You are what you eat. Research on nutrition’s effect on skin appearance goes back hundreds of years—but don’t try eating a clock to turn back time for your skin. Instead, focus on antioxidant-rich supplements and foods that may promote healthier skin.
The importance of skin
Our birthday suits cover approximately two square meters and weigh about 8 pounds (3.6 kg), making our skin the largest organ in our bodies. It plays an important role in our immune and nervous systems and protects all the organs it wraps around. And just like a real suit, our skin goes through a lot of wear and tear.
If your suit is starting to look a little worn out, creased, and tired, think of your local health food store as an all-in-one launderer and tailor whose shelves offer some of nature’s best options for ironing out those wrinkles and revitalizing your look.
Beauty foods: Essential fatty acids
Whoever said that beauty is only skin deep obviously didn\’t know how some healthy foods can help boost our complexions.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and flaxseeds, help skin stay moisturized and fight inflammation. Walnuts also contain zinc—important in skin’s role as a barrier and for wound healing and combatting bacteria. Research shows that high EFA intake may boost skin health and create younger-looking skin while also protecting against photo-aging.
Another option is vitamin E, which is found in sunflower seeds, cooked spinach, and almonds. Studies have suggested that this antioxidant may help protect skin from damage and minimize wrinkling.
Green tea, the healthy, reliable, and energizing superstar of the tea world is also fantastic for your skin. Drinking it regularly has been shown to reverse signs of sun damage in skin—likely due to the tea’s polyphenols and catechins. Green tea contains antioxidants that help protect skin from free radicals, and it may help treat skin disorders ranging from acne to rosacea.
Antioxidants in skin care products
Throughout the day, free radicals—from UV light, pollution, toxins in our food, and more—bombard our skin. The damage this creates can lead to poor skin tone, discoloration, wrinkles and other signs of aging, and even more serious skin disorders such as cancer. Skin care products enhanced with antioxidants may help capture and neutralize these free radicals, defending our skin’s appearance and slowing the aging hands of time.
Topical vitamin E
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is found in many topical skin care products because of its rich moisturizing and conditioning properties. It helps repair and improve the appearance of damaged skin and is commonly used to target dark under eye circles. Studies show that vitamin E-boosted skin cremes specifically target the reduction of wrinkle depth and fine lines in the face.
Topical vitamin C
One of the most popular antioxidants for skin care is vitamin C. Studies have shown that topical use may help protect against damage, minimize small lines and wrinkles, and even smoothes out rough skin.
“Almost anybody can use a vitamin C serum unless they have an allergy to citrus fruits,” says Lynn, an esthetician in Vancouver, BC. “Vitamin C is a mild skin exfoliant and a great free radical controller.” While health food stores sell numerous products with varying vitamin C concentrations, she recommends starting with a product with a low percentage of this antioxidant and working your way up in strength as your skin gets used to it.
As we get older, our skin has a harder time retaining moisture, and dry skin conditions promote wrinkle formation. Regularly using a body or facial lotion helps trap wrinkle-reducing moisture, and nature offers several hydrating solutions.
“Moisturize and plump out fine lines with natural oils such as avocado oil for essential omegas, and hazelnut oil for building skin protein and nourishment,” says Julia Linford at J-Spa. Other natural moisturizing ingredients include coconut oil, sunflower oil, shea butter (for very dry skin), and aloe—the latter of which has antioxidants that may have particularly positive benefits on skin health.
As we age, skin cell turnover rates decrease. This creates a buildup of dead cells that leaves our complexions dull. Exfoliants boost our skin’s glow and may also reduce roughness in notorious spots such as elbows and heels. Exfoliating may also help reduce signs of aging such as wrinkles.
Natural ingredients in skin care products that exfoliate and freshen up our skin include tartaric acid from grapes, and malic acid from apples. You can also try physical scrubs formulated with smooth beads or similar particles such as sugar or oatmeal grains that polish away dead skin cells.
While the anti-aging skin care industry is built around synthetics, the earth offers numerous traditional botanical remedies. A prime example is soy. When used topically in natural skin care products, it’s been shown to help with signs of aging such as hyperpigmentation, skin elasticity, and dry skin.
Other botanical extracts in topical skin care that studies suggest may help keep skin looking youthful include coffeeberry, which is high in skin-benefiting polyphenols; green tea, which a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found may help with skin elasticity; and camomile, which isn’t just rich in antioxidants but also may help with skin irritation, especially dry, itchy skin.