Eating Your Way to Beautiful, Healthy Skin

Eating Your Way to Beautiful, Healthy Skin

Dr. Julie Russak recently spoke with NY-based IMG models about the ins and outs of taking care of your skin through food. It was a valuable discussion and everyone walked away with concrete tips on how to clean out their pantry, hit the grocery store with confidence and eat their way to beautiful, healthy skin! Here’s an outline of the talk for all of our patients!

Dr. Julie Russak speaks with IMG models about the benefits of healthy eating for beautiful skin.

Skin is the biggest organ in the body and a barometer for what is happening from within. We often forget that Healthy Skin = Beautiful Skin and that 80% of skin health is what goes into your body! We all know that fruits and vegetables are key to a healthy diet, but did you know they’re also essential for healthy skin? After this post, I guarantee that you will want to run to the supermarket and load your cart with items on this grocery list for healthy, glowing skin!

The Many Factors That Contribute to an Aging Face

Aging is due to both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors include genetics and internal health while extrinsic factors include outside stressors. When it comes to intrinsic aging, what many of us don’t realize is that this process starts long before you ever see signs of it on the outside. Collagen production decreases and bone mass and density decrease. Your skin anatomy changes with a loss of elasticity, mainly caused by a reduction of collagen and elastin that leads to wrinkles and sagging. There is a 7% reduction in skin thickness every 10 years! What is important to know is that there are many factors that contribute to this process and the breakdown of this of our precious proteins, such as the sun, natural aging, free radical damage, UVA damage, and what we put in our bodies. This last point is what I want to focus on here…

What To Avoid In Your Diet

Sugar & Processed Carbohydrates

Excess glucose in the bloodstream (insulin resistance) triggers sebum production and a rise in androgens which leads to acne and inflammation. Excess glucose in the bloodstream can bind to the skin’s collagen and elastin, causing damage and accelerated aging through a process called glycation. The end products of this process is called Advanced Glycation End Products – or the very apt acronym “AGE”! Glycation results in dehydrated and thinning skin that struggles to repair itself, showing up on the face and the body as age spots, dullness, wrinkles, and fine lines.


Research published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that skimmed milk can trigger acne. Cow’s milk is one of the most processed foods in the US (with hormones and antibiotics). Both the sugars and the proteins in milk can cause an inflammatory response in the body with whey and casein protein powders as the worst offenders. The ‘least bad’ option is full fat, organic and grass-fed for the CLA’s (a fatty acid found in meat and dairy that is believed to have various health benefits). To add to this, cow’s milk is hard for most of us to digest. Generally speaking, sheep and goats is less processed and contains smaller fat molecules. Whenever you can, choose fermented options to improve gut health.

Inflammatory Fats

Vegetable and seed oils such as canola oil, rapeseed oil, vegetable oil, and olive oil change at high temperatures becoming inflammatory to the body both in the gut and systemically on a cellular level. Inflammation = Insulin Resistance = Inflammation. Always check labels of processed foods, even the “healthy ones”.

What To Include In Your Diet


These are powerful molecules that help fight cellular damage caused by free radicals. What are free radicals you might ask? Free radicals are all around us. They’re caused by smoking, pollution, and sunlight, and all of the above can cause skin aging and damage. You can fight back by eating foods rich in antioxidants. Beta-carotene, found in carrots and pumpkins, and lutein, found in spinach, kale, and papaya are both powerful antioxidants that are important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone. Pomegranates are very rich in antioxidants, as well as a compound called punicalagin, which goes a step further, acting against enzymes that break down collagen.


Another important ingredient for healthy skin. Omega-3s contain fatty acids that act to prevent and repair sun damage. They also help to combat inflammation, a major cause of woe in people with rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema. Inflammation is a cause of a myriad of illnesses, including skin cancer, and research is currently showing that decreasing inflammation in the body can help lower your risk of developing skin cancer. Additionally, these vital nutrients help to regulate oil production in the skin – having a diet rich in essential fatty acids can help keep your skin hydrated and glowing. So be sure to stock up on fish, walnuts, and flax seeds – your skin will thank you!


Polyphenols are a category of plant compound that offers various health and skin benefits. Found in the highest concentration in green tea, cocoa powder, oregano, cloves, star anise, celery, and other fruits & veggies, these foods can improve the body’s DNA repair mechanism and lower inflammation in the body.

When in Doubt: Eat The Rainbow!

  • Antioxidants and polyphenols: oxidative stress is one of the biggest root causes of inflammations and accelerated aging
  • Nutrient density is key: the darker the fruit/vegetable the more micronutrients
  • Fiber is key for great gut health and for managing insulin levels
  • Fun Fact: 85% and above organic dark chocolate, low acid organic coffee and organic red wine are also great sources of polyphenols – enjoy responsibly!

Perfect Proteins

  • Animal Proteins: Quality is key – pasture-raised, wild, organic. “You are what you eat, ate”; Skin nutrient-dense options include oily fish. (salmon, sardines, mackerel), organ meats and pasture-raised eggs
  • Plant Proteins: Skin nutrient-dense options include hemp seed, quinoa, flaxseed, and natto.


  • General: Liposomal Vitamin C, L-Glutamine Powder, Fish Oil or Algae Oil
  • For Acne: Zinc
  • For Mature Skin: Resveratrol, CoQ10

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