Eat This For That: The Proper Diet For Healthy Skin

From anti-inflammatory foods that combat acne to healthy fats that hydrate dry skin, The AEDITION breaks down the ideal diet for every skin type.
Written by Samantha Stone
(14)Is this article helpful?6 min read
Eat This For That: The Proper Diet For Healthy Skin Miranda Fritz/Unsplash

Ever hear the expression, you are what you eat? Well, your skin can be a direct reflection of that, too. While both internal and external factors (think: genetics, hormones, pollution, stress, etc.) have a hand in determining the quality of the complexion at any given time, your diet can also play a role in skin health.

Whether you experience dryness, deal with acne flare ups, or enjoy a perpetually dewy glow, there are foods that can help and hinder your quest for healthy skin. You’ve probably been told to avoid ‘junk food’ (in the form of refined sugar), greasy grub, and even dairy if you’re looking to ward off breakouts, but loading up good-for-you-ingredients like healthy fats, fruits and veggies, and plenty of water can actually have a surprising number of skin-boosting benefits.

So, what are the best foods to eat for your skin type? The AEDITION asked to the experts.

What to Eat for Oily Skin

At its core, oily skin is the result of the sebaceous glands producing too much sebum. Sebum is an oily substance secreted by the body that exists as a means to lubricate the skin and hair.

“Under each of our pores is a sebaceous gland that produces sebum. This helps the skin stay healthy and hydrated,” says Sapna Palep, MD, a board certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “There are many causes of oily skin, including genetics, age, where you live, time of year, enlarged pores, using the wrong skincare products, overdoing your skincare routine, or skipping your moisturizer. Oily skin is complex with many causes. It’s also possible to have more than one cause of oily skin.”

With so many potential culprits at play, there are a few things you can do from a diet perspective to quell excess oil production. According to NYC-based nutrition expert and registered dietitian Brooke Alpert, the best thing any person can do — regardless of whether or not they have oily skin — is to avoid sugar. “Not only can added sugars cause premature aging by producing glycation end products (AGEs) they can also influence an overproduction of sebum by increasing the IGF-1 hormone,” warns the B Nutritious founder. “Adding in high quality CBD, like Daily Habit, is also beneficial, as it may help decrease oil production.”

Eat This:

  • Low Glycemic Index foods
  • Green Vegetables
  • Chickpeas
  • CBD supplements

Avoid That:

  • High Glycemic Index foods
  • Refined Sugar (i.e. candy, sweets, processed foods, soda, etc.)
  • White Bread and White Rice

What to Eat for Dry Skin

While dry skin can be a seasonal issue for many people (you can thank winter’s cold, arid air for that one), other lifestyle factors can contribute to the complexion being parched. Overly hot showers or baths can dry out the skin, as can irritating detergents, soaps, and shampoos. In fact, some common household and self-care products are so strong, they end up stripping most of the oil and moisture from your skin.

“Dry skin can be caused by many factors, but most often it is due to the skin barrier being compromised by harsh products, dry climate, excessive water exposure, malnutrition, or aging,” says board certified dermatologist Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD, of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. “There is usually an imbalance of lipids between the skin cells and an imbalance of various proteins resulting in the impairment of the skin moisture barrier.”

Just as it is important to topically treat dry skin with a gentle cleansing product and a good moisturizer, incorporating certain foods and beverages into your diet can also promote healthier, more hydrated skin.

“For dry skin, it’s important to make sure you’re properly hydrated with enough fluids, ideally just water,” Alpert says. “A diet of anti-inflammatory foods that are also high in healthy fats — like salmon, avocado, olive oil, nuts — would be potentially beneficial as well.”

Eat This:

  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts
  • Water-Rich foods (think: cucumbers, celery, berries)

Avoid That:

  • Refined Sugar (i.e. candy, sweets, processed foods, soda, etc.)
  • Alcohol

What to Eat to Decrease Puffiness

Bloating doesn’t just get in the way of your six-pack abs. Water retention and gravity can also cause facial puffiness — especially around the eyes.

