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Skin Issues? Here Are the Foods You Need

We often think of skin as something we care for from the outside. Special cleansers, lotions, creams, and ointments are often sold as being “essential” for healthy skin. While these are an important part of skincare, they are not the only things that are truly “essential” for healthy skin. Your skin is created and nourished from the inside out. The nutrients you consume on a day-to-day basis affect the way your skin feels and looks.


Your skin is your largest organ and it plays a vital role in your overall health and wellness. It protects what’s inside you by keeping water and nutrients in, while keeping harmful bacteria and viruses out. Your skin helps you maintain your body temperature and makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. It’s also full of nerve endings to help you sense the outside world and avoid damage from things that are too hot, cold, or sharp.


Skincare isn’t only something we need to do on the outside. What we eat and drink affects all of our vital organs - including our skin!


Your skin is a complex organ and needs a variety of different nutrients every day to stay healthy. Below are some of my top recommendations.

 

Water


You may not always think about water as an essential nutrient, but it is. Water plays many important roles in your body. It’s the main component of your cells and fluids. It allows you to maintain your body temperature and it provides shock absorption for your joints. It’s no wonder that adults are 60% water!


When it comes to our skin, water is just as essential. Your skin has three layers. The outermost layer - the one you see and feel - is called the epidermis. The middle layer is the dermis, and underneath is your hypodermis. When your epidermis doesn’t have enough water, your skin feels rough and loses elasticity. The water your epidermis needs comes from the inside. One clinical study found that when participants who didn’t drink a lot of water increased their intake, their skin became more hydrated and their skin’s “extensibility” improved within 2 weeks. Drinking more water can help skin hydration and may be particularly beneficial if you have dry skin or don’t drink enough water.


How much water do you need every day?

According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, women should aim for 2.3 L (8 cups) of fluids per day, while men should aim for 2.8 L (10 cups) per day. Note that these fluids can come from drinking water, tea, coffee or other beverages.

Your personal water needs may be higher if you sweat a lot (from physical activity or living in a hot, humid environment), if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are prone to urinary or digestive tract conditions (kidney stones, vomiting, diarrhea).


How do you know if you are properly hydrated?

The colour of your urine is a good indicator of your hydration level. In an ideal world, urine should be pale to a very light yellow in colour.


Have a look at this hydration assessment chart below for some extra help:



Possible signs of dehydration

  • Dark urine (and strong-smelling)

  • Feeling thirsty (dry, sticky mouth)

  • Headache (feeling dizzy / light-headed)

  • Fatigue

  • Finding it hard to concentrate

  • Muscle cramps

  • Bad breath

  • Sudden hunger and food cravings

  • Constipation

  • Distorted vision

  • Exhaustion

 

Protein


Protein is an essential macronutrient which means you need quite a bit of it every day (more than with micronutrients like vitamins where you need much smaller amounts every day). Protein makes up parts of your cells, immune system antibodies, and the enzymes needed for thousands of reactions (including digestion). Your body’s main structure is also made from proteins. This includes your bones, muscles, organs . . . and skin. Different proteins are made by combining different building blocks called amino acids.


Your skin is made up of several different proteins. For example, collagen and elastin are very plentiful and build up the structure of your skin. Over time, and with exposure to the elements, your body’s ability to produce collagen decreases. Keratin is another important protein in your skin. Keratin makes up the outer epidermis layer giving it rigidity and enhancing its barrier protection.


How much do you need daily?

The recommended daily amount of protein is based on your body weight and it's expressed in grams, either per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) or per pound of body weight (g/lb). If you’re sedentary, aim for 1.2–1.8 g/kg (0.54–0.82 g/lb). If you are looking to lose fat and/or build muscle, the range can be 1.6–2.4 g/kg (0.73–1.10 g/lb). Your optimum intake of protein also highly depends on your health, body composition, main goal, and the type, intensity, duration, and frequency of your physical activity.


Best sources of protein

Animal sources include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs.

Plant-based sources of protein include soy (including tempeh, tofu, soybeans, soymilk), lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains (quinoa, wild rice, oats), and even vegetables like broccoli and potatoes.

 

Essential fatty acids


There are two types of fatty acids that are essential nutrients for our health and our skin. They are linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Omega-3 fatty acids in particular are anti-inflammatory and have been linked to many health benefits including improvements in rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, heart disease, and psoriasis, to name a few.


A higher intake of Omega-3 is associated with lower levels of skin dryness and thinning as skin ages. On the other hand, a lack of fatty acids is linked to increased water loss from the skin, drying it out and causing weakness in the protective outer barrier.


