You have heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” This is true for your overall health and also for the health of your skin.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It protects you from bacteria and viruses, keeps your internal organs warm and moist, and can be a window into how healthy you are on the inside.
If you want to look good – and feel good – then keeping your skin healthy should be one of your top priorities. That’s why it's important for everyone to know about the vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy skin.
In this article, we will discuss which vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimum skin health, as well as what foods contain these nutrients and how to incorporate them into a healthy diet.
Luckily, it’s actually quite simple to eat your way to healthy skin!
Nutrients for Healthy Skin
There are numerous micronutrients essential to a glowing complexion.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for healthy skin. Vitamin A helps support the renewal of skin cells, which in turn supports healthy cell turnover.
Vitamin A also plays a role in protecting your body from oxidative damage and inflammation – both of which are thought to accelerate the aging process.
B vitamins are essential for healthy cell membranes. B-vitamins help to create the structure of cell membranes and maintain the integrity of cell membranes and their function.
These B vitamins have an important role in maintaining healthy skin by helping to create a healthy barrier against harmful substances that can enter your body. This is especially important when it comes to protecting your skin from damaging UV rays.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that helps the body produce collagen. Collagen is a protein that gives skin its strength, elasticity, and suppleness; it’s also needed for healthy, beautiful skin.
The body cannot produce its own vitamin C, so it is necessary to get it from food sources or supplements.
According to this research article from Skin Pharmocology and Physiology, “Vitamin D is integrally connected to the skin for its synthesis, metabolism, and activity. It regulates many physiological processes in the skin ranging from cellular proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis to barrier maintenance and immune functions.”
The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun. In turn, Vitamin D controls cell turnover. Therefore, Vitamin D is necessary for creating new, healthy skin.
Check out this Frownies Blog to learn more about the importance of Vitamin D.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that works with other antioxidants in the skin to protect against free radical damage which can lead to premature aging of the skin.
Vitamin E is found in the oily sebum of the skin and creates a physical barrier on the skin’s surface.
Vitamin E also contributes to cellular processes including regulating cell turnover, collagen production, and the growth of new skin cells.
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that's important for the formation of healthy blood vessels. It also helps with the proper functioning of your bones, heart, and other body tissues.
Strong blood vessels are necessary to shuttle oxygen and other important nutrients to the cells of the skin to keep the skin healthy and resilient.
Zinc is a mineral that helps with the renewal of your skin. Zinc promotes elasticity, which means it makes your skin more flexible and less likely to sag.
Zinc may help keep acne under control by making pores smaller and leading to less oil production in the face.
Zinc also improves texture, tone, radiance and hydration on the surface of our bodies — all things you want for glowing, radiant skin!
Copper is an essential mineral for the production of collagen, elastin, and ceramides. Remember, collagen and elastin are proteins in the skin that provide structure, suppleness, and elasticity. And ceramides act like a glue that holds the individual skin cells together to strengthen the skin barrier – sealing moisture in while keeping unwanted dirt and bacteria out.
Conversely, copper deficiency can cause a number of problems including thinning skin, premature aging of the skin, dryness or flaky skin, wrinkles around the eyes or mouth that are caused by the breakdown of collagen, and dullness and hair loss.
Selenium is a mineral that helps your body make certain types of proteins. Selenium is an essential nutrient for healthy skin, as it acts as an antioxidant and helps reduce the risk of skin cancer and protects against free radicals.
In particular, research has shown that selenium may also help prevent sun damage to the skin by helping to build elastin and collagen (two connective tissues found in skin) — both important components in preventing wrinkles and sagging.
Iron is a mineral that is important for the development and function of red blood cells. The production of collagen, which helps to keep skin firm and elastic, also requires iron as part of the process.
Choline is a nutrient that helps with cell growth. Your skin cells are replaced about every 40 to 60 days, so choline is especially important for healthy skin.
Choline is also important for the health of your hair, nails, and eyes. In fact, choline has been shown to reduce wrinkles by increasing collagen production and decreasing inflammation!
