Best Foods For Healthier Skin

  • Ayesha Bibi Pharm-D, The University of Faisalabad, Pakistan
  • Ellen Rogers MSc in Advanced Biological Sciences, University of Exeter
  • Olga GabrielMaster's degree, Forensic Science, Uppsala University, Sweden

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What you eat immensely affects your skin. A balanced diet is essential for good health and also helps in getting healthier and glowing skin. But did you know a well-balanced diet also assists in delaying skin ageing and preventing skin diseases?

Yes, you read that right. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage your skin and lead to skin aging and certain skin conditions. The antioxidants found in foods such as berries, spinach, and almonds prevent this damage.

Let’s dive into this article for many other reasons for why you should start eating an appropriate nutrient-rich diet and what that diet actually is!

Overview

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is our body’s first line of defence against the external environment and prevents the entry of harmful microbes and other hazards that could affect our health. Moreover, the skin contains nerve endings that make you feel when something is too hot or sharp, so you can back away from it. Otherwise, you could seriously injure yourself without even knowing it! Vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones, is produced by skin cells. Additionally, the skin also regulates body temperature as it holds sweat glands and small blood vessels. Specifically, when our body temperature increases, the blood vessels closer to the skin surface enlarge, to cool down the warm blood.1

Given its diverse functions, it is vital to keep our skin healthy and fuel it with nutrient-rich foods. We should look out for our skin, so it keeps looking out for us!

What is the importance of a balanced diet for healthy skin?

A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote overall skin health.2 The vitamins (mainly A, C, and E), minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants in a skin-friendly diet help keep the skin youthful and protect against sun-induced skin damage. Furthermore, a diet rich in foods obtained from plant sources can help prevent wrinkles.

Inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis can be aggravated by an imbalanced diet rich in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats. A balanced diet, on the other hand, includes anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish and colourful fruits and vegetables, which can help reduce inflammation and manage skin conditions.

Foods for skin hydration

Proper hydration helps in maintaining taut and firm skin. The stratum corneum (outermost skin layer) prevents excessive loss of moisture from the skin when the body is well-hydrated.

A dehydrated body leads to dry skin, which can worsen skin conditions. The outcomes of dehydrated skin are:

  • Loss of skin elasticity (leading to wrinkly skin)
  • Slow wound healing
  • Flare-ups of skin conditions

According to the NHS, adults should drink 1.5 to 2.5 litres of water per day, which is equivalent to 6 to 8 cups of water.

Below are some examples of water-rich foods that help proper skin hydration.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are said to be 96% water. They can make up for the water lost through sweating, breathing, and digestion. Eating cucumbers with their peel can be even more beneficial. You can also drink cucumber juice by blending it with water and then straining it, or just blending it with your favourite drink.

In addition to water, cucumbers impart many other benefits to the skin as they contain various nutrients, such as fibre, vitamins (A, C, K), potassium, and calcium.

Watermelon

Watermelon is a great source for hydrating your skin and also contains many antioxidants. These juicy and refreshing fruits make your skin feel smooth, glowing, and healthy. They are also about 93% water and contain vitamin C, which gives an instant glow to your skin. Watermelons are loaded with vitamins (A, B, C) that promote collagen production, thus improving skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles.

Celery

Celery is about 95% water and is highly hydrating for your skin. Celery also carries anti-inflammatory components, which are helpful for inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, acne, or psoriasis. Besides eating it, you can also blend celery with other veggies into soup or juice.

Antioxidant-rich foods

Antioxidants are compounds found in certain foods that protect against skin damage caused by free radicals produced during sun exposure. This damage may cause wrinkle formation, so antioxidant-rich foods help prevent ageing and wrinkly skin. Free radicals are harmful substances that are produced due to sun exposure and are responsible for premature skin ageing and even skin cancer. By eliminating these harmful substances, antioxidant-rich foods help you achieve smooth, glowing, and healthy skin. 

Berries

Berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Vitamin C helps maintain youthful and healthy skin by boosting collagen production and eliminating free radicals. Collagen has an important role in increasing skin elasticity, strength, and hydration, thus preventing dry and wrinkly skin. To reap these benefits, you can include berries in your daily diet by making them into a smoothie or eating them as a snack.

Dark leafy vegetables

Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and mustard greens are enriched with vitamins A, C, E, and K, which are helpful for healthy skin. They also contain antioxidants such as beta-carotenes which make them very important for use as anti-ageing. 

A single cup of spinach is reported to contain 4000 beta-carotenes. The next time you’re planning on making a smoothie or salad, make sure to include these nutritious vegetables.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are packed with vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant and helps in healing skin conditions. These nuts and seeds include:

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame seeds 

Almonds and chia seeds have the highest nutrient value for healthy skin. Chia seeds, in addition, also contain proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that result in the improvement of overall health. Flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids for skin health

Omega-3 fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids, as they are not produced by the human body and must be taken through diet. Omega-3s have the following functions:2

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Skin elasticity improvement
  • Skin hydration

Fatty fish

Fatty fish include salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring and contain an abundant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help in building up skin membranes and thus strengthen the skin barrier, preventing the skin’s dehydration. Fatty fish also have antioxidant properties and thus help prevent skin wrinkles and fine lines.

