Eat Your Way to Gorgeous Skin: 101 Powerful Skin Foods
Skin care can be tricky. That’s because we all have different skin types, so there is no one-size-fits-all prescription that works for everyone. One solution may be great for you but be ineffective or even harmful for someone else.
But whether your skin is normal, dry, oily, sensitive, or a combination of these, there is one thing it MUST have to maintain its natural elasticity, defend against harmful elements, and repair damage…
The right nutrients.
So what are the right nutrients for your skin? Glad you asked…
There are a handful of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids your skin needs to look and feel its best. And, fortunately, these nutrients can be found in everyday foods that are already in your kitchen.
Today I want to tell you about these powerful nutrients and the superfoods you can find them in. Include these foods in your diet and you will have your skin looking young, smooth, and vibrant in no time.
Nutrients You Need for Good-Looking Skin
These are the potent raw materials found in most skin care products.
The nutritional superstars of skincare are antioxidants including vitamins A, C, and E. They protect against free radicals – molecules that destroy skin tissue.
Vitamin C is essential in the production of collagen – a protein responsible for making your skin firm and elastic. Vitamin C also helps protect against sunburn.[i]
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids protect the skin from harmful UV rays and help repair damaged skin. And because of their anti-inflammatory properties, they can also fight psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. Omega-3 also promotes the production of collagen which protects against wrinkles and sagging. [ii]
Selenium – protects the skin from sun damage and helps make the skin remain firm and elastic.[iii] Selenium is important in the production of glutathione which also fights free radicals.
Zinc — Matteson Cade calls this “a 24-hour, on-call skin mechanic” in a HowStuffWorks article because it helps with healing wounds and the repair of damaged tissues. It can also help with the treatment of acne and dandruff. [iv]
The following is a list of foods that are excellent sources of these nutrients conveniently categorized. At the end of the article, you can also download a concise “cheat sheet” that you can use as a handy reference.
Honey is a natural humectant – it attracts and preserves moisture.
It can be used as a hair mask to protect your hair against sunlight, chlorine, saltwater, and humidity. Honey can also be used as a facial scrub, for hair removal, in treating scars, pimples, and acne, as a moisturizer, a bath treatment and for healing chapped lips and sunburn.[v]
Shea butter is a potent DIY skincare ingredient. Derived from the African Shea tree, it soothes and moisturizes skin naturally. It’s chockfull of vitamins, phytonutrients, polyphenols, and antioxidants known to fight skin blemishes, burns, dermatitis, wrinkles, eczema, burns, and even stretch marks. It also works as an anti-inflammatory.
However, DO NOT use on your face as it may cause breakouts. Shea butter is very rich and contains the same type of moisturizers naturally produced in our body (sebum). [vi]
Fish and Shellfish
Seafood is rich in omega-3’s that help prevent dry skin and maintain healthy skin and hair. Rockwell Nutrition’s nutritionist, Julie Haugen, recommends the following fish and shellfish:
- Rainbow Trout
Vegetables –Red, Yellow, Orange and Green
Of course you already know that vegetables are good for you. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that protect and help repair damaged skin. The following are some of the best vegetables for healthy skin:
- Beets – rich in folate and vitamins C and A
- Broccoli – loaded with vitamins C, A, and E and glucoraphanin
- Carrots – full of beta-carotene
- Collards – contain vitamins C, A, and E as well as zinc
- Dandelion greens – heavy with vitamins A, C, and D and beta-carotene
- Kale – rich in vitamins K, C, and A and copper
- Peppers (red, green, and yellow) – full of vitamin C and beta-carotene
- Pumpkins – full of carotenoids and vitamins C, A, and E
- Spinach – rich in vitamins C and K
- Squash – heavy with beta-carotene and vitamin C
- Sweet potatoes – rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C
- Watercress – rich in protein, omega-3’s, omega-6, folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K, and selenium
- Alfalfa sprouts – brimming with vitamin C
- Artichoke – full of vitamin C
- Cucumber – 96% water content, cooling for the skin
- Mushrooms – contain niacin, biotin, copper, chromium, selenium, and riboflavin
- Onions – contain vitamins A, E, and C and fight bacteria and fungi
Fruits contain potent carotenoids, antioxidants, anthocyanins, flavonoids, quercetin, and vitamin Cthat protect skin health. Here are some of the most powerful fruits for healthy, glowing skin:
- Apples – loaded with vitamins A and C and copper
- Apricots – rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and copper
- Avocado – particularly high in fats and vitamin E that moisturize and protect skin
- Black currants – stuffed with vitamin C
- Blackberries – rich in vitamins C and K and loaded with antioxidants
- Blueberries – full of antioxidants, vitamins K and C
- Cherries –an excellent source of vitamins C, K, B6, and A
- Cantaloupe – contains vitamins C, A, and K, copper, and folate
- Kumquats – rich in vitamin C, contains vitamin A and iron
- Mangoes – full of vitamin C and A and contains iron
- Papaya – stuffed with antioxidants and B vitamins, vitamin C, flavonoids, and papain – an excellent exfoliant
- Pineapple – contains amino acids, vitamin C, and bromelain which softens skin when applied topically
- Pomegranate – contains polyphenol antioxidants which fight free radicals and help give skin rosiness by increasing blood flow
- Raspberries –rich in vitamin C, contain vitamin A and iron
- Grapes – rich in copper, vitamins K and C, and contain zinc and iron
