Vitamins and minerals play a huge role in our lives. There’s a good reason why the benefits of healthy eating are so central to every part of the health industry. Of course, those benefits have so much potential that they extend to beauty too.
Alongside hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C is probably the most loved ingredient in skincare products. When applied as a topical, it does a great job of nourishing the skin directly and supporting its natural functions. But what about the nutrients in the foods we eat?
Specifically, what role does food play in detox and skin health?
What is detoxing exactly?
Detoxing has been around longer than most hotly debated topics in health, wellness, and beauty discussions. While it’s a well-studied medical and biological process, its place in skincare isn’t as established.
Simply put, detox, or detoxification, is the process of removing toxins from the body. Despite its popularity in dietary circles, detox is a process our bodies evolved to do naturally. This is the first point we should make: we can only talk about detoxing if we’re specific about terms and functions.
Much of the public discourse through the years has loosened some definitions. Dermatologists continue to push back against a lot of misinformation spread by trendy diets that weren’t always scientifically sound. These terms are really helpful when we’re looking at what we can do to remove toxins more effectively.
Understanding the body’s detox process
As a natural process, our bodies don’t need us to do much to begin detoxing. Like breathing and blinking, it's an automatic function that needs to happen whether we’re thinking about it or not. But skincare and health industries understand that we can either help or hinder these processes in the lifestyle choices we make.
Detoxing, when done right, is about limiting the habits that make it harder for our bodies to do their jobs while providing the right fuel. While many diets start and end as fads, nutrition is one of the cornerstones of good health. This applies to skincare too.
Detox in skincare
Despite being the largest organ in the body, our skin isn’t the main mechanism for removing toxins. According to Dr. Fayne Frey, direct skin detox isn’t really a thing, medically speaking. That said, dermatologists agree on two facts that are essential to supporting skincare here.
First, even though it doesn’t flush them the way our kidneys do, the skin is still exposed to many toxins. It’s the part of the body most vulnerable to environmental toxins like pollutants, dirt, and UV rays.
That’s right, as far as the skin is concerned, sunlight is an environmental toxin. Photoaging caused by UV radiation is one of the main environmental stressors we deal with in skincare.
Second, dermatologists agree that the best way to detox is to simply make sure our bodies are healthy enough to do it well.
What it really means to detox your skin
Let’s quickly look at photoaging again. The skin keeps environmental toxins from entering our bodies, but that’s also why it can’t “flush” them out. It’s more of a natural barrier than a filter. However, UV radiation stimulates a reaction in our skin cells that produce free radicals.
These highly reactive molecules create oxidative stress that can damage other healthy cells. Luckily, our bodies developed a way to deal with these toxins specifically: antioxidants. These compounds neutralize free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and restoring balance in cell production.
The antioxidants in certain foods are exactly why they’re so important to health and skincare. In many ways, they’re the best way to directly support the removal of toxins from the skin.
Environmental toxins, the ones that mostly concern the skin, can also cause irritation and inflammation on the outermost layer 一 the epidermis. Antioxidant-rich foods with anti-inflammatory properties are the closest things to “superfoods” in skincare.
So the question remains: which foods should you add to your diet to help combat toxins? Better yet, could you already be eating some?
Foods that support detox functions
Foods are a diverse source of fuel. The right balance can provide us with all the essential nutrients we need to promote healthy functions. When it comes to removing toxins from the body, you need to look for certain nutrients specifically.
There are the best foods to find them in.
- Dark chocolate
That’s right, chocolate isn’t just a guilty pleasure, certain ones can have health benefits too. Dark chocolate is more nutritious than normal chocolate bars because of the lower sugar content. The cocoa in chocolate can have up to 15 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces. That’s more than blueberries by weight.
That said, berries are nutrient-rich staples of any healthy diet. Blueberries and goji berries are packed with essential antioxidants. Strawberries are too, while also being a great source of that all-important vitamin C. Add raspberries to the mix and there’s enough variety in this group for every palette!
- Dark leafy greens (and red ones too!)
Kale, cabbage, and spinach are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables available anywhere. Kale and cabbage’s high vitamin A, K, and C content give them that much more as antioxidant sources.
Spinach nourishes the body with two antioxidants that help protect the eyes from UV damage too: lutein and zeaxanthin. While we love all three as dark leafy greens, their red varieties are even richer in antioxidants.
With up to 10.6 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces, pecans give our antioxidant levels the perfect boost. They’re also a great source of healthy fats and can help reduce cholesterol in the blood. That said, their high-fat content means its best to eat them in moderation for the best results.
While legumes are excellent parts of a healthy diet in general, beans stand out as a rich source of antioxidants. Pinto beans and edamame are particular favorites for detoxing. For an even easier substitute, soybean oil is a great way to boost antioxidants in general cooking.
Skin detox means supporting your body’s natural functions
Our bodies are pretty adept at looking after themselves, but they need a little help for optimal performance. You may have some of these foods in your diet already. You may be considering adding a few more. In either case, your body and your skin will thank you!