Ask the Experts

Best Foods for Healthy Skin Complexion, According to Dermatologists

Did you know? The secret to firmer, younger-looking skin starts with a healthy diet. However, research on the best foods for healthy skin is limited.
By Dermspotlight Staff,
Updated May 16, 2021
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Your skin is an overall reflection of your health. While aging is inevitable, there are some strategies through diet and healthy lifestyle choices that can ease the aging process that so many of us fear.

The foods and drinks we consume directly impact our skin and while there is no specific food that can prevent aging, consuming foods that have high vitamin and mineral content and are rich in antioxidants can slow the progression.

Sticking to a healthy diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, heathy fats and whole grains will provide your skin with a healthy glow that reflects your inner happy and healthy self.

What foods are good for skin overall?

In a recent study, subjects were provided two nutrient dense, portion-controlled meals for eight weeks. At the end of the eight-week program all participants had improved skin. There were significant improvements in color, hydration and flakiness of skin [4].

In order to have healthy skin, the diet should be well-balanced with a focus on obtaining proper vitamin and mineral intake. To follow a healthy diet that will optimize skin health you should consume foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

The following foods all contribute to healthy skin:

  • Whole grains – Wheat bread, brown rice, barley, millet, oatmeal, quinoa
  • Beans and legumes – Black beans, navy beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, lentils
  • Non-starchy vegetables – Dark leafy greens, broccoli, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, asparagus, celery, mushrooms
  • Fruits – Bananas, apples, peaches, melons, berries, grapes, kiwi, oranges.
  • Nuts and seeds – Walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Lean or plant-based proteins – Fatty fish, chicken, eggs, tofu

What foods and drinks are bad for your skin?

A poor diet that is high in saturated fats, sodium and added sugars is a major cause of poor skin quality. Ingestion of sugar can accelerate signs of aging as it promotes cross-linking of collagen fibers[2]. Individuals looking to improve skin health should consume the following foods in moderation: Sugary beverages, refined grains such as white bread and desserts, fried foods, saturated oils, sugar/corn syrups, high-fat meat products, and alcohol.

Studies show that a high fat diet is related to many diseases such as obesity, diabetes, fatty liver and skin aging. A diet high in fat delays healing of the skin by promoting skin oxidative stress, inflammatory responses and reducing protein synthesis [3].

What are the best anti-aging foods?

To prolong the aging process it is important to keep skin hydrated, maintain healthy levels of fatty acids, and focus on foods high in antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin C. The following foods may be considered “anti-aging.”

  • Omega-3 rich foods – fatty fish, walnuts, avocado
  • Antioxidant rich foods – Strawberries, blueberries, almonds and walnuts
  • Vitamin B rich foods – fish, eggs, lean poultry, beans and legumes.
  • Vitamin C rich foods – citrus fruits and melons
  • Vitamin D rich foods – Fatty fish, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, apricots & peaches
  • Dark leafy green vegetables – Vitamin A, B, C, K, iron and calcium.

What are collagen-rich foods and why are they important?

Collagen is found in animal muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels, skin and intestinal lining and is the most plentiful protein in the human body.

According to dermatologists, it helps provide and plump and youthful appearance to the skin [3]. As the aging process occurs, collagen decreases and can contribute to wrinkles, therefore consuming enough collagen in the diet can protect the sensitive skin from aging.

Once collagen or collagen peptides are absorbed into the blood stream, they provide anti-inflammatory properties and produces oxidative damage. It also contributes to additional collagen and hyaluronic synthesis within the body [3].

Healthy skin and prolonged aging can also be achieved by consuming foods that contain nutrients known to promote collagen production such as copper, zinc, and vitamin C [6]. A collagen-rich diet can be achieved by consuming protein-rich foods such as fish, chicken, beef egg whites, and bone broth.

Are there any foods that can help clear up acne?

A 2020 study showed that individuals that consumed a nutrient-dense diet for eight weeks had a near significant improvement in fewer bumps related to blackheads or whiteheads [4]. Ultimately there is no “magic” food that will clear up acne. Instead, individuals should focus on consuming a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean or plant-based proteins, whole grains. Low-fat dairy products should be consumed in moderation.

What vitamins are most important for skin health?

Specific nutrients that promote skin health are Vitamins B, C, D, E.

There are eight B vitamins, and all play a role in skin health. Consuming foods high in B vitamins with promote anti-aging, anti-inflammation, cell regrowth and repair and protection against sun damage[9]. Foods high in B vitamins are: whole grains, eggs, meats, legumes, dark leafy greens, seeds, and nuts.

