Fast Fix: Does Intermittent Fasting Help Your Skin?
If you’ve ever had a late-night chocolate binge and woken up with a face full of zits, you’re probably no stranger to the fact that diet has a role in your skin’s health. So, if what you eat you eat affects your skin, what about what you don’t eat?
Intermittent Fasting for Skin
By now, you've probably heard of intermittent fasting, arguably the hottest wellness trend of the moment. What is intermittent fasting exactly? In the simplest terms, it involves fasting (AKA not eating) for a certain amount of hours at a time and therefore limiting calories consumed to a confined period of time.
While the main reason intermittent fasting has reached peak popularity is for weight loss purposes, many swear by its benefits for skin.
Scientists say that more research needs to be done on intermittent fasting as a whole, so we wouldn’t call anything “conclusive evidence” right now - especially the links between fasting and skin health.
But, there are some positive signs worth paying attention to, especially considering that there’s been a lot of research on how diet in general can help with skin conditions like eczema and acne.
Fasting Benefits for Skin
If you’re looking to get ahead of the game on this, here’s some indirect evidence that certainly piqued our attention about fasting and skin health.
Fasting Can Regulate Blood Glucose Levels
Regulating your blood sugar is indisputably important — from your overall mood to your skin’s mood. When it’s too high it can cause dry skin and even cause collagen damage.
Just to refresh you: collagen is the protein in our bodies that gives skin fullness and a youthful bounce.
Collagen needs sugar to work properly. However, when your blood sugar is unusually high, glycation happens.
And folks: Glycation. Is. Bad. It means that the collagen acquired the wrong kind of sugar, or “covalently bound sugar” for all the science majors out there. (4)
Overtime, these bad sugars turn into AGEs or advanced glycation endproducts. We don’t like those because they cause tissue to stiffen and that makes our skin appear to age. (Can we talk about how mind blowingly coincidental that acronym is?) (4)
And, that’s pretty much all the big words you need to know to understand why your skin wants you to regulate your blood sugar.
Fasting Decreases Inflammation
Saying that we are creatures of habit isn’t just a cliché. Your body works on a schedule, partly because of circadian rhythms.
At the very basic, they are what tell your body that it’s time to go to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. But, they also tell your body to fight inflammation when you’re sleeping. (1)
The way our lives work nowadays — i.e. office snacking throughout the day and 9pm dinner reservations — can throw our bodies off, leaving little time to process all the fuel you’ve given it. This can lead to an excess of inflammation-causing cells, or monocytes. (5)
Inflammation is good when it’s helping our bodies fight infection, but too much can cause certain diseases and skin issues like acne and eczema, and even premature aging. (5)
When done correctly, intermittent fasting can put your food intake on a schedule that aligns better with your circadian rhythms that help your body regulate inflammation more efficiently.
Fasting Can Improve Gut Health
Similarly to inflammation and glucose levels, giving your stomach and digestive system enough time to process food can benefit your gut health by helping with the replenishment of good gut bacteria.
This helps your body absorb all the amazing vitamins and nutrients in your food that give you healthy-looking skin. (7)
Foods to Eat While Intermittent Fasting
For a lot of people, the main benefit of intermittent fasting is that they don’t have to pay much attention to what they do eat during their designated eating hours while still achieving their weight loss goals. But, if you’re looking into this as a strategy for getting healthier skin, this won’t work for you.
You’ll need to combine your fasting regimen with an antioxidant-rich diet of anti-inflammatory foods like berries, salmon, broccoli, kale, avocado (check out our guides to eating for acne and eating for skin aging for more info). Also, going plant-based is a good idea. At the same time, you should be avoiding foods that might cause inflammation like nightshades. (3)
Intermittent Fasting Hours
There are a few variations, but the typical intermittent fasting schedule follows a 16/8 rule. This means you’re allowed to eat for 8 hours a day and you can choose fasting hours that work for your schedule.
For example, if you workout in the morning you may want to make your eating window from 11-7, but if you don’t get off work until 6 you might want to try 1-8 so you have time to cook after your commute.
But, if you’re taking your circadian rhythms into account you should probably start your evening fast no later than 9:30pm.
Skin-Healthy Smoothie Recipe for Intermittent Fasting
The hardest part about intermittent fasting is that you get really hungry during the last couple hours of your fasting period, so it’s important to focus on foods that will keep you full.
A double cheeseburger might do the job of keeping you full for hours, but — like we just talked about — eating greasy, carby, dairy-heavy foods basically cancels out the skin benefits you get from intermittent fasting.
Here’s a smoothie we love that has enough healthy fats and fiber to keep you full, but also has those antioxidants your skin thrives on.
Half an avocado
A handful of kale
1 Tbsp flax seeds and/or chia seeds
1 cup non-dairy milk (we love oat)
1 serving of vanilla collagen protein supplement
1 date or 1/2 banana
A sprinkle of cinnamon
Dump it in and blend it all together.