Beauty from the Inside Out: What to Eat for Gorgeous Skin!

Hiya Gorgeous,

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 This misinformation was based on two outdated and flawed studies.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.

Kris: Are there any anti-aging secrets we should know about?

Jolene: Blood sugar balance is a biggie. When you skimp on healthy fats and proteins, eat too many sugary or processed foods or go hours and hours between meals, you can set yourself up on a blood sugar rollercoaster. This can deeply stress the body, affect hormone balance and become a catalyst for early signs of aging and other skin issues.

Kris: Do you have any suggestions for folks who struggle with acne?

Jolene: You bet I do—this one is personal. I love working with clients to pinpoint their unique acne triggers! Start by looking at the quality of your diet: Do you consistently build your meals from fresh, nutrient-dense foods that include a rainbow of veggies, healthy fats and clean protein? Are you getting enough dietary sources of zinc, beta carotene and omega fatty acids each day? Try writing down your meals in a food diary to reflect on what you’re really eating, since we often conveniently overlook foods that might be sabotaging our skin.

If your diet isn’t in need of a tune-up, it’s time to look more closely at food allergies, digestive health, hormonal balance and stress. I’d say that these are the top four acne culprits. When you look at your body as a whole, sometimes you find that one of these root causes fuels another—food allergies exacerbate digestive issues, chronic stress leads to hormonal imbalances, etc. Maintaining healthy, radiant skin requires a truly integrative approach, and the benefit is that you begin to understand your body better. A topical blemish cream might heal this week’s breakout, but looking at the health of your skin from the inside out can get you clear skin for good!

Kris: Thanks so much, Jolene!

If you’re feeling crappy about your complexion, I hope this info inspires you to clean up your diet and consider other potential root causes. And as always, I recommend connecting with an open-minded health practitioner in case your own exploration isn’t resolving your issues.

Your turn: Have you discovered any nutrition or lifestyle game-changers for your skin? Share your wisdom in the comments!

Peace & glow,

Kris Carr

P.S. Drinking my greens is one of my favorite tricks for glowing skin!

Looking for new green drink recipes? My book, Crazy Sexy Juice, includes 100+ juice, smoothie and nut milk recipes to stir up your routine, plus all my tips and tricks to keep your juicer and blender humming through every season. Get your copy here.