Are breakouts ruining your life? As countless studies show, what you eat and drink has a tangible effect on your skin. Your digestive system and your skin are highly connected (known as the “gut-skin axis”). When your gut is inflamed by factors such as stress and an unhealthy diet, that inflammation shows up on your skin.
The good news is that adding beverages with skin-clearing hero ingredients to your diet is one of the easiest (and most delicious) methods to get glowing, blemish-free skin. Here are the most effective ways to sip your way to a clearer complexion.
There is no quicker way to banish breakouts than with the mother of all skin-clearing drinks. First of all, green smoothies are packed with gut-healthy fiber, and research shows that — there is no pretty way to put this — constipation can exacerbate acne. But a green smoothie is chock full of nutrients that heal and protect the skin, says Nathalie Rhone, MS, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. Rhone, who has an enviably dewy (and zit-free) complexion, walks the talk with a daily green drink. Her favorite ingredients are spinach, which has plenty of inflammation-reducing vitamin K, as well as vitamin C, which supports collagen production. “Collagen is the protein that gives our skin strength, so it is essential to ensure smooth and elastic skin.” Papaya is another acne-clearing ingredient that Rhone likes to toss in the blender, “because it has an enzyme called papain that is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent.” (When skin is inflamed, the pores can become blocked, resulting in breakouts). Rhone suggests topping off your smoothie with cinnamon, for a touch of sweetness — and extra skin benefits. “Cinnamon is a dynamic spice that contains anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and wound healing properties,” she says. “This trifecta of skin-benefiting qualities can help heal problem skin or acne.”
A steaming hot mug of matcha, which is made from powdered green tea, is not only comforting — it can also vanquish pimples. A study published in the journal Oxidants reported that green tea, which is chock full of natural chemical plant compounds called polyphenols, “may be beneficial for skin health and more specifically, for reducing sebum production by the sebaceous glands and for the prevention and treatment of acne vulgaris.” And as Rhone points out, “sipping on green tea in the morning can actually help reduce inflammation throughout the whole body, including the GI tract.”
Hawaiians call nutrient-rich coconut water “dew from the heavens,” which seems fitting, but it is pretty heavenly for the zit-prone, too. Coconut water packs a one-two punch. It contains high levels of lauric acid, which is an antimicrobial that has been shown to fight against Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that promote inflammatory acne. Young coconut water also contains salicylic acid, which, like other acne-fighting hero ingredients, has an anti-inflammatory effect. “Just be sure to read the ingredients on the label to ensure that you are getting 100 percent raw coconut water with no added sweeteners,” cautions Rhone. While the old adage that chocolate causes acne has been disproven, Harvard says that some studies show an association between acne and high-glycemic-load diets that include a lot of sugar. On the flip side, some trails showed that subjects had less acne when people ate a low-glycemic-load diet — in other words, plenty of whole foods, heavy on the vegetables and fruits and light on processed foods.
Two years ago, a huge Reddit thread unspooled the acne-fighting wonders of spearmint tea with many people raving about its ability to calm their breakouts. As it turns out, there is some science behind it. Spearmint has not only been shown to destroy bacteria on the skin but has been linked to anti-androgen effects — meaning it can quell the effects of male hormones that contribute to acne in women. (If you drink it on the regular, just be sure and to share that information with your doctor, as herbal medicine can have side effects).
Is there anything this magical spice can’t do? Rhone says that turmeric tea contains a compound called curcumin, “which is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation and adds luster to the skin,” she says. “And you can make your turmeric tea into a golden latte by adding spices and nut milk!” As it happens, almond milk is yet another breakout-banishing hero ingredient. “Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, which helps to reduce and prevent UV skin damage from the sun,” says Rhone.
Milk thistle tea
Used for thousands of years as a home remedy for liver and kidney problems, this Mediterranean plant boasts a medicinal compound called silymarin. It is an antioxidant that fights free radicals, which are collagen-destroying molecules released by the UV rays of sunlight and pollution, which ramp up inflammation. Milk thistle tea can taste a bit bland, so some people like to add spices or orange peel to zhuzh it up.
Kefir and Kombucha
A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology concluded that “the evidence is growing for the use of probiotics in the treatment of acne.” So keep things moving along with probiotic drinks, whether it is kefir or kombucha.
Not into dairy? You can easily make your own kefir out of fruit juice or coconut water using water kefir grains, found at health food stores or online. They are not actual grains, but clusters of bacteria, yeast, and a type of sugar known as dextran. Add it to your water or juice of choice, let it ferment for a day, and you have a bubbly, tart drink. The live probiotics are ideal for gut health — which in turn polishes up your skin. Cheers! Now you will glow from the inside out.
Don’t feel like brewing or blending? Stir a skin-clearing powder into a glass of water, et voila. Moon Juice’s Beauty Dust, the Los Angeles brand favored by the lithe and luminous, contains an adaptogenic blend of organic Schisandra, a Chinese berry traditionally used to promote skin clarity, and redness-soothing goji berries. Forever Beautiful’s Organic Superfood Mix includes acai and maqui, Brazilian berries that tame inflammation. The Beauty Chef’s Glow Advanced Inner Beauty Powder delivers a full twenty-four superfoods, including a generous dose of probiotics (remember: healthy gut, thriving skin).
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