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15 drinks and foods that are good for clear skin

girl with orange slices in hands
Can you really eat your way to clearer skin? Here’s a list of 15 foods and drinks that research suggests can help.

With so many beauty products claiming to give you great skin, natural products are often overlooked.

Instead of spending your hard-earned cash on the latest face cream recommended to you at a beauty counter, use what you already have - the answer to perfect skin could just be hiding in your fridge.

If you’d like to improve the condition of your skin, take a look at our recommendations for foods that are good for your skin and could possibly even reduce the risk of breakouts below.

Why does food affect our skin?

It is widely accepted that the food we eat (or don’t eat) will have some effect on overall our skin health and appearance.1

You can see evidence of this in the many vitamin deficiencies that result in skin disorders.

Take a vitamin B deficiency for example, symptoms of which include patchy red rashes, dermatitis and fungal skin infections.2,3

Food is where we get the majority of our antioxidants, especially fruits and vegetables, which provide us with some of the most important antioxidants for skin like vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.

Does food affect acne?

Food doesn’t usually relate directly to acne. Current research has not found any foods that cause acne, but eating a healthy, balanced diet is recommended for skin health.4

Why do we get spots?

No one likes to experience acne, spots and blemishes either, and we understand how frustrating and painful it can be if you get frequent breakouts.

Spots occur when tiny holes in the skin – known as hair follicles – become blocked by one of the following:5

  • Dead skill cells – these can build up on the surface layer of the skin
  • Excess oil – diet, hormones, stress and genetics can all cause your skin to produce too much oil (sebum) which can cause dead skin cells to stick to the skin’s surface

When this happens, the bacteria that lives on skin and is usually harmless can contaminate and infect the blocked follicles, causing more severe spots than your average whitehead or blackhead.

Is there a difference between spots and acne?

Not really, no. Acne is a disease and regular spots/pimples are one of its symptoms, along with more severe spots like:

  • Nodules - large hard lumps that build up beneath the skin’s surface that can be painful
  • Cysts – puss-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the most risk of causing permanent scarring

Summary:

  • Eating a healthy diet (or an unhealthy one) can affect our skin health
  • Sometimes, spots and acne can be caused by a diet that encourages the skin to produce excessive oil (sebum)

What are the best foods for clear skin?

Fruit and vegetables

Yellow, orange, red and dark green foods contain large amounts of beta carotene, a skin-essential mineral the body converts into its own form of vitamin A, retinol.

Retinol promotes the production of the skin’s vital support structures, collagen and elastin, which hold the skin together, preventing wrinkles and sagging.

Many fruits and veggies are also rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, vital for stimulating collagen production.

Vitamin E is essential for helping maintain and support healthy skin cells. You can find it in sunflower oil and seeds, whole grains and nuts.

Choose antioxidants

Antioxidants can help fight free radicals, unstable molecules produced when our bodies convert food into energy, or created by pollution, radiation and smoking.

Free radicals attack healthy cells, causing damage and inflammation, resulting in skin lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone and sensitivity.

But antioxidants can help halt free radicals in their tracks.

One of the best ways to get more antioxidants is to eat five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

The fruits and veggies with the most intense colours are the ones richest in antioxidants; think about a rainbow of foods on your plate – green veggies like kale or fruits such as kiwi, orange pumpkin or satsumas, red peppers or tomatoes – and try to eat a rainbow at every meal.

15 foods good for clear skin

A balanced diet is key to support your inner glow, so exactly what are foods that can help improve your skin? Here are 15 drinks and foods that can help improve your skin.

Which vegetable is good for skin?

  1. Carrot benefits for the skin

Carrots are a good source of vitamin A and antioxidants which are great for making damaged skin look healthier and more vibrant.

Other vitamin A rich foods include sweet potatoes, kale and mangos.

  1. Broccoli benefits for skin

If you’re not currently a fan of broccoli, then you might need to become one as they’re so good for your skin.

