Winter Trilogy 1/3: Foods and Nutrition for Acne Skin

Whether you are seeking an acne cleanse diet for the winter, or solutions to improve your winter skin, you will find some ideas of what should you place in your pantry in this winter. Speaking of winter…

Introducing “Winter Trilogy”

Acne cleanse diet for winter skin Photo by Vladimir Agafonkin

Happy winter time, everyone! Well, this may not be a “happy” time for most of you, because, if we put “winter” into a mathematical formula, on the other side of the equation are “coldness”, “lack of sunlight”, “dryness”, “wind” and “central heating”, which also means low humidity.

In return, these are what we will get (or have got already): cold digits (for some people, this also happens even when they are wrapped up in thick clothes, gloves and socks; and I am one of them), low energy levels (due to less exposure to sunlight, which helps us generate 90% of vitamin D), flaky skin (due to loss of the lipids that help our skin cells stick), itchiness (due to inflammation caused by break-up of the normal skin barrier) and tired and dull complexion.

What does that mean to acne-prone skin?

Acne cleanse diet to cheer up the moodPhoto by Toni Birrer

As processed heat and cold climate can dry up our skin very fast, this will stimulate the oil glands to produce more oil for the skin, increasing the chances of acne flare up (now that I am writing this, I am also guessing this may be a reason for me having sudden severe breakouts when I moved from my hometown, an evergreen subtropical city in China, to New England).

Besides, the gloomy weather and less exposure to daylight can increase stress levels and a low mood, another potential cause to acne.

While these messages sound somewhat depressing, it is actually a hopeful sign. To find a solution for well-nourished winter skin, we need to first figure out the problems. Then, we are well on our way to design solutions ; – )

From both the East and West’s stand points, how to take care of acne-prone skin with the right foods and nutrition to control breakouts and keep it nourished?

Fortunately, retaining acne-free, moisturized, glowing skin is not hard even for acne-prone and sensitive skin, as long as we live active, keep on researching and experimenting what works and what don’t, and, most importantly, stay committed to what we plan out to do. These days, I have been gathering winter tips for you (and myself, too) on how to live throughout the season with nourished skin and a well-protected body. I’ve broken down the solutions to a trilogy: foods and nutrition, skincare and lifestyle.  And, welcome to the first episode of my trilogy. Let’s explore (by the way, functional eating is so much fun)!

To avoid new breakouts

Determination for acne cleanse dietPhoto by Michael Dorausch

  1. We should stop stodgy foods loaded with saturated fats, such as pies and pastries, an excess of red meat and takeaway curries, as they can have pro-inflammatory effect in the body, which is expressed through the skin
  2. Cut down sugar intake as it stimulates sebaceous glands and makes our skin spotty. Sweets stimulate the production of male hormone androgen, which can possible lead to acne.
  3. This one comes from my personal experience – cut out dairy products. Plus, it has been scientifically proven that dairy can cause acne flare up. So, why wait? ; )

To warm up the body

Acne cleanse diet to warm upPhoto by Health Alseike

I found it very interesting that: while Western nutritional science focuses on how to eat right to take care of winter skin (a physical object that we and see and touch), Chinese Traditional Medicine focuses more on how to eat right to preserve the internal life force energy, or Qi.

According to TCM, winter is the time to take care of the kidneys, which is the “Root of Life” that houses Qi. Therefore, Chinese believe that taking care of kidneys is especially important. The key rule for health and well-being in this season is to store heat. To do this, here are some suggestions based on TCM. And always remember, Chinese believe that face is the reflection of inner health. If we take care of our body internally, our skin will glow naturally:

  1. Take advantage of ginseng, which boosts immune system, improve circulation and heart functions, increase energy levels and many more. It is really to replenish Qi in our body.
  2. Be adventurous and try some donkey skin, which contains different amino acids and minerals and is one of the top beauty secrets for Chinese women to preserve radiant skin, help with blood circulation and keep the body warm and nourished.

