You could have a very detailed skincare regimen with all the best and buzziest products, but chances are your skin won't be at its best if you don't make some healthy eating choices at the same time. Skincare isn't just about what you put on your face but also what you put in your body. While there is still more research needed to be done on the effects of food on the skin, some studies and experts believe there are some foods that are associated with good skin and others that might worsen skin conditions or promote aging.
"Overall good habits show when it comes to glowing skin and healthy-looking hair," says integrative dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan, MD, RDN, HHC, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "For example, getting enough sleep and proper hydration really reflect in the look of your skin, and so does proper detoxification. Those dark under-eye circles? That could be a sign of food sensitivities, allergies, or your body's need for detox support. Still have sleep lines on your face hours after you wake up? You could be dehydrated! So drink that water—for a million different reasons, and drink it throughout the day. Stressed out? That can also affect your skin. So stress relief is key to healthy, radiant skin."
Take a look at which foods you might want to avoid and which ones you might want to add to your diet below. But remember, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is always the best way to go for both your skin and whole-body (and mental!) health. If you're thinking about updating your diet for better skin, talk to your doctor first before making any big changes.
What to Avoid
Sugary foods (like candy, but also other sweets) might lead to skin aging. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, "reducing sugar intake may protect elastin and collagen molecules in the skin. Research has shown that a diet high in sugar can damage these molecules, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin."
Foods like white bread, white rice, and potatoes are high on the glycemic index, which might spell problems for your skin—in particular, acne. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some research shows that these foods can cause breakouts due to insulin level spikes. Additionally, the Clinic states, "An insulin spike inevitably leads to an insulin crash—leaving your skin and the rest of you looking and feeling drained."
Some studies have found that milk has been linked to acne, but there is still more research that needs to be done to fully confirm it. Some experts believe that the hormones in milk cause inflammation, which in turn clogs your pores.
The Cleveland Clinic says saturated fats—like fatty beef, cheese, and butter—may cause acne. That's because the foods are associated with high concentrations of insulin growth factor, which, according to the Clinic, "stimulates the production of the sex hormones that increase acne production."
Salt-laden foods can dehydrate you, causing your skin to dry out, which causes a host of problems like tired, dull skin and dark under-eye circles.
What to Eat
Strawberries and other antioxidants can protect against free radicals, which can cause skin damage and aging. "Antioxidants all day long!" Foroutan suggests. "Free radicals damage our cells, and that includes our skin cells, so the best way to protect yourselves from the ravages of free radical damage (and the ravages of time) is to eat plenty of plant foods that are high in antioxidants and don't skimp on plant fats."
Eggs (particularly the yolks) are packed with choline and biotin, two nutrients that can help promote good skin. Choline plays a role in cell membrane production, while a biotin deficiency (though it's rare) can lead to rashes and loss of hair.
Another recommendation from Foroutan, bone broth includes collagen, a protein that makes our skin appear plump and firm. According to the Cleveland Clinic, your collagen levels drop as you get older, which can lead to wrinkles, weakened muscles, and stiffer joints.
"One of the most interesting articles I've ever come across is one that concluded that eating fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene (that's the plant version of vitamin A that's in dark, leafy greens and bright orange and yellow fruits and vegetables) can actually make us more attractive," Foroutan says. "Remember the cautionary tale of the celebrity who only ate carrots and turned orange? That's actually a thing, but of course an extreme case. But eating foods high in beta-carotene and carotenoids impacts skin coloring, giving the skin a desirable warmth to it, and people who eat more of these foods tend to be perceived as more attractive than those who eat little or none of these foods. Note that the degree to which carotenoid pigments affect skin tone depends on skin tone."
Foroutan recommends getting enough protein for healthier skin. Some sources of protein include beans, lean meats, and eggs. Some research shows that foods rich in protein might have anti-aging effects.
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Leafy greens, like spinach, are another regular on best-of-food lists. These veggies have omega-3s, vitamins C and E, and antioxidants, which are all beneficial to skin health.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.