There's a reason why your skin feels a little off after a series of holiday parties, BBQs, or mojito-filled beach days: "What you eat affects your skin—for better or worse," says Ariel Ostad, MD, fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. While a few indulgences won't age you overnight, a continuously poor diet can accelerate the aging process of your skin (and teeth) over time. Here, 6 foods to consume in moderation in order to look as young as you feel.
Sugar overload may kick-start a process called glycation.
The theory: When you eat more sugar than your cells can process, the excess sugar molecules combine with proteins, creating "advanced glycation end products" (appropriately referred to as "AGES"), explains Dr. Ostad. Ultimately, AGES may damage your skin's collagen (the protein that keeps skin firm and youthful).
Unsurprisingly, too much sweet stuff is also bad for your smile. "Sugar sticks to your teeth, encouraging bacteria, decay, and discoloration," says Brian Kantor, a cosmetic dentist who practices in New York City. If you treat yourself to something sweet, swish water around your mouth afterward to remove any buildup.
A healthy liver means healthy skin.
"When your liver is functioning well, toxins that could potentially affect the skin are expelled naturally through your body," says Dr. Ostad. "But if toxins build up in your liver, and aren't broken down properly, your skin can develop a variety of issues, like acne, sallowness, and wrinkles."
Drinking can also trigger rosacea outbreaks.
To top it off, alcohol is dehydrating and bad for your sleep, which was associated with accelerated aging in a Case Western Reserve University study.
"Inadequate sleep is linked to wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, and reduced skin elasticity," says Dr. Ostad.
White wine falls into its own category because of its surprising dental damage. While a glass of red will give you instant "wine mouth," the acid in white wine damages your enamel and makes your teeth more prone to longer-lasting stains. So if you always end your day with a glass of chardonnay, your teeth may be more vulnerable to those coffee stains the next morning.
Here's what not to do: brush your teeth immediately after drinking (same goes for any acidic drink). Brushing already acidic teeth can further the erosion of your enamel.
"You need to give your teeth time to remineralize after being bathed in an acidic beverage," says Maureen McAndrew, clinical professor at the New York University School of Dentistry. "I'd wait an hour after drinking before lifting a toothbrush."
That black char on your burger? It may contain pro-inflammatory hydrocarbons, which could present a problem since inflammation breaks down the collagen in your skin, explains Dr. Ostad.
You don't necessarily need to banish BBQ from your vocab, but at least make sure you scrape off the black stuff, and clean the grill afterward so you don't contaminate your next meal.
You might not cook with salt, but that doesn't guarantee your intake is low.
"Many canned foods are preserved with sodium, which can make you retain water and cause a 'puffy' look," says Ranella Hirsch, MD, former president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology &Aesthetic Surgery, and dermatologist practicing in Massachusetts.
If you need a quick fix, combat fluid retention with a moisturizer that contains caffeine (it's known for reducing puffiness when applied topically).
Think: Deli meat, sausage, and bacon.
"Many of these meats have sulfites and other preservatives, which can trigger inflammation in the skin, and accelerate the appearance of aging," says Dr. Ostad. They also tend to be high in salt, which can make you look puffy. (Not to mention, processed red meats have been linked to heart disease.)
Try swapping the deli meat on your sandwich for chicken or turkey. If you can't say goodbye for good, use less meat, and load up on veggies.