A Refresh on Diets & Skincare

Nutrition is essential to your skin’s health and radiance! But not all diets are created with your skin’s needs in mind, and some weight loss diets may fail to support your skin’s health. So how can you maintain a balanced diet to achieve both a beautiful body and stunning skin?

The Skin Report is a podcast created to educate listeners on methods to improve skin health for people of all ethnicities and ages. In this episode, host Dr. Sethi reviews some of her past episodes covering dietary practices for supporting healthy skin. She goes over the diet dangers, dos, and don’ts, to help listeners stay mindful about their skin’s nutritional needs. In explaining the impact of dietary practices on skin health, she shares the effects that common foods and ingredients may have on the skin. Finally, Dr. Sethi provides her advice for choosing and maintaining a skin-healthy diet.

As the founder of RenewMD Beauty Medical Spas and a woman of color, Dr. Sethi is dedicated to spreading science-backed skincare information on The Skin Report. Listen in on this episode to refresh your knowledge on the ins and outs of nutrition for healthy skin!

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This transcript was exported on December 18, 2023 -view latest version here.

Skincare can sometimes feel overwhelming. Whether it’s finding the right products, ingredients, or treatments, there’s a lot out there. But not always for people of African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Eastern South Asian descent. That’s why I set out to educate myself and others so that we can all feel beautiful in our skin. Hello and welcome back to The Skin Report. I’m Dr. Simran Sethi, an internal medicine doctor, mom of three, and CEO and founder of RenewMD Medical Spas and Skin by Dr. Sethi. Before we get into the episode, I just want to give a quick warning that we’ll be discussing topics surrounding dieting and nutrition. Some listeners who struggle with disordered eating may find these discussions triggering and therefore I’d like to say that please take care of yourself and listen if you’re able to. The holidays are upon us and each year we experience annual events and societal trends that influence our lifestyle habits.

First, we have the holiday season where we are surrounded by sweet treats, seasonal foods, and delightful delicacies. And after we have spent a couple of months experiencing these foods and the weight gain that comes along with it, we reached the new year and are hit with an influx of ads promoting crash diets, detox supplements, and weight loss products. However, many people neglect to consider how the number on the scale isn’t the only thing affected by our eating habits. What we choose to include and restrict from our diets can affect our skin’s appearance and overall health. I want to remind everyone to please subscribe to The Skin Report channel. Subscribing ensures you won’t miss out on any of our upcoming episodes filled with more fascinating discussions and insights. So hit that subscribe button to stay connected and stay informed. And let’s get started.

I thought now would be an optimal time to go over some of the information that we have covered in past Skin Report episodes about how diets and primarily weight loss diets impact the skin. In season one of The Skin Report, I discussed how our skin is impacted by our diets and nutritional intake. Now, nutrition for skin health is not always black and white. To understand what I mean, take a listen to the following segment of season one, episode 27, all about myths and misconceptions around food and our skin. Before we dive in, I want to quickly say that health doesn’t occur in a vacuum. While there are general understandings, every person and their body have certain needs. And if you have a condition or allergies, you will need something even more specialized. Alongside that, I want to emphasize that I believe in balance, not necessarily elimination or rigid restriction when it comes to most foods. There are no morally good or bad foods. There are just some foods that are more nutrient dense as well as some fats and ingredients that help fuel our bodies, brains, and skin than others.

I’ll link each of these episodes discussed today within the show notes and I highly suggest you check them out. This episode in particular goes on to cover the science behind skin’s reaction to greasy foods, chocolate, and sugar. Take a listen. There has historically been a lot of debate around whether dairy hurts or helps our skin. In recent years, the conversation and research has shifted to show that the consumption of dairy has been proven to directly increase acne production in teenagers and young adults. For example, the International Journal of Dermatology published a recent review in which they compiled large databases of acne and nutritional studies to draw conclusions on what worsens and improves acne. Dairy was included in the study, and if you’d like to read the report directly, you can find the link in our show notes. However, I’ll summarize the findings here.