To cheer up the mood and boost the energy

Acne cleanse diet to boost energyPhoto from BioNutricals

We can replenish our energy level by consuming Vitamin D-rich foods such as oil fish, egg yolks, liver and wild mushrooms; and try to eat one of these four per day.

To hydrate the skin

Acne cleanse diet for hydrationPhoto from MyTPI

  1. Drink more water! Simple as it seems, it is probably the most important thing we should care about. Looking around, you may find that sometimes, it is the simplest thing that is the most important and also the hardest, don’t you think (can you be persistent about drinking 2 liters of water per day)? By the way, use the fitness calculator to see how much water you should drink (I found this on PopSugar Fitness)!
  2. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring, which contain essential fatty acids (e.g. Omega 3) that can reduce water loss in the skin. Both types of fish have anti-inflammatory properties, so the skin is less likely to become sore. To see the benefits, he recommends us to eat salmon or mackerel three times a week.
  3. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine which will dehydrate us.

To keep the skin smooth and soft

Acne cleanse diet for supple skinPhoto by Lisa Wiliams

  1. To rescue tight winter skin and restore its elasticity, snack on Brazil nuts rich in a type of antioxidant minerals called selenium. As Brazil nuts are selenium-packed, consuming one or two a day would be enough. If you are allergic to nuts, good alternatives would be turkey, lean beef, chicken and eggs.
  2. Consume foods rich in zinc, which can help repair damaged skin while protecting it from future abuse. You can find the skin-saving nutrition in foods like oysters, beans, turkey, crab, and lean beef.
  3. Similarly, Vitamin A-rich foods can also heal dry and flaky skin and can be easily found in dark leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkin.
  4. B-vitamins are also crucial in regulating the turnover of skin cells to recover chapped skin. Look for the nutrition in brown rice and dark green vegetables (particularly broccoli and kale); and add dark green vegetables to our lunch or dinner every day.
  5. Get on a sugar detox as it is proven to accelerate collagen damage, which keep us away from firmer and nourished skin.
  6. Instead, make ourselves a Vitamin E-dense smoothie by blending one large handful of collagen-plumping blueberries, half a mango and half an avocado for smooth skin (I didn’t have a good experience when I had my avocado smoothie for the first time. I guess the vendor put too much sugar in it and it tasted a bit weird to me. I will trust the power of the recipe this time and see what I can get though!).

To brighten up the skin

Acne clenase diet for brightening up the skinPhoto by liamel

  1. Eatable Vitamin E is better than topical Vitamin E found in skincare products. Look for yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, such as grapefruits, carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes and peppers that all contain carotenoids, which are antioxidants that the body converts to Vitamin E to nourish inner layers of the skin. Eat two portions per day to achieve best results.
  2. Look for blueberries, blackberries, black grapes and even a glass of red wine, as they contain anthocyanidins, a pigment that strengthens collagen fibers for firmer and brighter skin.

So, there you have it: the first episode of my trilogy for you (and myself, too) – suggestions for preparing an acne cleanse diet in winter and for nourishing acne-prone skin! I will see you next week for the second episode – how to take care of our skin and body. Hope you have fun reading this.

[Related Posts]

Winter Trilogy 2/3: Skincare Tips for Acne Skin

Winter Trilogy 3/3: Lifestyle Tips for Acne Skin


This post is the collective wisdom of Natasha Mann (Health Journalist for Net Doctor), Michele Foley (Editor of PopSugar Fitness), Sarah Howard (Fashion and Lifestyle Writer and Beauty Consultant), WebMD, Kerri-Ann Jennings (Associate Nutrition Editor for Eating Well), Mail Online UK, Metro Life & Style, MayoClinic, Suzanne Bovenizer (National Health Therapist) and People Health (run by People’s Daily in China). And I also chimed in from time to time with my personal experience as well ; – )

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