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True beauty starts within and radiates outward, and the same holds true for good skincare. There are a variety of foods that can help you achieve smoother, firmer, more beautiful skin. These foods contain nutrients that support the structure of the skin, purge the body of toxins, protect skin from oxidative damage, and more.
Foods and Nutrients for Beautiful Skin
We’ll start by going over the nutrients and foods that are needed to achieve beautiful, healthy skin and then I’ll explain what each nutrient does to improve skin health.
Vitamin C-Rich Foods
- sweet peppers
- chili peppers
- amla fruit
- oranges, mandarin, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- dark leafy greens – spinach, mustards, collards, beet greens, Swiss chard, etc
- lettuce – romaine, green leaf, and red leaf
- squash – butternut, Hubbard, and pumpkin
- sweet peppers
- chili peppers
- dried apricots
Vitamin D-Rich Foods
If you’re a vegan, the first two listings are your best bets for vitamin D consumption/absorption. Pescatarians will find the selections far more favorable.
- Sunlight (not a food, but still a good choice of vitamin D)
- Fresh fatty fish – herring, catfish, salmon
- Canned fish – salmon, light tuna
- eggs – chicken, caviar (fish eggs)
- Sunflower seeds
- dried apricots
- blackstrap molasses
- beef liver
- dark chocolate
- turnip greens
Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Rich Foods
- Chia seeds
- flax seeds
- hemp seeds
- wild caught fish
- cod liver oil
- natto (fermented soy)
- egg yolks
- albacore tuna
- Yogurt (live-cultured)
- dark chocolate
- miso soup
- tempeh (fried, fermented soybeans)
- acidophilus supplement (not a food, but still a good choice)
Vitamin C Skin Care Benefits
- Collagen formation
- collagen retention
- improves wound healing
- decreases skin dryness
Vitamin C (also known as Ascorbic Acid) is needed for collagen formation and retention. When we consume enough vitamin C, both our dermis and epidermis will contain high levels. Vitamin C helps keep skin youthful-looking by improving wound healing, decreasing dryness, and maintaining the skin’s structural integrity (by way of collagen) intact.
Normal aging can cause a decline in vitamin C content in both the dermis and epidermis, but excessive exposure to UV radiation and pollution can decrease it even more, particularly in the epidermis. But increasing your vitamin C intake can reverse that decline and bring multiple skin benefits.
“Dietary and topical ascorbic acid have beneficial effects on skin cells, and some studies have shown that vitamin C may help prevent and treat ultraviolet (UV)-induced photodamage. However, the effects of vitamin C in the skin are not well understood due to limited research.”1
Topical application (percutaneous) of Vitamin C is not considered as effective as vitamin C ingested from food and supplements. However, topical vitamin C absorption greatly depends on the pH of the formula used. And preparations with a pH below 4.0 are believed to work best.
Beta-Carotene Skin Care Benefits
- Encourages healthy skin cell production
- keeps skin cells and mucous membranes healthy
- keeps skin firm and healthy in the deep layers of skin
Beta-Carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, is the form of vitamin A we consume in foods. Vitamin A is well-known for its ability to improve healthy skin cell production and growth, which is why topical forms (like Retinol and Retin A) are used to treat acne and improve skin aging. Consuming Beta-carotene/Vitamin A helps to keep skin firm and healthy at even the deepest layers of the skin, making it a necessary part of an effective anti-aging diet. But this vitamin is not just essential for healthy, smooth skin it’s essential to good overall health.
If you’re not getting enough beta-carotene/vitamin A in your diet it is perfectly fine to supplement. However, if you must supplement, choose Beta-Carotene supplements. Vitamin A is toxic at high levels. On the other hand, it’s not possible to intake toxic amounts of beta-carotene, making it a better and safer choice.
The Mayo Clinic recommended dosages for capsules and chewable beta-carotene supplement forms:
- Adults and teenagers: 6 to 15 milligrams (mg) of beta-carotene (the equivalent of 10,000 to 25,000 Units of vitamin A activity) per day.
- Children: 3 to 6 mg of beta-carotene (the equivalent of 5,000 to 10,000 Units of vitamin A activity) per day.
If you are treating specific conditions with beta-carotene you may require more.
Vitamin D Skin Care Benefits
- Protects from UV light damage
- can be used topically to treat psoriasis
- helps protect skin from microbes
- promotes wound healing and tissue repair
Solar ultraviolet-B radiation stimulates the production of vitamin D3 in the epidermis. And D3 has been used topically to treat skin conditions, including psoriasis.
“Several studies found that topical use of calcitriol (3 μg/g) ointment is safe and may be an effective treatment for plaque-type psoriasis. The vitamin D analog called calcipotriene or calcipotriol has also been used as a treatment for chronic plaque psoriasis, either alone or in combination with corticosteroids.”2
As mentioned in my ‘Vitamin D vs …’ series of articles and video, not all vitamin D supplements are equal. D3 is the only useful supplemental forms of vitamin D. And the vitamin D added to processed foods are not D3.
Vitamin D helps protect our skin from damage induced by UV light. It also regulates the expression of an antimicrobial protein that appears to mediate innate immunity in the skin by promoting wound healing and tissue repair.