Dairy has shown to increase levels of androgens, which will promote sebum production. As we’ve discussed on the show before, sebum is the natural oil our skin produces. It helps to keep us moisturized, but too much of it can lead towards more acne. Onto chocolate. Chocolate in excess quantities has been shown to increase acne breakouts. There aren’t any conclusive studies that point towards dark versus milk chocolate consumption. But in general, if the chocolate has more sugar in it, it will promote more acne production. Limiting chocolate consumption and sugar with it is the best course of action to prevent acne breakouts.

Next, let’s chat about fatty foods, specifically omega-6 fatty acids. Most of our consumption of omega-6 fatty acids occurs due to consumption of vegetable oils. So when our parents told us that eating deep-fried or greasy foods causes pimples, there was some truth to it. However, omega-6 fatty acids are different from omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon. We should not completely eliminate omega-6 fatty acids from our diet, but balance fats by leaning more towards anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid rich foods. A diet that is low in vegetable oils in general will reduce acne production. Salt is another culprit to our diet that impacts how our skin looks. When we consume salt, especially a lot of it, our body’s water balance shifts. Our cells let out more water to balance the salt in the bloodstream, making skin appear dehydrated and dull.

Now, with the holiday season upon us, it’s especially important for us to consider how sugary treats can affect skin health. It’s no secret that many weight loss diets essentially reduce sugar consumption. And while reducing sugar intake will trigger weight loss, it’s also better for your skin. I discuss sugar’s effect on the skin in more depth within that episode, but for now, I’ll summarize. AGEs, advanced glycation end products actually attach to collagen and elastin fibrils and impede cross-linking of these skin proteins. Cross-linking is needed to make our skin and keep it supple and flexible. When AGEs inhibit proper cross-linking, it actually makes the skin protein network rigid and easily breakable, which translates to more wrinkles and hyperpigmentation from a broken skin barrier. Sugary delicacies are common in many cultures throughout the holiday seasons, and engaging in cultural practices is important when bonding with loved ones during this time.

But while you enjoy the festivities, I suggest that you remember to stay mindful of your sugar intake and place a healthy limit on your sweet treats. Trust me, your skin will thank you. And don’t go anywhere because I’ll be sharing more information about diets and skin coming up next. People often aim to lose their excess holiday weight gain in the new year through dieting. Of course, there are many popular diet trends available to choose from, some healthier than others. But unfortunately, in practicing overly restrictive diets, people often neglect to intake enough nutrients necessary for supporting healthy skin. In season one, episode 34, I dedicated an entire episode to popular weight loss diets and their effect on the skin. Here’s some of what was discussed.

There are a few aspects of the vegan diet I’d like to caution against. Sometimes people begin or adopt this diet in a way that is still highly dependent on processed foods such as plant burgers or sausages. Eating such foods every once in a while is not harmful, but relying on them consistently negates all the beneficial aspects of being a vegan. Processed foods typically contain high quantities of sugar, salt, and even nitrates in many cases. Vegans are vegetarians who don’t eat eggs are also prone to a vitamin B12 deficiency, as B12 is only found naturally in animal products. Low vitamin B12 levels initially lead to anemia, but if the deficiency is prolonged, it can lead to hyperpigmentation of the skin and hair loss.

Another thing to keep in mind is calcium. Vegans are usually low in absorbed calcium, which is essential for bones. Calcium tends to be higher in dairy product, but vegans can get enough of it if they eat calcium-fortified, plant-based milks, dark leafy vegetables, tofu, and edamame. Low calcium leads to reduction of natural sebum production or natural skin oils leaving skin, nails, and hair dry and dull. Over the past few years, keto has gained popularity for weight loss with its low-carb, high fat diet. However, it was formulated for a different reason entirely. In the 1920s, the ketogenic diet was invented as a therapy for treating epilepsy until anti-epileptic drugs were introduced. When you cut back on carbs significantly, your body burns fat for fuel. Many people think that this is an easy way to lose weight without focusing on calorie restrictions. This is definitely not true. I have nothing against a ketogenic diet, but do feel that to be successful on it, you must properly understand how it works.

Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen so that they can be rapidly available when you exercise. However, if you do not exercise or burn that source of fuel, the body will turn this into fat. When on a keto diet, you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake, so approximately 50 grams a day, which is not enough carbs to store. So instead, your body will start breaking down fat stores to fuel activity and you will start losing weight.

Let’s look at the other aspect of the keto diet. Low-carb, high fat. There’s nothing wrong with eating fat. In fact, our bodies need fat. Fat is a dense source of calories. However, it’s important to know that you don’t need a ton of fat for your daily caloric expenditure. People generally feel full on a keto diet and eating too many calories is not an issue. But if you consume more than you need, even if they’re from fat, you will gain weight, not lose it with a keto diet. Secondly, your carbohydrate intake must be extremely low on a ketogenic diet, which requires you to read food labels constantly and to understand that. So how does the keto diet impact our skin? In general, your fiber intake plummets when eating high-fat foods and not enough vegetables. Fiber is crucial to improving the gut microbiome. It helps with our ability to absorb micronutrients like minerals and vitamin C, which are essential for skin health.

Without these nutrients in our diet, our skin will become weaker and more prone to wrinkles. The good news is that the ketogenic diet encourages leafy vegetables that are high in antioxidants and fiber without the added carbs. So if you’re switching to a keto diet and have cut out your carbs, be sure to add in plenty of greens. The paleo diet consists of consuming meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, et cetera, while avoiding processed foods, carbs, grains, and added sugars. First formulated in the 1970, the paleo diet gained popularity with the publication of The Paleo Diet book in 2002. Similar to the ketogenic diet, paleo is beneficial in inflammatory skin conditions especially acne. It also does run the risk of being too low in fiber just like keto, but again, consuming vegetables and fruit will keep fiber levels adequate for optimal nutrient and antioxidant absorption.

The last diet I’ll cover is one you’ve heard from me before in episode 31 on hair loss and restoration as a positive and beneficial lifestyle for balanced eating and weight loss. That’s right. I want to talk about the Mediterranean diet, which has been studied for decades and consistently ranked as the healthiest by standards such as its effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall longevity. It focuses on consumption of good fat, mostly omega-3s, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and some fish while reducing red meat intake and processed foods.

While some are more restrictive than others, all of these diets are focused on one ultimate goal. Weight loss. Weight loss culture is a large and complex topic that would take a long time to appropriately cover. But there’s one recent weight loss trend that I do want to briefly touch upon, and that is Ozempic. Ozempic and the class of drug that it falls under, semaglutide have gained a lot of popularity in the last year, and so many people have seen fast and impressive results with weight loss. There is, however, a lot of information that goes into understanding semaglutide or Ozempic, a type of semaglutide. And we will do a longer, deep dive episode in January all about this important weight loss drug. Another thing to consider about weight loss is that losing weight can produce significant effects on the skin and body primarily in the form of skin laxity.

Skin laxity in the face and body is common, and the first place that people typically experience skin laxity is the face and neck. There are a number of solutions for this, including Ultherapy, microneedling with radiofrequency, and even l-polylactic acid or Sculptra injections to build natural volume and lift back. Now, skin laxity may occur on other areas of the body as well like the upper arms, legs, or abdominal area. Skin laxity in these areas can be addressed using the aforementioned techniques, but only when it is mild to moderate laxity brought on by mild to moderate weight loss. More severe skin laxity is best addressed with surgery with procedures like tummy tucks. Coming up next, I’ll share my advice for practicing a diet that supports healthy skin. So how should we alter our diets to support healthy skin? Fortunately, we can lose weight through dieting by using methods that are healthy for our bodies and our skin.

First, be mindful about your protein source. While going on a weight loss journey, you will generally increase your protein intake, but I want to caution listeners against being heavily reliant on whey protein because whey is a form of dairy. Dairy has the strongest link to acne breakouts. And even if you’re not a teenager or suffer from acne, frequent dairy intake will cause breakouts. Protein powders and bars are mostly made of whey protein. But if you consume a vegan protein powder, you will not have to worry about dairy intake. Vegan protein powders derive their proteinfrom peas, and this is much friendlier to your skin and gut too. You can find plenty of other skin-healthy dieting practices in the season two, episode 16 show that I released on fruit and vegetable juices that promote skin health. Take a listen to this section.

