We’ve said it time and time again: what you put into your body has a major impact on what appears on the outside.
“Skin is the largest organ in our body and reflects our overall well-being”, says Ringaile Sirvaitis, Certified Nurse Practitioner at Apex Dermatology in Concord. “The foods and drinks we consume directly impact what our skin looks like on a day-to-day basis. Nutrition has a very strong correlation with various skin conditions such as acne, premature aging, and other inflammatory skin conditions.”
This is why it’s not always wise to only rely on external medicines in order to aid skin conditions, but rather to use them in unison with foods that can support healthy skin from the inside out.
About Ringaile Sirvaitis, CNP
Born in Lithuania, she has resided in the United States since 1999. In addition to English, she is fluent in Lithuanian and Russian. For many years, her passion and interests were focused on health, and more specifically, on beautiful skin.
Ringaile says, “It gives me huge satisfaction to see my patients looking and feeling better.”
During her advanced nursing training she studied in the dermatology department of Cleveland Clinic. Her diverse background and expertise in skin care gives her an excellent platform for sharing her knowledge and educating patients about the preservation, nurture, and well being of the skin.
And that includes which foods and drinks can help your skin in the long run.
What foods are good for skin overall?
Your skin is comprised of many layers and in order to properly care for them, they need nutrients that supports them.
When you want to buy foods and drinks that are good for your skin look for:
- Fatty fish – such as salmon (wild-caught better than farm-raised to avoid hormones and antibiotics), mackerel, herring, sardines. These fish are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids that act as building blocks for healthy skin cells and maintain a healthy skin barrier.
- Eggs – are protein rich and contain biotin, a B vitamin that is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails
- Grass-fed meat that does not contain hormones or antibiotics
- Vegetables, such as dark leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, green beans, peppers, sweet potato, tomato, carrots, squash, pumpkin – contain antioxidants, minerals and vitamins as well as fiber.
- Fruits – lemon, papaya, avocado, orange, watermelon, honeydew, mango, pomegranate, apple, kiwi, apricot, banana, organic berries (blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, acai berries, cranberries, strawberries, bilberries) – contain antioxidants, are rich in vitamins and minerals, are anti-inflammatory and high in fiber.
- Mushrooms – rich in vitamin D
- Whole grains, beans and legumes – high in B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. Good source of folate. Low in saturated fat.
- Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds – contain natural fatty acids and vitamin E that helps to increase skin hydration and keeps away wrinkles and fine lines.
- Green tea contains antioxidant EGCG that fights DNA damage from UV rays to prevent skin cancer. Also has anti-inflammatory effect improving skin tone and reducing acne.
- Water has ability to flush toxins from our system, keeps our skin clean, well hydrated and more youthful.
What foods and drinks are bad for your skin?
It’s just as, if not more, important to understand which foods and drinks can also hurt you in your quest for perfect skin.
These are foods and beverages you should consume in moderation if you want to maintain healthy skin:
- Refined carbohydrates – white flour foods such as white bread, pasta and white rice have a high glycemic index. This causes an insulin surge after consumption and leads to production of androgen hormones that cause sebaceous glands to produce more oil and cause acne.
- Sugar/corn syrup – soda, juices, sport drinks, protein-granola bars cause inflammation and destruction of collagen and elastin in the skin that leads to wrinkles and premature aging and also same mechanism as with refined carbs, where an increase in serum insulin leads to more oil production by sebaceous glands and the overproduction of oil leads to clogged pores and acne.
- Dairy products – high inflammatory food that will contribute to skin conditions such as acne, eczema and wrinkles.
- Overconsumption of alcohol – pro-inflammatory, causes dehydration, increases likelihood of broken capillaries due to skin vasodilation, increases skin dullness and wrinkle formation.
What are the best anti-aging foods?
Food has a very complex impact on the body. Much like you can use certain products to reduce the signs of aging, eating certain foods can also help you avoid those dreaded fine lines and wrinkles.
If your goal is to maintain that youthful glow, eat these foods:
- Wild caught salmon (rich in omega 3s)
- Almonds and walnuts (antioxidants, Vitamin E)
- Organic blueberries (antioxidants)
- Honeydew (potassium)
- Avocado (Omega 3s)
- Mushrooms (Vitamins B and D, copper, selenium)
- Green leafy vegetables (Vitamins A, B, C and K, iron, calcium)
- Dark chocolate >70% cacao (antioxidants, flavanols, great for skin firming)
- Green tea (antioxidants, fights free-radicals that lead to lines and wrinkles)
- Kiwi (Vitamin C)
The idea behind anti-aging foods is to keep your skin hydrated, maintain healthy levels of fatty acids, and focus on foods high in antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin C.
