Dermatologists Say These Are The Best (And Worst) Foods For Your Skin

Over the past 20 years, scientists have established a strong connection between our diets and our skin health. According to dermatologist Neetu Nirdosh, only 20% of our skin health stems from genetics, and the other 80% comes from lifestyle choices. Our diet makes up much of our lifestyle.

Citrus fruits, coffee, and tea don’t only work as a topical. Eating these foods can supply your skin with healthy vitamins that prevent aging. On the other hand, eating certain foods can create spots and wrinkles sooner than we’d like. Here are dermatologists’ recommendations for the foods you should and shouldn’t eat for healthy skin.

Steer Clear Of Too Much Sugar

Person eats a jelly-filled doughnut during National Doughnut Day
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Getty Images

Several studies have linked a high-sugar diet to visible skin aging. In 2009, researchers from the University of Montreal discovered that sugar shortens cells’ lifespans. According to another study in Clinics in Dermatology, sugar produces AGEs, or Advanced Glycation End Production that causes premature wrinkles.

How does this happen? Dr. Andrew Nish of UnityPoint Health explains that it’s the same process that turns bananas brown. Sugar reacts with protein, causing it to age more rapidly. The result is more wrinkles, sagging, dark spots, and more acne. If you want to keep your skin healthy, cut out sugar whenever you can.

Wear Your Green Tea And Drink It Too

Model steams her face with green tea
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Twitter/@BOFYindia

Recently, green tea has entered many cosmetics such as lotions and face masks. Recent research supports the benefits of green tea as a topical and as a drink. In 2000, a study in Archives of Dermatology found that the tea’s catechins provide antioxidant benefits.

“Of all the antioxidants known to mankind, the components of green tea are the most potent,” Dr. Hasan Mukhtar told WebMD. These antioxidants defend the skin from inflammation, including sunburns and cancerous growth. While green tea topicals have little scientific backing, you’re guaranteed to receive these benefits through drinking the tea.

Carrots Help Your Skin Because They’re Orange

Charlie Ayers, the former Chef for Google,  playfully poses for a portrait with a fresh carrot.
Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images
Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

What do carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and squash have in common? They all contain an antioxidant called beta-carotene. This carotenoid creates vitamin A in the body, which prevents skin cells from aging, according to a 2010 scientific review in The Journal of Nutrition.

The research states that beta-carotene guards the skin against UV rays. Although it’s not as powerful as sunscreen, beta-carotene still prevents sunburn and sun sensitivity. Since sunlight is the primary cause of skin damage, beta-carotene is a must-have. You can reap these benefits by eating orange and green produce such as cantaloupes, broccoli, spinach, peppers, apricots, and peas.

Choose Red Fruits And Vegetables

Tomatoes and radishes on sale at a farmer's market
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Unsplash/@hederneves

Food’s color doesn’t always illustrate its health benefits, but in this case, it does. According to a scientific review in DermatoEndocrinology, red fruits and vegetables contain a carotene called lycopene. This carotenoid repairs damage to skin cells and defends the skin against sunburns.

According to the research, lycopene is present in tomatoes, watermelons, papayas, and red carrots. Strawberries and cherries do not contain lycopene. In The Journal of Nutrition, one study reported that lycopene is better for the skin than beta-carotene, the orange pigment that produces vitamin A.

Cite Those Citrus Fruits

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Unsplash/@noahbuscher

Vitamin C doesn’t just help the immune system. It also destroys free radicals in your body, which keeps your skin radiant. Research in the 2015 BMC Chemistry noted that flavonoids in citrus fruits decrease inflammation in the skin. This explains why many beauty products contain citrus fruits.

“If you are looking to achieve clear, glowing and blemish-free skin, make sure citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits are part of your daily diet and beauty routine,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Raj. In skincare, citrus products can smooth wrinkles and heal dark spots on your skin.

Want To Prevent Skin Cancer? Drink Coffee

Close-up of a woman drinking a cup of black coffee
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Those who are obsessed with coffee now have another reason to celebrate. In 2019, researchers revealed their results from eight years of studying coffee. They found that people who drink coffee regularly have less DNA breakage in their skin. This prevents your skin from deteriorating quickly.

