How often do you look at someone and think “Wow, they’re really glowing” because their skin looks so good? Or how often do you see a friend or relative and instantly know that they are tired or unwell, just from how dull or inflamed their skin is? It’s the first thing that people notice about us, so knowing what to eat for healthy skin is key.
My good friend, the renowned Professor of Dermatology, Dr Firas al-Niaimi says, “Alongside my state-of-the-art treatments for skin problems, I can always tell if my patients are eating healthily or not. It shows on their skin and how well they are resisting the ageing process”.
And here’s the bonus: when you start looking after your insides, your skin will respond within days. We make and replace our skin cells every 2 weeks, so 14 days of eating really well and you should start to see the results in plumper, healthier and younger-looking skin.
There are so many things that can go wrong with the skin: dryness, redness, blemishes, and many more serious problems. And there are great creams and cosmetics that you can put on top of your skin to help. But, there are also lots of things you can do to nurture and nourish your skin to better health from the inside.
How better to do this than with food?
Your skin needs many nutrients: water, essential fats, vitamins, and amino acids. Here are five foods (and drinks and lifestyle tips) I highly recommend if your goal is healthier-looking skin. As a bonus, I have included a short list of some key foods to consider avoiding.
Let’s dive in.
Skin Food No 1 – Water
As well as what to eat for healthy skin, let’s start with hydration to plump up those cells! All of my clients knows my obsession with water. We usually talk about it at some point during every single consultation! I have no doubts that hydration is key for healthy-looking skin. Water and other hydrating fluids are great to help your skin stay moist and supple.
Skin Food No 2 – Bone broth. Call for Collagen!
Homemade bone broth contains so many goodies for the skin, including collagen, the amino acid glycine, several minerals and vitamins that all help your skin, hair, bones and nails.
Collagen is the main building block of the skin, forming the matrix that plumps your cells up and keeps you looking young.
Glycine helps speed the healing of the skin and the gut. Win-win. I also recommend anyone over the age of 30 think about a collagen supplement.
Skin Food No 2 – Oily Fish
Fish contains many nutrients important for skin health – omega-3s, and vitamins A and D to name a few.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory to help cool the flames of inflammation. Vitamin A can help with blemishes and dryness, while vitamin D helps with skin tone. One way to remember the oily fish is SMASH – sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herrings. I’ve left out tuna as there are concerns about the mercury content, but it does still qualify as an oily fish.
Skin Food No 3 – Bell peppers, citrus, and broccoli, green tea and grapeseed extract – antioxidants to wrinkle-proof your skin
According to Anita Eyles, founder of Totally Derma collagen drink supplement, “Antioxidants can be added to address the crosslinking problems that contribute to wrinkle formation.” In particular, she mentions Vitamin C and zinc which stimulate the production of collagen and procollagen. Anita also advises including “Green tea extract, which is anti-inflammatory and improves elasticity, density and circulation in the skin. And don’t forget grapeseed extract which is a very powerful antioxidant that can negate free radicals.”
Cue: A rainbow of different coloured veg, herbs and fruits including bell peppers, citrus, and broccoli.
FUN FACT: Overcooking vitamin C-rich foods can destroy some of the skin-supporting vitamins. So, try having these lightly steamed or raw for maximum vitamin C levels.
Skin “Food” No 5 – Sleep more & stress less
I know these aren’t exactly foods, but they’re an important part of naturally great skin. When we don’t sleep enough, or stress too much our body flips on systems that affect our whole body… including our skin.
Stress hormones can increase inflammation and lead to not-so-healthy looking skin. Prioritize sleep and stress management, and you can see results in your life, and in your skin.
Watch out for these foods
What to eat for healthy skin also needs to include those foods that can cause problems. Some foods are allergenic or inflammatory. These can cause all sorts of issues in your body, including affecting your skin.
It’s hard to come up with one list of inflammatory or allergenic foods for everyone. Each person is biochemically unique, so you may have to go through this and see what applies to you. There are a few common allergens that may be a good bet to eliminate from your diet.
The first is processed foods. These are pretty much not-so-good for everyone. And they can affect your health in so many ways, including how your skin looks & feels. Try ditching pre-packaged and fast foods in favour of whole foods as much as possible. Not just for your skin, for your whole body (and mind).
The second is gluten. While only a small number of people have serious reactions to gluten (i.e., celiac disease), many more people are intolerant to it. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and a few other grains. Many people have had several health concerns, including skin issues, clear up after eliminating gluten from their diets.
Third in line is dairy. It could be a hormonal response or even an insulin response. We don’t quite know why, but many people who cut out dairy report better skin.
Skin health is not just about what you put on your skin, but what your skin gets from the inside too. There are lots of important nutrients and foods to help support healthy skin. Which also means, that there are lots of foods that can affect your skin in negative ways as well.
Hydrating, eating nutrient dense whole foods, and avoiding common allergenic and inflammatory foods – in other words, learning what to eat for healthy skin might make all the difference for you.