What are collagen-rich foods and why are they important?
One major factor that affects how our skin looks as we age is a reduction in collagen production. The older we get, the less our body creates this and in turn, our skin loses that full, plumpness that’s so sought after.
Ringaile explains, “Collagen is a protein that helps to improve skin elasticity, leaving your skin plump and youthful.”
Therefore, to ensure your skin continues to produce enough, you have to focus on consuming foods where it’s found.
These are great foods for increasing collagen in your body and skin:
- Fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna along with grass-fed meat contains Omega-3s that protect the fatty membrane around skin cells.
- Dark green vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in vitamin, C. This protects against free radicals and prevents collagen degradation.
- Broccoli contains Vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K speeds up healing of bruises, helps improve dark under eye circles. Contains antioxidants that also support collagen production.
- Kiwi contains vitamin C (medium kiwi has 120% daily needs). Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis that helps skin to be less dry.
- Eggs are protein rich foods. Proteins are essential for collagen production. Do not go overboard; our body can really process 30 grams of protein in one meal.
- Walnuts also help with collagen production. They are rich in alpha-linoleic acid. Deficiency in this can result eczema.
- Tomatoes contain lycopene that protect skin from sun damage and prevent collagen breakdown.
- Avocados provide vitamin E to help prevent collagen breakdown.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which acts as a cofactor for collagen synthesis.
Are there any foods that can help clear up acne?
Nobody likes to have acne. In fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints in skin from those ranging in age from teens to late adulthood.
One of the best ways to combat acne is visiting your dermatologist who can put you on a proper treatment plan. But it’s also helpful to maintain healthy eating habits.
These are some of the best foods to eat if you struggle with acne:
- Sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammation and even acne. Great source of calcium, because contains small bones that are edible.
- Kidney beans contain fiber, protein and zinc. Zinc has high healing properties that help fight acne.
- Kale is rich in vitamin A, powerful antioxidant that promotes skin turn over. Vitamin A is a big ingredient found in Retin-A, a medication used to treat acne.
- Broccoli contains vitamins A, B, C, E and K. Has strong anti-inflammatory power. One of the broccoli antioxidants sulforaphane is a particularly excellent acne- destroyer.
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds contain vitamin E and zinc. They enhance immune function allowing the body to fight off inflammation that leads to acne.
- Sauerkraut/kombucha are probiotics that helps to grow good bacteria and help to reduce inflammation.
- Green tea contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that helps with inflammation, healing blemishes and scars.
Keep in mind that these foods will not clear your acne overnight. It takes consistency and a reliable skin care treatment plan designed by a dermatologist in order to correct your skin.
What vitamins are most important for skin health?
If you want to take this into your own hands, you’ll want to understand what vitamins help your skin stay strong, healthy, and youthful.
Knowing these can help you consume foods that are high in these vitamins and therefore, transform your skin from the inside out.
- Vitamin A: Promotes healing, stimulates fibroblasts, and aids healthy skin cell production
- Vitamin B3: Improves skin’s elasticity, helps with discoloration, and restores texture/tone of skin
- Vitamin B5: Great for hydration of skin, promotes growth of youthful cells, anti-aging
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): Great for the hair and nails, improves keratin infrastructure
- Vitamin C: Strong antioxidant, great for collagen production and healing
- Vitamin D: Helps fight infections, promotes skin cell growth and repair
- Vitamin E: Reduces UV damage in skin, anti-inflammatory
- Vitamin K: Great for stretch marks and spider veins, aids in blood-clotting process, minimizes bruising and promotes wound healing
- Folic acid: Improves firmness of skin
- Zinc: Great for cell wall stability, acts as an antioxidant and promotes healing
Overall, focusing on eating nutrient-rich foods can help your skin maintain a healthy barrier, reduce signs of aging, and allow you to have that coveted “glow.”
Does nutrition also impact hair and nails?
Yes! Your hair and nails are absolutely impacted by your skin and therefore, knowing which foods to keep them healthy will help your body all around.
- Nuts. There are certain nuts that are exceptionally good for collagen production and are packed with vitamins. Almonds, especially raw, are full of protein, Vitamin E, fiber, antioxidants, and fatty acids. Almonds promote stronger hair and nails, as Vitamin E is essential for growth and firmness. Walnuts contain a large amount of Vitamin B, which increases nail/hair strength, and shine overtime.
- Berries. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for hair and nails, and berries happen to be packed with this vitamin. Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and Currants are all great for collagen production and mineral/nutrient absorption that leads to stronger hair and nails.
