How coffee, alcohol, sugar, dairy and gluten affect your skin

ARE you happy with your skin? If the answer is no, it could all be down to your diet, as Viola Levy finds out
Coffee consumed in excess can damage your skin. Picture: PACoffee consumed in excess can damage your skin. Picture: PA
Coffee consumed in excess can damage your skin. Picture: PA

Next time you book in for a facial, you might want to put down those doughnuts - and cancel that coffee order too. What we put into our bodies can have a direct impact on our skin, as naturopathic doctor and skincare specialist Nigma Talib writes in her new book, Reverse The Signs Of Ageing.

“Over time, certain foods can break through our digestive lining, creating holes in our gut, for lack of a better word,” explains Dr Nigma, who has a string of celebrity fans. “Our gut then becomes under attack, affecting the rest of the body - including our skin - leading to what I call ‘digest-ageing’.”

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Leading dermatologist Dr Terry Loong agrees that things like “alcohol, dairy, sugar and wheat can have detrimental effects on the skin”.

So, if you have a poor diet, that expensive anti-ageing cream or strict skincare regime may not be enough to keep the wrinkles and spots at bay.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the worst skin offenders.


Can cause: Redness, dehydration, fine lines

If you enjoy the odd tipple a few times a week (and a little more on the weekends), you might want to cut down. Dr Loong notes: “Alcohol causes dehydration and also affects the liver, which helps the body rid itself of toxins. This can cause the skin to look grey and dry.”

Other skin symptoms linked with booze include redness between the eyes, droopy eyelids and a dehydrated complexion, which makes fine lines more pronounced. In the longer term, excessive alcohol is also linked with a ruddy appearance on the cheeks and nose (hence the term “drinker’s nose”) due to increased inflammation.


Can cause: Spots, premature ageing, loss of tone

The old adage that chocolate gives you spots isn’t entirely the old wives’ tale it’s made out to be, according to Dr Loong. “Like dairy, sugar is inflammatory, affecting hormonal balance, increasing oil production and increasing the risk of breakouts.”

Another side-effect associated with the sweet stuff is accelerated ageing. This is due to glycation - where glucose molecules attach themselves to collagen (known as the building blocks of the skin), and prevent it from doing its job of keeping our skin plump, youthful and healthy-looking.


Can cause: Dehydration, premature ageing

Although coffee in small doses is said to provide beneficial antioxidants, caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it helps to draw water out of the body, resulting in dehydration. The knock-on effect on our skin is a dry, sallow complexion. It also increases the stress hormone cortisol (as does sugar), which causes the body to divert energy away from the skin, which can lead to wrinkles and reduced elasticity.


Can cause: Puffy complexion, dark circles, spots

More of us are intolerant to the lactose contained in dairy than we might think (check if you feel bloated or slightly nauseous the next time you drink a glass of milk; digestive problems like diarrhoea, and chronic skin problems can also be a symptom of more severe intolerances). This can cause inflammation, leading to puffiness, bags under the eyes and dark circles. What’s more, the hormones and chemicals contained in dairy products can upset our own hormonal balance, causing skin cell reproduction to go haywire - cue blocked pores and breakouts.


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Can cause: Age spots, bloated complexion, aggravates rosacea

Bread and pasta are cheap and easy meal options, but the gluten they contain can result in a bloated complexion. Gluten is also linked to pigmentation, so age spots and uneven skin tone are another unfortunate side-effect. What’s more, cutting out gluten is said to reduce the symptoms of rosacea, if you already suffer from the condition.

• Reverse The Signs Of Ageing by Dr. Nigma Talib is published by Vermilion, priced £12.99. Available now