The studies on diet and skin don’t reveal anything we don’t already know. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are good for us, skin included. Healthful foods appear to reduce inflammation and decrease the likelihood of breakouts. Here are some of the big players when it comes to healthy skin:
Vitamin A. “Vitamin A helps regulate the skin cycle, so no acne-causing protein and oil get trapped,” Marmur says. It’s the main ingredient in Accutane, an effective prescription medicine for acne. Good food sources of vitamin A include fish oil, salmon, carrots, spinach, and broccoli. Too much vitamin A can lead to toxic side effects, however. Limit your daily dose to 10,000 IU and never take it while pregnant or nursing.
Zinc. There is some evidence that people with acne have lower than normal levels of the mineral zinc. Zinc appears to help prevent acne by creating an environment inhospitable to the growth of P. acnes. It also helps calm skin irritated by breakouts. Zinc is found in turkey, almonds, Brazil nuts, and wheat germ.
Vitamins E and C. The antioxidants vitamin E and vitamin C have a calming effect on the skin. “And they are thought to work synergistically,” Marmur says. Sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, papaya, and tomatoes. You can get vitamin E from sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, sunflower seeds, avocados, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables.
Selenium. The mineral selenium has antioxidant properties that help protect skin from free radical damage. And one study showed that, together with vitamin E, it may improve acne as well. “A small Swedish study on 42 men and 47 women found that those who consumed selenium together with vitamin E for 12 weeks saw improvements in their acne,” says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. Food sources of selenium include wheat germ, tuna, salmon, garlic, Brazil nuts, eggs, and brown rice.
Omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit certain molecules that lead to inflammation and resulting skin problems,” Fusco says. They also support the normal healthy skin cell turnover that helps keep acne at bay. You can get omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fish, such as salmon and sardines; flaxseed oil; walnuts; sunflower seeds; and almonds.