Fed up with oily, spotty or ageing skin? Here’s what ‘skin food’ you should be eating
Get rid of dull, oily and ageing skin by reading up on the so-called skin foods you should be eating
If you’re a regular gym-goer, chances are you’re already familiar with the idea that eating certain foods can have a positive impact on your body.
What you may not know, or you may not have fully realised, is just how much it has a positive impact on your skin.
Drinking more water is the best way to brighten your skin and help prevent wrinkles, but there are also simple diet swaps you can make to improve acne to dark circles, redness and dullness. Many help fight the signs of ageing, and could even help with hair loss.
To help learn more about skin food, Hamish McNair, Clinical Director at Candela Medical has given us the lowdown.
P.s we’re not saying you can’t enjoy pizza, beer or whatever you like. We’re just saying that if you’re having trouble with your skin, these foods will help.
Best food for skin
A balanced diet of the following foods will cover the most important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your skin needs. Scroll down to learn more about each one.
- Fish: Salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna
- Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts
- Fruit: Orange, strawberries, blackcurrants
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes
- Seeds: Chia seeds, hulled sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- Pulses: Quinoa, black beans, soya beans
- Meat: Chicken, turkey
- Meat substitutes: Tofu
- Dairy: Eggs, milk, yoghurt
- Oils: Olive oil
“The simplest way to maintain healthy skin is through eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding free radicals,” Hamish McNair explained. “Free radicals include smoking, pollution, and excessive UV exposure. Too much sun exposure, particularly, can speed up the skins ageing process.”
What are free radicals?
Before we list the foods that fight free radicals, we’re going to get a bit technical. If you know what free radicals are, and what damage they can do to the body and your skin, it can help you know the best ways to fight them.
When we take in oxygen, our body can split it into single atoms with unpaired electrons. Electrons prefer to be in a couple so the single, split electrons – the free radicals – are unstable and hunt around the body looking for a partner.
At a moderate, regulated level, free radicals have been found to have some benefits. These include helping to create energy and helping the immune system fight off infections. Our body maintains a balance and regulates these free radicals through antioxidants.
However, when the levels of free radicals get too high or the antioxidants are too low, through exposure to smoking, alcohol, pollution, fried foods and more, this hunting process can damage our cells, proteins and DNA. Putting the body under what’s known as oxidative stress.
This stress has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease as well as being a cause of premature ageing.
What foods are good for skin?
Research into these free radicals and their impact on our skin has shown that foods that include the following ingredients are best foods for skin:
- Omega 3
- Omega 6
- Vitamin E
- Low-fat meat and dairy
- Vitamin D
Click on each section below to learn more
Omega 3 is a healthy unsaturated fat found in oily fish. If you’re a vegetarian, you can get Omega 3 from nuts, seeds and plant oils. Omega 3 is particularly good for tackling redness and swelling in the face because it’s an anti-inflammatory. Oily fish can additionally help lower cholesterol and even reduce the risk of dementia in older life. You can also take Omega 3 supplements, Cod Liver Oil or a vegetarian alternative called Algal Oil to get Omega 3.
Foods high in Omega 3:
- Chia seeds
Omega 6 is also a healthy unsaturated fat, but it’s found in eggs, nuts, whole grain bread and pumpkin seeds. It helps boost the immune system and assists with blood clotting, and it’s reported to help with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and dermatitis – but it needs to be consumed in regulated amounts. If it reaches excessive levels in the body, it can cause inflammation. Too much inflammation can lead to wider health problems. As a result, Omega 6 foods should be eaten as part of a balanced diet and not relied on solely for improving skin. It is also worth avoiding processed forms of Omega 6, in processed oils for example.
Foods naturally high in Omega 6:
- Hulled sesame seeds
- Durum wheat
- Wholegrain breads
- Pumpkin seeds
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals. Our bodies have their own source of antioxidants that keep free radicals in check but it can’t do any harm to keep them topped up. Several vitamins, including Vitamin E and C, are effective antioxidants and antioxidants generally are found in vegetables, and other plant-based, whole foods. This is why vegetarian and vegan diets are said to be beneficial, and it’s why we’re encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.
Foods that are good for skin: Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps to strengthen the immune system and promotes healthy skin.
Foods containing Vitamin E include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
Foods that are good for skin: Vitamin C
Foods that contain Vitamin C include:
- Oranges and orange juice
- Red and green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
The body and skin need protein because our hair and nails, in particular, are mostly made of it. Plus, our bodies use protein to build and repair tissues. This is why it’s so important to eat protein when you’re training, for example, as it helps rebuild torn muscles. It’s also an important building block of blood. Choosing leaner meat can provide this vital protein without adding fat to your diet. Examples of lean protein include:
- Black beans
Calcium is another mineral that’s important for healthy skin and hair. Most calcium in the skin is found in the outermost layer of skin (the epidermis) where it acts as a barrier and helps the skin repair and replenish. Every couple of months, your epidermis will completely renew itself but this turnover rate slows down as we get older. This is a major cause of ageing and the loss of elasticity, as well as what causes the barrier to become thin. Calcium helps maintain regeneration and barrier function.
Examples of calcium-rich food include:
- Green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach
- Soya beans
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and these are the nutrients that keep our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. A lack of Vitamin D can make you weak, impact your ability to complete cognitive tasks, make you more prone to respiratory diseases – such as Covid-19 – and make your skin look dull.
In particular, Vitamin D can prevent premature ageing by boosting it at a cellular level. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who get sufficient Vitamin D have longer telomeres compared to those and the difference was equivalent to five years of ageing. Mushrooms are the only vegan-friendly food that contains Vitamin D, naturally. All other natural food sources of Vitamin D are from animals, including poultry and seafood.
The chaga mushroom, for example, is rich in Vitamin D2 as well as Vitamin A, fibre, potassium, amino acids, and B-complex vitamins and you can get this mushroom via coffee bags from a UK company called Cafe Shroom. You use them like you would a normal tea bag but they come with the added benefit of mushroom extract – without the mushroom taste.
Foods that are good for skin: Vitamin D
Foods that contain Vitamin D include:
- Oily fish – salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
- Cultivated mushrooms