“You are what you eat,” as the saying goes, but how does food factor into your skin? A lot, actually. Your diet fuels energy and growth for your whole body—it makes sense, then, the body’s largest organ, skin, can benefit from certain foods.
But is it possible certain foods make you more prone to acne and breakouts? According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Georgina Ferzli, MD, it depends. “Research shows that everyone is different,” she tells Glamour. “While many people break out from dairy or from junk food (inflammatory foods), many people do not. We’ve even learned that someone can break out from something as simple as cherries (very rare). If you eat something and notice you always break out afterwards, avoid that food. Nevertheless, in the majority of the people who break out from foods, dairy and junk food tend to be the biggest culprits.”
Ahead, Dr. Ferzli and The Vitamin Shoppe’s registered dietitian Brittany Michels, RDN share the best foods to eat to promote skin health.
What are the best foods to eat for healthy skin?
It turns out, there are quite a few foods and drinks you can incorporate into your diet to promote skin health. According to Dr. Ferzli, our parents were right: Eat your fruits and veggies!
“Foods rich in antioxidants—think blueberries, cranberries, spinach, açaí, oranges, broccoli, or truly any fruit or dark green leafy vegetable—are best for your skin,” she tells Glamour. “Our skin is subject to damage from free radicals in the environment all day every day as well as damage from things we ingest like alcohol, so you can think of antioxidants as little power tools to fight this damage.”
Michels agrees, adding that foods rich in carotenoids are most beneficial. Carotenoids are any red, yellow, or orange pigment created by plants to help them absorb light and convert that light to energy. “Carotenoids provide protective and preventative effects to the human body, including the skin,” she says. “We obtain carotenoids by consuming fruits and vegetables rich in these colors.”
This is especially helpful when it comes to sun exposure. “Research confirms that carotenoid deposition in skin provides a photo-protective effect, decreasing the amount of skin damage caused by both the sun and artificial UV light exposure,” Michels says. “Carotenoids have also been found to increase the minimum amount of UV exposure required to cause sunburn. Carotenoids provide protective and preventative effects to the human body, including the skin. We obtain carotenoids by consuming fruits and vegetables rich in these colors.”
Carotenoid-rich foods include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, papaya, orange bell pepper, honeydew melon, turnip greens, goji, saffron, and mango.
Many of these foods are also rich in vitamin C, which Michel recommends to support elimination of free radicals that may cause skin damage and collagen production. “Other nutrients needed for collagen production include magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine,” she says.
What can I drink for healthy skin?
You guessed it: Water is best. After all, your body needs water way beyond just skin health. “Proper hydration is essential for a well-functioning body and influences skin health, metabolism, digestion, satiety, energy levels, mood, sleep quality, and the immune system,” says Michels. “We can only survive a short amount of time without water because it’s needed in almost every process of the body and makes up to 60% of the human body, including skin, tissues, blood, and bones.”