Considering holistic plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, M.D., has a personal goal to keep patients out of the operating room, it should come as no surprise that his No. 1 tip for looking more youthful actually doesn’t include going under the knife. Still, we were left slack-jawed when he revealed this oh-so-special skin care tip on the mindbodygreen podcast. You see, Youn’s top “treatment” for youthful skin is not a high-tech cosmetic procedure, not even a product of any kind.
“The biggest bang for your buck if you want to look better? Intermittent fasting,” he declares.
The link between IF and youthful skin.
Specifically, intermittent fasting can trigger autophagy, a “self-cleaning” process that clears out old, damaged cells and proteins to make room for new, healthy ones. And autophagy comes with loads of purported benefits, including enhanced brain health, blood sugar control, longevity—and, yep, glowing skin.
See, your skin cells also respond to this renewal process: When autophagy is kicked on, dull, damaged cells are replaced by younger ones (and younger, spry cells appear brighter). Consider board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D., another expert on board: “Fasting not only reboots the gut microbiome, which helps [support a balanced inflammatory response] and improve skin health, but it also stimulates autophagy, our cells’ self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles, which contributes to cell longevity,” she once shared with mbg.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but you can’t only fast your way to a youthful, bright complexion. Yes, autophagy does have potential skin care benefits, but it’s not the only way to tend to your skin. Think of IF as a boost you can throw in once in a while (and only if you’re able—remember, fasting isn’t for everyone). “If you combine clean skin care products with the right diet, and autophagy [with] intermittent fasting, you are going great guns at trying to get yourself as youthful as possible,” says Youn.
How long should you fast?
The right fasting intervals differ for everyone. Youn personally sticks to an eight-hour eating window (sometimes called 16:8 intermittent fasting). “I try to keep it very simple,” he notes, encouraging everyone to concoct their own personal plan. So if you need to bump up your eating window to 12 hours? By all means.
Intermittent fasting, should you choose to partake, is all about what works for your own body’s needs. That being said, make sure to always listen to your body’s cues during your fast, and always consult a professional before embarking.
According to Youn, intermittent fasting can trigger autophagy, which can spark cell renewal and help you maintain a bright, dewy complexion. While IF isn’t for everyone—especially those with certain medical conditions or a history of disordered eating—if it works for you, you may be able to reap some skin care benefits.