June 2023

Our skin is influenced by many different factors including genetics, street, nutrition and sleep. Consultant dermatologist and registered nutritionist Dr Thivi Maruthappu believes in taking a holistic approach to looking after our skin.

One question we are often asked is 'what foods should I stop eating' to help with skin concerns. The British Skin Foundation sat down with Dr Thivi Maruthappu to garner some insight.

As a Dermatologist and Nutritionist, I'm a firm believer in "everything in moderation" and my focus is very much more on what we should be including in our diet. Of course, if you have a food allergy or intolerance then by all means certain foods should be excluded. There are, however, certain foods or ingredients that I recommend reducing in your diet for optimal skin health.

- Alcohol: I generally advise keeping alcohol to a minimum where possible, particularly in the run up to a big event when you want your skin to look it's best. I know it's boring but it really does help with redness, fine lines and skin concerns like eczema and rosacea. In fact, studies have shown that those who consume more alcohol are more likely to have fine lines and wrinkles affecting the upper part of the face - pass the water please!

- Refined sugar: Of course we can enjoy refined sugar such as cakes, biscuits or sweets in moderation and I'm partial to a scoop of ice cream myself! But excess refined sugar in our diets can accelerate skin ageing through a process called glycation, for some people it can also contribute to breakouts, so stick to a few squares of dark chocolate instead, this also contains skin loving acanthocyanins for an extra anti-oxidant boost.

- Skimmed milk: So this doesn't apply to everyone, but some research has shown that skimmed milk may contribute to breakouts particularly if you are drinking more than a couple of glasses per day. It isn't an issue for everyone with breakouts, but it can be a trigger for some. You could try swapping for a fortified non-dairy alternative for a period of 4 weeks to see if you notice any improvement.

-Whey protein powder: did you know that whey protein powder can be a trigger for acne breakouts? Again, this doesn't apply to everyone but if you've seen an increase in pimples since starting a whey protein powder try swapping for a plant-based alternative. This is thought to be because whey protein contains higher levels of IGF1, a trigger for breakouts and oily skin.

- Excessive caffeine: a cup or two of coffee per day is fine, but if you've got a serious coffee addiction it might affect your skin. Excess caffeine can contribute to dehydration as it acts as a diuretic, causing you to pass more urine, the knock on effect can be dehydrated skin. It can also increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can in turn contribute to flares of eczema and breakouts. Excess caffeine can also contribute to dark eye circles as a result. Swap for green tea instead, it contains lower levels of caffeine in addition to incredible anti-oxidant compounds that support skin health by neutralising free radicals that contribute to premature skin ageing

Focus on what foods are great for your skin, vibrant colourful fruits and vegetables, wholegrains to support gut health and the gut-skin axis, nuts seeds and healthy fats from oily fish to help keep skin smooth and supple.

Radiant Roasted Tomato soup recipe

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which is responsible for their bright red colour. Studies have shown that lycopene acts as a powerful anti-oxidant in the skin, reducing early signs of skin inflammation, ageing and hyperpigmentation. Lycopene levels are boosted by cooking tomatoes in olive oil, which is why this recipe is entitled "radiant roasted tomato soup"

Serves 2

400g tomatoes (I like to use a mix of varieties, such as cherry and plum), chopped into large chunks if large

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

½ red onion, sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

250ml vegetable stock

salt and ground black pepper

25g feta

4 basil leaves, torn, to garnish

For the croutons:

2 slices of wholegrain bread (it works best slightly stale), cut into chunks

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and ground black pepper 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven) Gas 6 and line a baking tray. Put the tomatoes on the prepared baking tray and add the garlic and sliced red onion. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 20–30 minutes until soft.

To make the croutons, coat the bread chunks in the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put on a baking tray and bake for 7–10 minutes until crisp, turning once half-way through.

Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins and add to a blender or food processor along with the tomatoes and onions. Add the vegetable stock and crumbled feta. Blend until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and gently reheat.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with torn basil leaves. Serve with the crunchy croutons.

Dr Thivi Maruthappu, Consultant Dermatologist and registered nutritionist

You can read more on the optimal diet for skin health in Dr Thivi Maruthappu's book "SkinFood - Your Four Step Solution to Happy Healthy Skin" Published by Little, Brown 22nd June 2023.

10% of proceeds of the sale of the book will be donated to support the British Skin Foundation.

Dr Maruthappu's instagram   Donate to the BSF   Preorder 'SkinFood'

By donating to skin disease research, you are helping us to find treatments and cures for common conditions like rosacea, acne and psoriasis through to potential killers like melanoma skin cancer. Thank you.