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How Your Diet Affects Your Skin

How Your Diet Affects Your Skin

While a lot of information regarding some of our dietary choices and skin health connection may be anecdotal, there is a clear pattern that suggests at least three types of foods that can have an impact on our overall health, including the skin, which is, after all, the body’s largest organ. Eliminating or limiting the following three types of foods in your diet, as well as consuming foods full of the nutrition a healthy body needs, can help protect skin from common aesthetic concerns like acne, sun damage, pigmentation, and even cellulite.

Top 3 Foods That Affect Skin Health

Refined Carbs/High-Glycemic Foods

Some carbohydrates are essential to a healthy, balanced diet, but it’s important to note that not all carbs are created equally. Refined carbohydrates are commonly processed foods that include sugar and refined grains, but the nutrients, bran, and fiber have essentially been removed. Utilizing the glycemic index (GI), a tool used to denote how a carbohydrate might raise your blood glucose (sugar) level and spike insulin production, refined carbs often rank high on this scale. Spikes in sugar can cause inflammation in the body, which affects sebum (oil) production in the skin. Meanwhile, spikes in insulin after eating these refined carbs are linked to increased levels of the hormone androgen. Higher levels of androgens speed up skin’s natural skin cell renewal level, which then leads to increased shedding of old skin cells. Without appropriate skin care, the combination of increased oil production and shedding of old skin cells leads to clogged pores and acne breakouts. In fact, a diet that favors high-glycemic foods has been proven to increase one’s risk of acne breakouts by 30%.

Further still, the inflammation caused by high-GI foods and refined carbohydrates is linked to an increased risk for developing cellulite. Chronic inflammation causes fat cells to enlarge, retaining fluid and toxins that, as they accumulate, can impede blood circulation. For many women, stubborn fat tends to accumulate around the buttocks, thighs, and hips—all areas where the body is much more susceptible to cellulite. As circulation in these areas decreases, skin cells are unable to receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to continue generating sufficient collagen and elastin stores, meaning skin’s structure will gradually weaken and make way for cellulite.

The Top Culprits to Avoid: White bread, white rice, white potatoes, crackers, baked goods, cereals, candies, and sugary drinks

Processed Foods

While there is some overlap in refined carbohydrates and processed foods, the main concern when consuming processed foods is what has been added rather than what was removed, as is the case with refined carbohydrates. While they may be convenient and often also rather addictive, processed foods typically contain high levels of added sugar, fat, and salt (more on that last one in a moment). While these elements both preserve the food and boost its flavor, they are also linked to spikes in inflammation, blood sugar, and insulin. This is where the cycle begins with the acne- and cellulite-related concerns that we noted above. 

In addition, we can add on the effects of sugar. Processed foods are known to be high in refined sugars and this excess can encourage collagen and elastin degradation. When we consume high amounts of sugar, it enters the bloodstream and binds to a protein that leads to the creation of a by-product called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). AGEs have a negative effect on essentially every cell and molecule in the body, but on skin specifically, they tend to deliver the most damage through decreased collagen and elastin, leading to sagging tissue and plentiful wrinkles. 

The Top Culprits to Avoid: Convenience foods like microwavable or readymade meals, cheeses, processed meats (think ham, salami, and bacon, among others), potato chips, sweet treats, sauces, canned fruits and vegetables, and other prepackaged goods


Salt and skin don’t mix. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily—that’s 1,100 milligrams above the recommended daily intake. While it may be the number one go-to seasoning, salt is linked to skin dehydration, increased cellulite, and over-productive oil glands. 

To begin, salt encourages the body to retain fluid in fat cells and skin tissue, leading to an increasingly puckered and inflamed appearance, especially in pre-existing cellulite and bags under the eyes. Further, too much sodium can pull hydration out of the skin’s protective lipid barrier while stimulating oil glands as it tries to overcompensate for decreased skin hydration. This leads to increased acne breakouts. A weakened lipid barrier also lowers skin’s defenses against free radicals, pollution, and UV damage, leading to pigmentation concerns alongside the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The Top Culprits to Avoid: Cured meats, convenience foods, fast food, canned foods, pasta sauces, condiments and salad dressings, and broths and soups

Treatments to Counter the Effects of a Damaging Diet

While avoiding these foods and favoring whole, nutritional options instead is the first step to limiting the damage done by these somewhat hidden sources of skin damage, there is also a long list of aesthetic treatments you may use to address your top skin concerns. The following three treatments may offer the most effective results regarding the skin issues outlined in this article and linked to our dietary choices, though you are encouraged to follow through with your own research and customized consultation to find a plan that suits your skin’s needs.

Acne Treatments 

For those experiencing increased acne breakouts, a diet that focuses on limiting inflammation-causing foods alongside a series of Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) acne treatments can target both current and future breakouts. With treatment sessions lasting around 20 minutes, on average, Venus Versa™ dual-light acne reduction treatments work to heal existing acne-related inflammation while destroying acne-causing bacteria to prevent future breakouts. The result is noticeably smoother, healthier-looking skin.

Cellulite Reduction

For those searching for a smoothing solution for cellulite’s lumps and bumps, target stubborn fat pockets with no surgery or downtime with radio frequency-based cellulite reduction treatments. Powered by innovative technology that targets and shrinks fat cells while supporting skin’s natural collagen and elastin production levels to improve the appearance of bumps and dimpling, Venus Concept’s non-surgical cellulite reduction treatments deliver noticeable results and are safe for all skin tones.

Skin Tone Improvement

Finally, for those seeking to reverse the damage of a high-sodium diet and weakened lipid barrier, customized Venus Versa™ photofacial treatments can diminish dark spots and other signs of premature aging for a clearer, more radiant, and more youthful-looking complexion. By effectively targeting pigment under the skin’s surface, these photofacial treatments break down melanin while thermal (heat) energy spurs skin’s natural collagen and elastin production levels. This combination speeds healing while encouraging healthy skin cell renewal for smoother, more even-toned results.

The Bottom Line

This list is far from exhaustive and it’s worth underscoring that some foods may trigger allergies or intolerances that may manifest as increased acne breakouts, rosacea flareups, pigmentation, or other skin concerns. For this reason, it’s best to take note of how and when your skin reacts, alongside the foods you’re eating, and speak to a dermatologist or aesthetics treatment provider who can better help determine the right balance between diet and care for your skin. Get started today by locating a provider near you using the search field below.

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