Can One Day of Bad Eating Ruin Your Skin?

3 Things to Consume with Caution

Even a single day of bad nutrition takes its toll on your looks. Too little hydration, too much salt, too much alcohol, and the kind of massive fatty-food binge that keeps you up at night with indigestion can show up the next day as puffy eyelids, dark undereye circles and a shallow or overly flushed complexion.
 
Of course, you haven’t wrecked your looks permanently. Plenty of water and a good night’s sleep will help you rehab the next day. But if you make a habit of eating poorly and drinking heavily, you will do permanent damage. Which are the beauty-busting culprits on your table? Start by being smart about these:
 
Alcohol
Drinking a lot of alcohol of any kind interferes with your body’s ability to regulate blood flow, leading over time to enlarged blood vessels in the face and permanent redness.
 
And while drinking heavily can make you sleepy and cause you to doze off, it also prompts disrupted sleep, such as repeated waking, that can leave you feeling—and looking—tired.
 
Salt
It’s absolutely essential to your survival, but too much salt takes a toll on your looks. Excess salt in your diet can cause you to retain fluid, leading to puffy eyelids and, ironically, dry skin.
 
So take it easy on the salty snacks (e.g., potato chips, pretzels) and check condiments such as soy sauce, pickles, and ketchup for their sodium (aka salt) content. Read nutrition labels to look for hidden salt in prepared foods: You may be surprised to find that even items that don’t taste salty, such as bread, contain as much as 250 milligrams (mg) in a serving.
 
Aim for no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, and if you’re over 50, cut that back to 1,500 mg.
 
Sugar
Consuming too much sugar has a widespread impact in the body. It triggers the release of large quantities of the hormone insulin to sweep the extra glucose out of your blood, which increases systemic inflammation and can set off skin irritation, among other bad things.
 
Worse, scientists theorize that excess sugar consumption speeds up a natural aging process called glycation. During glycation, glucose damages proteins throughout the body, but most particularly the proteins in collagen, which is one of the tissues that keep your face from early sagging and wrinkling.
 
Cutting back on sugar means not just avoiding the obvious temptations, like candy, desserts and sodas; it also means keeping an eye on the amount of sugar hidden in seemingly healthier choices such as cereals, energy bars, fruit juices, and smoothies.
 
So look at the nutrition labels on foods and check the amount of sugar grams listed. Try limiting yourself to 24 grams total per day or 10 percent of your total calories, whichever is smaller.

Surprising Foods Your Skin is Starving For

The 3 Nutrients Your Skin Craves Most

There are three classes of nutrients that are critical to keeping your skin healthy, glowing, and youthful. Read on to find out if there’s something missing from your menu.
 
Antioxidant vitamins
The three antioxidant vitamins—A, C, and E—fight free radicals generated by exposure to environmental stressors such as pollution and sunlight. This is important because free radicals cause cellular damage that results in both superficial and deep skin problems, including accelerated wrinkling and spotting and the breakdown of the collagen and elastin that supports facial skin. Plus, antioxidant vitamins may even play a role in preventing skin cancer.
 
To get vitamin A naturally, add carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes to your meal. For vitamin C, choose bell peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, lemons, oranges, and tomatoes.
 
Vitamin E is found most plentifully in almonds, avocados, olives, peanuts, and spinach. (A bonus nutrient in almonds and peanuts is biotin, a B vitamin that is sometimes called the “beauty vitamin” because of its important role in maintaining hair and nail health.)
  
The antioxidant vitamins are also effective in minimizing environmental skin damage when applied topically in serums and lotions.
 
Monounsaturated fats
Your face loves fats, which are part of a larger group of molecules known as lipids. Lipids are the glue that holds the skin together, protects the surface layer, and keeps the skin’s protective barrier function intact. In other words, they keep the skin firm, hydrated, and healthy.
 
Honestly, your skin isn’t choosy about what kinds of lipids it puts to work in its various tasks, but for the wellbeing of your heart, it’s best to focus on consuming heart-healthy monounsaturated fat from plant sources (as opposed to the saturated fats found in animal products like meat and dairy). And keeping your cardiovascular system healthy does pay a beauty bonus because the better your circulation, the healthier your skin is because waste products are carried away more quickly and nutrients arrive faster.
 
Enjoy healthy fats in moderation in foods like avocados, hazelnuts, olives and olive oil, peanuts and peanut butter, and pecans
 
Omega-3 fatty acids
These don’t sound like something you’d want to ingest, but like monounsaturated fats, omega-3s are lipids. Specifically, they are a type of “essential” fatty acid (EFA), which means that while they are critical to your skin’s health, you can’t manufacture them in your body so you must get them from food. EFAs fight inflammation and help maintain the skin’s protective barrier function against moisture loss, infection, and environmental toxins.
 
Omega-3s are most abundant in fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, but if you are a vegetarian or just hate fish, you can also get a form of omega-3s from chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, tofu, and walnuts.

Red in the Face?

Why Your Too-Rosy Complexion May Be a Warning

Red blotches, sudden rosy flushes, redness around the nose: Is it just mild irritation caused by too much sun, or maybe over cleansing? Or could it be something more serious? If the redness is persistent, here are some of the conditions you should be wary of.
 
Eczema
Also known as atopic dermatitis, this condition can produce dry, red, itchy patches on the face and body. It’s more common in children and isn’t contagious, since it’s caused by the immune system overreacting to an irritant. The tricky part is figuring out what that irritant is and trying to stay away from it. Consider cosmetics, detergent used on linens, facial cleansers and soaps, fragrances, hair products and anything else that makes contact with the face as suspects.
 
