The winter months aren't particularly kind to our skin. Bitter winds and cranked up central heating systems leave us with chapped lips, dry faces and unhappy hearts.
But rather than combatting these unfortunate seasonal drawbacks with fancy face creams and complicated skincare regimes, it turns out it might be best to care for our skin from the inside out.
"Every dermatologist will attest that a well-rounded diet will better support a healthy immune system," says Dr. Bobby Buka, who is based in New York City. "And will therefore result in fewer dermatologic conditions of all types."
"We've all heard of the allegedly 'forbidden' foods that supposedly trigger acne breakouts, such as fried foods, fatty foods, caffeine, nuts, chocolate and even red meat," says Dr. Neal B. Schultz, who is also in practice in New York City. "The reality is that in well-controlled statistical studies, these foods do not cause acne breakouts."
HuffPost Healthy Living worked with the experts to create a list of foods to avoid to maintain healthy skin
Ever wake up feeling a little puffy around the eyes? Too much salt can cause some of us to retain water, which can lead to swelling, say New York City dermatologist Dr. Neal B. Schultz. Because the skin around the eyes is so thin, he explains, the area swells easily -- and leaves you cursing last night's popcorn when you catch your reflection the next morning. "These effects of salt are definitely age related," he says, and become more common in middle age.
Shrimp, crab, lobster -- and also certain leafy greens like seaweed and spinach -- are naturally <a href="http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/">high in iodine</a>, and a diet with too much of this element can lead to acne, says Schultz. However, "these breakouts are based on an accumulated amount of iodine over time, so there's no relationship between eating high iodine foods one day and breaking out the next," he says. Instead, he advises that people who are particularly acne-prone consume these foods a couple of times a month rather than a couple of times a week.
Although its effects are probably still pretty small, according to Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist also in practice in New York City, some <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acne/DS00169/DSECTION=causes">dairy products may contribute to skin problems</a>. A 2005 study linked <a href="http://www.aad.org/dermatology-world/monthly-archives/2012/acne/diet-and-acne">higher milk consumption to presence of acne</a>. While the study had certain flaws, including the fact that participants were asked simply to <em>recall</em> how much milk they drank rather than record it in real time, more recent research, including a 2012 study in Italy, found a connection specifically between <a href="http://www.aad.org/dermatology-world/monthly-archives/2012/acne/diet-and-acne">skim milk and acne</a>. This is likely because of "a higher amount of bioavailable hormones in skim milk, since they cannot be absorbed in surrounding fat," explains Buka, which can then overstimulate the group of glands that produce our skin's natural oily secretions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In some people with rosacea, dairy products can also trigger the condition's tell-tale redness, Schultz says.
High Glycemic Foods
Starchy picks like white breads, pastas and cakes, and even corn syrup, Buka says, are best avoided for dewy skin (and maybe even for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/low-glycemic-foods-diet_n_1630893.html">maintaining weight loss</a>). Foods that are considered high glycemic can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. A small Australian study from 2007 found that eating a <a href="http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/1/107.full">low-glycemic diet reduced acne</a> in young men. But Schultz says there will need to be more research before we truly understand the relationship. However, if <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/skin/food-acne">glycemic index</a> does prove to be related to skin problems, and you find yourself breaking out after eating something like French fries, it may be due to the starchy insides rather than that greasy, golden exterior, according to YouBeauty.com.
If starchy foods that break down quickly into sugar are an issue, it's no surprise that straight sugar can be problematic for the skin in much the same way. High blood sugar can <a href="http://www.dailyglow.com/photo-gallery/the-10-worst-skin-habits#/slide-7">weaken the skin by affecting tissues like collagen</a>, according to Daily Glow, and leave you more vulnerable to lines and wrinkles. Which is why it's likely not anything particular to <em>chocolate</em>, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/does-chocolate-cause-acne_n_1566076.html">rumored breakout culprit</a>, that's giving you trouble, but the high sugar content of that sweet treat. If you're worried about breakouts, but dying for a nibble, stick with the dark stuff -- it packs the most <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/chocolate-health-benefits_n_1383372.html">health benefits</a>, anyway.
