IMAGINE a diet which could make your skin look as fresh as a baby's, give you an energy boost and promised you a flatter belly… all in less than a week.
Well, apparently, one such regime does exist. But it comes at a cost.
The diet revolves around cutting out: gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, coffee and nightshade veg (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers).
So that sounds like just about everything.
"Inside Out" is a five-day holistic programme that's been created by celebrity facialist Teresa Tarmey (she's responsible for Kate Moss' age-defying complexion), and model-turned-nutritionist Rosemary Graham.
According to Sporteluxe, the pair creates customised diet plans for clients in a bid to "get the gut calm, so it can break down food and absorb nutrients properly", preventing any acne breakouts.
"You'll feel fresh by Friday. And you do lose a few pounds, which makes everyone feel quite jolly," Ms Tarney said.
So what are you supposed to eat?
Well… it looks like just a load of meat, fish, chickpeas and dark green, leafy veg.
It's no real surprise that many of their clients get their food delivered to them every day because meal planning must be a total nightmare (not to say a bit boring).
The pair is keen to point out that it's more of a "skin detox" rather than a sustainable weight loss programme, but you do lose a few pounds during the process (primarily because you've cut nearly every food group out).
As well as brighter skin, they promise better sleep, increased energy and more focus.
So…what's the truth here? Is there any evidence that what you eat can affect your skin?
"I am never a fan of the term ‘detox’ because it suggests our bodies are not getting rid of toxins for 24 hours a day every day," Dr Sarah Jarvis told The Sun.
Which foods to avoid and which to stock up on for better skin
Dr Adil Sheraz, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson told us that there is some truth behind what the diet proposes.
He explains that complete ban of foods is never a good idea and generally not a sustainable method of improving appearance of your skin. A balanced diet, limiting alcohol, caffeine and sugar and increasing water intake will improve the quality of the skin.
For better skin, cut out or reduce:
Alcohol acts as a vasodilator (increases the size and thus blood flow through blood vessels) and therefore can make conditions such as rosacea worse, giving a flushed appearance and exacerbate psoriasis. Alcohol also dehydrates and leaves the skin dry and lacklustre. It can dilate pores potentially leading to acne spots. Excessive alcohol will have other effects such as increasing the presence of small visible blood vessels on the skin and of course jaundice in cases of alcoholism
Caffeine acts as a diuretic and once again will mean increased fluid loss and therefore dry skin
Wheat/dairy/sugar – Foods that release a quick burst of sugar such as white bread and white rice can potentially increase the presence of acne spots
Gluten intolerance seems to be a growing problem. The majority of patients I see who claim to be intolerant are usually not. However, gluten sensitivity definitely exists and can cause skin conditions such as dermatitis herpetiformis which can result in small blister-like lesions on the arms and legs and features of eczema, dry skin and scratch marks. If you feel you truly suffer from this then a dermatologist will be able to diagnose this via a good history and clinical examination. A blood test and a biopsy may be needed. The treatment always starts with the elimination of gluten from the diet.
And try to add:
Vitamin C is not synthesised in the body and therefore needs to be part of your diet. Some sources include citrus foods, black currant and chilli pepper. Vitamin C both orally and topically is thought to help with skin pigmentation, anti-ageing and for a brighter skin appearance.
Sun protection by using regular sunblock is probably the most important factor in maintaining youthful skin with an even tone in the long run.
"The liver is amazingly effective at breaking down and getting rid of toxins and our kidneys are constantly excreting waste products.
"So the idea of it being possible to ‘detox’ by changing your diet for five days is simply a nonsense."
Acne isn't caused by a build-up of toxins in the body, but by pores in the skin becoming clogged with dead skin cells, bacteria or both.
And that clogging also happens when the body produces too much sebum – an oil which keeps the skin moist.
That can lead to inflammation and cause pimples.
Some studies suggest that a hormone called IGF-1 might increase your sebum production which can make acne worse – and certain foods can raise that hormone level.
According to a 2016 study published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, dairy products and foods with a high glycemic index (meaning that they raise your blood sugar quickly), might have a detrimental effect on your skin.
Dr Javis explained: "There's a huge amount of evidence has emerged over the last decade or so about the importance of the gut – and, more importantly, the bacteria which live in all our guts – in skin disease and other problems.
"Treating bacterial overgrowth in the gut improves skin conditions like rosacea.
"We think it’s probably because your microbiome – the bacteria living in your gut which help you digest food – have a profound effect on your immune system.
"There is also emerging evidence that your microbiome can have an impact on your weight, but again, not in the short term."
The problem, however, is that people tend to respond differently to different foods, so it's really hard for experts to say that cutting 'X' food out will improve your skin.
She says that the issue with this particular skin food "detox" is that the only evidence for improvements in skin that come from diet are due to long-term changes – there are no quick fixes.
Dr Javis' tips for great skin
Dr Jarvis says that the best evidence for food improving skin is:
- Cut down on refined carbohydrates (white bread/pastry/biscuits/sugar including sugary drinks etc)
- Increase the fruit and veg in your diet
- Include at least one portion of oily fish a week (if you’re vegetarian, seeds like flax, hemp and chia are alternative sources)
- It may be worth reducing or cutting out dairy products to see if this helps, although the evidence is very poor quality
- Cut out alcohol
- Keep up your intake of non-alcoholic fluid (tea and coffee count towards your fluid intake)
"They are clearly jumping on a bandwagon and using pseudoscience to sell their product.
"For instance, the nightshade vegetables contain alkaloids, which theoretically could cause gut inflammation – but it is only a theory. A very small number of people develop sensitivity, resulting in a range of symptoms including eczema – but it is a tiny number of people."
The American Academy of Dermatology also suggests that swerving high GI foods (think anything high in sugar, including breads, pasta, white rice, some fruit and veg), claiming that it might be even more helpful than avoiding dairy.
Chocolate is another food commonly blamed for spots but that's probably down to the fact that it contains a load of sugar (although a tiny study suggested that 100 per cent cocoa also worsened symptoms in young men).
Interestingly, however, there's no current evidence to suggest that greasy foods cause acne, as it's not fat that causes spots, it's your sebaceous glands.
There are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of breakouts or help the skin heal. According to the AAD, you should:
1. Reduce your stress
Stress causes us to produce more of the hormone androgen, which stimulates the sebaceous glands in the skin. So you want to dial back the body's stress response as much as possible. And stress can also make you put on weight because it causes the body to cling onto fat.
Try downloading an app like Headspace, which offers micro-meditations lasting between five and 15 minutes to help calm the mind.
2. Wash your skin and face twice a day
Basic skin hygiene is important – especially if you're exercising. Give your face a proper wash with a cleanser – not just a makeup remover – to ensure you're clearing out your pores.
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3. Use oil-free products and cosmetics
You don't want to add even more fuel to your acne fire, so try to steer clear of oil-based products which will only add to the overproduction of oil.
4. Avoid picking spots
Hard but essential if you don't want to add harmful bacteria to your already inflamed area. And, of course, picking can result in scars.
5. Always use sun protection
No chance of that given the current weather but ask any beauty expert and they'll tell you that they all wear at least SPF30 all year round.
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