If you're like most folks, the first place you look for skin care products is a drug or department store. But the latest beauty science buzz says that when it comes to healthy skin, those in the know are spending almost as much time shopping the supermarket shelves as the beauty aisles.
The reason? When it comes to head-to-toe healthy skin, research now shows that the foods you put in your body are as vital as the products you put on it.
"It's definitely true that diet can play an important role in all skin conditions -- not just helping combat wrinkles and lines, but other skin problems as well, including acne, eczema, psoriasis -- even dry flaking or very oily skin," says biochemist Elaine Linker, PhD, co-founder of DDF skin care.
Among the must-have foods for healthy skin: omega-3 fatty acids -- the "good fats" that have recently been credited with increasing heart health as well as helping your skin look healthier. The foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids include seafood (especially tuna and salmon) as well as walnuts, canola oil, and flax seed.
"These fatty acids are responsible for the health of the cell membrane, which is not only what acts as the barrier to things that are harmful, but also the passageway for nutrients to cross in and out and for waste products to get in and out of the cell," says Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, a nutritionist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.
In addition, McDermott says that since the membrane is what influences the cells ability to hold water, having a nice, healthy barrier yields moister, softer, more subtle, and more wrinkle-free skin.
But according to dermatologist and skin care expert Nicholas V. Perricone, MD, the need for omega-3 fatty acids goes beyond just reinforcing the cell membrane. In his best-selling book, The Wrinkle Cure, he reports foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the body's production of inflammatory compounds -- natural chemicals involved in the aging process, that affect how healthy the skin looks and feels.
Another key to controlling that inflammatory process: Avoiding foods that spike insulin levels, such as simple carbohydrates, including sugar, white flour, and starchy foods. Eat too many of these goodies and Linker says your skin will suffer.
According to Linker, "any food that causes insulin to spike can induce inflammation -- and that can irritate any skin condition influenced by inflammation, which is pretty much all skin conditions, including the way skin ages."
The Food-Vitamin Connection to Healthy Skin
It's hard to walk down any skin care aisle without falling over a cache of vitamin-enriched topical products. Among the most popular are those laced with vitamin A, a nutrient proven to revitalize skin by increasing cell turnover. This is a natural biological process that replaces old skin cells with fresh new ones, and keeps your complexion looking youthful.