“As we get older the tissue, blood vessel walls, and the muscles around the eye all weaken,” Dr. Palep explains. “Normal fat that helps support the eyes can then move into the lower eyelids, causing the lids to appear puffy. Also, you get more blood plasma leakage from the blood vessels as the walls weaken. The combination of all this in addition to poor lymphatic drainage leads to puffiness.”

For younger patients who are simply dealing with the ill effects of a late night or for those looking to avoid adding insult to the injury of aging eyes, Alpert advises her clients to monitor their salt consumption. Additionally, she says it’s important to remember that water intake isn’t just about how many glasses you down each day. Adding water-rich foods like cucumbers, celery, and berries to your diet can boost hydration levels and combat puffiness.

Eat This:

  • Water-Rich foods (think: cucumbers, celery, berries)
  • Fermented Foods (i.e. kombucha, kimchi, kefir)
  • Whole Grains

Avoid That:

  • High-Sodium foods (like pretzels, chips, processed meats)
  • Dairy (milk and cheeses)
  • Soy and Teriyaki Sauce
  • Alcohol

What to Eat for Acne-Prone Skin

As we’ve already determined, there are a number of factors that go into determining your skin type, and the same holds true for acne-prone complexions.

As Dr. Bae explains, sebum from the sebaceous glands can play a role in acne — especially when sebum gets mixed with dead skin cells. The interaction of the sebum and dead skin cells or bacteria leads to clogged pores that cause acne. Comedones (i.e. blackheads and whiteheads), for example, form when the skin cells that are normally shed are instead retained.

Another potential culprit? Diet. As Dr. Bae explains, new research shows that people who consume high glycemic index foods and certain types of dairy have shown a propensity for developing acne. But she notes that more studies will be needed to fully elucidate this link.

For those with acne-prone skin, one stress episode or sugary food escapade can cause a breakout. While it may seem like the list of foods to avoid is neverending, there is an equally long list of foods that can do the body good.

Alpert encourages an anti-inflammatory diet that focuses on omega-3 fatty acids, which she says have been shown to reduce inflammation (a common acne trigger) and minimize the appearance of blemishes. To improve the symptoms of acne, she recommends pasture-raised eggs and fish since they are good sources of the essential fatty acid.

Eat This:

  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Seafood (like salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts

Avoid That:

  • High Glycemic Index and High-Sodium foods
  • Refined Sugar (i.e. candy, sweets, processed foods, soda, etc.)
  • White Bread and White Rice
  • Dairy

What to Eat to Combat Signs of Aging

While your daily sunscreen application is essential for preventing the UV damage that leads to early signs of aging, your breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu could become a part of your anti-aging routine, too.

We know that free radical exposure from the sun and other environmental aggressors leads to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and, just as your favorite antioxidant serum can help combat the damage, so too can a diet rich in vitamins A, C, and E.

Good sources of vitamin A include animal by-products (think: meat, fish, poultry, dairy), as well as veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, and kale. Vitamin E can be found in most green vegetables, certain kinds of seafood, nuts (particularly sunflower seeds and almonds), and vegetable oils, while citrus fruits and leafy greens will go a long way toward upping your vitamin C intake.

Eat This:

  • Vitamin A-rich foods (think: meat, fish, poultry, dairy)
  • Vitamin C-rich foods (i.e. citrus fruits and leafy greens)
  • Vitamin E-rich foods (like green vegetables, nuts, seafood, vegetable oils)

Avoid That:

  • High Glycemic Index foods
  • Refined Sugar (i.e. candy, sweets, processed foods, soda, etc.)
  • White Bread and White Rice

The Takeaway

Regardless of your skin type, eating more whole foods (and, therefore, less processed stuff) will ensure your body and, by extension, your complexion has the nutrients it needs for optimal health. A diet rich in antioxidants, high in nutrients, and loaded with water is beneficial for all skin types and may help to naturally correct common concerns like excess oil, dryness, and puffiness.

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SAMANTHA STONEis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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