Long summer days are made for backyard barbecues, poolside picnics, and rosé all day. But all of that sunshine can have real consequences for your skin.
The good news is that there are tons of delicious foods you can eat to help your skin recover from all of the summer excess — and also keep your complexion glowing long after the warm-weather has faded.
“There’s a big impact on how much your diet can effect the health of your skin,” said Dr. Ivy Lee, M.D., a dermatologist in private practice in Pasadena, California and clinical assistant professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. “What we’ve learned is that whatever is good for your heart health is good for your skin as well.”
That means farm-fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats and plenty of water. But it’s just as much of what you don’t eat as what you do. Here are a few of those dos and don’ts you should follow to help make your summer skin look and feel its best ever:
DO: DRINK PLENTY OF H2O
A tired or dull looking complextion, itchy or sensitive patches, and fine lines or wrinkles all are signs you’re not drinking enough water. By the time you feel thirsty or have any of these symptoms, you’re already experiencing dehydration, said Dr. Lee. The point is to prevent these things from occurring in the first place.
So how much water is enough?
“Of course it varies a lot from one person to the next,” said Dr. Lee. “But I recommend drinking a water bottle full (about 24 ounces) in the morning, refilling at lunch time and then making sure you’re getting in another one before dinner.”
If you’re tired of the plain old stuff from the tap, toss in a few slices of lemons or cucumbers for flavor.
Lee recommends drinking more if you live in sunny climates or if you’re engaging in activities. “If you’re in and out of the water at the beach or pool, or playing sports and sweating, you’ll need more.”
And of course sunburn can be a factor.
“If you’ve burnt your skin, you’ve impacted its ability to do its primary job, which is protect the body. So you’ll need to drink more water to stay hydrated and keep your body cool.”
DON’T: GO CRAZY ON CAFFEINE
“Be careful with caffeine, tea, espresso — all of those work to dehydrate your skin,” said Lee. “If you’re going to choose a caffeinated drink, go for green tea. It will also offer you the benefit of antioxidants, and it’s less caffeinated than other caffeinated products.”
DO: EAT LOTS OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Just when fruits and vegetables are at their peak, you can benefit from them more than ever. On a typical day, about 20 percent of your daily liquid intake comes from solid foods. During warm weather, juicy produce is an easy way to up this amount and squeeze in some nutrients, while you’re at it. Add more watermelon, cucumbers, cantaloupes, and tomatoes to your diet — they’re all made up of more than 90 percent water, and can provide you with around 5 ounces of water per serving.
“Just be cognizant of sugar content when consuming extra fruits,” said Dr. Lee.
DON’T: EAT HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS
Whatever is good for your heart health is usually good for your skin, too. And the opposite is true as well. Those French fries, sodas, and candy bars can cause your hormones to spike and start producing excess oil. That can lead to other compounding skin problems like acne and hair folliculitis — especially if you’re slathering on sunscreens and other common summer skin products, said Dr. Lee.
DO: EAT HEALTHY FATS
Healthy fats make up our skin cells, so it makes sense that eating them will do some good to your complexion. Omega-6 fatty acids help prevent skin dryness and omega-3s nourish your skin and add softness.
Mix things up and get omegas from chia seeds, fish, avocado, salmon, leafy greens and walnuts, recommends Dr. Lee. “A balanced and diverse diet is good for maintaining a youthful appearance.”
DON’T: GO OVERBOARD ON ALCOHOL
By now you know that a few too many drinks will leave you with a nasty headache. You can thank dehydration for this. If you’re going to imbibe in a little summer fun, make sure you’re staying hydrated by alternating drinks with water, and limiting your drink count overall. And be careful — a cold beer on the beach tastes great, but under the hot sun, that drink can be downright dangerous.
DO: GET YOUR DOSE OF ANTIOXIDANTS
“I’m a big fan of antioxidants. We have lots of evidence they work as serums and lotions on the skin, so dermatologists feel strongly that eating foods high in antioxidants can also help with skin repair,” said Dr. Lee.
Get your daily dose with some fresh blueberries, blackberries or some leafy greens like spinach and kale. Lots of greens also do double duty for your skin. Their high vitamin A content aids in the production of collagen, a protein that keeps skin smooth and youthful looking.
DON’T: GET CITRUS JUICE ON YOUR SKIN
When you’re whipping up a bowl of fresh guacamole (for those healthy fats) or preparing some hydrating fruity summer smoothies, make sure you wash up afterwards. Phytophotodermatitis, also know as lime disease, is a chemical reaction that can happen when citrus juice on your skin reacts with sunlight.
“It’s not dangerous, and it will go away, but people will ask why they have this oddly shaped rash on their skin,” said Dr. Lee. “We usually ask if they’ve come in contact with lemon juice lately.”
DO: SUNSCREEN. APPLY! APPLY! APPLY!
Okay, so there is no food involved here, but no article on summer skincare is complete without at least mentioning that sunscreen comes first. The healthy glow from your new diet won’t matter one bit if your skin looks like a lobster.
“We all want a healthy, outdoors lifestyle, but it requires some forethought, and we don’t always have that,” said Dr. Lee.
So be prepared. Keep a water bottle handy, reapply your sunscreen, and pack some water-packed snacks like melons and cucumbers for longer outdoor adventures. And you’ll have beautiful skin from the inside and out.
For more information on summer skin safety, visit the American Academy of Dermatology. www.aad.org.
ALSO TRY: Healthy eaters create more food waste.