Coffee contains plenty of antioxidants that protect the skin from pollution, sunlight, and free radical damage. In 2018, researchers examined several studies on coffee in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. They concluded that drinking coffee counteracts skin cancer. Your morning cup of joe can keep your skin from wrinkling and developing diseases over time.

Drinking Alcohol Ages You Faster Than Most People Realize

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Unsplash/@justnjames

While moderated alcohol has its benefits, studies suggest that regularly drinking causes your skin to wrinkle quickly. One study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health concluded that high alcohol consumption makes people 33% more likely to age visibly. In particular, alcohol forms gray rings around peoples’ eyes.

Some people experience a face flush after drinking. Over time, this flushing can break blood vessels and wrinkle the skin. Physician Carol Ann Goodman says that this damage is caused by blood vessels dilating near the skin’s surface. To prevent this side effect, drink plenty of water along with your alcohol.

Dairy Can Irritate Acne

Beautiful Face In A Milk And Flower Bath from Pixabay
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Twitter/@pixabay

According to several studies, over-consuming dairy can harm your skin. A scientific review of 58 studies concluded that dairy increases acne. Professor Nicholas Lowe, a dermatologist in London, told Daily Mail that dairy elevates hormones in the body that flare up acne.

Some researchers believe that hormone-treated cattle produce dairy that worsens acne. Others suggest that the high amount of carbohydrates in milk produces this effect. Either way, not all milk has the same effect. In some studies, drinking skim milk resulted in more severe acne.

Eat Berries To Avoid Skin Wrinkles

Spectators eat strawberries as they attend play between Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Spain's Albert Montanes
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Stephanie Williams, dermatologist and founder of eudelo.com, advises against most sugar-filled tropical fruits in an interview with Daily Mail. “Except all types of berries,” she clarifies. “They’re high in antioxidants that bring great anti-aging benefits to the skin.” Antioxidants remove free radicals that would otherwise damage the skin and result in aging.

During a 2008 study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers found that berries protect collagen. Collagen is the protein inside skin cells, and berries’ antioxidants stop the enzymes that destroy collagen. That’s why all berries can prevent visible skin aging.

Probiotics Help Your Gut As Well As Your Skin

Yogurt and egg face mask by Zero Gravity
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Twitter/@ZeroGravitySkin

Probiotics, healthy microorganisms found in yogurt, can promote intestinal health. Recent research suggests that it can help eliminate acne too. According to a 2015 study in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, probiotics destroy bacteria that kickstart pimples.

“Probiotics are very hot when it comes to acne right now,” says Dr. Whitney Bowe, a professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine. They reduce inflammation in the body that could trigger more acne. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, tempeh, and kimchi. You can also take probiotics as supplements.

For Sensitive Skin, Resort To Seeds

Flax seeds and flaxseed oil.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Seeds are rich in fatty oils and vitamins that benefit skin health. During a 2011 study, participants took flaxseed oil supplements for twelve weeks and experienced smoother skin, less sensitivity, and increased hydration.

According to DermatoEndocrinology, seeds contain high amounts of vitamin E. This vitamin keeps your skin’s proteins (collagen) strong, which prevents aging. Seeds with vitamin E include sunflowers, safflower, and flax. Dr. Janet Vafaie, a dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, adds chia seeds to her smoothies for skin-repairing antioxidants.

Limit Your Salt Intake To Avoid Puffy Eyes

Woman with salt on her face
Pinterest/Crissy Page
Pinterest/Crissy Page

Epsom salt baths can help your skin feel soft and invigorated. But consuming salt is a different story. While salt has its health benefits, too much of it may result in diseases like eczema, according to a 2019 study in Science Translational Medicine. High-sodium diets retain water in the body, which may lead to redness and puffiness.

Neal B. Schultz, a dermatologist from New York City, says that salt explicitly impacts the sensitive skin around your eyes. As we grow older, our skin grows thinner, and salt’s puffy effect becomes more apparent. “These effects of salt are definitely age-related,” Dr. Schultz told SHAPE.

Here’s Another Reason To Avoid White Bread

Homemade white bread
Reddit/u/grainjuice
Reddit/u/grainjuice

It’s no secret that too many carbs can negatively impact your health, but recent research suggests that it can also worsen your skin. In particular, a high glycemic index–a diet with high amounts of refined grains–causes more acne. This correlation may be more visibly apparent than dairy’s effect on acne, according to studies.