To try and prevent wrinkles from forming, have some broccoli with your dinner. It contains vitamin C which helps your skin stay firm and prevents it from drying out.

Broccoli contains glucoraphanin which can help soothe sun-damaged skin and reduce the likelihood of age spots appearing.

  1. Don’t forget cauliflower!

Just like its green cousin, cauliflower also contains glucoraphanin and can help with skin pigmentation issues and soothe sun-damaged skin.

  1. Sweet potato benefits for skin

To give your skin a boost of anti-ageing vitamin A, start eating sweet potatoes with their skins on.

  1. Tomato benefits for skin

Experts recommend that you try to have a tomato or two most days as they are full of carotenoids and antioxidants which help stop skin cells ageing and keep your skin looking youthful.

Summary:

  • Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can promote healthy, clear skin

Fruits that are good for skin

  1. Blueberry benefits for the skin

Next time you have a yoghurt, try sprinkling some blueberries on top. They’re full of antioxidants which could help clear your skin and stop spots forming in the first place.

If you want to improve your skin tone, have a handful of blueberries next time you want a quick snack. Your skin will appreciate the extra boost of vitamin C and E.

Most dermatologists agree that antioxidants help you to maintain healthy skin by disrupting signaling pathways involved with skin damage, helping to prevent wrinkles and offering some defence against photodamage.6

  1. Blackberry benefits for the skin

Just like blueberries, blackberries are also full to the brim with the antioxidants needed to keep your skin clear and healthy.

These fruits might be small but they’re mighty. They contain ellagic acid which helps stop wrinkles forming, gives you a good complexion and protects your skin from UV rays.

  1. Strawberries benefits for the skin

Not only are strawberries delicious but they’re also a great source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is key for skin health.

Normal skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C, which is well known for supporting collagen synthesis and helping to protect the skin from UV-induced skin damage.7

Collagen production naturally slows as we get older, but this decline can start prematurely if our bodies don’t have enough vitamin C to work with.

This can lead to a compromised skin barrier and prematurely aged skin.

Strawberries also contain lots of antioxidants which are good at stopping your pores from becoming blocked and preventing spots from developing.

  1. Watermelon benefits for the skin

When you eat watermelon, nitric oxide is produced which can help old spots and pimples heal.

A slice of watermelon can refresh your skin, thanks to the lycopene and amino acids contained within.

It also gives your skin a boost of vitamin A, B6 and C plus helps protect it from UV rays.

The redder the flesh of the watermelon, the better it is for your skin which is something you might want to consider.

  1. Pomegranate benefits for the skin

People don’t call these a super fruit for nothing.

Pomegranates are bursting with antioxidants, anthocyanins and ellagic acid which help reduce the number of wrinkles you get, prevent hyperpigmentation, firm your skin, reduce dryness and protect it from UV rays.

Summary:

  • Fruit also contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can promote healthy, clear skin

Other foods good for skin

Include essential fats in your diet

Cut down on harmful saturated and trans-fats but up your intake of good fats, as these make up the actual skin cells.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) also keep the cell walls strong, so they retain moisture and nutrients, helping your skin look plump and refreshed.

The best sources of EFAs, such as omega-3 and omega-6, are oily fish including salmon, sardines and tuna, avocados, nuts and seeds.

Olive oil and pumpkin seed oil are also rich in EFAs, while coconut oil is becoming more popular.

  1. Oily fish benefits for the skin

Don’t get put off by the ‘oily’ in oily fish, it turns out that the fats found in fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are good for our skin – even if it’s oily.

Oily fish are great sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids - types of fat that have been reported to help maintain healthy skin.

For example, the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid is essential for growth, reproduction and skin function.8

Research suggests that consuming omega fatty acids through you the food you eat could help to make the following skin conditions less severe:9

  • Photoaging
  • Allergies
  • Dermatitis
  • Cutaneous wounds

In fact, a deficiency of essential fatty acids (either omega-3s or omega-6s) can lead to scaly, rough skin and dermatitis.10

These essential fatty acids may also help to regulate inflammation in the body.

