When it comes to taking proper care of your skin, it doesn’t just end at a good skincare routine—though that certainly helps! What you put into yourself matters just as much, if not more, as what you put on it. Tracie Martyn co-founder and product formulator Marius Morariu is a holistic nutritionist and offers his advice on eating for every skin concern.
As we get older, a few major changes happen to our skin: it starts producing collagen and elastin at a slower rate, it takes longer to heal, your sebaceous glands produce less oil, and your supportive tissue starts to diminish. This is what leads to visible signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, stubborn dark spots, and loss of elasticity and volume. While there’s no “fountain of youth” yet to keep these things from happening, there are dietary changes you can make to make your skin healthier, more resilient, and yes—help keep away a wrinkle or two. Add these foods to your next grocery list for younger-looking skin.
Vitamin C-packed fruits
Grocery list: Citrus fruits, strawberries, pomegranate
Citrus fruits like oranges as well as berries are a great source of antioxidant vitamin C, which helps your body build collagen. Eating vitamin C (while continuing to use sunscreen, of course) can also help protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun and help your body’s natural healing process. Berries and pomegranate contain additional antioxidants like resveratrol and anthocyanins, which studies suggest can help decrease free radical damage.
Fruits with lycopene
Grocery list: Papayas, watermelon, tomatoes paste or puree
Along with vitamin C, these fruits also contain lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their distinctive pink and red color. The lycopene works synergistically with vitamin C to protect your skin and may reduce visible signs of aging. One study found that lycopene helped decrease skin redness (a sign of damage) after sun exposure. In another, older women who consumed a mixture of lycopene, vitamin C, other antioxidants, and fish oil for 14 weeks had a visible and measurable reduction in depth of facial wrinkles.
Your body absorbs these beneficial antioxidants better from papayas than other fruits and vegetables. The lycopene in tomato sauce has also been found to be more bioavailable than in raw tomatoes.
Leafy greens and nuts with Vitamin E
Grocery list: spinach, chard, sunflower seeds, almonds
Antioxidant vitamin E, found in dark leafy greens and nuts may help keep skin cells intact and reduce free radical damage from the environment and even your diet. Research has also suggested that it can also help reduce collagen breakdown. Because vitamin E is fat soluble, make sure to eat it with healthy fats to better boost absorption. For instance, olive oil in a vinaigrette or with avocados (which also have vitamin E).
Speaking of avocados… the healthy fats
Grocery list: salmon, mackerel, avocado, nuts
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish fatty fish help reduce premature aging, keep skin plump with moisture, and also reduce inflammation. Two placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated that taking fish oil can help accelerate wound healing, suggesting the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in having resilient, youthful skin. Omega-6s, found in vegetable oils, also play a critical role in keeping our skin’s barrier intact and strong, but you’re likely getting more than enough already because of the modern diet. As a matter of fact, it is crucial that you keep the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 down to preferably 2:1, or at least 3:1. Western diets are 15:1 and can be as high as 50:1, which leads to inflammation.
Grocery list: collagen peptide powder, bone broth
Interest in collagen supplements has exploded over last few years, but do they work? Actually, probably! Early research suggests that taking collagen peptides can improve elasticity and moisture in the skin as well as increase collagen density. More evidence is needed to be conclusive, but there’s no known downside to eating and drinking your collagen. East Asians have been doing it for centuries. Do drink plenty of water to make sure it does not affect your regularity. I do believe that, from an ethical and environmental standpoint, moving to a vegetarian diet, an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, or a pescatarian diet is ideal if it's available to you. As of now, no plant-based collagen exists, but you can find fish collagen peptide supplements if you're avoiding meat.
What to avoid
The no's: sugar and certain alcoholic beverages (sorry!!)
Unfortunately, avoiding sugar is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Glycation—the process that happens when you eat sugar—negatively affects collagen and elasticity, while also causing inflammation and free radical formation. In short, it contributes to visible signs of aging. Swearing off all sugars isn’t realistic, but a good step is to cut down on white refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup where you can.
When it comes to alcohol, not all are equal. Compared to red wine, white wine has more sulfites that can cause redness and irritation without the antioxidants. It has even been linked to a higher risk for melanoma. And because beer and dark liquors contain more additives, they can lead to inflammation and also facial bloating. Opt instead for tequila or red wine. Choose wisely and drink in moderation—your skin will thank you!