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These Foods Will Jack Your Skin & Hair Up

Certain foods might taste great. Still, they're not very good for your skin and hair.

Beauty & Fashion

I don't know one woman who doesn't want to have flawless skin and gorgeous hair. Both goals are a huge part of the reason why the beauty industry is a billion-plus dollar business. Unfortunately, what a lot of companies won't tell you (again, because they're a business) is it really doesn't matter how much stuff you put on your body or in your hair, if your internal system is all out of wack. That said, there are certain foods that can almost assure you that they can help to make that happen.

Before getting into what 10 of them are, it's important to say that I'm not stating that you should never have any of these ever again. I'm just saying that if you're getting more pimples on your face than you can handle or your hair isn't flourishing as much as you thought your latest shampoo and conditioner would get it to, it could be because you need to switch up your diet a bit. Because there are certain things in some of our favorite and/or commonly consumed foods that science has proven can literally jack our skin and hair all the way up.

1. Dairy

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At some point, I really should write an article that's entirely devoted to why dairy isn't the best thing for our health, along with the alternatives that make switching well worth your while. For now, I'll just suggest that you read about why it's not good for your vagina here and then also file it as something that your skin and hair aren't super fond of either. For one thing, the chemicals, hormones and antibiotics that are in a lot of dairy products can throw your own hormones off balance and trigger unwanted breakouts. Know what else is a trip? The acidic levels in dairy can damage your hair follicles over time. If your follicles ain't right, your hair can't grow.

2. Fast Food

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Fast food might taste good and seem convenient (because you don't have to prepare it and it's relatively cheap). Still, it's not the best thing for your overall health and well-being (check out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone"). It also sucks at providing good results for your skin and hair. Honestly, I'm thinking that this might be a no-brainer due to all of the sugar and high fats that most fast food contains. Both of those things can lead to acne issues. Also, since fast food oftentimes contains chemicals that can put your hormones on quite a roller coaster ride, that along with how much it lacks in the daily nutrition that your body needs, means that it can affect your hair's growth cycle too. Not in a good way either.

3. Non-Organic Fruits and Veggies

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Fresh fruits and veggies are your skin and hair's best friends. No doubt about it. The reason why you should go with the organic ones is because a lot of what you see in the produce section of your favorite grocery store contain pesticides. Pesticides aren't good on a lot of levels yet as it relates to your skin, it can irritate it and also increase signs of aging. The way that pesticides can affect your hair is, because they can weaken your immune system over time, that can ultimately result in hair loss. If you're curious about what fruits and vegetables happen to contain the most pesticides, the Environmental Working Group can help you out if you click here.

4. Swordfish

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Swordfish is high in mercury. I'll get why that is problematic in a minute. However, did you know that high fructose corn syrup contains a fair amount of mercury too? Geeze. There are a ton of things that contain it (soda, fruit juice, candy, salad dressing, breakfast cereal, granola bars and energy drinks, for starters), so definitely don't just Kanye shrug this point off.

As if the fact that too much mercury can lead to neurological and behavioral issues (such as anxiety, mood swings, muscle weakness, vision impairment and depression) isn't disturbing enough, it can also stunt your hair's growing phases and it can lighten your skin.

In fact, Allure did an entire article on it entitled, "Dangerous Levels of Mercury Found in Some Skin-Care Products Bought on Amazon and eBay". Check it out when you get a chance.

5. Alcohol

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Alcohol has its benefits (check out "Liquors That Are Gluten-Free (& Beneficial In Other Ways)"). Still, everything needs to be done in moderation, right? The reasons why alcohol made this list, though, are multi-faceted. For one thing, it can also trigger inflammation within your system. Also, when it comes to your skin, it can dilate your pores which can not only lead to blackheads and whiteheads but inflamed papules and cystic acne too (whew). And your hair? Well, since it's really no secret that alcohol dehydrates us (and most of us are dehydrated anyway), too much alcohol can leave your hair looking dry and feeling brittle. Who wants that?

