Nurture team January 17, 2017

By Dr Sarah Brewer, having worked as a GP and hospital doctor, she now specialises in nutritional medicine. Sarah has also written numerous books, is a freelance writer for national newspapers and frequently lectures on supplements and women’s health.

If you’ve decided to lose weight after an indulgent festive season, don’t be tempted to cut back too drastically. Following a highly restricted diet puts your metabolism into emergency starvation mode. As well as slowing the rate at which you burn energy, to limit weight loss, crash diets are also bad for your hair and skin.


While the inevitable break out of spots is usually blamed on the release of ‘toxins’, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Crash diets raise your production of cortisol, an adrenal hormone which helps your body survive extreme stress. The resulting hormone changes increase the production of inflammatory chemicals throughout the body in readiness to fight infections during challenging times. In the skin, this leads to over-sensitivity to bacteria that normally don’t cause a reaction, and the result is a break out of spots. Your skin will become more dry, flaky, red and irritated, too, and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can worsen.

Immediate ageing effect

One of the main roles for the stress hormone, cortisol, is to promote the breakdown of muscle tissue during times of starvation. This supplies amino acids which are used in the liver to make glucose, which is vital for brain cells to work properly. Loss of muscle leads to slack skin which has an immediate ageing effect on your facial features.

Loss of vitamins

Crash diets also mean you will lack key vitamins and minerals. Unless you take a multivitamin, you won’t get enough vitamin C to make skin collagen, while a lack of essential fatty acids leads to skin and hair that is dull and lack-lustre.

Thinning hair

Because hair is a non-vital structure, blood circulation to hair follicles is constricted during times of stress to divert nutrients away from these highly active but non-essential cells. As a result, hair quality quickly declines during a crash diet. More hair than usual is shed, and noticeable thinning can occur. The hair that remains tends to become dry and lank.

One step at a time

By all means take steps to lose excess weight, but do so slowly while following a healthy diet and exercise regime. That way, your body can work with you, rather than against you, and the quality of your skin and hair will benefit as a result.

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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