There is never a truer phrase for your skin than, “you are what you eat”. According to Dr Thivi Maruthappu, a consultant dermatologist, nutritionist and the author of SkinFood: Your 4-Step Solution to Healthy, Happy Skin, a nutrient-rich Mediterranean-style plan can improve acne, eczema and reduce the signs of ageing. The even better news? “Changing your diet for the better will also improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of stroke or cancers,” she says.


“I use the acronym ‘GLOW’: “G is for green (all fruit and vegetables, the more colourful the better); L is lean protein such as salmon and chickpeas); O is for oils - healthy fats from sources including nuts, seeds and avocado oil). “And W stands for wholegrains. They’re not just fibre-rich, they feed your gut microbiome, which is very important for skin health.”
Other important habits include wearing a high-factor sunscreen all year round as “sunlight is the major cause of skin ageing”, reducing stress and staying active.

Here, Dr Thivi reveals her five top tips for improving your skin today (and investing in it for the future).

1. Eat fermented food to boost your gut microbiome

“Many common skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea have been linked to imbalances in the gut,” she says. “Healthy skin ageing may also be linked to the gut microbiome.”
To promote the growth of “good” bacteria she recommends adding probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchi, live yogurt and sauerkraut into your daily diet.
Learn more in our article Gut health: what does it really mean?

A bowl of kimchi

2. Reduce “sugar sag” by saying no to sweet treats

Sugar is also a significant culprit in accelerating skin ageing. “It forms molecules called “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs) in the dermis,” Dr Thivi explains. “Collagen in our skin is meant to be springy and bouncy but when sugar molecules attach themselves to the collagen fibres, they become stiff and it causes ‘sugar sag’.” She advises following NHS guidance to eat no more than 30g of “free” sugars a day, which covers the sugar added to food and drink and excludes the natural sugar in fruit, vegetables and milk.
Try our 8 ways to cut down on sugar

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Read for more on eating for your skin, maintaining a radiant glow and the best collagen supplements

3. Cut back on booze to slow down facial ageing

It’s hard to find a skin-related silver lining when it comes to alcohol. “Women who drink alcohol are more likely to have fine lines on their upper face, on their forehead and around the eyes,” says Dr Thivi. “It can also flare pre-existing conditions such as eczema and rosacea. “And alcohol also wreaks havoc on hormones and sleep. At night you produce growth hormone, which renews our cells, but drinking disrupts this process.”
Find out more in our article: How to drink responsibly

Avocados, nuts and seeds

4. Healthy fat is ‘natural filler’ for your face

The fat in our face is “natural filler”, says Dr Thivi. To help maintain it she recommends tucking into monounsaturated fats found in avocado, nuts, extra virgin olive oil and polyunsaturated fats, which include omega-3s fatty acids from oily fish, chia seeds and flaxseeds. They help support our skin’s layers, maintaining moisture levels and skin-barrier function. She suggests people who are vegan and vegetarian take omega-3 supplements.

5. Avoid faddy diets to get all the nutrients that your skin needs

“I’m not a fan of restrictive eating, which includes diets like keto, a low-carb, high-fat diet, says Dr Thivi. “Balance is the only thing that is sustainable.” She describes how she applies her GLOW principle. “I try to add GLOW every day. For instance, if you have a snack, ask yourself, ‘which bit of GLOW have I got in this snack?’ If you have an apple, add some nuts, hummus and crackers. If you start doing that you create a more balanced plate.

“We don’t need to demonise all processed food, which includes tinned fish, cheese, and dried fruit. But we do need to be mindful of ultra-processed food as it affects the gut and people who eat fatty and sugary foods are more likely to have acne and breakouts.”

Further reading:

Will sugar make you old

Liz Earle's top five secrets for radiant skin

How to eat for great skin - Dietary fats


10 of our healthiest recipes

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