The #1 Habit to Start for Better Skin Health, According to Experts

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Our skin health is affected by so many factors—hydration, sun protection, diet and more. But do you know about the one habit that often flies under the radar? In this article, we’ll explore the significance of blood sugar levels on skin health. You’ll learn about the impacts this unexpected habit can have on a healthy complexion, supported by research and experts.

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What’s the #1 Habit to Start for Better Skin Health?

When it comes to maintaining vibrant and healthy skin, one habit stands out: maintaining consistent blood sugar levels. Beyond just appearance, healthy blood sugar levels are important for managing more serious skin issues as well.

Robyn Johnson, registered dietitian & founder of Nutrition by Robyn explains, “When it comes to root-cause mechanisms of skin conditions like acne and psoriasis, there are many. But one that is quite prevalent in the United States is hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.”

Simply put, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance refers to a chronic condition where there’s too much insulin in your body (hyperinsulinemia) and your body isn’t using it properly (insulin resistance), which can increase your risk of health problems like diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Think of it like this: insulin works like a key to let glucose from the bloodstream into your cells. If insulin is not working properly, it can lead to high blood glucose levels, also known as high blood sugar.

“With uncontrolled blood sugars often comes high insulin or inability to use the sugar in the blood effectively. When insulin is consistently high, this can trigger both acne and inflammatory conditions like psoriasis,” Johnson details.

Why Is Blood Sugar Important for Skin Health?

Recent research is revealing that maintaining stable and consistent blood sugar levels may be beneficial for skin health.

Johnson highlights a 2023 study published in Biomedicines that found individuals with insulin resistance were more prone to developing acne. 

Other studies go on to look at psoriasis, a skin disease that is characterized by itchy, scaly rashes. “The No. 1 co-morbidity in psoriasis is metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance,” says Johnson. In a 2015 study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that 16 patients with psoriasis were more insulin resistant compared to the 16 healthy control patients. 

Again, this inability for insulin to work properly can lead to high blood sugar levels in the body, which may further exacerbate skin conditions.

How to Eat for Better Skin Health

Here are a few tips to support consistent and healthy blood sugar levels for skin health and overall well-being.

First, prioritize quality sleep. Johnson references a 2015 study published in PLOS One and explains, “Your blood sugar regulation starts the night before. One poor night of sleep creates more cravings and higher blood sugar levels the following day.”

Next, find joyful movement that feels good to you. “Muscle is your BFF when it comes to supporting blood sugar,” says Johnson. She recommends lifting weights or walking as options for supporting healthy muscles and healthy blood sugar levels. “Another tip is to take a 5- to 10-minute walk after a meal if you can,” Johnson explains, as this can keep blood sugar levels happy. But the most important thing is to find a way to move that you enjoy, because it can help make you more likely to be consistent. That may be other forms of exercise like yoga, swimming, dancing or biking. Find what works best for you! Consistency is key. 

Finally, eat a balanced diet with adequate protein. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 10% to 35% of calories come from protein, which is quite a range. Another way to estimate your base protein needs is by aiming for 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, which equates to about 54 grams for a 150-pound person. But everyone’s needs differ based on a variety of factors, so talk to a registered dietitian for more personalized advice.“Protein not only helps keep you full and minimizes cravings, but [it also] helps stabilize your blood sugar for hours,” says Johnson. Try blood-sugar-balancing protein options like eggs, cottage cheese and nuts.

Collagen is a specific type of protein that supports healthy skin, and it can be found in several foods like bone broth and tinned fish. It’s also readily available in supplement form, but always remember to talk to your health care team before trying something new. Nutrients like curcumin, probiotics, vitamin D, omega-3s and fiber are also helpful in supporting overall skin health. You’ll find these nutrients in foods like turmeric, yogurt, salmon, flaxseed, berries and more. 

The Bottom Line

The link between diet, blood sugar and skin health is definitely promising. By focusing on these tips, you can work toward improving skin health—especially if you may be dealing with acne or psoriasis. Keep it simple to start, and remember that any lifestyle changes should feel enjoyable and sustainable for the long run to yield the results you want. Johnson suggests creating “repeatable meals you enjoy that also [provide] 20 to 30 grams of protein [alongside] healthy fats and healthy carbs.” 

Need some inspiration? Try adding Creamy Pesto Chicken Salad with Greens, Sheet-Pan Salmon with Sweet Potatoes & Broccoli or this Mozzarella, Basil & Zucchini Frittata to your menu plan.

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