After covering almost 60 studies, a scientific study in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology concluded that refined grains trigger more breakouts. The researchers clarify that chips, cereals, bread, and cookies are the main culprits. To prevent more pimples, resort to whole grains whenever possible.

Avocados Provide The Healthy Fats You Need

Avocado and carrot face mask
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Twitter/@NutriBulletUK

If you want radiant skin, ditch the low-fat diet. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats nourish the skin as well as the rest of your body. “‘These contain essential lipids that create a protective surface around the skin cells and prevent essential water from escaping,” says dermatologist Dr. Neetu Nirdosh.

Avocados contain not only healthy fats, but also vitamin E, lutein, and zeaxanthin. According to a 2017 review in Nutrients, these compounds protect the skin from sun damage and radiation. It’s a win-win situation; you get to enjoy some delicious avocado and improve your skin health.

Feel Free To Enjoy Fatty Fish

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David McNew/Getty Images

Although many common health trends advise people to avoid fats, research indicates that certain kinds of fat benefit our health. One “healthy fat” stems from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and herrings. According to the Journal of Clinical Medicine, these fats contain omega-3 fatty acids that work to prevent skin cancer.

According to the study, omega-3s remove inflammation from the skin, which makes your body less sensitive to UV rays. “I consider salmon to be one of the superfoods of skin health,” dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian told HuffPost. If you want to keep your skin youthful, eat more oily fish.

Not Good Or Bad: The Chocolate Debate

Woman eating a chocolate bar.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Studies on chocolate provide conflicting results. On the one hand, chocolate contains flavanols that strengthen the skin. According to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, eating chocolate consistently makes people less susceptible to sunburns and UV damage. As with all chocolate benefits, this is more evident from dark chocolate than milk or white chocolate.

On the other hand, a 2018 study in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology concluded that eating chocolate sprouts acne, especially in teenagers. Even healthy dark chocolate produced that result. So while chocolate fortifies your skin, it also inflames acne in many people.

Go Nuts For Skin Health

People eat backstage at the VPL fashion show
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Like fish, nuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Dermatologists recommend omega-3s to reduce inflammation and keep toxins out of your skin. “Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit certain molecules that lead to inflammation and resulting skin problems,” explains dermatologist Francesca Fusco. Of all nuts, walnuts and almonds provide the most nutrients.

In an interview with WebMD, Dr. Fusco also brought up a mineral called selenium. Found in nuts, selenium has antioxidant properties that impede skin damage. According to one Swedish study, participants who consumed both selenium and vitamin E experienced decreased acne within two months.

Always, Always Drink More Water

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Our skin is 64% water. So it’s no surprise that dehydration results in greyness and cracks. That’s why many cosmetics are marketed as “hydrating.” “Without adequate water intake, skin appears duller, and wrinkles and pores more prominent,” says Dr. Steven Deliduka of Forefront Dermatology.

How much water should we drink? According to Nutritionist Helen Bond, excess water will be excreted and not sent to the skin. Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia noted positive results from just two cups of water a day. As a general rule, aim for eight cups of water a day.

Honey Never Seemed So Sweet

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Unsplash/@pasthehoney

According to the Central Asian Journal of Asian Health, honey has regenerative benefits that can heal skin wounds. Beyond that, honey protects the skin against potential diseases. The 2016 research credits honey with having the ability to block skin cancer and dermatitis. It does this by killing harmful microbes on the skin.

Honey also helps the skin repair tissues and reflects harmful UV rays. In 2008, researchers found that honey increased the number of healthy skin cultures by 76% after two days of topical application. Also, you can eat honey and still reap these benefits.

You Won’t Believe It’s Not Margarine

Finger picks up a bit of margarine
Pinterest/Charlotte Kamauoha
Pinterest/Charlotte Kamauoha

Like high-fat dairy options, margarine butter also harms our skin. A 2001 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that eating margarine consistently results in skin damage. In particular, it prompts actinic damage, a type of skin damage that results in visible aging.

Margarine contains a lot of trans fats. Not only do these supply harmful cholesterol, but these trans fats also dehydrate your skin. Eating trans fats regularly may produce excess wrinkles. Enjoying margarine every now and again won’t harm you, but avoid eating some every day.