6. High-Glycemic Foods

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You're probably not gonna be the most thrilled about this one. Sorry for that. Basically, a high-glycemic food is one that quickly raises your blood sugar levels which I'm sure you can guess isn't a good thing. When you eat foods that fall into the low-glycemic category (like fruits, veggies and low-processed foods), it lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It also decreases the risk of your skin getting its collagen levels messed up (due to high-glycemic foods' sugar levels). By "messed up", I mean that high-glycemic foods can lead to a lack of elasticity and youthfulness. As far as your hair goes, it doesn't need high-glycemic foods either because it can increase inflammation, damage your hair follicles and possibly lead to hair loss. And just what foods are considered to be high-glycemic? Basically, the fun stuff—white bread, white pasta, white rice, cake and cookies. By the way, here's what else makes the high-glycemic list that you may not have seen coming. Ready? Watermelon, pineapple and dried fruit. Chile. CHILE.

7. Too Much Vitamin A

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When it comes to this particular point, let me first say that Vitamin A is good for your skin and hair on a few levels. Skin-wise, it moisturizes it, boosts your skin's immunity, helps to prevent breakouts and can even speed up the healing process if you've got acne or a cut or wound on your skin. As far as your hair goes, because Vitamin A helps cells to grow. Since, next to bone marrow, hair is the fastest growing tissue in your entire body, I'm pretty sure you can connect the dots there.

Here's the challenge, though. While you've got to basically try and overdo it when it comes to Vitamin A consumption, it is indeed possible. Health-wise, too much of it can lead to headaches, nausea and even comas and death. And when it comes to your skin and hair specifically, too much of Vitamin A can do the opposite of what I just said.

So, how much Vitamin A do you need? Many medical professionals say somewhere around 700 micrograms for us and 900 for men. For us, that breaks down to about 2.5 ounces. This means that if eggs, oranges and dark leafy greens are your thing, enjoy. Just remember that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

8. Processed Meat

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If you've ever wondered what processed meat actually is, it's meat that has been preserved by the process of curing, salting, smoking, drying or canning. Off top, you know this means that it's got quite a bit of preservatives in it, right? Anyway, meats that would fall into this category include hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami and smoked meats. Since processed meats contain a lot of sodium, that can lead to puffiness, swelling of the skin and premature aging. Too much sodium can dry your hair out too.

9. Vegetable Oil

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I'm someone who likes to cook a lot. Sometimes what I'm preparing requires oil. What I've stayed away from, for years at this point, is vegetable oil. Long story short, the unsaturated fats in vegetable oil, when they are warmed up, they oxidize (lose freshness). As a direct result, the fats not only make your body tissues more vulnerable to harm, the fats can also trigger inflammation which can definitely lead to things like premature aging, wrinkles, sagging and breakouts. By the way, the same thing applies to soybean oil.

Something else to keep in mind about vegetable (and soybean) oil is, because it's an omega-6 kind of oil, that's one more reason why it's not the best thing for you. While on one hand, omega-6 fatty acids can help to relieve symptoms that are related to eczema, psoriasis and even dandruff, too much of it triggers inflammation to your skin and hair follicles too.

So, what kind of oils are better for you? How about trying avocado (it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids); walnut (it has a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids); extra virgin olive oil (it's an unrefined oil that's high in antioxidants); peanut (if it's refined, it's high in Vitamin E), and/or flaxseed (it's packed with omega-3s which can actually fight bodily inflammation) oil.

10. Fruit Juice. Kinda.

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This says "kinda" because when fruit juice is 100 percent pure and consumed in moderation, it's not a bad thing.

The reality, though, is a lot of us don't drink pure juice; we consume that kind that has a ton of sugar in it. How much? A cup, on average, contains a whopping 23 grams. And how much sugar does your body need a day? 24 grams. Exactly.

We've already touched on the fact that too much sugar in your system can wreak total havoc on your skin and hair. It's really easy to drink triple and quadruple the amount of sugar that you need on a daily basis under the guise of "it's just apple or orange juice". Yeah, be careful with that. Too much sugar is never good. Sometimes, the current state of our skin and hair are living proof of this very fact. That's why you should have no more than a glass or two and drink water the rest of the day. Every part of your body, inside and out, will be glad that you did. Your hair and skin included.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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