Best Thanksgiving & Holiday Food Choices for Skin Health

November 19, 2019

Family choosing food for skin health at Thanksgiving

What’s the best thing about Thanksgiving and holiday season in general? All the delicious comfort foods and time around the table with family. Unfortunately, the rich, sugary, and fattening holiday foods aren’t necessarily great for your diet or your skin. U.S. Dermatology Partners physician, Dr. Caitlin Farmer of Center for Dermatology in Plano and Flower Mound, Texas, took some time to walk through the best and worst holiday foods for skin health.

How Does Holiday Eating Impact Your Skin Health?

According to Dr. Farmer “The holidays are a prime time for overindulging in all of your favorite foods and drinks. As long as these treats are consumed in moderation on special occasions only, they shouldn’t have a profound impact on your skin or overall health. However, for many of us, the holidays can stretch out across several days or even weeks. If you’re celebrating at multiple Thanksgivings, Christmases, Chanukahs, and New Years parties, you may start to see a negative impact on the skin.” Some common holiday foods that adversely impact skin health include:

  • Protein – too much protein leads to thicker lymphatic fluid, which can leave skin looking dull and puffy and contributes to dark circles under eyes.
  • Sweets – overconsumption of sugar leads to the production of toxic byproducts. The process is called glycation, and it accelerates signs of aging, including wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Alcohol, salty treats, and processed foods – consuming these foods and beverages leads to dehydration, which can cause the skin to appear puffy, ashy, and leads to more noticeable fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Dairy – consuming too much cheese, milk, butter, or other dairy products during the holidays increases levels of androgen in the blood, which causes greater production of sebum (oil). This leads to an increased risk for breakouts, especially for those who are already acne-prone.

What Thanksgiving Foods are Beneficial for Skin Health?

Luckily, traditional Thanksgiving meals actually include a lot of foods that are nutrient-dense and great for your skin and whole-body health, including the following:

  • Turkey – While excess protein can lead to concerns, it’s still an essential component to skin health and overall wellbeing. Specifically, protein encourages collagen production, which gives skin its smooth, firm appearance.
  • Cranberries – Cranberries are full of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help to combat sun damage and limit the impacts of aging on the skin.
  • Green Beans – Like cranberries, green beans are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and manganese. These elements can help to boost collagen production and protect skin cells from free radical damage caused by sun exposure.
  • Sweet Potatoes – Easily one of the most nutritious foods on your Thanksgiving menu, sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. All of these elements combine to improve skin health by encouraging the production of new, healthy skin cells.
  • Pumpkin Pie – Baked sweets and sugars may be bad for the skin, but if you’re going to indulge in holiday desserts, you can’t do much better than pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is high in carotenoids and antioxidants that encourage collagen production and cellular turnover.
  • Spinach & Greens – In the south, greens are a common dish on the Thanksgiving table. Adding spinach, collard greens, and other vitamin-dense greens to your menu is a great way to soak up much-needed nutrients to improve skin clarity, cell turnover, and collagen production.
  • Almonds & Walnuts – Nuts have high levels of vitamin E and other fat-soluble vitamins that help reduce inflammation and promote clear complexions. Almonds and walnuts are great for snacking, and you can include them as ingredients in salads, stuffing, and other dishes.

What Thanksgiving Foods are Worst for Skin Health?

While many of the foods we eat at Thanksgiving give us skin-friendly nutrients, there are others you should limit or avoid, including:

  • Stuffing – Most types of stuffing are high in sodium, which increases inflammation. Combat puffy skin by including cranberries, sage, walnuts, and other nutritious ingredients.
  • Cornbread – Another southern favorite, cornbread is usually high in sugar, meaning it’s high on the glycemic index. Foods that are high on the glycemic index are bad for skin clarity, increasing the risk for acne breakouts.
  • Creamy cheese dips – Popular at the holidays, cheese dips and other dairy-heavy items, like mac and cheese and egg nog, elevate the levels of androgen in the blood, leading to increased production of sebum oil that can clog pores. This makes dairy consumption especially problematic for those who struggle with acne.
  • Salty Foods – Salt leads to the retention of excess fluid in the skin that causes a puffy appearance.
  • Baked Goods – Baked goods, especially those high in sugar and white flour, can damage collagen and elastin in the skin, trigger acne breakouts, and lead to a dull skin appearance.

How Can I Keep My Skin Healthy at the Holidays?

When it comes to healthy holiday skin, Dr. Farmer says, “Holiday stress, dehydration, tiredness, and skipped skincare can all contribute to breakouts, puffy skin, and other concerns.” To keep your skin healthy this holiday season, we recommend:

  • Make time for your skincare routine. We all get busy during the holidays, and often, that leads to neglecting the basics, like skincare. It’s important to make time for your regular skincare routine to remove oil buildup and reduce the risk of breakouts and skin irritation.
  • Get your beauty sleep. During sleep, cells are replaced, and damage is repaired. Lack of sleep deprives the body of its opportunity to renew skin cells, leaving your skin looking dull, dry, and less healthy.
  • Don’t sleep in your holiday party makeup. For many, the holiday season means late nights and fancy-dress events with makeup. No matter what time it is when you get home for the evening, don’t sleep in your makeup. This can clog pores, leading to breakouts.
  • Reduce stress. It’s important to make time for rest and relaxation. During the holidays, you may feel pressure to go to every party and visit every friend or family member, but all the added stress can lead to the increased production of cortisol. This hormone thickens cells in the hair follicle and increases sebum oil production, leading to significant risk for breakouts.
  • Hydrate! Alcohol, fried foods, and processed ingredients all contribute to dehydration during the holidays, increasing the visibility of fine lines, wrinkles, and veins. Make sure to drink plenty of water to replenish your body’s lost moisture, and apply topical moisturizing creams to stay hydrated.

When Should I Visit U.S. Dermatology Partners?

During the holiday season or any time of year, the team at U.S. Dermatology Partners will be happy to help you achieve and maintain optimal skin health. If you live in the Plano or Flower Mound areas, Dr. Farmer would love to hear from you. Or, you can find a U.S. Dermatology Partners office near you by completing our simple online form. A team member will be in touch soon to answer any questions you may have and schedule a time for you to visit your local office.

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