Jolene: There is quite literally a rainbow of beauty food options. It’s actually kind of difficult to narrow down the list to just a few, since diversity of nutrients is a beauty essential. Getting a range of colorful produce in your diet is a great place to start, since those colors signal the presence of phytochemicals, each of which have their own skin benefits.
In Eat Pretty, I share a chart that lists important phytochemicals for beauty, their benefits and their sources (think UVB-protective quercetin from onions, wrinkle-blocking catechins in cacao and elasticity-strengthening anthocyanins in plums). Some of my favorite, rather unexpected, beauty foods include watercress, which has been shown to reverse and prevent DNA damage (study), making it a powerful anti-ager. Ginger and turmeric are also on that list (I like using the whole, fresh root when available) because they decrease inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a precursor to wrinkles, blemishes and redness in the skin, so a diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods strongly supports skin health.
Hydration is incredibly important too! The skin is about 70% water, so it makes sense that we should keep our daily water intake high to maintain healthy skin. But beyond that, we need water for metabolism, nutrient absorption, elimination and circulation—all of which have a major impact on our skin. My top picks for healthy hydration are filtered water (with or without add-ins like lemon, ginger and infused herbs), as well as drinks like herbal teas and fresh juices or smoothies that are primarily veggie-based.