This may have beneficial effects against acne which is caused by inflammation of the hair follicles and oil glands.11

As well as omega fatty acids, fatty fish also contains high-quality protein, which is essential for healthy skin.

Most types of oily fish contain vitamin E too, a potent antioxidant that can help protect cells from free radical damage.12

  1. Oysters benefits for the skin

Zinc-rich foods are great for helping to reduce spotty skin and oysters are one of the best sources around.

Our bodies store almost 6% of total body zinc levels in the skin.13 This essential micronutrient is involved in a large number of cellular processes.

It plays an important role in skin health, supporting the following processes that are key to healthy skin:14

  • Cell division
  • Cell growth
  • Collagen formation
  • Omega-3 metabolism
  • Building keratin

Collagen and keratin are both essential for building and maintaining healthy skin, and without adequate levels of zinc, the body can struggle to synthesise them.

If you don’t like oysters you could try to increase your zinc intake by eating mushrooms, beef, lamb, pork or pumpkin seeds instead.

  1. Dark chocolate benefits for the skin

If you want a sweet treat, have a square of dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate contains flavonols that increase blood flow, protect your skin from UV rays and help keep your skin hydrated.

  1. Brazil nut benefits for the skin

Having just one brazil nut a day will give your skin a boost and may even help with any damage caused by acne.

Brazil nuts contain selenium which is also found in onions and garlic.

Summary:

  • Other foods like oily fish, nuts and dark chocolate also contain nutrients that can support the skin

Other skin-clearing food advice

Whole grains for regeneration

Replace white carbohydrates, such as biscuits and white pasta, with complex carbs like lentils, barley, rye and buckwheat.

These are all foods for healthy skin as they contain vital minerals to help regenerate the skin, including selenium – research shows selenium can help prevent DNA sun damage and those dreaded ‘old age’ spots!

Whole grains are also rich in fibre, which binds to unwanted substances and helps eliminate them from your body.

This in turn will support your liver which is the primary organ for detoxification, so a clean liver produces clean skin.

Eat more protein

Protein is required for rebuilding and repairing every organ in our body, particularly when it comes to our skin as it helps form collagen and elastin.

Some proteins are also rich in co-enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10), a substance found in every cell of the body.

As we age, our levels of Co-Q10 drop, which is thought to contribute to the skin ageing process.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean animal proteins like chicken
  • Seafood such as oily fish, which also contains essential fatty acids
  • Nuts and seeds, beans, lentils or chickpeas
  • Eggs, which contain all eight of the amino acids needed to build cells
  • Liver, which is also rich in vitamin A

Now you’re ready to fill your fridge with breakout-busting foods to help you on your way to healthier skin from the inside out!

Summary:

  • Protein and whole grains can also help you maintain healthy skin

Drinks that are good for skin

  1. Green Tea for skin

Swapping your usual cuppa for a mug of green tea might help soothe your acne symptoms.

With some studies suggesting that drinking green can reduce inflammation, boost your immune system and reduce the amount of pore-blocking oils (sebum) your skin produces, it may be worth giving it a go.

Green tea is the best food source of plant compounds called catechins.

Research has found these to be more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting damage to body cells, as well as having other disease-fighting properties.

In fact, Hong Kong scientists found green tea drinkers have a body cell age around five years younger than non-green tea drinkers.

A study by Kingston University, London, discovered white tea helps stop the breakdown of elastin and collagen, vital components of normal skin.

Handpicked Content: How to get your daily skincare regime right

When to get professional help for spots

If you find your spots are not getting better and you are avoiding going out or doing the things you like, you may wish to seek some professional help.

Read more about Acne on The Health Hub

The final say:

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet nourishes you from within and helps to support healthy, clear skin
  • Some foods, namely fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats, can all help to keep skin looking and feeling good
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 2 September 2021

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