When it comes to eating healthy, there has been much debate about what that actually looks like. From the outdated fruit pyramid to different trending diets, sometimes it can be confusing as to what constitutes as healthy and what does not. However, despite evolving trends and new scientific studies, fruits and vegetables have remained a staple of nutrition. The truth of the matter is that having a diet rich in super foods like blueberries and dark and leafy vegetables is best. So why do I bring this all up? Well, sometimes incorporating fresh veggies and fruits into your diet every single day can be challenging, especially if you’re running around at work, home, or kid activities. If you’re traveling, whether it’s flying or driving, a healthy snack is not always an option at the airport or rest stops. This is why I like to recommend smoothies and juices as a convenient way to supplement your intake. Some juices are also a great way to also stay hydrated in the hotter months while delivering added vitamins and electrolytes that plain water doesn’t carry.

While OJ and cranberry juice offer other health benefits, their high sugar intake would do more harm for the skin than good. As for apple juice, while yummy, I don’t think should be thought of when looking for a nutritious option. In summary, consuming a diet which is rich in vitamins and antioxidants requires a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eating those in whole will add fiber to the mix, which greatly reduces the glycemic effects of any foods. If given the option, I would always say go with the whole fruit or vegetable as opposed to its juice counterpart. However, if you’re going to drink a juice while on the go or to supplement your diet, the low sugar ones are best. Cucumber, carrot, pomegranate, and aloe vera.

Finally, season one, episode 28 addresses many of the foods and nutritional components that enhance skin health and appearance and can even help to promote hair and nail growth. The episode provides a lot of info on how vitamin C foods and omega-3 fatty acids influence skin health and my thoughts on hydrolyzed collagen powders. For now, check out this segment where I share the importance of staying hydrated to support healthy skin.

It feels like whenever a celebrity answers a question on how they get flawless skin, the answer is water. I know many of us are tempted to roll our eyes. We know that these celebrities are also buying high-end creams, serums, and cosmetic procedures. It can’t just be water. However, there is a point to this. Water makes up most of our body and helps to flush out toxins and transport nutrients to all our cells, including the skin. Our entire skin layer holds about 60% for our body’s water content, which means that when we do not drink enough water, skin will appear dehydrated and less plump. Several surveys have estimated that up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. However, these studies are conducted by market research groups and brands as opposed to medical professionals. Even still, surveys of elderly patients have reported that dehydration occurs in 17 to 28% of older adults according to a review published in the National Library of Medicine.

A 2022 study published in the European Heart Journal found that staying hydrated throughout your lifetime can greatly reduce your risk of heart failure among other things. Not only is it necessary for our survival, water aids our organs including our skin, which is our body’s largest organ. Additionally, when we fill up with water, we’re also less likely to drink other beverages that could potentially contain sugars. As we discussed in our last episode, sugar has been linked to weakening and aging the skin by impeding collagen in elastin cross-linking. I know I may sound like I’m harping on what is common sense, but it’s better for you, your skin, organs, and overall health to drink more water than it is to skimp on it.

I really hope you enjoyed this episode in preparation for this year’s holiday season, and don’t forget to check out the episodes I mentioned for more great, science-backed facts to help you nurture your beautiful skin. Thank you as always for listening. And until next time, love your skin, love yourself, and celebrate your beauty.

If you’d like to learn more about science-backed skincare or medical aesthetic treatments, please subscribe to and turn on notifications for The Skin Report so you always know when a new episode is up. We have a newsletter that you can sign up for on skinbydrsethi.com so that you can stay up-to-date on all our latest products and more. Additionally, if you have a skin care question or want to make an episode topic recommendation, please message me at theskinreportbydrsethi.com, which is linked in my show notes and I’ll be sure to answer your question in an episode soon.

Transcript by Rev.com