Nutrition is important for health. An unhealthy diet can damage your metabolism, cause weight gain, and even damage organs, such as your heart and liver.
A diet focused on high-quality lean proteins, fiber, healthy oils, raw fruits and vegetables, and spices is best foods for healthy skin,” Paula Simpson, nutritionist and cofounder of ZSS tells Allure. “These foods tend to contain high-quality amino acids—the building blocks for firm skin—plus anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich ingredients that promote optimal skin metabolism and defense against environmental stressors.”
When we think about skin health, we typically think about topical creams and lotions to hydrate and refresh but nourishing our skin from the inside is just as important. Although skin is our largest organ, it gets its nutrients after other vital organs receive their share.
When it comes to your skin, there’s one thing we know for sure: What you eat can have a direct impact on how you look. If you’re not specifically chowing down on superfoods for glowing skin and instead are constantly noshing on processed foods or those high in sugar and fat and devoid of fiber, it can show up in the form of dull skin, perhaps along with other issues like acne, dryness, oiliness, or dark under-eye circles.
While we all feel the same dread of looking in the mirror on an important day to see a red pimple glaring at you, there is a difference between the people who know how to fix this problem and those who just let it slide. The secret fix? Adjusting your diet.
But what you eat also affects another organ — your skin. The easiest way to get healthy skin is by eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water.
Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that protect your skin from sun damage, wrinkles, inflammatory conditions, acne, and fine lines by nourishing your skin cells, protecting your gut microbiome, and combating cellular damage. Keep scrolling for the best foods to eat for healthy, vibrant, glowing skin.
As scientists learn more about diet and the body, it’s increasingly clear that what you eat can significantly affect the health and aging of your skin.
Best Foods for Healthy Skin
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are excellent foods for healthy skin. They’re rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining skin health (1).
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to help keep skin thick, supple, and moisturized. In fact, an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can cause dry skin.
The omega-3 fats in fish reduce inflammation, which can cause redness and acne. They can even make your skin less sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Some studies show that fish oil supplements may help fight inflammatory and autoimmune conditions affecting your skin, such as psoriasis and lupus .
Fatty fish is also a source of vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants for your skin.
Getting enough vitamin E is essential for helping protect your skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation .
This type of seafood is also a source of high quality protein, which is needed for maintaining the strength and integrity of your skin.
Lastly, fish provides zinc — a mineral vital for regulating the following:
- overall skin health
- the production of new skin cells
Zinc deficiency can lead to skin inflammation, lesions, and delayed wound healing
Salmon is rich in antioxidants that calm inflammation, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “The free fatty acids serve as building blocks for healthy skin cells.” How, exactly? “Since our bodies don’t have the ability to produce the fatty acids, [eating them] helps reinforce your skin’s barrier, and keeps moisture in and irritants out,” adds Leslie Baumann, MD, certified board dermatologist and Founder of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute. She recommends eating wild salmon over farm-raised for an optimal dose of omega-3s.
A top-notch smoothie ingredient, sprinkling these little guys into your morning meal means you’re netting one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3 fatty acids help provide building blocks for healthy skin cell function and new collagen production to keep the skin foundation strong and wrinkle free, Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City tells Allure.
You Can’t Overdo Orange & Yellow Fruits & Vegetables
When it comes to orange and yellow fruits and vegetables like carrots, mango, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. These fruits and veggies are great sources of vitamin C and A, carotenoids and other antioxidants as well as magnesium, offering numerous skin health benefits. Vitamin C is used by the body to create collagen, which gives skin its youthful fullness and firmness. Vitamin A is known as a great topical ingredient to increase cell turnover, which improves skin’s tone and texture. Nutritionally, the vitamin has been linked to a reduction in sebum oil production that can be great for people with acne-prone or oily skin.
Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are high in carotenoids and other antioxidants that help to prevent damage from UVA/B sun damage and keep skin healthier and more moisturized. Finally, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are often a good source of magnesium, which helps to relax the body for improved sleep and decreased muscle and joint discomfort.
