The Food-Vitamin Connection to Healthy Skin
It's hard to walk down any skin care aisle without falling over a cache of vitamin-enriched topical products. Among the most popular are those laced with vitamin A, a nutrient proven to revitalize skin by increasing cell turnover. This is a natural biological process that replaces old skin cells with fresh new ones, and keeps your complexion looking youthful.
As we age, however, old cells get replaced less frequently, so skin looks, feels, and acts "older." While vitamin A skin products can help, experts say A-rich foods -- such as sweet potatoes or cantaloupe -- can do the trick as well, without the risk of skin irritation caused by many topical treatments.
"Eating foods rich in vitamin A or beta-carotene is not going to give you as powerful of cell turnover effect as a prescription vitamin A cream, but these foods do help regulate cell turnover -- essentially by giving skin what it needs to perform as best as it possibly can," says McDermott.
But vitamin A isn't the only nutrient to impact your skin. According to Perricone, antioxidant vitamins A, B complex, C, and E all work to create your skin's "safety net" -- helping to reduce environmental assaults that can damage a skin cell's membrane. This, in turn, affects everything from how much fluid your skin can retain, to how effectively waste products are shuffled in and out of cells.
Perhaps more importantly, however, each time cells undergoes damage, inflammation is created -- and again, your skin pays the price.
"The whole process of skin aging may be the byproduct of inflammation -- that's the whole premise behind not only using antioxidants in skin care products, but also [eating them in foods] as well," Linker tells WebMD. The goal, she says, is to reduce the inflammatory reaction in the body.
So what foods should you include? According to NYU nutritionist Samantha Heller, an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are key. Among the most important to having healthy skin, she says, are foods containing the powerful antioxidant known as lycopene. Heller says the best sources include tomato products, guava, watermelon, and red papaya. Other important skin foods to include in your diet, she says are sweet potatoes, blueberries, and strawberries. This potent antioxidant gives these fruits and vegetables their brilliant colors.