Best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines

  • Plant-based sources: walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds

  • You can consider supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids – in form of fish oil or a vegan alternative (synthesized from algae) - always check with your healthcare provider

 

Vitamin C


Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and has several functions including making other nutrients more absorbable and available. It is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin that plays many roles in your body, including skin health.


A deficiency of Vitamin C (scurvy) results in skin lesions, as well as skin that is easily bruised and slow to heal. This is, in part, because of Vitamin C’s role in stabilizing the protein collagen. Another sign of Vitamin C deficiency in the skin affects hair follicles and can cause “corkscrew hairs.” These are examples of why Vitamin C is so important for skin health


How much do you need daily?

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin C is 100-200mg. This can be easily attained through the diet, making sure you consume the foods below regularly.


Best sources of Vitamin C

Citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, kiwis, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes.

 

Vitamin E


Vitamin E is a group of essential vitamins called tocopherols. They are fat-soluble antioxidants that work synergistically with Vitamin C. When given together, vitamins C and E (and zinc) can speed up wound healing. Deficiency of Vitamin E is linked to red, dry skin.


Vitamin E is often applied directly (topically) on the skin to reduce redness and some of the effects of sun damage. Ingesting Vitamin E helps the skin from the inside by protecting collagen and fats from breaking down. One clinical study successfully improved symptoms of dermatitis (skin inflammation) in participants who took Vitamin E supplements over the course of several months.


How much do you need daily?

The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) is 15 mg. This dose of Vitamin E can be acquired through the diet, making supplementation unnecessary in many cases.


Best sources of Vitamin E

Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, spinach, broccoli, olive oil, avocado, soy

 

Skincare beyond nutrition


While nutrition is essential, and I’ve covered my top 5 recommendations above, don’t forget other important skincare practices that help protect and nurture your skin.


  • Use gentle cleansers and warm (not too hot) water to keep skin clean

  • Moisturise after taking a shower or washing your hands

  • Avoid things that bother your skin such as harsh cleansers, fragrances, and irritating fabrics

  • If you have allergies or intolerances (e.g., to gluten or pollen), avoid those

  • Limit your sun exposure and use sunscreen as appropriate

  • Be physically active

  • Try to get enough quality sleep

  • Use a humidifier and wear gloves when the weather is dry and cold

  • Avoid smoking

 

Bottom Line


The nutrients you consume feed your whole body—including your skin. As your largest organ with many critical roles, your skin needs a variety of different nutrients every single day. Water, protein and essential fatty acids are important macronutrients, while the antioxidant vitamins C and E are among some of the micronutrients your skin needs to heal and stay healthy.


In addition to nutrition, caring for the outside of your skin is also important. Using gentle cleansers, warm water, and moisturizers, and avoiding irritants and allergens will help. If you have any medical concerns with your skin, see your healthcare professional.


Is your skin suffering from a lack of nutrition? Need help to identify what foods your skin needs? Looking for ways to implement delicious skin-boosting foods into your day-to-day life? Book an appointment with me and let's discuss how I can help you.










 

Sources & Further Reading


Cleveland Clinic. (2016, March 17). Skin. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10978-skin


Harvard Health. (2018, May). Getting rid of the itch of eczema. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/getting-rid-of-the-itch-of-eczema


Harvard Health. (2018, November). Can a gluten-free diet help my skin? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-a-gluten-free-diet-help-my-skin


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (n.d.). Protein. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/


Hodges, A. L., & Walker, D. K. (2017). Skin Care for Women. Nursing for women's health, 20(6), 609–613. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nwh.2016.10.001


Huang, T. H., Wang, P. W., Yang, S. C., Chou, W. L., & Fang, J. Y. (2018). Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil's Fatty Acids on the Skin. Marine drugs, 16(8), 256. https://doi.org/10.3390/md16080256


Keen, M. A., & Hassan, I. (2016). Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian dermatology online journal, 7(4), 311–315. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5178.185494


Mayo Clinic. (2020, October 14). Water: How much should you drink every day? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256


Mayo Clinic. (2020, November 21). Does drinking water cause hydrated skin? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/hydrated-skin/faq-20058067


NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (2019, July). Healthy Skin Matters. Retrieved from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/kids/healthy-skin#tab-id-2


NIH News in Health. (2015, November). Keep your skin healthy. Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/11/keep-your-skin-healthy


NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, February 27). Vitamin C. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/


NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, July 31). Vitamin E. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/


Palma, L., Marques, L. T., Bujan, J., & Rodrigues, L. M. (2015). Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 413–421. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S86822


Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 298–307. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.22876


University of Michigan Medicine. (2019, August 21). High protein foods for wound healing. Retrieved from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/abs1199

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