I’m big on seeking expert advice. I see a dentist for my teeth, mechanic for my car, and accountant for my taxes. We all want to get the best service possible and save ourselves time and money in the long term, so it makes sense to consult a professional.
I also love a facial. I’m all about maintenance in fact. But recently I got some unwelcome dietary advice from a facialist that really peeved me. It’s true, our diet plays an important role in how our skin looks and feels, so it makes sense to offer basic advice on healthy eating. But when that advice goes beyond generally accepted guidelines, or isn’t based on evidence, it only serves to confuse people.
And the worst part is, we’re already confused about what to eat! A survey commissioned by Medibank last year found almost one third of Australians don’t know what to believe. And it’s no surprise, since there is so much misinformation floating around.
As well-intentioned as this advice often is, it’s only muddling us further. So, here are my five biggest skin advice gripes, and the truth around these beauty myths:
- Dairy causes acne: This one has been around for years. The theory goes, milk and dairy foods congest your skin, cause oil to build up, leading to pimples and acne. The truth? There is no link between the two. The only research that does support it is really shaky – as in, it relied on adult women thinking back to their teenage diets and how much milk they drank, and reporting whether or not they had acne. There is a link, however, with High Glycaemic Index (GI) foods and acne. That is, quickly digested carbohydrate foods, which are usually refined ones like white bread, pasta, and processed snack foods. Low GI foods, on the other hand, include fruit and veggies, legumes, and, you guessed it, dairy foods. So please, do not avoid dairy in the hope it will clear your skin up!
- Coffee will dehydrate you, and age your skin: No need to fear. Tea and coffee have caffeine in them, which has a slight diuretic effect when you have too much of it. But it takes around 500mg of caffeine for the diuretic effect to outweigh the fluid you’ll get from having the drink in the first place. Given one shot of espresso has around 60-100mg of caffeine; you can safely drink up to five regular coffees before you get dehydrated. So caffeinate to your hearts content (or up to a few coffees a day anyway…)
- While we’re on dehydration – how about that 8 glasses of water a day doozie? This is an interesting one, and unlikely to cause any harm, but it’s still not based on anything in particular. Of course water is important – up to 60 percent of our body is made up of it, and it’s essential for all of our body’s cells. The ‘8 glasses a day’ figure reportedly came from a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need around 2.5 litres of fluid each day. But after that, the Board also pointed out it can mostly be made up from foods – including things like yoghurt, soups, fruit and veggies. So no need to chug 8 glasses each day – just keep an eye on your urine, and if it’s anything but light coloured of clear, you should probably have some water.
- Coconut oil for glowing skin – It’s been claimed to cure everything from bad breath to Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s no surprise coconut oil is touted for healthy skin too. The idea is, we need to eat healthy fats for skin elasticity and hydration. But the fact remains; coconut oil is made up of mainly saturated fats – the kind that are linked with high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. While it’s true research is emerging around the way these fats act in our body, there’s so much more benefit to be had from choosing unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Olive oil has the added benefit of antioxidants, and avo, nuts and seeds are packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. So when it comes to fats and oils, steer clear of the marketing hype around coconut oil and stick to the ones we know have proven health benefits.
So before you decide to take diet advice from the person tending to your skin, ask yourself: does the advice sound suspect, restrict whole food groups, or go against commonly agreed upon guidelines? If so, take it with a grain of salt, and if you’re still left scratching your head, ask a qualified health professional, like an Accredited Practising Dietitian.