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Dear DOC, will junk food affect my skin?

It's a question we hear a lot. Does my diet really affect my skin? YES! So on National Junk Food Day, we'll dive deeper into what specific types of food will do to your skin.

  1. Salt/Sodium
    The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. According to their website, ¼ teaspoon of salt = 575 mg of sodium, but many people get a large amount of sodium from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods. What happens when you ingest more than the recommended amount of sodium? You can increase your blood pressure, which is scary on its own, but high blood pressure also weakens your skin. This affects collagen, which can cause wrinkles, especially in thin-skinned areas like around your eyes. Additionally, salt can cause you to retain water, which leads to swelling. So that bag of popcorn or potato chips can leave you with puffy eyes tomorrow morning.
  2. Dairy
    We know that dairy products – including ice cream – can trigger symptoms of both rosacea and psoriasis. If you don't suffer from either of these conditions, you may still want to watch your dairy intake as it could possibly affect acne. Our Founder Mark P. Seraly , MD says, "In more recent research that linked dairy to acne, we saw several flaws in the study. Therefore, a definitive relationship between dairy consumption and acne cannot be determined. Since we do know that the benefits of calcium and vitamin D are important to overall health, I would advise patients to consult with their doctor to determine dairy's impact on their acne severity first."
  3. Sugar
    Sugar can strain an important biochemical function called the insulin pathway, which affects your blood vessels and quickens the skin's aging process. Cutting out sugar can lead to clearer skin and a more vibrant skin tone. Additionally, high blood sugar levels can weaken the skin by affecting tissues like collagen, which can leave you more vulnerable to lines and wrinkles.
  4. High-glycemic Foods
    High-glycemic index foods, like bread, chips, popcorn and cake, are rapidly digested and absorbed. This can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. In recent years, studies have implied a link between high-glycemic foods and acne, but there were some flaws with the studies, so we can't definitively say there is a relationship.
  5. Trans Fats
    Trans fats are manufactured fats that are found in processed foods like margarine and fast food. Trans fats can clog your arteries, which takes away elasticity from the skin because water can't get through. The problem is that less elasticity (the skin's ability to stretch and then go back to normal) can make you look older.

There you have it. Whatever type of junk food you binge on today will most likely affect your skin. So, if you binge tonight and then wake up tomorrow with a breakout or a rosacea or psoriasis flare-up, be sure to consult a board-certified dermatologist in the DermatologistOnCall network.