Will a high-fat diet benefit my skin?
Once synonymous with weight gain, dietary fat is now being dubbed the ultimate beauty food. Laura Tilt gets under the skin of these claims
Fat must have one hell of a spin doctor. The stuff your mum used to swear off while uttering some iteration of ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ has undergone a resurgence that would make a Bros brother proud. And it’s now being talked aboutin beauty circles with the same enthusiasm as retinol and 12-step regimens. All of which might come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever witnessed the impact of a DairyMilk-heavy diet on their complexion.
So how can fat be good for the skin? Your skin has two main layers,the dermis (base layer) and the epidermis (outer layer). A sheet of fat cells covers the epidermis like a blanket, locking in water. Essential fatty acids, or EFAs (you’ll know them as omega-3 and 6), are a crucial part of this lipid matrix and help form your skin’s structure and function. And since your body is unable to manufacture EFAs, they must come from your diet. Dietary fat also helps you absorb vitamins A, D and E – micro nutrients vital for healthy skin.
But while fats play a role in skin hydration, quality research showing a direct link between the two is lacking, and existing evidence linking fat intake with skin health is contradictory, depending on which markers you look at. In one study of 300 healthy adults, higher fat intakes were linked with lower skin hydration levels. However, higher fat intakes have been associated in other research with better skin elasticity but also an increased likelihood of wrinkles.
What seems more important is the type of fat you consume. As anyone who’s ever felt the need to justify their avocado habit will know, not all fats are created equal. Higher intakes of monounsaturated fat (MUFA to its mates) – the kind you’ll find in olive oil, nuts and, yes, avocados – have been linked with protection against photo ageing, or skin damage caused by sun exposure.
Favouring fats with a specific skin complaint in mind? Several studies have shown that high-dose omega-3 supps can lead to improvements in inflammatory conditions like psoriasis, eczema and acne, which is likely down to the inhibiting effects of omega-3 on inflammatory hormones.