The Best Nutrients and Foods for Skin Health

The Best Nutrients and Foods for Skin Health

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Eat these foods for vibrant, healthy skin.

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SEPT. 09, 2021   3 MINUTE READ

Nutrition is an often-overlooked element of healthy, glowing skin. After all, the nutrients in food play a large role in skin composition. Eating certain foods for skin health may improve complexion, fight off wrinkles and reduce risk of skin cancer. Here's how to build a skin-healthy diet to keep your complexion looking fresh.

How Nutrition Affects Skin

Skin is the largest organ in the body, and it's constantly working to protect your internal organs. It regulates body temperature and produces vitamin D, a crucial nutrient to support bone and immune health. Genetic factors and lifestyle influence skin health, but diet is also key to glowing skin.

Research has found a link between deficiencies in nutrients — such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, essential fatty acids and B vitamins — and skin issues, such as poor wound healing and inflammation. These nutrients have antioxidant properties to help promote the structural integrity of skin and protect it from harmful UV light.

Collagen, the main structural protein in skin, tendons, bones and cartilage, is another important nutrient. Your body makes collagen, but your skin produces less of it with aging. A decrease in collagen causes less skin elasticity and more wrinkles.

Other Factors That Play a Role in Skin Health

Outside of diet, other lifestyle factors play a role in skin health. Inflammation is one of the most prevalent problems for skin. Otherwise known as dermatitis, inflammation of the skin can be caused by a variety of reasons. You might experience an immune response to an irritant, causing it to get red and inflamed. Environment, genetics or exposure to a certain chemical may also trigger an inflammatory skin response and cause your skin to appear red and itchy.

Stress also plays a large role in your skin's health. Researchers believe there is a brain-skin connection in which the brain and skin "talk" to each other. During this communication, stress causes pro-inflammatory cells to attack the skin. Smoking can also degrade collagen and elasticity in the skin and may increase the development of wrinkles.

Lastly, it's no surprise that extended sun exposure has negative consequences on skin health. The sun's UV rays can drastically damage the skin. The outer layer of the skin has a protective pigment called melanin. When melanin burns, UV rays penetrate the inner layers of the skin and leave permanent damage. Over time, too much sun damage may cause skin cancer.

Nutrients and Foods for Skin Health

Genetics and lifestyle factors such as stress, sun exposure and diet can all influence skin health as you age. You know you should wear sunscreen, but what should you eat to help keep your skin at its best? All of these nutrients — and the foods that contain them — have beneficial properties for skin.


Research shows eating collagen found in animal meats can help improve skin elasticity and reduce the formation of new wrinkles. A recent randomized controlled trial found taking hydrolyzed collagen — collagen that's been broken down into easily digestible amino acids — for 28 days improved skin moisturization, elasticity and wrinkle depth. Another study gave women, aged 45-65, a collagen supplement or placebo once a day for eight weeks. Those who took the collagen supplement had significantly fewer eye wrinkles. Fish, poultry, bone broth and red meats such as beef and pork are all high in collagen.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a precursor for collagen, meaning the body needs it to make collagen. It's also a potent antioxidant that can reduce inflammation in the skin and protect against UV light. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women. Many foods contain vitamin C, such as oranges, tomatoes, peppers, kale, cabbage and more.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant found to have protective properties for the skin. The RDA for vitamin E is 15 mg for all adults. In a randomized controlled pilot study, researchers found that people who ate 20% of their daily calories in almonds for 16 weeks — or about 2 ounces, which contains 15 mg of vitamin E — had significantly reduced wrinkles compared to the control group. Sunflower seeds are another excellent source of vitamin E at 11 mg per ounce.


This antioxidant found in tomatoes may protect the skin against harsh UV rays. Lycopene is more prevalent in processed tomato products, such as tomato paste and tomato sauce.


Omega-3s, otherwise known as "good" unsaturated fat, may play a role in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer. This type of fat is found in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, as well as walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and most oils.


Also known as plant compounds, polyphenols have been studied for their antioxidant capacity. A study in the Journal of Nutrition examined how the polyphenols in green tea may positively affect skin. Researchers found those who drank 1 liter of green tea every day for 12 weeks had smoother skin and less sun damage than non-tea drinkers. Polyphenols are also found in dark colored fruits and vegetables, like berries, beets and spinach.

Eating a balanced diet with the right nutrients and staying properly hydrated helps to maintain healthy skin that looks as good as you feel.

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