Foods That Make Your Skin Glow

Medically reviewed in April 2022

Top skin creams average about $400 per ounce (and you thought gas was expensive!), yet most offer little proof that they do half of what they promise. Want to save a bundle and improve your skin? Load your shopping cart with nutrients that have been shown to possess skin-hydrating, sun-protecting, and even wrinkle-preventing powers, says Manhattan dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD. Here's her grocery list of the best foods for your skin:

Firm and Bright
You're probably up to your eyebrows (Botoxed or not) with the mantra "eat more fruits and vegetables." But if you've yet to take that advice to heart, maybe knowing that they prevent wrinkles will do the trick.

The skin doc's three top picks: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.

What they do: Replenish your skin's supply of antioxidants, so they're ready to scarf up free radicals whenever they make an appearance. Free rads are highly reactive oxygen molecules that damage cells and contribute to just about everything that can go wrong with skin, from dryness to wrinkles.

Fresh and Juicy
Your body can't store much wrinkle-fighting vitamin C, so you need to top up your supplies regularly. The easiest way: Have some citrus every day.

The skin doc's four top picks: oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.

Ounce for ounce, oranges are the top citrus source of C, but you can only eat so many, right? For variety, make lemonade; squeeze limes on melon; add grapefruit to salad; and, instead of drinking soda, fizz OJ with sparkling water. It all adds up.

What they do: Keep skin's vitamin C levels high. While C is a nifty antioxidant, that's not the key reason it's here. It helps keep collagen -- the supportive protein fibers that stop skin from sagging -- strong and resilient. (Flimsy collagen means lines and wrinkles.) Since collagen breakdown really picks up in your mid-30s, eat citrus early and often to head off aging.

Smoothing and Soothing
There's a particularly potent antioxidant known as EGCG that does all kinds of good things for skin. The best place to find it? True teas: black, green, or white (not herbal). Brew a full teapot every morning so that sipping 4 to 6 cups throughout the day is a no-brainer.

The skin doc's #1 pick: green tea.

While all true teas contain EGCG (by the way, that stands for epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the various types of green tea have the most. Dr. Wechsler's personal favorite is hojicha green tea (available at www.adagio.com). "The roasting process that turns this green tea a brownish color also lowers its caffeine content," she says -- handy if you're caffeine sensitive or it's one of those days when you don't need another stimulant.

What it does: Gives your skin a healthy dose of EGCG, which is a great multitasker. EGCG puts a damper on inflammatory chemicals involved in acne and sun-related skin aging, it helps prevent skin cancer; and it has a lion-tamer effect on tumor cells. What's more, green tea contains L-theanine, a de-tensing amino acid -- and anything you can do to stanch the flow of the stress hormone cortisol helps keep collagen fibers intact.

Dark and Green
Certain dark green vegetables, whether they're fresh, frozen, raw, or steamed, really deliver on vitamin A, one of the most skin-essential vitamins going.

The skin doc's three top picks: spinach, turnip greens, and broccoli.

What they do: Deliver a hefty supply of vitamin A, which supports skin-cell turnover, the process that keeps cell growth and development humming along flawlessly. Without enough A, skin becomes dry, tough, and scaly.

Fish Faves
Several cold-water catches give your skin a double benefit: age-fighting omega-3 fatty acids and the restorative powers of protein.

The skin doc's seven top picks: salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, Pacific herring, and most shellfish.

Just don't, uh, go overboard. As good as omega-3s are for skin (and the rest of you, too), worries about the amount of mercury in many fish mean it's smart to limit seafood or freshwater fish to two meals a week. That's a must for young children and for women who are pregnant, who may become pregnant, or who are nursing. 

What they do: Omega-3s fight inflammation, now considered one of the top skin agers, and they also help protect against sunburn, enhancing the effects of your sunscreen's SPF. Protein is required to build and repair skin cells and to make enzymes and hormones that help keep it glowing.

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