Eating for healthy skin

[What I had for breakfast today: An egg, cheese and potato burrito at Oliver's, where we go sometimes before preschool when we're celebrating something. Kamal loves it because of the salad bar there--he gets a box full of all kinds of fruit, and he can pick out exactly which fruits he wants. Fruit salad is one of his all-time favorite things! Today we were celebrating Kamal's decision to never ever again wear a diaper or a pull-up. Wish us luck!]

Last week for dinner, Adam made this absolutely fantastic recipe from Serious Eats. Kenji never steers us wrong! 

And it got me thinking about patients who come to me for dermatological challenges, and the recommendations I make for topical skin care. Those usually revolve around minimizing the number of ingredients in your skin care regimen (for me, just sweet almond oil mixed with rose hip oil is the best kind of night cream, and straight honey, sometimes mixed with leftover coffee grounds, is a spectacular morning face wash or mask). That being said, I'm pretty sure that nothing I put on my skin helps it stay healthy as much as what I put in my belly. 

Honey and coffee grounds on my face. No, seriously, it's awesome. 

One of the nice side effects of having healthy skin is that it's also usually pretty and glowy skin. So eat good things for the health of your skin--it is, after all, the most important part of your immune system and the barrier between all your inner workings and the rest of the world--and let the outer loveliness just be a happy co-occurence. In addition to salmon and avocado, both featured in the above recipe and both absolutely terrific for keeping your skin nourished and resilient, here's a list of easy things to eat and drink for hale, healthy and happy skin. 

1) Water. This one I probably don't even have to tell you, but it's so critical I can't leave it off the list. Is your skin looking dull? Water! Is it dry and flaky? Probably you should drink more water. Acne? Try drinking more water. 

Seriously, your skin wants to be healthy, intact, and comfortable, and it can't be that without adequate hydration. This is your first go-to for any skin ailments. But if you're already drinking enough water (and by enough, I mean around a gallon a day for active people and half a gallon or so for everyone else) and your skin still isn't happy, move on down the list. 

2) Mugicha (a.k.a. maicha, a.k.a. boricha, a.k.a. roasted barley tea). This stuff, holy smokes. The list of its benefits is miles long: it helps prevent tooth decay and heart disease, it fixes water retention, it soothes anxiety, it helps you sleep better, it can lower blood viscosity (which, among other things, helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure), it can potentially help clear chronically congested sinuses and--here's why I'm listing it here--it clears up acne like nobody's business. One more benefit? It's freaking delicious

You can buy barley tea bags, but don't do that because it's so incredibly easy to make your own from scratch. Here's what you do: go to your local grocery store, ideally one that has a bulk foods section, and buy a bunch of raw organic barley. Place about half a cup of it in a heavy skillet, turn the heat on, and roast the barley for two or three minutes, stirring frequently, until it's golden-brown and gives off a nutty fragrance. Then place that half a cup of roasted barley in a pot with about 8 cups of water, bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes, strain, and drink either warm, at room temperature, or cold. That's it!

3) Bittermelon. Yes, I talk about bittermelon all. the. time. Love it or hate it, it makes your skin clear, bright and beautiful. You can read all about it here.

4) Lots and lots of fruits and vegetables in every possible color.'ve probably read about bone broth, and how when made properly, it's full of gelatin that, among other things, helps put collagen back in your skin for all kinds of skin firmness, integrity and resilience? And if you go a little further down that rabbit hole, you'll find that the research supporting that particular claim is pretty heavily disputed. (Note: this doesn't mean that bone broth doesn't put collagen back into your skin--it just means that  there isn't a lot of conclusive proof that it does. No matter what, bone broth has other health benefits that make it a worthwhile addition to your diet--but this post is about healthy skin.)

BUT. You know what nobody disputes? The fact that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables means your diet is rich in vitamins C and A, as well as lycopene and antioxidants--all of which help your skin stay healthy and protected by giving your body the materials it needs to produce more collagen and scavenge free radicals. Your mom was right--eat your fruits and vegetables. Eat at least a couple of servings of them with every meal, and watch yourself start glowing with health.

5) Things that make you feel good. You can read up a little right here on what I mean by "feel good."  But in short: nothing heals you, nourishes you, or looks as good on you as joy.