Vitamin C aids collagen production and helps fight free radicals that cause aging and wrinkles. Foods rich in vitamin C include: Broccoli, spinach, oranges, mangos, oranges, pineapple, strawberries and sweet potatoes [7].

One of the many benefits of Vitamin D is its ability to protect and repair UV damage–a major cause of skin cancer. Good sources of Vitamin D include high-fat fish (trout, salmon, swordfish, etc.), mushrooms, tofu, and dairy products [8]. The body has the ability to naturally produce Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight however it is also important to consume via foods or supplements.

Vitamin E is particularly important when it comes to reducing sun damage. Good sources of Vitamin E include leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc.), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios), avocados, shellfish and fatty fish, and plant oils[8]

Does nutrition also impact hair and nails?

A healthy diet does not just promote healthy aging of the skin, but it also improves hair and nail quality. Poor nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies can easily be identified through the appearance of hair and nails. When diet is lacking in the proper vitamins and minerals hair may present as dull, brittle. Nails may be scooped in appearance, flaky and brittle [4].

How does dairy affect skin?

Research suggests that dairy consumption can contribute to acne production, however, scientists are still trying to understand the underlying connection between the two. Some research suggests that the hormones provided to dairy cows during milk production could contribute to hormonal imbalances within the human body, in turn causing acne. [5]. Consume dairy products in moderation.

Are wrinkles worsened by food?

Aging of the skin and production of wrinkles is a complex biological process that is affected by both internal and external factors. Forehead wrinkles primarily develop due to photo-aging due to long term exposure due to UV radiation.

Unfortunately, wrinkles are unavoidable due to UV radiation exposure as well as chronological aging; Despite this, wrinkle production can be prolonged by consuming a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and proper hydration [3].

Wrinkles and decreased skin elasticity occur due to change in collagen and elastic fibers in the skin which studies have shown are directly impacted by the consumption of sugar and high glycemic index foods [2].

What other skin conditions are impacted by diet?

Research shows that there is an association between diet and certain dermatological diseases. Acne, psoriasis and risk of skin cancers can all be worsened through poor dietary choices and lack of proper nutrient intake [2]. Moderation of foods high in saturated fat and added sugars with emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods are preventative dietary interventions for a systemic disease that may cause psoriasis.

Research also shows that a western diet directly impacts acne due to it providing high amounts of refined, added sugars & saturated fats with minimal intake of nutrient dense foods [2].

What is your overall advice on food in regards to skin health?

A healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains will provide a healthy glow to the skin and prolong the aging process. Be mindful when consuming processed foods and alcohol and always drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Consuming foods high in antioxidants and polyphenols and focusing on a plant-based diet that is nutrient-dense will not only have you feeling healthy on the inside but looking healthy and vibrant on the outside as well.

Dermspotlight Beauty

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Michelle May, MS, RD, LD

By Michelle May, MS, RD, LD

Experienced Clinical Dietitian with a demonstrated history of working in the food & beverage industry.

References

[1] Katta, R. (2018). When it comes to skin health, does diet make a difference? American Academy of Dermatology, July 26.
[2] Katta, R. and Desai, S. P. (2014). Diet and Dermatology. The role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 7(7): 46-51.
[3] Cao, C., Xiao, Z., Wu, Y., & Ge, C. (2020). Diet and Skin Aging-From the Perspective of Food Nutrition. Nutrients, 12(3), 870. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12030870
[4] Bauer K, Clearfield W, Ramacher R, Ling P-R, Marsland C, Bell SJ. Nutrient-dense, functional foods enhance hair, skin, and nail appearance. Trichol Cosmetol Open J. 2020; 2(1): 1-6. doi: 10.17140/TCOJ-2-114
[5] Adebamowo C, Spiegelman D, Danby F, et al. High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52:207–214
[6] Leffler, S. (2019, December 05). 10 Collagen-Rich Foods Better Than Supplements. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.eatthis.com/collagen-rich-foods/
[7] Eat Right for Beautiful Skin. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://hudsondermatology.com/publications/eat-right-for-beautiful-skin.shtml
[8] [email protected] (2017, May 02). Best Vitamins to Achieve Healthy Skin. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://forefrontdermatology.com/best-vitamins-achieve-healthy-skin/
[9] B Vitamins: Your Secret to Good Skin Health: Tri-City Medical Center. (2019, October 01). Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.tricitymed.org/2018/08/b-vitamins-secret-good-skin-health/