Skin Deep

Is your diet affecting your skin?

A vast majority of us have tried to lose weight at some point in our lives, but few of us stop to think about how our diet attempts can affect our skin. We all know crash dieting is hazardous to our health, but many common weight loss tactics can have a profound impact on our appearance as well.

Fact: A very low-fat diet can make you look older

Our bodies need lipids (fats) for each and every basic function, and with too few lipids, cells can’t do their jobs. When cutting back on calories, you’re probably not getting enough “good” fat or cholesterol, and this can affect your skin’s ability to hold on to water. The cell membranes and the protective barrier around skin cells need fatty acids (found in lipids) to prevent water from evaporating from the skin or moving out of the cell. When water evaporates, skin becomes dehydrated and fine lines and wrinkles are accentuated. So if you’re dieting, be sure to “feed” your skin a moisturizer that contains ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol to plump up the skin and help it retain moisture. My picks: Zerafite Cream or Lotion and Atopalm Original Moisturizing Cream.

Fact: Completely cutting out certain food groups can harm your skin

It seems we’re all cutting back on something these days, whether carbs, sugar or fats. For those who are vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to realize that animal-based proteins are rich in nutrients the skin desperately needs. For example, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been found to prevent inflammation, and inflammation plays a major role in the aging process. If you’re eliminating fish from your diet, supplement with flax seed, as this is a vegetarian source of omega-3s. While there’s no reason anyone should ever eliminate fruits and vegetables from their diet, doing so means you’re also limiting antioxidants, which can make skin more prone to sun damage.

Fact: Exercise slows aging

Exercise helps boost the health of the skin by delivering more oxygen and nutrients to it, along with the post-workout flush. Increased blood flow to the skin, decreases in the stress hormone (cortisol), and increased function of mitochondria are all anti-aging benefits of exercise. Just remember outdoor exercise also means more sun exposure, so be sure to apply a sunscreen designed to withstand sweating without running into your eyes.

Fact: Having a thin face, temples and neck can make you look older

Facial plumpness is associated with youth, and everyone loses facial volume with age. But if you’re too thin, you’ll have even less facial fat, which makes you look significantly older. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons use fillers like Juvéderm and Voluma to restore a youthful look to the face. Just be sure you choose a doctor with plenty of experience using injectables.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.