Diet is thought to play a role in causing inflammation as well. The foods that are the worst offenders are ones you probably should ditch from your diet anyway—like saturated fats, fried foods, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates.
This internally caused inflammation can take a toll on the skin in a variety of ways—including acne breakouts, rosacea and visible signs of aging (like wrinkles and sagging skin). “The higher the cortisol is, the more wound-healing slows and the more breakdown there is of collagen,” says Wechsler. And that can accelerate the aging process. Collagen is the stuff that keeps skin full, smooth and elastic—as it breaks down, skin starts to sag, wrinkle and generally look less vibrant.
Acne is also an inflammatory condition—just look at how angry those swollen, red bumps can be! As such, it is exacerbated by stress. Which is why it's not uncommon to wake up the morning before a big presentation, party or event with a big pimple on your face.
Another skin condition that can get worse when there’s inflammation is rosacea. The redness that shows up on the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin is triggered by inflammation, whether that inflammation comes from stress, sun exposure, food, hormones, or any other cause.
Since stress is one of the main reason for inflammatory skin damage, anything you can do to reduce stress is going to help. Getting more exercise and better sleep are two ways to combat the situation. “Exercise boosts the release of endorphins, which are anti-inflammatory hormones,” says Wechsler. “And sleep is also key because when you’re sleeping endorphin levels are at their highest and cortisol levels at their lowest.” This gives your skin a chance to heal and repair—which is why it’s called “beauty sleep!”
Eating a diet that’s rich in anti-inflammatory compounds is another great defensive move. “Consuming omega-3 and omega-6 fats will help reduce the levels of prostaglandins—which are pro-inflammatory—in the skin,” says David Bank, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery, Mount Kisco, NY. The healthiest way to ingest these is to add flaxseeds and fatty fishes, like salmon and mackerel, to your diet on a regular basis. You can also reap the anti-inflammatory benefits by taking fish oil capsules and drizzling flaxseed oil onto your salads.
For more skin-healthy nutrition, load your plate with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (like berries, leafy greens and citrus fruits). Free radicals promote inflammation and damage to the skin, so consuming lots of free radical-fighting antioxidants helps to combat the harm.
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