“However, more research is needed to determine the role of vitamin D in wound healing and epidermal barrier function, and whether oral vitamin D supplementation or topical treatment with vitamin D analogs is helpful in healing surgical wounds.”2
Copper Skin Care Benefits
- Reduces inflammation
- speeds wound healing
- prevents premature aging
- strengthens blood vessels
Copper is an essential mineral, and its deficiency has been proven responsible for premature aging, aneurysms, and other disorders. Copper repairs and maintains the connective tissue in the skin, heart, and arteries. The human body only requires a small amount of copper, but supplemental copper must be balanced with supplemental zinc, as the two minerals can displace one another. Balancing copper supplements with zinc will also prevent copper toxicity.
Copper is well-known for its ability to strengthens blood vessels and strong blood vessels are needed for optimal blood flow to tissues and organs, including the dermis (skin). This is part of the reason why copper helps to prevent premature aging.
The ancient Egyptians used the metal to sterilize wounds and drinking water, and the Aztecs gargled with copper to treat sore throats. Today, copper is also used externally to improve skin aging.
Cosmetics companies are adding copper to anti-aging creams to keep skin firm and smooth.
“Copper peptides may reduce inflammation and speed up wound healing, which may help the skin look and feel younger and fresher.”3
However, there’s currently no conclusive evidence that using copper topically can slow or reverse skin aging.
Omega-3 Skin Care Benefits
- Regulates oil production to prevent dry skin
- prevents acne
- slows aging of the skin
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA. DHA keeps the brain functioning properly and EPA benefits the skin by regulating oil production to boost hydration and prevent acne. EPA also delays the skin’s aging process to stave off wrinkles.
“A 2005 study in the Journal of Lipid Research discovered that EPA can help block the release of the UV-induced enzymes that eat away at our collagen, causing lines and sagging skin. Because EPA is both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent, it can protect against sun damage and help repair it.”4
Acidophilus Skin Care Benefits
- Reduces inflammation in the body
- keeps bad bacteria/microorganisms under control
- promising treatment for Rosacea
Acidophilus is a form of “good bacteria” similar to the trillions of microorganisms that already live in the body.
Consuming these good bacteria introduces healthy bacteria to the gut and creates a barrier to reduce inflammation, which can trigger certain skin conditions. There is compelling evidence that probiotics hold promise from treating acne and Rosacea.
“In ‘All You Wanted to Know About Acne,’ author Poonam Jain explains that a buildup of harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can trigger health consequences elsewhere in the body, including a flareup of acne. He points out that various aspects of 21st-century life help to lower acidophilus levels, making it essential to build them back up through supplementation. As examples of acidophilus-depleting forces, Jain cites chlorinated water, antibiotics and other drugs, and high consumption of processed foods.”5
Another exciting area of research is the development of topical probiotics, which can be applied directly to the skin. Only time and research will determine if topical treatment will be as effective as consuming acidophilus has already proven to be.
Whether you get all of your skin-beautifying nutrients from diet or you supplement to make up the difference, we have significant proof that nutrition is essential to the texture, healing, and aging of our skin.
If you’ve had good or bad experiences with any of the aforementioned nutrients (or any others), particularly in supplemental form, comment below or tweet me on Twitter or send me an email. I would love to read your first-person accounts.
Catherine (Health Team). “15 Foods High in Vitamin C”. Facty Health, n.d. Web. February 2018
Whitbread, Daisy, MscN. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Beta Carotene”. My Food Data, n.d. Web. February 2018
Ariela (Health Team). “11 Foods High in Vitamin D”. Facty Health, n.d. Web. February 2018
Axe, Josh, MD. “Top 10 Copper Rich Foods”. Dr. Axe, n.d. Web. February 2018
Axe, Josh, MD. “15 Omega-3 Foods Your Body Needs Now”. Dr. Axe, n.d. Web. February 2018
Group, Edward, DC, NP, DACBN, DABFM. “Top 10 Probiotic Foods”. Global Healing Center, January 21, 2011. Web. February 2018
Axe, Josh, MD. “Beta-Carotene Beneficial or Dangerous for Your Health?” Dr. Axe, n.d. Web. March 2018
Nordquist, Christian. “All You Need to Know About Beta Carotene”. Medical News Today, December 14, 2017. Web. March 2018
Kelly K. “Zinc & Copper for Aging Skin”. Livestrong, October 3, 2017. Web. July 2018
Nierenberg, Cari. “Probiotics Hold Promise for 4 Skin Conditions”. Live Science, June 24, 2014. Web. June 2018
1Michels, Alexander J., PhD. “Vitamin C and Skin Health”. Oregon State University, September 2011. Web. Feb 2018
2Drake, Victoria J, PhD. “Vtamin D and Skin Health”. Oregon State University/Linus Pauling Institute, November 2011. Web June 2018
3Dizik, Alina. Why Skin Care Companies Are Using Copper as an Anti-Aging Ingredients.” Shape, October 18, 2017. Web. July 2018
4Day, Doris, MD. “Are Fish Oil Supplements Good for the Skin”. Health, April 10, 2012. Web. July 2018
5Amerman, Don. “Acidophilus for Acne”. Livestrong, October 3, 2017. Web. July 2018