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both essential fatty acids, meaning your body does not produce these fatty acids, so you must get it from food sources or supplements.
Omega 3 is an important part of the structure of the cell membranes throughout your body and impacts the appearance of your skin, hair and nails, as well as brain development.
Omega 6 stimulates the growth of skin and hair and has a part in regulating the inflammatory processes in the skin.
Beyond eating enough of each of these fatty acids, it is important to take into consideration the balance between Omega 6s and Omega 3s.
The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is thought to be somewhere between 1:1 and 4:1. However, most Standard American Diets contain disproportionate levels ranging as much as 15:1 up to 17:1.
Eating for Healthy Skin
We’ve covered many of the essential vitamins and minerals that are necessary for healthy skin. But don’t let the number of nutrients overwhelm you.
Eating your way to healthy skin is easy by intentionally adding a few key foods to your diet. And you will be rewarded with noticeably more radiant skin.
Here are the top foods to look for – as well as a few things to avoid – if you want glowing skin from the inside out!
A Variety of Fruits and Veggies
Leafy greens as well as red and orange vegetables (think carrots, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers) will provide Vitamin A to maintain healthy skin cells and to prevent premature signs of aging.
Citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, and spinach are high in Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant and essential for collagen production.
Kale, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage also supply Vitamin K. Vitamin K is known for its role in blood clotting. Because of this, healthy Vitamin K levels may help to heal bruises and wounds and to minimize dark under-eyes.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats are key nutrients in your overall health. These fats build healthy cell membranes to create the optimal amount of skin oils to protect and hydrate the skin. Fats also aid in the absorption of Vitamins A, D, and E.
Your body does not make these types of fats, so the only way to get these essential fatty acids into your system is through a healthy diet.
Because Omega 6s are highly concentrated in processed foods, most people are getting an abundance of this fatty acid which can lead to increased inflammation in the body. Therefore, it’s best to focus on a diet of whole foods that are good sources of Omega-3 and limiting processed foods. Focus on foods rich in Omega 3s such as flax and chia seeds, salmon, walnuts, and avocados.
Nuts and Seeds
Vitamin E in nuts and seeds is also an antioxidant. It is secreted by the oil-producing glands in the skin and absorbs harmful UV rays to protect from sun damage.
Nuts and seeds, including pine nuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds, contain zinc, copper, and selenium which may act as antioxidants protecting your skin from cancer-causing free-radical damage.
Lots of Water!
Drinking water not only keeps your skin hydrated from the inside out, water also helps flush waste and toxins from your body keeping you healthier overall.
Foods that may be detrimental to your skin health
Processed sugars have been shown to break down collagen and elastin, the connective tissues that keep your skin supple and youthful.
Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to eliminate fluids. Because of its diuretic effects, caffeine can lead to dehydration and dry, wrinkled skin.
Caffeine may also slow collagen production. Over time, the skin will lose its suppleness and may begin to appear saggy and crepey.
Alcohol is dehydrating to the skin, making it appear more dull and wrinkled. Drinking alcohol also can affect your sleep, resulting in dark undereye circles.
Plus, alcohol is inflammatory, which can also lead to increased puffiness, redness, and breakouts – YUCK!
In addition to alcohol and sugar, fried foods and other highly processed foods are inflammatory to your skin and your body as a whole.
It is good practice to eat these types of foods in moderation and balance them out with the healthy food choices mentioned above.
All health is personal. What is “good” for one person’s skin, may not work for someone else. This is especially true with the foods we put into our bodies.
Pay attention to how your skin reacts to certain foods. Do you notice dry skin after eating pizza? Or a breakout after greasy fries? While no food is inherently “bad,” some foods may not allow our bodies to function optimally.
Want to dig deeper? Try keeping a food journal or eating on an elimination diet to pinpoint the food triggers your skin may have.
Recipes for Healthy Skin
Need fresh ideas for healthy recipes to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals for glowing skin?
Check out the recipe for Creamy Green Goddess Soup below created by Frownies CEO Kat Wright, ND!