Try and avoid eating fatty fish prepared in an unhealthy manner, for example, deep-fried fish. Instead, go for either grilled or baked fish, keeping intact all of its nutrient value.

Flaxseeds and chia seeds

Flax seeds and chia seeds are rich sources of omega-3s and help in strengthening skin layers as well as improving skin elasticity through collagen production.

Walnuts

In addition to omega-3s, walnuts are also packed with vitamins (E and B), minerals, and polyphenols. Polyphenols and vitamin E are important antioxidants and help rejuvenate your skin. 

Collagen-boosting foods

Collagen is an important structural protein and acts as the building block for your skin.2 As you age, collagen production declines, resulting in skin ageing and dry and wrinkly skin.

Bone broth

Bone broth is made up of about 90-98% collagen content. Collagen provides our skin with strength and elasticity, leading to smooth and supple skin. It also keeps our skin hydrated, protecting it from turning into dry skin which can lead to a number of skin conditions. 

Fish

Fish, especially salmon, are considered rich sources of collagen. The parts of fish that contain collagen include the fish scales and skin, and since we avoid eating them, they can be used by making them into a broth. Fish bones can also be made into bone broth as they contain collagen. 

Bell peppers

Bell peppers are an amazing source of vitamin C, which boosts collagen production and enhances skin elasticity. This results in smooth, glowing, and plump skin. Capsanthin is an important constituent found in bell peppers, and this acts as an antioxidant.

Foods rich in skin-supportive phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are compounds that are found in plants and are responsible for their protection against microbes and animals. These compounds, taken through plant-based foods, provide sun-protective properties, and reduce wrinkles and saggy skin. 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain an important phytochemical antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene safeguards against the instant effects of sunlight exposure like sunburn, blistering, and redness. It also protects against and reduces long-term harm, such as wrinkling and age spots. Besides tomatoes, lycopene is also found in papaya, guava, grapefruit, and watermelon. 

Green tea

Green tea contains catechins which are anti-inflammatory compounds, and protect against inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Green tea also contains antioxidants that safeguard against the free radicals that are produced by sun exposure. This delays skin ageing and wrinkling. Vitamin E found in green tea is helpful in hydrating skin and acts as an amazing moisturizer.

Dark chocolate

Flavonoids found in dark chocolate are helpful in reflecting ultraviolet rays from the skin surface thus shielding against sun damage. This property of dark chocolate enables it to protect the skin from sunburn and other conditions, namely skin cancer.Flavonoids also possess anti-inflammatory properties, and thus assist with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

FAQs

Are there specific foods to avoid for healthier skin?

It's suggested to reduce the consumption of high-glycemic foods like sugary snacks, salty foods, and heavily processed items, as they can contribute to inflammation and flare-ups of skin conditions.

How can we incorporate lean proteins into a skin-friendly diet?

Lean proteins obtained from sources like lean meats (meat with less fat content), poultry, and legumes (peas, black beans) are essential for tissue repair and collagen production. They can be prepared as main dishes or included in salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries.

What specific foods are recommended for preventing premature skin ageing?

The foods that are included in skin-friendly diet for preventing premature skin ageing include berries, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, green tea, and collagen-boosting foods. The details as to how they do it are given in the article above.

Can a skin-friendly diet really make a noticeable difference in my skin's appearance?

Yes, absolutely! Various nutrients found in this diet have their own specific functions through which your skin looks plump and healthy. However, it's important to take into account that diet is just one feature of skin health, and a comprehensive skincare routine is also required for ideal results.

Are there specific foods that can aggravate skin conditions like acne or eczema?

Yes. For example, foods with a high glycemic index (causing an instant increase in blood sugar level) such as white bread and processed cereals can worsen acne. Extreme use of caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration and worsen skin conditions by causing dry skin. 

Summary

Even in the presence or absence of routine skincare, foods packed with valuable nutrients are essential for smooth and radiant skin. A well-balanced diet is comprised of a number of nutrient-rich foods and not only helps in achieving overall health, but also results in youthful, glowing, and supple skin. In essence, a nutritional diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, sufficient water content, and omega-3s is important to maintain soft and healthy skin. Furthermore, a skin-friendly diet also helps in preventing and managing inflammatory skin conditions namely psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Start incorporating these foods into your diet to protect your skin so your skin can protect you!

References

  1. Lopez-Ojeda W, Pandey A, Alhajj M, Oakley AM. Anatomy, Skin (Integument). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441980/.
  2. Cao C, Xiao Z, Wu Y, Ge C. Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2024 Mar 4]; 12(3):870. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146365/.
  3. Sparr E, Millecamps D, Isoir M, Burnier V, Larsson Å, Cabane B. Controlling the hydration of the skin though the application of occluding barrier creams. J R Soc Interface [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2024 Mar 4]; 10(80):20120788. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565729/.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ayesha Bibi

Doctor of Pharmacy - Pharm-D, The University of Faisalabad, Pakistan

Ayesha is an undergraduate pharmacy student with strong management and leadership acumen having experience of industrial and hospital pharmacy through internship programs. She has presented at an international conference as a student speaker and also volunteered at a fundraising community.

She is a member of an online international society on telemedicine and aims to contribute to collaborative healthcare as a dedicated pharmacist after graduation.

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