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Nutrients for Healthy Skin

What are the best foods for your skin and the best ways to get the vitamins and other nutrients your skin needs?

By Jen Uscher

Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD

WebMD Feature

You know that you need to nourish your skin to keep it as healthy as possible. But are you getting enough of the right nutrients from the foods you eat? Could you benefit from taking a supplement or trying an antioxidant-packed lotion?

"The beauty of the skin is that you can affect it from both inside and out," says dermatologist Doris Day, MD, author of Forget the Facelift: Turn Back the Clock with a Revolutionary Program for Ageless Skin.

What You Eat Matters

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants is good for your whole body, including your skin.

Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and A can curb the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. These molecules can harm skin cells and cause signs of aging.

One of the best ways to get more antioxidants is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

"I recommend going for as much variety and color as possible in your diet," Day says. "Try snacking on blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, kale, spinach, and different kinds of peppers." She also suggests adding a little tomato paste, which contains an antioxidant called lycopene, to stir-fried vegetables, brown rice, or quinoa.

Another good idea is to stock your grocery cart with foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including wild salmon, sardines, fortified eggs, and walnuts.

"Omega-3 fatty acids help keep the top outer layer of the skin strong and intact so that external toxins and pollutants are kept out," says dermatologist David E. Bank, MD, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

What About Supplements?

The ideal way to get the nutrients you need for a radiant complexion is eating a healthy, balanced diet.

But Bank suggests taking an over-the-counter daily multivitamin with minerals to boost your nutrient intake if you're not eating a balanced diet. It's also a good idea if you spend a lot of time outdoors or are exposed to high levels of air pollution and secondhand smoke.

Pay Attention to Your Skin's Overall Health

As important as it is to eat a healthy diet, your skin also needs you to not smoke, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and drink enough water.

No matter what you eat, be sure to  wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. The label should say "broad-spectrum," meaning that it protects against the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Apply a nickel-sized dollop of sunscreen to cover your face, says Woolery-Lloyd. If you’re going to be outside, limit your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Always wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, seek the shade, wear sunscreen, and reapply at least every 2 hours, more if swimming or sweating.

Be Patient

To get results, give it time. "It may take three months to a year to really see an improvement in your skin," Bank says. "Go with what's tried and true and give it a solid chance to work."

Brush up on Beauty

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