We've heard of problem skin being treated with everything from salicylic acid to antibiotics.
But yogurt and blueberries, flaxseed and salmon?
Nutrition plays a key role in skin health, says Meagen McCusker, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
"It's really true that you are what you eat," says McCusker, adding that the condition of your skin often tells a story about your overall health and well-being.
No wonder, then, that sugar — a culprit in many health problems including diabetes and obesity — is also involved when it comes to skin health.
"Foods that keep your blood sugar low are also good for the skin," McCusker says. "The first thing I tell people is avoid sugar — which includes refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup — and processed foods."
Not only can sugar cause inflammation in the body, but it also adversely affects cell membranes and by extension can break down collagen, she says. Collagen is a type of protein that helps make the skin elastic.
Juliet Rodman, a dietitian and co-founder of Corporate Wellness Solutions, agrees.
"Stay away from anything that comes in a box," she says, "both because of the added sugars and because of other additives."
Instead, she says, gobble up produce of all colors, plus nuts and seeds, to get minerals, fiber and vitamins A, C and E.
Other than yogurt and kefir, dairy is not recommended, McCusker says.
"From an evolutionary standpoint we don't need dairy once we are weaned," she says. "And for many people with acne, dairy can worsen the condition."
Instead, drink plenty of water.
"The skin is a little like a third kidney. If you don't have enough water flushing through it, it doesn't work well," says Alan Dattner, a New York dermatologist and owner of holisticdermatology.com.
Rodman adds that hydration becomes even more important for the skin as we age and consequently dry out. "Dehydration tends to shrivel the skin," she says.
In addition to healthful food and hydration, promoting good skin requires a holistic approach. Keep an eye on stress, physical activity levels and sleep, and protect your skin from too much sun and environmental hazards, Dattner says, adding that any therapy — whether it's based on high-tech pharmaceuticals or holistic lifestyle change — takes time.
Remember, he says, some people have spent a lifetime on antibiotics to prevent breakouts. So don't expect glowing skin after a week of clean living, he says.
"If you have had bad habits — including bad nutrition — for 15 years, it's not realistic to expect changes in two to three weeks," he says. "But start moving in a sensible direction — eating less sugar and more vegetables — and begin to identify what makes a difference for you."
Recipe for clear skin
Cut out refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and any processed and most white foods.
Try probiotics, which can be found in yogurt and kefir and are also sold as nutritional supplements.
Eat healthful fats: sardines, grass-fed beef, almonds, wild Alaskan salmon and flaxseed.
Eat from the rainbow: red cabbage, blueberries, yellow peppers, kale and garlic.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun