05 Apr 2021

Best foods for skin health

author Ashley Owen
We all know the saying to be “comfortable in your own skin”. But part of that feeling comes from the physical aspect of having healthy skin that is comfortable to live in. We’ve all had a pesky rash or itchy dry patch in our time that leaves us felling less than our best.


While we may have mastered our external skincare routine, what it lacks in lustre could be linked to our nutrition.

Let's take a look at the best foods for skin health and the nutrients vital for nurturing your skin from the inside out. With some simple dietary inclusions and adjustments, you can achieve the ultimate glow!

Why is nutrition so important for skin health?

As the largest organ, skin is our protective external barrier for our internal organs which are vital for our survival. So, it’s natural that we should want to protect it and keep it in the best health possible.

Optimal skin health promotes wellbeing from within, which is why feeding your skin with nurturing ingredients is the best way to achieve long-term health.

There are a number of studies that explore the benefits of nutrition on a range of skin conditions, particularly adult acne and eczema. Their conclusions have shown that diet can influence inflammation throughout the body(1), validating how important what we eat is, as it directly affects the health of our skin.

It’s understandable to want to protect your skin in order to keep it looking smooth, bright and young for as long as possible. People often turn to the beauty industry for assistance, but an integral part of nurturing a radiant appearance is linked to nutrition.

The effect of nutrition on skin ageing has been a popular area of study(2). Prevention is key, meaning the more nutrient-rich, whole foods you eat, the more nourished your skin will be and the longer it will retain its elasticity, glow and youthful appearance.


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Skin health studies

Poor skin health is often a result of poor diet. In relation to skin conditions, certain foods can cause inflammation throughout the body that can trigger acne outbreaks.

One study(3), compared the results of 24-hour dietary surveys of more than 24,000 adults - with an average age of 57 - who reported having acne currently, having it in the past but not currently, or never having had it.

The results found that people who ate a lot of high-fat, sugary foods had a greater chance of currently suffering from acne.

Skin health nutritional deficiencies

Many have also linked nutritional deficiency to diminished skin health. Skin changes in people with anorexia nervosa highlighted the impact of malnutrition on skin health. These included excessively dry skin, nail changes, acne, dermatitis and poor wound healing(5).

Another study(6) linked obesity to skin changes including impaired skin barrier function and lower levels of certain proteins which help maintain skin structure.

It’s clear from these results that striking a nutritious balance by eating foods that are good for skin health is key in order to see the desired benefits.

Nutritional benefits and skin health

Evidence from one study(7) suggests that including vitamins and fatty acids in your diet has beneficial effects on overall skin condition.

Research shows that eating foods rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins (A, C, D and E), and essential omega-3-fatty acids, all contribute towards promoting healthy skin.

Thankfully, these nutrients are easy to include in your daily diet without the need for additional supplementation. Even the essential fatty acids can be included in a plant based diet with a few simple considerations.


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Which nutrients are needed for skin health?

Vitamin C

Also known as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is necessary for the binding of collagen - the protein that gives skin its elasticity and strength.

It is a water-soluble vitamin that helps to protect the health of cells, aids in wound healing and maintains healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage.

Adults need 40mg of vitamin C a day, There’s no reason why you can’t get all you need from a nourishing, balanced diet.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is incredibly important for the maintenance of healthy skin as well as eyes.

We need vitamin E in order to boost our immune system. This system keeps us protected from illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses.

Given the body is able to store it, the required amount is just 3mg for women and 4mg for men per day. This makes it very friendly to include in your overall diet.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is vital for skeletal health, helping your body to absorb calcium for strong bones and good muscle function. This, in turn, promotes overall wellbeing, including healthier skin.

Vitamin D requirement is dependent on age, climate and time of year, but the average recommendation is 10mg for adults and children from one year.

To put this into context, most adults in the UK will absorb all the vitamin D they require during the summer months. The chances of being in a deficit during the winter is likely. As such, you will need to supplement your diet with vitamin D-rich whole foods.

Vitamin A

This vitamin plays a primary role in overall skin health, as well keeping eyes healthy and supporting the function of the immune system.

Provitamin A appears in plant-based products such as fruit and vegetables. A provitamin is a substance which the body converts into a vitamin through metabolic processes. We all remember being told by our elders how important it was to eat our carrots to keep our eyes healthy. This is due to the presence of beta-carotene, which also supports healthy skin.

The daily requirement depends on age and gender, and pregnant and breast-feeding women will require higher doses. However, the average adult female requires 700mcg while men need 900mcg.

Essential Fatty Acids

The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA mainly occurs in plant oils such as linseed, chia, flaxseed and walnut oils. It is an essential fatty acid. Your body can’t make it, so we must turn to our diet in order to supplement it.

Omega-3s are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body. The recommended amount of ALA for men is 1.6g for men and 1.1g for women.


Antioxidants help to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. These are the compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. We also absorb skin damaging free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and UV light.

They contain a number of individual components including those that promote healthier skin:

  • Carotenoids - This essentially means foods that are rich in beta-carotene and have a yellow, red or orange tone to them. Examples include carrots, squash, peppers, sea buckthorn and sweet potato.
  • Tocopherols - Organic chemical compounds found in a number of foods that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Flavonoids - Molecules found in plants that provide antioxidant effects.

And the great news is, vitamins A, E and C are also classed as antioxidants.

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