Even though having “imperfect” skin is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, I think we can all agree that a dull complexion, those pesky blemishes, and unwanted lines and wrinkles are an absolute drag. I mean, there’s a reason that skincare is a billion-dollar industry. But what if the key to having better skin was something as simple as incorporating select foods into your diet?
While it may not be that easy, many dermatologists suggest that the link between diet and skin is closer than we once thought: “I tell my patients that what they put in their mouths is as important as the products they apply on their skin,” Dr. Jessica Wu, dermatologist and creator of Dr. Jessica Wu Skincare, tells Forbes.
In other words, if you’ve tried what seems to be every single topical product on the planet without any luck, it may be time to try a new approach: looking inward and simply being mindful of what you put into your body.
It wasn’t until I realized that I was gluten-sensitive (note that gluten is only problematic when you have an allergy or sensitivity to it) and subsequently cut gluten out of my diet (a very challenging thing to do for someone who loved bagels!) did I make the connection that my skin was breaking out (in some kind of mild rash – not acne as I initially thought) due to gut inflammation. I also didn’t realize how badly my skin was reacting to dairy until I went vegan. I noticed a major shift after making the switch from processed, sugary foods to whole, nutritionally rich choices like the ones below.
Banish breakouts by eliminating gut irritants
It makes sense, as professor of dermatology, Dr. Rajani Katta, MD, FAAD explains in this AAD report, that a healthy diet (meaning one that supports your overall health) can of course lead to healthy skin, too. Your skin is your largest organ, after all.
“Nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats are good for your whole body, and that includes your skin,” Dr. Katta says. Similarly, dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD reports to WebMD: “promoting healthy skin with diet is all about adopting good nutritional habits.” Unsurprisingly, the same is true in reverse. If you’re noticing issues with your skin, it’s possible that your body is trying to tell you something (and might be worth chatting up a dermatologist – and/or a nutritionist – about!)
In the meantime, here are some nutritional powerhouses to add to your diet that can benefit your skin (+ overall) health – and maybe even help you achieve that dreamy, otherworldly glow that you deserve.
Fill up on berries for an ethereal glow
While all fruits have been shown to be good for your body, mind, and overall health, there are a few that stand out as being exceptionally beneficial for your skin.
As Janet Vafaie, MD, FAAD, tells Insider, fresh berries (such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) are full of antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, and help with red blood cell repair.
Oranges, mangos, and pineapples are all packed with vitamin C, a vitamin that “aids in your skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells,” board-certified dermatologist Patricia Wexler tells Allure.
Dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann tells readers of Eat This, Not That! that the high concentration of water in watermelon “can actually reduce the water retention that leads to puffiness around the eyes.” Oh, and this probably goes without saying, but remember to drink lots of water and stay hydrated for optimal skin health.
Embrace veggies for anti-aging benefits
Similar to fruits, veggies are a god-send when it comes to your skin.
In addition to watermelon, Baumann suggests eating carrots, as they have “high levels of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A,” a vitamin that has been found to decrease the skin’s oil production, “and there’s also some evidence that it can improve psoriasis,” she says.
Kale, along with other leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard are also rich in vitamin A—which is both an antioxidant and a promoter of healthy skin cell turnover, dermatologist Dr. Zeichner explains to Eat This, Not That!
Jennifer Chwalek, MD indicates to Insider that virtually all colourful veggies (such as sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, dark leafy greens etc.) can help to shield your skin from free radicals (which can destroy cell membranes and make cells vulnerable to decay and pathogens).
Strengthen and repair with healthy fats
Chwalek also says that nuts like walnuts and almonds, seeds such as pumpkin, chia, and sunflower, and avocados are full of healthy fats (including omega-3s) which can give your skin a noticeable boost. Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou, a cosmetic dermatologist, takes it one step further in her explanation to Eat This, Not That!: “avocados penetrate cells at the deepest level, which is virtually a tasty way to get a basal layer skin dose of vitamins A, D, and E, good fats, and phytonutrients.” That must be why we love ‘em so much.
As with all things in life, our bodies require balance, and often, our skin can be showing us the first signs that something is throwing off our internal balance without us even knowing it. It won’t hurt (unless you have an allergy, of course!) to introduce – or introduce more of the above foods into your diet to see if they can help restore some of that equilibrium. I would recommend even keeping a food diary to better keep track of your dietary habits and their effects on your skin.
Sometimes, all we need to do is look inward. You’d be amazed by how much your body (and skin!) can tell you, if you listen.