When it comes to how to get a rosy complexion, many of us are all ears. Of course, the cosmetic industry has ridden that desire straight to the bank. But if you're wondering how to add color to your face without makeup the natural way, these are the foods for a healthy complexion worth eating.
"A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is a good place to start for healthy-looking skin," says Dallas-based Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and associate professor in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's Department of Clinical Nutrition.
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Read more: Skin Deep: What's on the Menu to Help Your Skin?
Carotenoids for Face Color
Carotenoids are yellow, orange and red pigments derived from plants (think: carrots), according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) at Oregon State University. And when it comes to affording you a nice rosy glow, these pigments are type A multitaskers.
A March 2012 study in PLOS One notes that carotenoid-rich foods can help protect skin tissue from the age-related effects of oxidative stress. To boot, the research team found that upping carotenoids in your diet can also help add a healthy coloration to the skin, without makeup, suntanning or self-tanning agents across the arms, shoulders, hands and face.
Additionally, a November 2013 study in Biology Letters also found that carotenoid-rich foods can improve skin tone and luminance. And if Bugs Bunny is not your role model, rest assured that carrots are not the only option.
Winter squash is also a carotenoid-rich food, according to the MIC, as is spinach (though the latter also packs chlorophyll, which explains the vegetable's green coloration instead of orange).
If you're shopping for carotenoid-rich foods, the MIC notes these as good go-tos, among others:
- Sweet potato
Antioxidants to Delay Cellular Damage
Antioxidants are substances that can help prevent or delay some forms of cellular damage, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Dark chocolate is a sweet example of an antioxidant winner, per the Cleveland Clinic. Other antioxidant-rich foods, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Green leafy vegetables (like spinach)
- Fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel)
- Yellow and orange fruits and veggies (like apricots and carrots)
Vitamins A and C for Skin Repair
Vitamins can support skin rejuvenation and potentially help you avoid a dull complexion. Foods and topicals rich in vitamins A and C, for example, "can help repair oxidative damage to surface skin cells," Sandon says.
"They will not necessarily give you a rosy glow," she adds, "but they are important for skin to grow and repair, and for the overall integrity and health of skin."
- Sweet potato
- Beef liver
And these foods high in vitamin C:
- Bell peppers
Fish and Oil for Tight Skin
If firmer skin is your main goal, eat plenty of foods that serve to bolster your skin's collagen.
For that, the Cleveland Clinic suggests turning to the omega-3 fatty acids found in such foods as:
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseed, soybean, walnut and canola oils
Fatty fish like the following are the prime sources, though, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
A July 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology suggests that certain herbs and spices may help to inhibit structural changes in the skin that might otherwise lead to stiffness and reduced elasticity.
To spice it up, the study team points to:
But the researchers also recommend avoiding sugar. All that sweetness may actually accelerate the signs of aging skin.
- Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, registered dietitian; associate professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; Dallas
- National Institutes of Health: “Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Vitamin A”
- Cleveland Clinic: “23 Foods That Are Good for Your Skin”
- Mayo Clinic: “What Are the Best Foods for Healthy Skin?”
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Antioxidants: In Depth”
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) at Oregon State University: “Carotenoids”
- PLoS One: “You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes”
- Biology Letters: “It Is All in the Face: Carotenoid Skin Coloration Loses Attractiveness Outside the Face”
- Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: “Diet and Dermatology”
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