- Red skinned pears – contain beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, and fiber
- Strawberries – super-rich in vitamin C and contain vitamins E and K, folate, iron, copper, zinc, and selenium
- Tomatoes – can help tighten skin, lycopene may protect from sunburn
- Watermelon – rich in vitamin C and folate and contains vitamins E and K, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium
- Peaches – packed with vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, zinc, and copper
- Citrus fruits – aid in collagen production and neutralize free radicals with natural vitamin C:
Nuts are rich in vitamin E which combat skin-aging free radicals and hold moisture in the skin:
- Walnuts –high in omega-3’s and copper, helps collagen production
- Almonds – bursting with vitamin E, folate, iron, zinc, and copper and contain selenium
- Brazil nuts – contain huge amounts of selenium, copper, zinc, iron, and vitamin E
- Hazel nuts – good source of vitamins E and K, folate, iron, zinc, and copper
- Pine nuts – rich in vitamins E and K, iron, zinc, and copper
- Pistachios – packed with vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, iron, zinc, and selenium
- Pecans – high in iron, zinc, and copper and also contain selenium, vitamins A, C, E, and K
Seeds – Superfoods for Skin, High in Zinc and Vitamin E
- Chia seeds – high in omega-3’s
- Flax seeds – high in omega-3’s
- Pumpkin seeds – rich in iron, zinc, and copper
- Sesame seeds – excellent source of copper and zinc and also contain selenium and folate
- Sunflower seeds – high in vitamin E, folate, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium
Dairy and Non-Dairy Products
- Goat milk – natural exfoliant, and contains fats that hydrate skin,and caprylic acid helps lower pH in skin to protect from infection
- Yogurt – applied topically calms irritated or dry skin, when eaten increases good bacteria
- Oat milk – contains vitamin A
- Cottage cheese – rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Best for skin, consumed in moderation to produce sugar spikes and help keep blood sugar steady longer which helps keep skin healthier and less acne-prone:
- Buckwheat – high in rutin, helps combat inflammation-related issues
- Wheat germ – high in biotin and vitamin E, helps cells process fats and lock in moisture
- Brown rice – contains folate, iron, zinc, and copper
- Oatmeal – mix uncooked with honey and milk to use topically for moisturizing mask. Healthy to eat too.
- Quinoa – rich in zinc, folate, and copper and also contains selenium and vitamin E
Legumes are good sources of protein, fiber, and minerals, and these are super for skin:
- Chickpeas – packed with folate, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium
- Kidney beans – high in zinc, decreases skin blemishes, protects cell membranes, maintains collagen
- Tofu / Edamame / Soy milk – may help with clearer complexion by reducing hyper-pigmentation, isoflavones help preserve skin-firming collagen
- Lentils and other beans – lentils are full of folate and also contain generous amounts of copper, zinc, and iron
No, it doesn’t cause acne. Hurray! It also hydrates the skin and is an antioxidant. Dark chocolate has more flavonol and less sugar. The key to making chocolate work for your skin is moderation.
Dark chocolate is also very rich in iron and copper and contains selenium and vitamin K.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices contain powerful antioxidants which protect the skin from free radicals and often have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Burdock – contains vitamin C, E, K, and B6 as well as folate, iron, zinc, and copper
- Cumin – rich in iron
- Fennel – rich in vitamin C
- Garlic – high in sulfur
- Nettles – high in vitamin A and iron
- Turmeric – rich in iron
Meat and Poultry
High in zinc and protein helps to repair and regenerate skin cells and collagen.
- Poultry – Eggs are a good source of amino acids which your body processes into protein cells including new skin cells. Collagen and elastin are two kinds of protein that make the skin stronger and elastic. Eggs also contain Vitamin A and D which are important for building new skin cells and healing wounds. Lastly, eggs contain selenium (discussed above) and iron which helps maintain a steady supply of fresh oxygen to your skin.[vii]
- Grass-fed beef – has naturally occurring omega-3 fats
Oils have a different fatty acid composition; in moderate amounts these oils provide different nutritional benefits for the skin:
- Borage oil – used for treating skin diseases such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and neurodermatitis[viii]
- Coconut oil – moisturizes the skin and protects against infections[ix]
- Evening Primrose oil – helps in the treatment of eczema and dermatitis
- Flaxseed oil – rich in omega-3 fatty acids[x]
- Fish oil – effective against inflammatory skin disorders[xi]
- Olive oil – rich in omega-3 and vitamin E which are powerful antioxidants
- Safflower oil – contains linoleic acid which moisturizes the skin and vitamin E that protects against free radicals[xii]
- Water – drinks lots of water to fight skin dryness
- Coconut water – low sugar alternative to sports drink, coconut water is super-hydrating, and contains vitamin C
- Green Tea – calms redness, helps fight inflammation, storehouse of polyphenols
- Red Wine – contains flavonoids
- Coffee –caffeinated coffee may lower non-melanoma skin cancer risk. Caffeine in tea and coffee may help protect against skin cancer
Note: Not all foods in the above list are going to help all people’s skin. Use this list with discretion or with the guidance of your health care practitioner, particularly if you have certain health or skin conditions. If certain foods are known allergens avoid them completely.
Click on the image to download free PDF.
[xi] Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids, Esther Boelsma, Henk FJ Hendriks, and Len Roza, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Published May 2001, Retrieved September 15, 2014.
[xiii] Loc. cit.