- Avocados contain many essential vitamins and nutrients, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Potassium, and Vitamin K. These vitamins protect hair from oxidative stress and as a result, increases hair growth and strength.
- Salmon contains Omega 3 fatty acids and a good amount of Vitamin D. These nutrients increase hydration within the scalp, hair strands, and follicles. Salmon is very good for fighting against hair loss.
- Eggs are one of the foods that contain the most amount of nutrition. Vitamin A, Biotin, Selenium, Folate, and Phosphorous can all be found in a single egg. Biotin is a Vitamin B complex that is one of the most important nutrients to promote hair/nail strength and growth. It is found within the yolk of an egg. Our hair is made of keratin and biotin helps sustain the structure of our hair strands.
- Dark Chocolate contains Zinc, Iron, Magnesium and Copper. These minerals increase blood flow to the scalp, which results in stimulated follicles and increased hair growth.
- Tomatoes contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. A large amount of Vitamin C is found in tomatoes and that encourages strength within the hair follicles and decreases hair breakage.
- Greens, such as, Spinach, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, and Kale, contain an essential amount of zinc and iron. In many cases, hair loss could be due to iron and/or zinc deficiency.
- Brussels Sprouts contain sulfur, which promotes hair growth. Eating plenty of leafy greens can aid in the fight against hair loss.
- Oats are great against dandruff. Oats can exfoliate an itchy scalp, resulting in more moisture for hair follicles. Copper, Zinc, and Vitamin B can be found in this food.
- Sweet Potatoes contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Potassium, Zinc, and Folate. All of these nutrients are essential for hair/nail growth.
Here’s a pro tip from Ringaile, “Any of these vegetables or fruits in this list can be consumed in juice form, which will also give a beneficial result to your hair and nails.”
How does dairy affect skin?
There are a few studies that Ringaile refers to when forming her advice on dairy. The first is from a large systematic review and meta-analysis study of over 78,000 children, adolescents, and young adults that found that the intake of any dairy, full fat or low/no-fat, regardless of amount or frequency, were associated with a higher incidence of acne compared to no intake (Juhl et. al, 2018).
Also, another study confirmed that a high glycemic index diet coupled with a high intake of milk and ice cream were positively associated with acne vulgaris (Ismail, Manaf and Azizan, 2012). LaRosa et.al (2016) found that teenagers with acne consumed more milk then teenagers without acne.
“Based on the studies, I usually suggest to my acne patients to consume less dairy and high glycemic index products and focus more on a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamin A and zinc.”
Are wrinkles worsened by food?
Wrinkles, sagging of skin, and loss of elasticity are all related to changes in the collagen and elastic fibers of the skin, which are themselves impacted by diet. Consumption of sugar and high glycemic index products can accelerate these signs of aging (Katta and Desai, 2014).
One RCT study found that consumption of tomato paste, which is rich in lycopene, can protect skin against UVR-induced effects, including erythema and DNA damage (Rizwan et. al, 2011). Frequently, dietary interventions have been overlooked as an important part of dermatological therapy.
What other skin conditions are impacted by diet?
Recent research has also found a significant association between diet and some dermatological diseases, such as psoriasis, rosacea and acne. Dietary change helps to prevent skin disease, such as aging of the skin or even skin cancer. Dietary change can be an important factor in the prevention of associated systemic disease
What is your overall advice on food in regards to skin health?
I always suggest to my patients to choose their food and drinks wisely. Based on the multiple studies and based on my personal experience I believe that our skin fully reflects what we eat and drink. After all, “We are what we eat.”
Ismail, N. H., Manaf, Z. A., Azizan, N. Z. (2012). High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. BMC Dermatology, 12 (13). doi: 10.1186/1471-5945-12-13
Juhl, C. R., Berghold, H., Miller, I. M., Jemec, G., Kanters, J. K., Ellervic, C. (2018). Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Nutrients, 10(8), 1049. doi: 10.3390/nu10081049
Katta, R. (2018). When it comes to skin health, does diet make a difference? American Academy of Dermatology, July 26.
Katta, R. and Desai, S. P. (2014). Diet and Dermatology. The role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 7(7): 46-51.
LaRosa, C. L., Quach, K. A., Koons, K., Kunselman, A. R., Zhu, J., Thiboutot, D. M., Zaenglein, A. L. (2016). Consumption of dairy in teenagers with and without acne. The Journal of American Academy Dermatology, 75(2), 318-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.04.030
Rizwan, M., Rodriguez-Blanco, I., Harbottle, A., Birch-Machin, M.A., Watson, R.E., Rhodes, L.E. (2011). Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of British Dermatology, 164(1):154-62.