What Do Fried Foods Do to Your Skin?

Good skin or fried chicken? You might have to choose one or the other. (Photo: Chris Craymer/Trunk Archive)

We’ve all heard the warnings that fried foods cause heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity, did you ever stop to think what all those greasy treats are doing to your face? While it may be hard to give up your favorite deep fried goodies, you may have to if you’re seeking clear, radiant skin. A dermatologist and a nutritionist weigh in on the age-old skin legend.

“The skin really needs fat to build, and we rely on outside sources to get those good fats,” explains Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD. “The best fats, such as Omegas 3 and 6, tend to come from raw fats, not fried.” Think fish, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds. “Frying food results in fully oxidized, saturated fat, which is the worst kind you can take into your body,” says Macrene. “It could impede the ideal structure of the skin.” While she believes that fried foods can keep you from the glowing skin you desire, she feels carbs and dairy might actually be worse for your complexion. “In my experience, the diet factors with the most impact on acne-prone patients are dairy—because of the hormones—and high amounts of carbs.”

Other experts point the finger at fried foods for a host of skin problems. “Consistent consumption of fried foods causes damage to the cellular structure of the dermis and epidermis, and this leads to sallow, aged skin and more cystic acne,” says Dana James, MS.,CNS, nutritionist and founder of Food Coach NYC. “Since it prevents the skin from retaining essential moisture, it becomes dehydrated and lined.” Toxins won’t be cleared as effectively either. Hello, breakouts.

Ultimately, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re putting into your body, because everything you eat affects your skin. “Your grandmother wasn’t completely wrong when she told you fatty food will cause breakouts, but she wasn’t completely right either,” says Brooke Alpert, MS., RD., CDN, chief nutrition advisor for Selvera. She agrees that natural, healthy fats are great for your skin and complexion, and cautions against frying. “The processed plant oils commonly used in frying are going to wreck your skin,” says Alpert. “They oxidize at high frying temperatures, which can cause everything from heart disease to poor circulation. Since proper circulation allows for necessary nutrients to get to your skin, anything that impedes it will result in premature aging and a poor complexion.”

Sallow skin and acne could very well just be a warning to what’s happening underneath, but eventually no amount of skin cream can counteract what’s happening on the inside with a dangerous, fatty diet. Limiting exposure to battered, fried treats can do more than help you save face; it could inevitably save your life.


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