Does Diet Affect Skin?
Does diet affect everybody’s skin?
I think those two answers above are why there has been so much confusion about the impact of diet on skin. The answer has never really been clear about why diet affects some skin types and not others. The way I explain it to patients is that your genetic makeup determines pretty much everything about you. Certain parts of this genetic makeup are more heavily influenced by internal and external factors.
People who have chronic skin issues – acne, eczema etc have unfortunately inherited pretty poor skin barrier genes. Often, you’ll have a mother, father, uncle or aunty with similar skin. Looking at that older person provides you with a glimpse into what your skin will look like in the future. This was probably why I was so careful with my skin. My mother has perfect skin- never had a pimple in her life- and one of those flawless complexions in her youth with no freckles, marks, moles etc. I’m pretty sure she never has to use any skincare products. My father’s skin on the other hand was plagued with painful large cystic acne for a period of 7 years and his face pretty much from the age of 23 has deep large cratered scars (which at that stage the scars were irreversible). Pretty early on, I realised that my skin was very similar to my dad’s and I did not want his type of scarring on my face.
The thing is about genetics- or- epigenetics (hereditary characteristics that are not caused by a change in DNA) – is that the trigger factors vary quite a lot. What sets of one person- may have no effect on another person. This is not limited to skin, but it’s the same for digestive issues such as reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and many other diseases that fall on the ‘inflammatory’ spectrum.
The simple explanation for this is that if you are suffering from chronic issues that are inflammatory in nature (be it external such as acne or internal such as irritable bowel symptoms) you have a body that is predisposed to becoming inflamed. Your reserve or tolerance is not as big as someone who does not suffer from the same issue. Depending on your baseline reserve, a certain amount of ‘triggers’ will push you over the edge in terms of symptoms. This is why we have to assess each patient on a case by case basis.
The solution is also fairly simple in theory- switching to an ‘anti-inflammatory’ lifestyle. The nutrients and vitamins you will access through suitable foods will help calm your skin at a cellular level. Your own individual reserve ultimately determines how much leeway you have with your diet before it starts to impact your skin. However, if your skin is moderately to severely flared up, your initial diet will have to be more stringent if you want to see results fairly quickly.