The fix. Because it’s itchy, eczema can lead to secondary infections when you scratch it and rip open the inflamed area. Moisturize well after bathing to trap water in the skin and use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to quell the itching. If it doesn’t improve after a week or so, see a dermatologist for a prescription treatment and to rule out more dangerous conditions, such as psoriasis.
 
Lupus
A serious, but difficult-to-diagnose autoimmune disease, lupus can produce a distinctive symptom on the face: the so-called “butterfly rash.” The rash, known as acute cutaneous lupus, spreads across the nose and upper cheeks and resembles a sunburn. It usually isn’t itchy. Women, especially women of color, are much more likely to develop lupus than men are.
 
The fix. Lupus is not curable, but you should see a doctor immediately if you think you might have it. It’s important to get diagnosed correctly and treated so you can prevent life-threatening complications caused by the chronic inflammation that characterizes the disease.  
 
Rosacea
Typically, this genetic disorder doesn’t appear until you’re over 30. More common in women than men, rosacea usually begins with occasional flushed skin on the forehead, cheeks, chin and/or nose, but if it’s not treated, the redness can become permanent, worsening over time to include visible blood vessels and acne-like lesions.
 
There is a similar condition caused by a minuscule mite that lives in the skin’s hair follicles. In some people, the mite’s presence causes a rosacea-like condition called demodicosis.
 
The fix. If you have symptoms of either problem, see a dermatologist. There’s no cure for rosacea, but it’s important to slow its progression as much as possible with lifestyle changes such as avoiding sun exposure and food triggers (e.g., spices, alcohol). A dermatologist may also prescribe oral or topical antibiotics or other topical treatments, including lotions containing vitamin C.
 
For demodicosis, a doctor will prescribe antiparasitic medications.
 
Seborrheic dermatitis
Like rosacea, this condition is most likely hereditary and may be aggravated by cold weather and stress; it’s not contagious. As awful as it sounds, seborrheic dermatitis is dandruff of the face. It’s characterized by red, scaly patches around the nose and eyelids that may be itchy. You may think your skin is overly dry or chapped, but you’ll find that moisturizers won’t help, since the real problem is excess oil.
 
The fix. Unless it’s really severe (very itchy and unsightly), you may want to try controlling this skin problem yourself. Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to stop itchiness and redness and gently wash your face once or twice a day with the mildest dandruff shampoo you can find. If after a few weeks you don’t see improvement, visit a dermatologist for advice and to rule out other conditions.

5 Rules for Saving Your Skin’s Most Vulnerable Area

How to Protect the Skin Around Your Eyes

The skin around your eyes is different from the skin on other parts of your face and body. Since it is thinner and lacks as many oil glands as, say, your nose or forehead, it is more fragile and more easily damaged. It’s no coincidence that we show signs of aging first around the eyes.
 
For perspective, consider this: On average, the skin around your eyes is .05 millimeters thick, whereas on the soles of the feet it is as much as 5 millimeters thick—the eye area is one hundred times as thin, in other words. No wonder it doesn’t stand up well to rubbing, pulling, and harsh cleansing!
 
As with many things in life, it’s easier to prevent damage to that delicate skin than to try to fix it afterward, so here are 5 rules that will help you save your face’s most vulnerable area:
 
Hands off.
The less you pull and rub the skin around your eye area, the longer the skin holds onto its youthful elasticity, meaning less premature sagging and wrinkling.
 
If you have nasal allergies that make your eyes itch, troublesome contact lenses, or a bad habit of rubbing your eyes frequently, address the problem and fix it!
 
Sunglasses, always.
It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing: If you are outside during the day, you are being exposed to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Sunny or hazy, UV rays get through to damage the skin.
 
Your first line of defense is a pair of sunglasses appropriate to the weather conditions. Make sure the lens and frame are large enough to fully cover the undereye area. Wrapped styles are best for fully sheltering the skin from exposure.
 
Bonus: Protecting the eye itself from UV exposure slows down the formation of sight-stealing cataracts.
 
Wear sunscreen.
After your sunglasses, your second line of defense against UV exposure is an SPF of at least 30. Apply a small amount of sunscreen carefully around the eye socket, avoiding the eyelids. Pat it on gently, don’t rub.
 
Skip exfoliation.
Don’t use products that contain exfoliating grains, foaming cleansers, or use any kind of scrubbing tool around the eye. This isn’t a part of your face that needs a lot of cleansing, other than makeup removal.
 
Find a remover formula that will allow you to wipe away the day’s makeup with only one or two swipes. A drop or two of baby oil or similar product on a damp cotton pad works well. You might even consider using a drop of baby shampoo on a wet cotton swab to wipe along the eyelash line, because this has the added benefit of helping to prevent the irritating inflammatory eyelid condition known as blepharitis.
 
Once your eye makeup is off, continue with your normal evening beauty ritual.
 
Choose the right products.
You want to use a richer, creamier specialty formulation around the eye because of the skin’s dearth of oil glands there. Opt for eye crèmes that boost hydration, since this area needs extra moisture. It’s when you are dehydrated that dark eye circles are most noticeable.
 
Likewise, look for a product that contains peptides, protein molecules that help rebuild the natural collagen, improving firmness and minimizing wrinkles.
 
It’s fine to use products that reduce undereye puffiness or darkness, too, but pat them on very gently with the tip of your finger rather than vigorously massaging them in.
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