If you've dealt with skin issues and wanted a chemical-free solution, you've likely tried increasing your water intake and consuming less sugar or dairy. Maybe you've even broken down and invested in expensive products.
While developing a skincare routine and eating healthy in general is a step in the right direction, it isn't always enough. Sometimes, the problem goes further than skin deep — down to our bellies. You've heard it before: we are what we eat. But can changing your diet have a significant impact on your skin's health? According to some studies, absolutely.
The first step to knowing which foods will benefit you is to learn your skin type. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and pat your skin dry. Do not put anything on or touch your skin — allow your dermis to come to its natural state. After one hour, dab your face with a tissue.
Is your flesh supple and smooth with no flaking or oily residue? Congratulations, you have "normal" skin. Grease on the tissue? Likely, you have oily skin. Flaky, taut, or itchy? Your skin type is most likely dry. Combination skin exhibits traits from all skin types, while sensitive skin can become red, dry, itchy, or inflamed. Skin types can also change as you age or as your lifestyle or environment changes.
Keep your skin healthy by supporting its barrier function, which fights infections and retains vital nutrients.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids — PUFAs — and lean proteins provide essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals. Silicon, for example, promotes collagen synthesis, improved skin strength, and elasticity.
You'll find these helpful nutrients in grains like oats and rice and root vegetables. Liver, seafood, legumes, and chocolate provide copper, which regulates collagen and melanin.
For oily skin, choose healthy fats for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Nuts and seeds pack a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Grains and cereals are packed with vitamin B2, which balances and nurtures oily skin. The fiber in bran cereals also helps us maintain a healthy metabolism, and studies show that our metabolisms greatly influence the health of our immune system — including our skin.
Stay away from high-glycemic and processed foods like sugar, white bread, and french fries, which lead to increased oil production. However, remember that oil production doesn't cause blemishes on its own.
When your skin is dehydrated, it can't perform necessary functions like receiving nutrients or protecting you from UV radiation. Fish oils improve the skin's ability to retain moisture by strengthening cellular walls. If you're not big on fish, snack on walnuts and sunflower seeds for beneficial PUFAs.
Foods with vitamin C — like citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, and red peppers — also combat dryness, according to a 2007 study. Improve your results by consuming fewer fats and carbohydrates.
Choosing the right foods can help you maintain a healthy balance between dry and oily skin. Load up on anti-inflammatory fats, such as those in fatty fish, and increase your levels of vitamins A, D, and selenium to help your body curb excessive oil production.
In other words, eat more dairy foods, lean meats, and vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and onions. Vitamin E, found in nuts and seed oils, supports skin barrier function and hydration. Limit high-glycemic carbs and excessive caffeine to complement that balance.
Sensitive skin irritates easily, resulting in itching, red spots, and blotchiness. Combat these symptoms by increasing your consumption of fermented foods like pickles, kimchee, and yogurt. Studies show that a healthy gut supports your skin's natural defenses and reduces immune responses like redness and inflammation.
Are you sensitive to the sun? Eat more brightly-colored produce — like carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes — and leafy greens, which are high in beta-carotene. Your body uses it to create vitamin A, which reduces photosensitivity.
Acne-prone skin needs detoxing and nourishment. Oatmeal's vitamins and minerals work to reduce inflammation, while zinc detoxifies and rejuvenates the skin. Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are some of the best sources of vitamin E, which helps repair the skin , and PUFAs, which soften and regenerate skin cells.
Hazelnuts, legumes, and pumpkin seeds are good sources of zinc, which increases your body's ability to repair cell membranes. Limit inflammatory foods like dairy, sugary, and fatty snacks.
As we age, our skin wrinkles and sags through a process called glycation, which disturbs collagen fibers as it forms advanced glycation end products or AGEs. AGEs are bad news; they reduce elasticity and increase skin stiffness. The good news? Some herbs and spices, such as oregano, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and garlic, inhibit the production of AGEs.
Replenish collagen with protein-rich foods like eggs and lean meats and vitamin C-heavy foods like citrus, berries, and cruciferous vegetables, which fight age spots.
When your skin barrier isn't working as it should, you lose hydration, and your complexion becomes dull and dry. Antioxidants help by protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in red or pink fruits like tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruit, apricots, and papayas.
Vitamin C is a game-changer in skincare because it helps lighten hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone — enhancing your natural radiance. Vegetables packed with vitamin C include leafy greens like spinach, collards, kale, and bok choy.
Regardless of skin type, your body requires a well-balanced diet for ideal barrier function. The best thing you can do is ensure you're getting all the water and nutrients you need. Rather than starting an elimination diet to narrow down potential food allergies, focus on your intake of nutrient-rich whole foods like fresh produce, whole grains, and healthy fats.
These foods are smart choices for people of all skin types. Talk to your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist for advice on diet changes and food-related skin therapies.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.