How to Keep Your Skin Healthy

Keep skin supple and hydrated—and lower your risk of cancer—with these dermatologist-approved picks.

Medically reviewed in March 2021

No matter what your age, taking care of your skin should be a priority. “As we age, our skin's ability to keep itself hydrated, glistening and supple decreases. This is largely because our oil glands and skin surface become less able to produce and retain moisture,” says dermatologist Thomas Hocker, MD, of Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kansas.

During certain seasons, you may be more prone to skin problems, all the more reason to take care of your skin cells all year long. In the winter, you’re at risk for dry and itchy skin, psoriasis flare-ups, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema and “winter itch.” And in the summer, you may experience acne, sunburn or irritations.

It’s likely that moisturizing daily, washing your face before bed and applying regular sunscreen are all part of your daily routine, but your diet can contribute to the health of your skin, too.

Whether it’s wintertime or summertime, these three nutrients can keep your skin hydrated and lower your skin cancer risk.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s help keep your heart healthy, reduce the amount of triglycerides or fat in your blood and may help lower your blood pressure. The fatty acids can help your skin stay moisturized, too. “I recommend a diet rich in fish, as the omega-3 fatty acids are good for a number of bodily functions, including skin health,” says Dr. Hocker.

Omega-3s strengthen your skin’s barrier, so it can retain moisture. And the fatty acids also decrease inflammation that may accompany acne, eczema or psoriasis breakouts, or rashes from dry skin.

Try incorporating wild or farmed salmon, tuna, chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseed into your diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating 3.5 ounces of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids twice a week. 

And if you prefer supplements like fish oil, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before you start. High doses may cause diarrhea, gas and nausea and if you’re taking blood thinners, omega-3 supplements may increase your bleeding risk.

Vitamin D
It’s important to take vitamin D supplements or add vitamin-rich foods to your diet, but 50% of people aren’t getting enough of it. It’s especially important to add this vitamin to your winter diet. “There is less natural production of vitamin D during the winter because the sunshine is relatively lower, but your body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D naturally” says Hocker.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and in turn, promotes bone growth. And the sunshine vitamin may improve your immune system, too.

And although vitamin D has been named the “sunshine vitamin,” researchers are still trying to uncover all of its superpowers when it comes to your skin. For those with eczema, a vitamin D deficiency may mean more breakouts or infections. Eczema symptoms may be worse in the winter, so it may be helpful to up your intake.

Some good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Fortified foods like cereal, yogurt and orange juice

Still, it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. Supplements in liquid or pill form can help, too. If your week is shaping up to be sunny, try stepping outside for 15 minutes three times a week, and make sure the sun shines on your face, arms, back or legs. Learn more about how much vitamin D you need here.

Water
Good ‘ole H20 promotes healthy digestion, increases your energy levels and keeps your waistline slim. It’s recommended that most people drink around eight cups of water per day, but will doing so really give you smooth, glowing skin?

There’s very little evidence suggesting that regular water intake will slow the skin aging process, but water does help your internal organs function and helps your skin stay hydrated.

If you’re having trouble getting enough water, try adding fresh lemon, lime or berries for more flavor.

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