Nuts may provide the same benefits as fatty fish, making them a great addition to the diet, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
Walnuts are among the richest sources of both omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids, according to a review published in 2012.
The authors also estimated that 95–99 percent of the population consumes fewer omega-3 fatty acids than are necessary for good health.
Maintaining a balance between these two fatty acids is essential. A typical Western diet contains excessive levels of omega-6 fats, which can cause inflammation and worsen inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts & seeds provide all the right kinds of fat that nourish our skin. They are also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E to combat free radical damage, which contributes to the ageing of your skin.
In addition to high vitamin C levels, tomatoes contain all major carotenoids, including lycopene, lutein, and beta carotene. These protect your skin against sun damage and can even prevent wrinkling.
Carotenoids work by providing photoprotection to your skin, through light-absorbing properties and antioxidant effects. They regulate UV light-induced gene expression and suppress inflammation. This prevents premature skin aging by improving elasticity and hydration, which, in turn, benefits skin texture and reduces age spots.
When consuming tomatoes or other carotenoid rich foods, consider pairing them with cheese or olive oil. The fats in these foods will increase your body’s absorption of the carotenoids.
Lemons detoxify the body by helping your digestive system and liver eliminate waste quickly. Start every morning with a cup of hot water and lemon. Continue drinking water with lemon throughout the day, and squeeze lemon on top of salads and vegetables. Double up and get the benefits of lemon by not only eating it, but applying it topically as well and add a vitamin c booster into your daily routine.
Blackberries, Blueberries, Strawberries, and Plums
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plums are fruits with high antioxidant content. Our skin is exposed to free radicals on a daily basis. Free radicals come from things such as sun exposure or pollution, and are responsible for skin damage and skin aging. Antioxidants such as those found in berries can destroy these free radicals and protect cells from further damage and premature skin aging. Other foods that are good sources of antioxidants include artichokes, beans (such as black, red, and pinto), prunes, and pecans.
Kiwi and Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C is one of the key antioxidants shown to inhibit the free radicals from UV sun exposure that age our skin by damaging the collagen and elastin fibers that normally give our skin a healthy, firm, supple structure. As these structural components are damaged by free radicals, our skin becomes prone to wrinkles, sagging, and fine lines. Fruits like kiwi, citrus, and blackberries provide a potent dose of this powerful antioxidant.
Avocados are high in healthy fats. These fats benefit many functions in your body, including the health of your skin.
Getting enough of these fats is essential to help keep skin flexible and moisturized.
One study involving over 700 women found that a high intake of total fat — specifically the types of healthy fats found in avocados — was associated with more supple, springy skin.
Preliminary evidence also shows that avocados contain compounds that may help protect your skin from sun damage. UV damage to your skin can cause wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidative damage. Most Americans don’t get enough vitamin E through their diet.
Interestingly, vitamin E seems to be more effective when combined with vitamin C.
Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin. Your skin needs it to create collagen, which is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.
Vitamin C deficiency is rare these days, but common symptoms include dry, rough, and scaly skin that tends to bruise easily.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidative damage caused by the sun and the environment, which can lead to signs of aging.
A 100-gram serving, or about 1/2 an avocado, provides 14% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E and 11% of the DV for vitamin C
Swap sugary cereal (sorry, Lucky Charms) for a bowl of plain oats in the a.m. and your skin will thank you. This food is low on the glycemic index, a scale that rates foods containing carbohydrates according to how much each food increases blood sugar (high-glycemic foods cause a fast, drastic spike and subsequent crash, whereas low-glycemic options provide a slow, steady increase and decline). “Foods with a low glycemic index [are better] because starchy foods [that are high-glycemic] increase blood sugar, promote inflammation, and have been shown to be associated with acne breakouts,” says Zeichner.
Flax seeds are rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Grinding fresh flaxseeds into a smoothie or onto a salad can be a simple way to add more omega-3 fats to the diet and keep the skin looking healthful.
