| October 1, 2013

There's more to getting flawless, luminous skin than just inheriting great genes. In fact, some research has shown that what foods you eat can determine how blemish-free you are.

“There have been a lot of recent studies showing that certain foods will in fact affect the quality of skin,” explains Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist. “Avoiding them is the only way to ensure healthier skin. However, significantly reducing them will have some benefits.”

READ: 10 Fall Foods to Help You Get Luminous Skin

“Foods that cause inflammation, such as dairy, sugar, and carbohydrates are the most damaging to the skin,” he adds.

Frank suggests eating more proteins and vegetables rich in color, as well as fish for a natural glow. Also, if you believe you’re sensitive to certain ingredients, such as gluten, he recommends visiting a dermatologist for a checkup to better determine if you need to alter your eating habits.

Whether its puffiness or early signs of aging, here are 10 foods experts say may be hurting your skin:

Cola-Flavored Soda

While more studies are needed to further understand how soda triggers adult acne, Dr. Julia Tzu, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University, believes fizzy cola, in particular, can wreck havoc on your features. “Cola sodas are basically a bubbly mixture of weak acids and tons of sugar,” she explains. "Not only is it terrible for the skin because of the high fructose corn syrup, it is  equally bad for the teeth and bones. That’s pretty much the entire body.” Skip the soda and opt for refreshing, zero-calorie water instead


Think twice before asking the bartender to make it a double. Alcohol is a diuretic, causing you to lose more fluids in the body, prompting dehydration. And the more dehydrated you are, the more dryness your skin will suffer from, causing signs of premature aging. While you don’t have to give up on happy hour altogether, it is recommended to keep the drinking to a minimum, specifically one drink for women and two for men.


Puffy eyes getting you down? “Too much sodium can cause puffy under eyes and facial bloating,” says Marina Peredo, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “Facial bloating is as awful as it sounds, so try eating foods rich in potassium and keeping hydrated to reduce these less than desirable effects.”


Long touted as an all-natural sweeter, consuming too much agave can cause more harm than good — and the results will show. “The fact that this sweetener continues to get promoted as healthy blows my mind, considering it is up to 97% fructose,” says nutritionist JJ Virgin. “Fructose creates inflammation and gets repackaged in your liver as fat. Eczema and acne are among the many skin problems of fructose malabsorption.” To any a hint of sweetness to any dish or drink, consider choosing the least processed sweetener you can find, like raw maple syrup or local honey. 


"What we do know is that 2-3 cups of caffeinated beverages (like coffee) stimulate the pituitary-adrenocortical response, which leads to increased cortical leaves in our bodies,” says Dr. Stafford Broumand, clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “Excess cortisol, known as the stress hormone, has been proven to accelerate the aging process, in turn damaging the skin. That includes dehydration, a dull appearance, and thinning of the skin, which leads to fine lines and wrinkles quickly.” Feeling too dependent on coffee? Try cutting back by mixing decaf and regular or replacing that extra cup with natural decaffeinated tea.


"Bagels have a massively high glucemic index, which increases insulin, leading to increased inflammation in the body,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery. “This is shown to possibly accelerate aging and worsen acne and rosacea.” Instead of eating bagels everyday for breakfast, try healthier oatmeal topped with your favorite fruits to keep you fuller longer.

French Fries

"French fries contain transfats that not only add on weight, but have been found to slow blood circulation, which can cause clogged up pores, acne, bacteria build-up and flaky skin,” warns health coach Lori Shemek. “Transfats are toxic for your health and is reflected in your skin.” For a healthier snack, try baking fresh kale leaves.


“Cheesecake is a mixture of dairy, simple, as well as complex carbohydrates, a winning combination for acne and wrinkles,” Tzu explains. If you must indulge in a sliver, do so in moderation.

Jarred Tomato Sauce

You may want to lay off the sauce — at least those from the supermarket. According to Tanzi, jarred tomato sauce can be loaded with sugar, and that can wreck havoc to your features. “The problems that acne causes on the skin are complex with clogged pores, excessive oil, and cysts, but it is fundamentally a result of inflammation. In some individuals, a high sugar diet increases the overall levels of inflammation in the body, which will exacerbate acne,” she states. Tanzi recommends making your own sauce at home, which will give you better control of the ingredients you use.

Buttered Popcorn

“The high salt, butter, and carbohydrate content is a triple threat against the skin and arteries, which supply essential nutrients to the skin,” explains Tzu. “Unlike milk and yogurt, butter is a dairy product with no substantial nutritional value.”