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3 Foods That Make Dark Spots Worse

There are many things that can harm the skin. The sun (specifically overexposure to UV rays) is an obvious culprit in causing damage, including premature aging, and skin cancer. We have also written about the negative affects of stress and hormonal imbalances, smoking, alcohol, and today we will discuss the impact diet and certain foods have on the skin.

Diet and the foods we eat are an often overlooked factor in the health and appearance of our skin. Certain foods can cause hyperpigmentation to worsen due to the compounds they contain and the hormonal changes they can trigger. At the same time, the right foods can help provide fantastic, hyperpigmentation-fighting nutrients to help keep the issue at bay. For this reason, maintaining a well-balanced diet is crucial to keeping your skin happy and healthy.

If you want to reduce the appearance of dark spots there are three types of food to steer clear of: sugary foods, fried foods, and foods that contain a lot of soy.

Sugary foods and drinks

There are many general health risks that come along with a diet that is high in sugar, especially when it comes to the health of your skin and the rate at which it ages. Healthy and radiant skin relies on balanced blood sugar levels. Spikes and valleys of blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on the skin, spurring a variety of unwanted skin conditions including acne, dryness, irritation, and signs of aging. If you want to avoid dark spots and avoid premature aging of your skin you’ll want to limit your sugar intake. Over-consumption of sugar can both accelerate the aging process and either cause or contribute to a host of skin health issues.

The high sugar or glycemic index [of sugary foods] can trigger skin inflammation, inhibit collagen production, and cause dark spots and premature aging!

Inflammation: Sugar consumption leads to spikes in blood sugar, which results in inflammation. This can make the skin appear red, dull, and unhealthy.

Collagen Damage: Collagen is one of the most essential proteins in maintaining youthful appearing skin. Collagen is a protein that works to make the skin firm, smooth, and elastic. Glucose both breaks down current collagen and contributes to lower future collagen production, making early line and wrinkle development more likely.

Blood Sugar Variations: High sugar consumption causes rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. This in turn can lead to acne breakouts and symptom “flare-ups” of various skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.

We can’t talk about sugar and skin without mentioning glycation, the consequence most frequently discussed by experts. Glycation is a reaction between sugars and proteins in our body that can change the way important building blocks in our skin and other organs behave. When sugars bind with collagen in the dermis of the skin, they form advanced glycation end products, or AGEs.

This type of binding and subsequent chain of chemical reactions causes collagen to structurally harden and become less flexible. Since collagen is the material responsible for keeping our faces plump and firm, glycated collagen shows up as development of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as overall weakening of the skin accelerating the aging process.

It’s easy to reverse the harmful effects of sugar by simply cutting down on daily sugar intake. In fact, many people have reported dramatic improvements in how their skin looks and feels within days of reducing their consumption.

When it comes to cutting out sugar there are two big obstacles that might get in your way. First, sugar is in almost every staple of the American diet. Many everyday foods like breads, sauces, and snacks contain added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Additionally, simple carbs found in things like milk (which is also loaded with growth hormones that can contribute to skin issues), white bread or fruit juice break down into glucose, causing issues equivalent to sugar. The best way to cut out sugar is to be aware of what you’re eating. Read nutritional labels and shy away from processed foods in favor of whole foods.

The second obstacle is the fact that sugar is an addictive substance. Getting off sugar “cold turkey” can actually cause people to feel bad both physically and mentally. Instead of immediately cutting out sugar you might want to slowly “detox” from sugar by gradually reducing your daily consumption over a period of a couple of weeks.

Fried fatty foods

Just as with sugar, there are many reasons to avoid fatty fried foods. You likely know all about how these unhealthy options can cause weight gain and heart problems, but you may not have considered the fact that they can also take a serious toll on your skin. This includes causing dark spots.

Fried foods are the enemy when it comes to healthy skin and it’s all thanks to those AGEs we just discussed. There’s a few key side effects of AGEs that we want to consider when it comes to skin health – specifically inflammation, oxidative stress, and cross-linking collagen.

But first, what’s the link between AGEs and fried foods? AGEs are produced rapidly when foods are cooked quickly under high temperatures. Fried foods are actually the number one source of dietary AGEs. In particular, meat products tend to be most vulnerable to high heat cooking and can produce a lot of AGEs, which is why it might be best to skip the fried chicken including those wings we all love and to opt for the baked alternative.

