Search IconSearch

23 Foods To Eat for Healthier Skin

The secret to firmer, younger-looking skin starts with a healthy diet

woman checking skin in mirror

You can’t stop the aging process, but you can control how you do it. The good news is that if you’re committed to eating healthier, you can help give your skin a boost. Registered dietitian, Nicole Hopsecger, RD, discusses how certain nutrients and eating habits can contribute to glowing, healthy skin.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Factors that affect your skin

As we age, it’s normal to see changes in our skin, but why? Hopsecger offers a few reasons.

Oxidative stress: Oxidative stress has a role in skin aging; it’s a process that happens when free radicals cause damage to your cells. Free radicals are natural products of human metabolism, sun exposure and lifestyle factors like a highly processed diet, alcohol intake and smoking.

Inflammation: Increased inflammation in your body can have a negative impact on your skin. A diet filled with processed foods may increase total body inflammation.

Dryness: Skin dryness happens when your cells are poorly hydrated. This causes skin cells to get smaller. Dry weather, certain soaps and excessive sun exposure can also cause dryness.

Lifestyle changes that help your skin

Hopsecger strongly suggests visiting a dermatologist first to talk about any skin concerns you may have. But she says that there are other things you can do to help your complexion.

Wear sunscreen, reduce alcohol, quit smoking and stay hydrated,” advises Hopsecger. Drinking less alcohol leads to fewer free radicals being produced and less cell damage. If your skin is dehydrated, she says that drinking eight glasses of water daily can help.

Hopsecger also says that a diet full of fried foods, fast foods and sugar can impact your skin’s health in a negative way.

“Eating too many processed or refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index (dairy, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats) can actually cause skin inflammation, irritation and breakouts, and possibly promote aging,” she says. So, eat these foods in moderation and remember: supplements aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet.

By eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fatty fish and legumes, you can help nourish your skin from the inside out.

Nutrients that benefit your skin

Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s help your cells stay hydrated. In addition, omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in your body. Antioxidants and phytonutrients can help protect your cells by reducing free radicals in your body. So, which foods are good sources of omega-3s, antioxidants and phytonutrients? Here are Hopsecger’s picks.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids improve cholesterol and battle inflammation. They also help preserve collagen in your skin and keep it firmer.

“The top source of omega-3s is fish,” says Hopsecger. These are the best candidates for the job:

  • Herring.
  • Mackerel.
  • Salmon.
  • Tuna (bluefin and albacore)
  • Sardines.

If you don’t eat fish, here are some plant-based options for an omega-3 boost:

  • Flaxseeds — Look for ground flaxseed. Your body doesn’t get as much of the nutrients from whole flaxseed. Mix ground flaxseed into smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Chia seeds — Try making chia seed pudding, add some to a smoothie or make homemade granola bars.
  • Walnuts or almonds — Reach for them instead of your other go-to snacking nuts, or try almond butter with a banana.
  • Edamame — Toss these into a salad or stir fry.
  • Canola or soybean oil — Canola oil can be used in baking, oven cooking or stir-frying.


Tomatoes for lycopene

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can help keep your skin smoother. Plus, they’re easy to work into anything — like salads, side dishes, sandwiches and sauces.

Foods that are rich in vitamin C

Some fruits and vegetables not only contain antioxidants, but also contain healthy amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C can help fight wrinkles. Some of the best foods for skin that are packed with vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruit — Oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.
  • Bell peppers — Green, orange, red or yellow — take your pick.
  • Broccoli — Steam or roast (yes, roast!) for an easy, healthy side.
  • Strawberries — Snack on them fresh or put some in a simple smoothie.
  • Kiwi — Add some to your favorite fruit salad or make veggie kebabs for a fun twist.


Foods that are good sources of vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage. Some of the best foods for your skin that contain vitamin E include:

  • Almonds — Add them to your snack arsenal or make your own trail mix with them.
  • Sunflower seeds — If you’re not a fan of the shells, buy sunflower kernels. Toss them on salads or add to baked goods.


Not familiar with polyphenols? They’re powerful antioxidants that can be found in a variety of foods. Some of the highest sources of polyphenols include:

  • Tea and coffee — One study showed that polyphenols in coffee and green tea could help prevent photoaging and hyperpigmentation. Just be mindful of how much caffeine your system can handle, or choose decaf when you can.
  • Grapes — Grape seeds, grape skin and grape juice contain polyphenols like resveratrol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins and flavonoids.
  • Chocolate — Beside antioxidants and vitamins, chocolate (especially dark chocolate) contains flavanols, or a type of polyphenol. They reduce rough texture in your skin and protect against sun damage. So, rejoice in knowing that you can have a few ounces of chocolate a day! Just make sure it contains 60% to 70% cocoa.

“Overall, the best way to nurture your skin is by eating a diet filled with plant-based foods and reducing the amount of processed foods and alcohol. If you eat these recommended foods regularly, you may feel better — and your skin will reflect that as well,” says Hopsecger.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person in towel standing in bathroom, with milk pticher on edge of bathtub
June 13, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Take the Plunge: 4 Reasons To Try a Milk Bath

Adding a little milk to your bath can leave your skin smooth, silky and refreshed

Person looking in fridge, filled with salad, milk, berries, veggies, juice
June 12, 2024/Wellness
Power Up: 10 Ways To Boost Your Energy Naturally

Making certain food and lifestyle choices can help keep your battery full

Older person applying skin cream to their face
June 7, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Benefits of Ferulic Acid as Part of Your Skin Care Routine

Ferulic acid can help make other antioxidant products more powerful

Smiling person under sunny blue sky, holding tube of sunscreen, applying to face
May 24, 2024/Primary Care
The Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens have a heavier texture to create a physical barrier, while chemical sunscreens are lighter and use a chemical reaction to prevent UV damage

Shirataki Miracle noodles on chopsticks and in red bowl
May 20, 2024/Nutrition
4 Reasons To Give Shirataki (Miracle) Noodles a Try

Fiber-rich shirataki noodles may improve blood sugar, aid in digestion and help with weight loss

Assorted healthy foods spread out over a table and cutting boards
May 20, 2024/Digestive
What To Eat When You Have Diverticular Disease

Reducing inflammation is key when you’re in a flare-up, but so is having a preventive nutritional plan in place when you’re not

Healthcare provider talking with patient with overweight in office
May 17, 2024/Weight Loss
The HCG Diet Is Ineffective and Unsafe

The U.S. FDA prohibits HCG use without a prescription — and the hormone isn’t approved for weight loss at all

Bowl of white konjac noodles in wooden bowl
May 15, 2024/Nutrition
5 Ways Konjac Can Help Boost Your Health

The glucomannan fiber in konjac can be good for your digestion, heart, weight loss and more

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims