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.May 02, 2021 8:08 pm April 05, 2021 9:00 am
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.
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.
Which nutrients are needed for skin health?
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 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.
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.
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.
"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."
Including these nutrients in your diet
It might seem like a long list to include in your daily nutrition plan. Thankfully, though, many foods and oils contain a combination of these required nutrients. So, you get more bang for your buck!
Below are a few products that will ensure you get everything your body needs to energise and invigorate your skin without having to overpopulate your pantry.
Sea buckthorn is a versatile ingredient as well as refreshing thanks to its citrusy flavour. You can enjoy it as a shot or as an ingredient in the form of raw powder. So, it’s easy to fit into your healthy lifestyle.
Sea buckthorn berry juice provides the required dose of daily vitamin C. It is also a source of immunity-boosting beta-carotene, omega-7, and vitamin E. This is what helps to give your skin a healthy appearance.
Sea-buckthorn oil contributes to improved blood circulation. It facilitates oxygenation of the skin and production of collagen as well as removing excess toxins from the body. It is also easily absorbed through the epidermis meaning it can be applied directly to the skin in diluted form(8).
Native to North America, Aronia berries are also good sources of iron and antioxidants including vitamin C.
A small, dark fruit, they have a tangy taste and their nutrients have been proven to prevent oxidative stress in the body. This not only protects your body against cell damaging and ageing, but contributes to glowing skin.
Where the skin is concerned, aloe vera applied topically is known to be incredibly effective for healing wounds, soothing and strengthening the skin.
However, a study(9) investigated the health benefits to skin when aloe vera was ingested. A daily oral intake of 40mg over at least twelve weeks was shown to improve skin elasticity in men under 46 years exposed to sunlight who did not use sunscreen.
It also reduced facial wrinkles in Japanese women over 40 by stimulating collagen production. The results also showed increased overall skin elasticity in women aged 30–59.
Ingested in juice or shot form, aloe vera can benefit the immune and digestive systems. It does this by helping your body to absorb more water, nutrients and minerals. And a hydrated body means hydrated, healthy skin.
Rose water is full of nurturing and powerful nutrients which act to protect cells from oxidative damage. It is beneficial to the health of the skin not just taken orally, but also when topically applied.
Our rose water shots can be enjoyed both as an ingredient as part of a meal or as a stand alone daily boost. As a beauty product, they can also be used as an ingredient in a homemade face mask or as a natural skin toner.
Hemp, poppy and black seed oil
Representing an especially rich source of essential fatty acids, one study(10) investigated the beneficial effect of hemp seed oil as a dietary supplement. It showed that it can improve overall skin quality by decreasing dryness and itchiness.
Hemp seed oil is a great source of vitamin D and E, as well as having a 1:3 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. This means you can easily encompass a lot of those vital nutrients good for skin health in one ingredient. Apply it directly to the skin for a nourishing treatment or add it to soups or salads to nurture from within.
Poppy seed oil is high in vitamin E which is excellent for fighting those free radicals that are essential for healthy skin, making it a very effective moisturiser.
Much like hemp oil, it contains a high amount of unsaturated fatty acids. The linoleum acid helps to restore and moisturise dry skin and hair.
A versatile household staple, cold-pressed black seed oil works as beautifully in your kitchen as it does in your skincare routine. It can combat inflammation of the skin and unclog pores, making it popular with acne sufferers.
Other skin health methods to complement your nutrition
Now you have the nutritional means to stimulate your skin health, it’s important to remember that a balanced lifestyle will further encourage your skin to perform at its best.
Don’t stress it! More and more research shows us that stress affects us on multiple levels, including our skin health. It’s no surprise that when you’re on holiday you suddenly find those dry, itchy patches clear up and your skin radiates health.
This is because you’re relaxed, giving your nervous system time to recover and for your skin to heal. If you find it difficult to zen out over even the tiniest of stressors, try building 5-10 minutes of meditation into your daily routine.
Get plenty of zzz’s: There’s very little a good night’s sleep won’t fix. It’s your body’s time for a reset. While we lie there dreaming of sun kissed orchards, it is working hard to repair tissue and heal our bodies.
A n exhausted body will result in dull, tired skin. If you struggle to switch off and sleep soundly, try an adaptogen to help soothe those brain gremlins and promote relaxation.
Get moving: Regular exercise and movement generates circulation and pumps oxygen around your body. This in turn promotes blood flow to the surface of your skin, keeping it refreshed and radiant.
If health issues prevent you from performing vigorous exercise then even a brisk walk or lifting moderate weight will stimulate your body.
Nutrition is one of the most important parameters involved in achieving optimal skin health. Combined with an active lifestyle and taking care of your sleep and stress levels, your skin will glow with health and vitality.
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