What to Eat for Great Skin
A few easy diet tweaks will give you glowing skin—this week, this year and for life.
Want smooth, gorgeous skin? Change your diet. "Skin is the body's largest organ," says Lauren Ott, R.D., a dietitian in Denver. "Just as you eat for heart and brain health, you can eat for skin health." And when you do, the results are often fast and dramatic. So when you want to get your glow on, don't reach for the latest lotion or potion. Head to your kitchen!
How to Get Great Skin in One Week
Drink Plenty of Water.
You put cream on your face every day, but you should be moisturizing from the inside, too. "We have toxins in our bodies that lead to oxidative stress, which can show up as blotchy skin and premature aging," says Susan Blum, M.D., a New York physician who specializes in how food affects the body. Drinking water helps move those toxins out—and fast: Blood flow to the skin increases within 30 minutes of drinking two cups of water, a University of Missouri study found. Aim to guzzle enough daily that your urine is almost clear and odorless.
Lay Off the Salt.
Americans' high-sodium diet, which puts us at risk of heart disease and other ailments, also takes a toll on our complexions. "Sodium can lead to bloating, which appears as puffiness and under-eye bags," says Ott. And it can happen within hours of eating that burger and fries. Read nutrition labels and try to come in under 2,300 mg daily (about 1 tsp. of salt) to stay depuffed.
Ditto Booze (Sorry!)
It saps you of fluid, causing dryness, flakiness, less-elastic skin and more-visible wrinkles, Ott says. You don't have to give up your favorite Pinot, but if you're T-minus-seven days from being in a ton of wedding photos, a dry week will free up your liver to deal with age-advancing toxins besides alcohol, and you'll see less swelling.
How to Get Great Skin in Three Months
Switch to Green Tea.
The healthy brew is packed with antioxidants that fight bad stuff all over your body— including in your skin. One study in The Journal of Nutrition showed that women who drank green tea for 12 weeks had noticeably smoother skin compared with tea-teetotalers. Green tea also guards against UV damage (spots, fine lines and wrinkles), which is why doctors swear by it. "I drink green tea every morning, and I also love matcha powder, which is even more concentrated in antioxidants," says Dr. Blum. Blend some into a smoothie for powerful skin protection.
Eat More Fat.
"Skin is very susceptible to inflammation, which can cause acne, redness and blotchiness," says Dr. Blum. "And the number-one source of inflammation in your skin is food"—especially the sugary, processed kind. Unless, that is, you fill up on anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon and sardines), which act as a counterbalance. These healthy oils also build up skin's moisture-trapping outer layer, creating a better barrier against dryness, says Alan Dattner, M.D., a holistic dermatologist in NYC and the author of Radiant Skin from the Inside Out. Dine on oily fish twice a week to see skin grow calmer and softer.
Get Your Veggies.
Snack on carrots, order the kale salad, opt for the sweet potato fries—these veggies are loaded with antioxidants called carotenoids that give you a glow. In a Scottish study, people who added three more servings a day to their diet had skin that looked visibly tanner and healthier after six weeks. (Don't sweat the Cheetos effect: You'd have to eat a ton of carrots to actually look orange.) And eat roasted tomatoes on the regular: They're abundant in the carotenoid lycopene, which a German study found reduces skin roughness.
How to Get Great Skin for Life
Go Nuts with Your Salad.
Yep, those antioxidants again: Both selenium (found in Brazil nuts) and vitamin E (in almonds and sunflower seeds) help calm inflammation and prevent environmental damage, and they work as a team. So make a habit of tossing them into some leafy greens (also rich in vitamin E) along with a rotating cast of colorful veggies. "You'll be getting a wide variety of antioxidants that can share the toxin load," says Dr. Dattner.
Collagen and elastin aren't just words on your lotion bottle—they're proteins in your skin that maintain its firmness and shape. "For your body to make these proteins, you need to eat enough protein," Dr. Dattner says. Skimp on it and you won't have the building blocks for smooth, strong skin, hair and nails. Aim for 20 to 30 grams per meal. (A 3-ounce chicken breast contains 20 grams.)
Load Up on Vitamin C.
In a study of more than 4,000 women, a diet high in vitamin C was linked to younger-looking skin. "As an antioxidant, vitamin C powerfully fights damage from pollution and the sun," Ott says. And it doesn't take much: An orange a day—or a cup of broccoli, or Brussels sprouts—keeps the plastic surgeon away!