Words by Dwight Hill

Can the foods you eat affect the way your skin looks? The short (and obvious) answer is “yup,” but there’s a good chance you already knew that. You came here for details, and that’s exactly what we plan on hittin’ y’all with. Aside from hydrating moisturizers and balms that contain natural ingredients, keep reading to find out more of the finer points of how nutrition can improve the health of your skin.

Let’s Break Down the Science

It’s a simple concept, really, and summed up well by WebMD’s ABCs of a Healthy Skin Diet:

“Everything you eat becomes a part of not only your inner being, but the outer fabric of your body as well. The healthier the foods are that you consume, the better your skin will look.”

Conversely, if you ignore healthy foods, and eat a shaky diet packed with sugar and other skin-unfriendly ingredients, your skin health is sure to hit the bricks. It’s all about those nutrients that your body derives from the foods you eat. In speaking with Forbes back in 2014, Dr. Jessica Wu, the author of Feed Your Face, laid it all out in simple terms:

“Foods get digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and amino acids that your body can use to build healthy skin…For example, if you don’t eat enough protein, you are depriving your skin of the amino acids that go into making collagen and elastic tissue.”

Collagen, you’ll note, helps make your skin strong, while those elastic tissues help provide that supple feel. There are many more nutrients you’ll need to help your skin look its best, though, so let’s run through some of the foods you should include in your diet, what you should avoid, and how they all play into overall skin health.

What You Should and Shouldn’t Eat

The best way to get the ingredients you need for health skin is to eat the foods that are rich in the nutrients you want and avoid the foods with the nutrients you don’t. Let’s start with a few items you should think about adding to your diet:

Fish — Fish like salmon and mackerel (known as fatty fish) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Said nutrient is essential for keeping skin thick and moisturized. Fish also contain vitamin E and zinc, which protect your skin from free radicals and regulate inflammation, respectively.

Seeds & Nuts — In general, both seeds and nuts are great sources of healthy skin nutrients. In particular, you’ll want to load up on sunflower seeds (which contain an antioxidant known as selenium, linoleic acid, and omega-6 fats) and walnuts (which contain the same ingredients, with the addition of omega-3 fats). While too much omega-6 fat can lead to inflammation, a healthy amount will keep the skin supple, and omega-3 fats work to counteract the inflammatory response. Doesn’t hurt to use grooming products that contains seed and nut ingredients either…

Green Tea — If you want catechins, which help protect your skin from sun damage and aging, you’ll find it in green tea. Those catechins also reduce skin redness and improve the thickness, elasticity, hydration, and durability of your skin.

Dark Chocolate — As if you needed more reasons to love chocolate? Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can help improve skin thickness/hydration, and increase your skin’s resistance to UV rays.

As for the things you’ll want to avoid, you probably won’t find this list surprising:

Sugar — Less sugar means fewer breakouts if you have acne-prone skin. Combined with the fact that low-sugar diets are generally more healthy overall, this is just one more reason to cut as much from your diet as possible.

Alcohol — In a similar vein, too much alcohol can exacerbate skin conditions you already have. In small amounts, drinks like red wine can provide you with resveratrol, which might help reduce the effects of aging, but too much alcohol is a skin destroyer, so go easy on the booze.

Junk Food — Anything high in saturated and hydrogenated fats (like processed food) will increase inflammation and leave you more susceptible to conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Avoid these whenever you can.

Treat your body right through your food choices, and you’ll find it will treat you right in return with the gift of healthier, younger looking skin.

Optimizing Skin Health

In addition to eating (and avoiding) some of the foods we listed above, you should continue researching how the foods you’re adding to your diet will affect your skin and make a few other changes to optimize your skin health. Avoid habits like smoking, and treat your skin right with daily facial washes, exfoliants, and other products that will help nurture your skin even further.