Nutrition and How it Affects the Skin

When I was recently writing my latest book Face Change, my goal was simple: to offer beneficial information that really gives an inside look into what I have learned after decades of working in beauty, medicine, and wellness. One of the most important topics is nutrition and its direct result on skin care. Educating patients on the basics to amazing skin through nutrition arms them with the knowledge to take control of their health and beauty at home. I find that my patients appreciate this takeaway knowledge and continue to come to me for in-office results armed with at-home support.

To diminish acne and for everyday healthy skin, I recommend foods that are high in zinc (an anti-inflammatory!) such as lean red meat, kidney beans, and lentils. Lentils have lens-shaped seeds, usually two to a pod and have the third-highest level of protein of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. Also omega-3 foods such as tuna, salmon, trout, flaxseed, tofu, almonds, and walnuts are also inflammation busters. Other foods shown to improve skin are turmeric, ginger, green tea, deep-red produce like berries, and leafy green vegetables. Outside of nutrition, vitamin supplements such as vitamin A, E, zinc, and evening primrose oil are excellent for skin.

Now that you know what to recommend…what do you advise patients to avoid? Studies have found that raised insulin levels often result from high-glycemic foods (meaning foods like white rice and white flour that quickly convert to sugar in the body), sugary foods, and diets high in dairy. These insulin spikes flood the body with hormones and in turn cause pimples. Doctors, nutritionists, and patients themselves have seen a link between the high blood-insulin levels that result from eating too many sugary foods and the increased sebum production that comes from the proliferation of skin cells. I also strongly advise maintaining a low-glycemic diet, which means staying away from sugary foods and refined grains. The body absorbs all that sugar which causes your insulin levels to skyrocket, which means increased skin-cell production, oil production, and elevated acne-causing androgen hormones. Instead, choose whole grains; but multigrain is not the same as whole grain, so beware of this term on packaging. Avoiding iodine rich foods such as eggs, sushi, milk and dairy is also smart as this is directly linked to breakouts.

So, yes this is a lot of do’s and don’ts. If you want to simplify? Advise your patients to stick with lean proteins, lots of veggies and fruit. And, of course, stay away from processed foods with hard to pronounce ingredients. There is one universal piece of advice that if followed will be kinder to your patients’ skin than all the veggies, vitamins and protein in the world: Drink water. As you already know, it is crucial to keeping the skin clear and glowing and the brain alert.


About: An innovator in the cosmetic surgery field, Harvey “Chip” Cole, III, M.D., F.A.C.S., has performed more than 25,000 surgeries since opening Oculus Plastic Surgery (Atlanta) in 1994. Among his many professional honors, Cole was named one of America’s top facial plastic surgeons by the Consumers Research Council of America for the past 18 consecutive years.