There are certain foods, such as dairy products and chocolate, that are known for their correlation to acne and inflamed skin. While these may be stereotypes or depend on the person, there are certain foods that do just the opposite — vegetables good for skin health in particular.
From the daily stresses of life to the food choices you make at each meal, many factors can influence skin health. Drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and consuming foods good for skin and hair may help you to feel and look your best.
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To no one's surprise, some of the best foods for skin repair — aka anti-aging — include a variety of vegetables. The skin health benefits of vegetables can mainly be attributed to being good sources of antioxidants. In dietary sources and skin care products, antioxidants fight free radical damage to encourage bright, even and youthful-looking skin.
Vitamin C Preserves Youthfulness
Vitamin C is a textbook skin care ingredient. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C are among the best foods for skin repair because this well-known vitamin is a potent antioxidant associated with brightening and anti-aging skin benefits.
Much of the research on vitamin C and skin health is on topical products containing ascorbic acid. Current research suggests that topical vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis and protects against free radical damage due to UV radiation.
An August 2017 study published in Nutrients compared the nutritional intake of vitamin C with topical application of vitamin C products containing ascorbic acid. Researchers concluded that both usages of vitamin C are effective at encouraging healthy skin, though the delivery of vitamin C into the skin remains a challenge. A positive correlation between vegetable intake and good skin was found.
Vegetables high in vitamin C include:
- Bell peppers
- Snow peas
- Brussels sprouts
Beta-Carotene Protects Skin From Aggressors
Red, yellow and orange vegetables good for the skin may get their colorful hues from beta-carotene, which is a pigment that is converted into vitamin A. Leafy greens and various types of lettuce tend to be rich in beta-carotene, too. Beta-carotene is both an antioxidant and a carotenoid.
According to the National Cancer Institute, vegetables rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene may prevent the development of cancer. However, some studies suggest that antioxidant supplements are linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, including skin cancer. Consuming vegetables that contain beta-carotene eliminates the need for supplements.
Since beta-carotene is a fat-soluble carotenoid, it is best absorbed when consumed with a source of fat. Combine dietary sources of beta-carotene with dietary fat, such as olive oil or avocado.
Vegetables rich in beta-carotene include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Romaine lettuce
Vitamin E Promotes Firmness
Vegetables containing vitamin E are some foods good for skin and hair. Like vitamin C, vitamin E is commonly used topically in skin care products. However, dietary sources of vitamins have a major advantage over facial creams and oils — food is absorbed much better than topical products, which can only absorb into the outermost layer of skin.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that plays an important role in dermatology. According to a July 2016 study in Indian Dermatology Online Journal, vitamin E must be obtained through dietary sources, and the most potent sources are nuts, spinach, grains and oil.
A derivative of vitamin E called α-tocopherol is used in skin care products. Though vitamin E is used in dermatology to treat dermatitis, psoriasis, melasma and other conditions, more research is needed on the various usages of vitamin E for skin health.
Some research suggests that vitamin E is an anti-aging powerhouse. A July 2012 study published in Dermato-Endocrinology found a positive correlation between vitamin E and inhibited wrinkle formation, collagen preservation and skin repair. Researchers suggest pairing vitamin E with vitamin C and fat for optimal absorption.
The following vegetables high in vitamin E may be some of the best foods for skin repair:
- Swiss chard
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
Antioxidants Protect and Repair
The common theme in foods good for skin and hair is that they are high in antioxidants. The word "antioxidant" means inhibition of oxidative stress to the body. When skin experiences oxidative stress due to free radical damage, the result can be one of the following: hyperpigmentation, acne, skin cancer, sun spots, UV damage and other symptoms or conditions.
Consuming antioxidants in the form of vegetables is one way to encourage healthy skin. Antioxidants provide healing where they are needed. In some people, this is acne healing. In others, it is preventing damage from sun exposure. For those with existing sun damage, such as hyperpigmentation or dark spots, certain antioxidants can help minimize that, too.
Antioxidants also have anti-aging benefits, but they are mainly preventative measures. A combination of antioxidants and sun protection, such as zinc oxide mineral sunscreen, can prevent premature aging due to environmental stressors. While the physical signs of aging are just a part of life, the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles can be reduced by taking good care of your skin.
While vitamin C and vitamin E are well-known antioxidants, other dietary antioxidants include:
- Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, bell peppers, red cabbage and asparagus
- B vitamins, which are found in green peas, squash, asparagus and mushrooms
- Vitamin A, which is found in carrots, cabbage, potatoes and spinach
- Proanthocyanidins (PACs), which is found in okra
Skin-Friendly Food Choices
According to the Mayo Clinic, the top skin-friendly foods are the ones highest in antioxidants, and the top skin-damaging foods tend to contain refined sugars, unhealthy fats and processed carbohydrates. By this reasoning, the foods you consume either contribute to skin protection or skin damage.
Focus on consuming foods that contribute to your overall health with an emphasis on vegetables good for the skin. Limit your consumption of fried foods, desserts, sugar and processed foods to prevent flare-ups. Some people may also be sensitive to dairy, gluten and other allergens, which have been known to have skin-related symptoms.
Experts also recommend wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to encourage healthy skin.
- Nutrients: “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health”
- MedlinePlus: “Vitamin C”
- National Institute of Cancer: “Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention”
- Journal of Chemistry: “Carotenoids Functionality, Sources, and Processing by Supercritical Technology: A Review”
- Indian Dermatology Online Journal: “Vitamin E in Dermatology”
- Dermato-Endocrinology: “Discovering the Link Between Nutrition and Skin Aging”
- Antioxidants: “Dietary Antioxidants and Health Promotion”
- British Journal of Dermatology: “Molecular Evidence That Oral Supplementation With Lycopene or Lutein Protects Human Skin Against Ultraviolet Radiation: Results From a Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study”
- Advances in Skin & Wound Care: “Effects of Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin C on Human Skin Cells: Is the Perceived Effect Measurable?”
- Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences: “Role of Diet in Dermatological Conditions”
- Mayo Clinic: “What Are the Best Foods for Healthy Skin?”
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health”
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