Alcohol is a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/alcohol-effects-body-infographic_n_2333328.html">natural diuretic</a>, which means the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. It saps the natural moisture from your skin as well, which can make those <a href="http://www.womansday.com/style-beauty/beauty-tips-products/foods-good-for-skin#slide-3">wrinkles and fine lines seem like bigger deals</a>, according to Woman's Day. It can also trigger rosacea outbreaks, Schultz says.
While it's good to know what to avoid, HuffPost UK Lifestyle were keen to find out which foods we should be eating.
We spoke to director of Forest Secrets Skincare Dr Barbara Olioso, skin therapist Louise Thomas-Minns and nutritional therapist and medical aesthetician at Wimpole Aesthetics Robyn Mason, to find out.
Find out how you can eat your way to healthy, glowing skin below
"Pomegranate contains many anti-oxidant and phytonutrient compounds such as Ellagic Acid, that help keep inflammation in check and support the skin during the many elements of the day, such as heating and cold air, as well as environmental toxins," explains Robyn Mason.
"Blueberries are one of the most powerful edible antioxidants thanks to its unique anthocyanains. These build up the skin's capillaries and protect them from breakages, which cause rashes and broken veins," says Dr Barbara Olioso.
"These cheerful, crunchy vegetables are sky-high in beta carotene, which strengthens the skin against sun damage," says Dr Barbara Olioso.
"Artichokes contain sillymarin and cynarin, whcih both help support the liver and gallbladder. This ensures skin doesn't turn dull and lifeless, as it gets rid of the toxins and waste from the body which also minimises puffiness," advises Robyn Mason
"These are Sicily's best kept secret... The prickly pear is a great tonic for the kidneys with its kidney detoxifying properties that help keep skin clear and glowing," says Dr Barbara Olioso.
"Bananas are rich in potassium, which helps the body cope with stress, a collagen killer. This fruit will help your skin avoid stress-related break-outs and premature ageing," says Dr Barbara Olioso.
"Broccoli contains a compound that helps boost DNA repair cells and is high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production, as well as folate, which is needed for healthy new cell production. Broccoli is also a great source of Sulforaphane, which helps heal the skin from UV rays," says Robyn Mason.
"Tomatoes, especially beneficial when cooked, are rich in Lycopene, which is a key anti-ageing property for the skin, so eat these whenever possible," advises Louise Thomas-Minns.
"Coconut contains triglycerides, which are healthy fats that plump up skin membranes and cells by keeping them hydrated. Without these fats, the skin becomes dehydrated no matter how much water you drink. Adequate essential fatty acids really do make the skin glow," says Robyn Mason.
"Garlic is rich in sulphur compounds and is known as the 'beauty mineral' due to its long established benefits for all kinds of skin concerns. Onions and garlic are also prebiotic foods which are good for the gut flora and supports liver detoxification - helping skin stay clear of toxin break-outs," says Robyn Mason.
"Snack on a kiwi fruit to bump up your vitamin C intake, as this is vital for boosting collagen production," says Louise Thomas-Minns.
"The fruit of passion is a rich source of vitamin C, a great collagen production booster. Combine these with carrots and you've got yourself a potent, but natural defence against the sun's UV rays," advises Dr Barbara Olioso.
"Kale is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, a fantastic anti-ageing anti-oxidant. In addition, it also contains other carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxathin, which help protect the skin from UV rays. Kale also contains manganese, which is helps the Super-Oxide Dismutase, a hard-working enzyme that helps the skin fight against free radical damage," says Robyn Mason.
"The green 'butter rich' avocado is rich in nutrients and helps keep skin soothe and soft on the outside. However, these are best eaten fresh rather than in an oil form, as the oil is prone to oxidation," explains Dr. Dr Barbara Olioso.
"Pineapples not only taste great, but they contain a massive amount of vitamin A, C and the bromelain enzyme, which helps burn fat and aids digestion. For the skin, this means that it helps break down fatty tissues and is particularly beneficial for reducing cellulite," says Dr Barbara Olioso.