Eating This Popular Food Can Age Your Skin Faster, Experts Warn

Enjoy it in moderation if you want to look your best.

As we get older, we tend to feel younger than we look. Of course, there will always be those lucky few who never seem to age, but for most of us, it's an unavoidable part of life. We notice wrinkles, cracks, and dry patches in our skin and assume they're natural signs of aging skin. But the foods we eat can play a significant role in the health of our skin, causing it to age faster than it should. Curious how what you eat can ramp up your skin's aging process? Read on to find out which popular food damages your skin and makes it age faster.

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Ninety percent of Americans have too much sodium in their diets.

three spoons filled with different types of salt
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of Americans aged two and older consume more sodium than they need. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends a daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams. (To give you an idea how much that is, a single serving (100 grams) of bacon contains 1,800 milligrams of sodium.)

Sodium absorbs moisture in your body—that's why eating too many salty foods can make you feel dehydrated. Without adequate hydration, your skin isn't nourished, and is more susceptible to wrinkles and aging.

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Processed meats are high in sodium.

Plate of Processed Meat

You've likely heard that eating processed meats can increase your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and premature death. But these tasty treats also accelerate skin aging. This is because meats such as salami, pepperoni, and sausage are high in nitrates and sodium, which contribute to wrinkles and aging skin, according to Northeast Dermatology Associates. Salty foods sap moisture from your skin, they say, while nitrates impair the skin's repair process.

"Eating processed meat causes our bodies to produce an increased level of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) as a product of gut bacteria metabolization," explains Jessica Krant, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. "This compound is toxic and inflammatory to our bodies," she continues. "Processing meats increases the damage caused by adding nitrates and excessive sodium to the mix. Both trigger advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which increase collagen and elastin breakdown, wrinkling, and dullness."

Acne breakouts aren't just for teenagers.

shot of a young woman inspecting her skin in front of the bathroom mirror and looking upset

Many people are dismayed to find that pimples don't magically go away after adolescence—and processed meats can contribute to the problem. Many processed meats contain antibiotics and hormones that are difficult to digest, resulting in hormone imbalances that manifest in the body, such as acne or other skin problems. According to Verywell Health, the amino acid leucine found in most processed meats can stimulate your skin's oil production, which clogs pores and results in acne breakouts.

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Processed meats can cause skin inflammation.

woman scratching her face
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Regularly eating processed meats loaded with sodium can lead to chronic inflammation—both inside your body and on your skin. Too much sodium causes your kidneys to absorb water and not properly filter toxins, leading to bloating and puffiness. This bloating is called edema and often occurs in the face, hands, ankles, and legs. Though it's not a severe condition, edema can be uncomfortable. In addition, eating too many processed meats high in sodium and nitrates can cause eczema breakouts and spark inflammation of certain skin conditions, such as rosacea and psoriasis.

Some people may even develop allergic skin reactions to processed meat. "There's a meat allergy called 'alpha-gal syndrome,' which is triggered by the bite of a Lone Star tick," states Krant. With this condition, hives, rashes, itchy skin, and other nasty symptoms can occur within two to six hours after eating meat or dairy, says the CDC.

A change in diet can improve the appearance of your skin.

Fruits and vegetables together

Consuming processed meats in moderation won't harm you, but if you want to maintain healthy, glowing skin, don't make them a staple in your diet.

"We can improve and begin to reverse the damage done to our skin by reducing or removing processed foods from the diet," says Krant. "Replace processed meat with whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. [These foods] are high in fiber, nutrient-dense, and low in toxins."

Our bodies naturally want to be healthy. By swapping processed meat for whole foods and plant-based proteins, you can begin to repair and heal the skin damage caused by processed meats. As a result, you'll experience reduced skin inflammation, fewer acne breakouts, and more youthful, supple-looking skin.

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Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more
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