The Ultimate Guide to Eating for Skincare

Whether you have problem skin, eczema or want to turn back the clock, here's your expert guide to eating for the skin you want.

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With all the lotions, potions and serums we apply on our faces, it's easy to forget that radiant skin doesn't just come from what products we use. True healthy skin also comes from within. What we eat is just as important for skincare as what we apply topically. We talked to three nutrition and skin experts to learn exactly what to put in our grocery baskets and on our plates depending on common skin issue—blemishes, aging skin and eczema-prone skin.

Eating for Blemishes

Expert: Maria Marlowe, host of Institute for Integrative Nutrition series IINQuiry and health coach

It might seem intuitive, but our dietary habits are fantastic predictors of the quality of our skin. "If you think about it, skin is the body's largest organ and needs specific nutrients to look and perform its best," says Marlowe. "The foods we eat can both positively and negatively effect skin's performance and appearance. In order to get the most from your skin, you need to fuel it with nutrient-rich foods."

Marlowe says dark leafy greens such as kale and arugula are excellent sources of Vitamins A and C, which are rich in anti-oxidants and are important in the production of collagen and skin firmness, as well as skin differentiation, respectively. Leafy greens also are rich in sulfur, which is great for fighting bacterial inflammation in skin that causes acne.

The Ultimate Guide to Eating for Skincare
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Another must-have for fighting problem skin is the avocado. The creamy fruit is rich in fatty acids that aids in moisture retention. In addition, avocados contain vitamins E and C—both of which prevent free radical damage. Finally, biotin, a known ingredient prominent in avocados that keeps skin supple and hair and nails healthy, is also anti-inflammatory. But that's not all. Marlowe says pairing an avocado with carotenoid-rich foods like tomatoes, carrots or bell peppers actually helps your body absorb anti-oxidants lycopene and beta carotene five times better —both are critical in reducing UV damage and environmental aggressors.

Finally, a rather unexpected food that does wonders for skin are hemp seeds. Marlowe explains the tiny seeds actually pack a lot of punch The proteins inside contain a number of sulfur-rich amino acids that not only help with skin moisture and retention, but also hair, nail and muscle health. Hemp seeds have an "ideal ration of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids," says Marlowe. These anti-oxidants fight inflammation that causes pimples and breakouts by keeping skin's sebum in check. The sebum is responsible for keeping hair and skin moisturized, however if there's too much oil, acne and clogging can occur. Marlowe says to sprinkle hemp seeds in salads, oatmeal or smoothies to reap the benefits.

Eating for Anti-Aging

Expert: Mitzi Dulan, RD, America’s Nutrition Expert, team nutritionist for Kansas City Royals Baseball Team

The Ultimate Guide to Eating for Skincare
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If turning back the clock is more on your radar, nutrition expert and Equitance spokesperson Mitzi Dulan breaks down the key ingredients to incorporate into your diet—and which to ban for good. As to be expected, fried foods and excess sugars are a no-go for someone looking to stave off wrinkles. These can damage collagen, which is a key factor in keeping skin strong and firm. In addition, she warns against consuming processed meats, saturated and trans fats as well as processed carbohydrates.

Thankfully, Dulan explains that eating the right types of foods can help you maintain youthful glowing skin. To do so, she recommends eating foods rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants to fight free radical damage from the environment that cause wrinkles, collagen and elastin loss, and other aging problems. Opt for snack-time staples such as berries and plums to get a healthy dose of anti-oxidants.

For heartier meals, reach for salmon, nuts and flaxseed, which are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which as mentioned above are great at controlling oil production as well as keeping skin strong and smooth. Salmon is also a superfood that contains selenium, a mineral that protects the skin from sun exposure. As for nuts, reach for almonds or walnuts for a good source of vitamin E to fight damaging sun rays and vitamin B to aid in skin cell restoration.

Finally, for aging skin, don't forget the power of hydration. "Be sure to drink water to keep your cells hydrated and flush out toxins," says Dulan. "Green tea is also a great beverage choice as it has been shown to decrease inflammation."

Eating for Sensitive or Eczema-Prone Skin

Expert: Keri Glassman, MS, RD, founder Keri Glassman Nutritious Life, Eucerin partner

Just as anti-oxidants are essential for blemish-prone and aging skin, they are equally important for those suffering from eczema and highly sensitive skin. Not only do free radicals cause wrinkles and aging, but they can damage and inflame cells, causing eczema-prone skin to suffer more.

The Ultimate Guide to Eating for Skincare
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A must-have for eczema sufferers are whole grains. "Whole grains are an important part of any diet because they contain the entire grain in its natural state and give us the minerals and vitamins our bodies need," says Glassman. Whole grains such as barley, amaranth and teff contain skin-soother vitamin E and can fight irritation.

Probiotics might also be linked to eczema relief. Probiotics, or "good bacteria," are found in yogurt and kefir and help the body produce white blood cells and antibodies that protect from allergens. Not only is this the case for your overall immune system, some believe it helps in reducing skin inflammation as well. And if your skin is really acting up, supplementing your diet with other ingredients such as bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple, can give the body a natural dose of antihistamines.

Finally for those suffering from eczema, Glassman suggests avoiding common allergens found in foods. She explains as research has found allergies to foods can often provoke an eczema breakout. Avoiding common allergy-causing foods such as soy, dairy, peanuts, wheat and eggs, can assist in limiting the number of flare ups. Of course, she suggests speaking directly with a dietician to figure out which are specific to your dietary needs.

Although a healthy diet can transform your skin, don't expect it to do so overnight. Consistency is key with consuming a nutritious and well-balanced diet full. 

"Be a little patient when it comes to skincare—a lifetime of damage will not be erased with a single day of healthy eating," says Dulan. "Just as it can take a skincare product days to several weeks to show results, the same can be true of a nutritious diet, but some people can see a difference within days."

Bon appétit!

Former Senior Associate Beauty Editor at StyleBistro. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @CaitlinSMiller Follow me: Google
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