Authors of a study from 2011 found that female participants with sensitive skin who took a flaxseed oil supplement for 12 weeks experienced:
- reduced skin sensitivity
- reduced roughness
- reduced scaling
- increased hydration
- smoother skin
Dark Green Leafy Veg
These are a daily must for maximum anti-ageing power. The darker the green the better as this usually indicates higher levels of antioxidants. These fight the free radicals that damage cells and accelerate aging of the skin. One of these antioxidants beta-carotene can also form vitamin A in the body – a common ingredient in face creams for good reason and an essential nutrient for healthy hair. Feed your skin from the inside out and include leafy greens daily and watch your skin bloom. Spinach, silverbeet, kale, rocket, watercress, Asian greens and dark green cabbage varieties all qualify.
Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
Like tomatoes, both sweet potatoes and carrots contain large amounts of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that can be made into vitamin A within the body. It keeps skin healthy by acting like a natural sunblock, preventing sunburn, cell death and dry, wrinkled skin.
You can tell when a fruit or vegetable contains beta-carotene because they will have an orange hue. Aside from carrots and sweet potatoes, mangos, pumpkin, apricots, cantaloupe and papaya contain it.
In particular, carrots also have magnesium, which can help sleep patterns, which, in turn, is excellent for skin health. Meanwhile, sweet potatoes can help soothe and gently dry oily skin.
Pumpkin owes its signature orange pigment to beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant that concentrates in the skin. In fact, too much beta-carotene can actually give your skin a yellow-orange hue, but this condition is harmless.5
Getting enough beta-carotene through orange foods like pumpkin, carrots, papayas, cantaloupes, and sweet potatoes will give you a natural glow that’s also protective.
The tiny seeds in a fig are filled with nutrients that help cleanse the digestive tract of toxins; which is vital to enhancing your skin’s glow. However, figs are naturally high in sugar, so limit your daily intake to only a few. Try throwing a few in your morning smoothies to get a nutrient boost and a little extra sweetness!
Green tea is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and for its ability to help protect cell membranes. Whether you drink it or apply it to the skin, a 2000 study in the Archives of Dermatology showed green tea might help reduce the risk of damage from UV rays from the sun, which may reduce the risk for skin cancer. It’s also full of those antioxidants and polyphenols (anti-inflammatory compounds) that we know are good for the skin.
Whole eggs are nutrition powerhouses because their protein offers all essential amino acids and the yolks are rich in vitamins and minerals, many of which are in higher concentrations than most other food sources. Eggs offer many nutrients important for skin health. For example, the yolks are a great source of biotin, which has anti-aging properties for the skin because it reduces inflammation and prevents peeling and itching. They also have vitamin D, which is especially important for our skin as we age because it acts as a precursor for the hormones that help repair and regenerate cells.
Yolks also contain the mineral selenium, which combats sun damage by increasing elastin production to keep your skin supple and flexible. They are also one of the best natural sources of retinol, a compound found in many anti-aging skincare serums because it is vital for the regeneration of skin cells, and it prevents hyperpigmentation and collagen breakdown, helping keep your skin tone even and your skin firm. Protein in eggs also provides the amino acid building blocks necessary to produce the structural collagen in skin.
Soybeans contain compounds called isoflavones, which may play an important role in protecting the skin, especially for females.
Authors of a review from 2017 cite findings that suggest that middle-aged female participants who consumed more of the specific isoflavones found in soy had fewer fine wrinkles and more skin elasticity.
The authors concluded that these isoflavones may have a more significant effect during menopause, when reduced estrogen levels cause the skin’s elasticity to diminish.
Drinking adequate water each day is good for your body overall. As much as 60% of our bodies are comprised of water. Good old-fashioned pure drinking water – not other liquids such as soda or soup – is what your skin cells need to stay hydrated, which will help your skin look more plump and younger. Water also helps cells move nutrients in and toxins out, which can help keep your skin looking healthy. Further, when we are hydrated, we sweat more efficiently, which keeps skin clear. “It is my belief that our skin needs at least a 1/2 gallon of good, clean water — that’s about eight glasses — every day,” says Lipski.