Oxidative stress leads to greater strain on the liver, which means it can’t detoxify hormones and toxins, and that backlog can lead to break-outs and skin inflammation. Inflammation feeds into this by creating more oxidative stress and leading the body to produce more skin-inflaming Substance P.

Cross-linking collagen has serious long-term impacts on the skin though, as sometimes the cross-linking is irreversible. So what’s bad about cross-linking? When collagen is cross-linked, it becomes stiffer.

As we know, when skin is stiff, it’s less able to perform its job of protecting us, increasing the likelihood of skin damage including changes in pigmentation, tears, infection, break-outs and wrinkles. That’s right – AGEs are thought to be one of the number one causes of premature ageing.


While soy-rich foods are generally fine in moderation, a diet that is high in this ingredient can be detrimental to the health and appearance of your skin. This is due to a compound called phytoestrogen.

Soy is rich in phytoestrogen, which can alter the normal functioning of body hormones as it functions as an estrogen leading to excess estrogen and a hormonal imbalance.

Soy and its derivatives are loaded with isoflavones. Rich in amino acids, these flavonoids aid in wound healing and stimulate collagen and elastin synthesis. They have also been known to inhibit trypsin, one of the enzymes responsible for melanin synthesis, which could help brighten skin in cases of hyperpigmentation.

However, in a cruel twist of fate, if you have melasma, these same isoflavones could have the opposite effect.

That’s because unlike hyperpigmentation, which is usually the result of UV exposure or a response to inflammation, injury or irritation, melasma is generally hormone-related and the isoflavones in soy are phytoestrogens, plant compounds the have an estrogenic effect.

Estrogen is capable of accelerating the synthesis of melanin in the skin by enhancing the activity of tyrosinase leading to a darkening of pigmentation. The effects of estrogen levels on skin are most evident during pregnancy when women’s hormones surge. Melasma is often referred to as “the mask of pregnancy” because so many women experience it for the first time during their term.

Soy already has the highest concentration of phytoestrogen isoflavones of any plant, but when used in skin care and cosmetic products, the isoflavones are isolated and concentrated, making them even more potent. In fact, soy isoflavone products are used to aid in estrogen replacement for menopausal women.

What To Eat Instead

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. When you eat, a sizable quantity of nutrients are directed towards nourishing your skin cells. What this means is if you put low-nutrient foods in your body, your skin gets low-nutrient resources for growth and repair. Similarly, high-nutrient foods rich in vitamins, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and other vital nutrients give your skin high-quality resources to work with. Your diet plays a significant role in your skin health including reducing dark spots and other pigmentation issues.

A healthy diet for clear skin is one that’s full of skin-healthy nutrients. Clear skin is made up of healthy, elastic, and vibrant skin cells. For cells to get this way, they need a constant source of high-quality nutrients. If you maintain a poor-nutrient diet, your skin cells will soon get starved and start to appear dull, aged, and non-vibrant. Some of the best foods for clear skin are green vegetables like kale and spinach, oily fish like salmon, strawberries, broccoli and citrus fruits rich in vitamin C.

Some of the best foods for fighting skin problems including dark spots are kale, avocados (full of healthy fats and antioxidants protect the skin from premature aging and sun damage as well as vitamins E and C to significantly improve the skin through collagen support and resistance to oxidative damage.), sweet potatoes (contains beta carotene or provitamin A (gets integrated into your skin and acts like natural sunblock), lemons, pumpkin seeds and nuts (seeds and nuts are a great source of micronutrients like selenium and zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids), berries, fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids to promote thick, supple skin, reduce inflammation and lower skin sensitivity to harmful UV rays)  and legumes. For example, fatty fish contains loads of zinc, which helps fight inflammation, support new skin cell growth and support overall skin health.

And don’t forget to drink plenty of clean, filtered water. Drinking enough water flushes out toxins (including free radicals) from your cells, including your skin cells. It also helps keep your cells hydrated, so they can easily resist the effects of sun exposure.

Schedule a Skin Service or Consultation

To learn more about hair services, SCHEDULE A SKIN SERVICE OR CONSULTATION with one of our Columbus Ohio Estheticians.

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