Food For Healthy Skin and Sensitive Skin Conditions

Woman eating yogurt - Food For Healthy Skin and Sensitive Skin Conditions

Healthy, radiant skin can be viewed as a reflection of your overall health and nutrition status. Challenging skin conditions are on the rise for people of all ages, and there are a variety of underlying factors that can contribute to problematic skin. That said, the following seven skin conditions all have one potential cause in common: Diet!

Without exception, diet influences our skin health, and often it’s a bigger piece of the puzzle than you might assume. In this article, we’ve put together the top foods for healthy skin to help resolve these common skin challenges.

A general rule for all skin conditions: You should avoid highly processed foods, as well as foods high in sugars or refined carbohydrates (like white rice, bread, and pasta). Choose organic foods as much as you can as well as lots of colorful vegetables and fruits.

As with all medical conditions, consult your doctor if you need more support.

Dry skin

Add these foods:

  • Foundational support for restoring dry skin includes a diverse whole-foods diet of fresh, colorful “rainbow” vegetables and fruits.
  • Deeply colored orange, yellow and green foods contain beta-carotene which helps protect skin integrity.
  • Enjoy omega 3 fats found in clean-sourced fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. And plant foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Add Evening Primrose Oil, which is a rich source of the omega-6 fat gamma-linolenic acid and antioxidants that help with itchy, dry skin.
  • Make sure to also stay well hydrated!

Limit these foods:

  • Alcohol, coffee, black tea, and excessive amounts of salt, which all draw water out of your body.

Eczema

Add these foods:

  • Add extra omega 3 fats, from the same sources listed for “Dry skin” above. We especially like this fun recipe for Sardine Crisps.
  • Make sure you’re getting plenty of hydration!
  • Oolong tea has been shown to help reduce itchiness and inflammation.
  • Include food sources of zinc, which can be found in oysters, seeds, nuts, meats, and mushrooms.
  • Add in probiotic-rich foods including fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, lacto-fermented vegetables, and prebiotic foods (foods that feed healthy gut microbes) such as dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, and jicama to support a healthy gut ecosystem, which in turn supports skin health.

Avoid these foods:

  • Eczema is commonly associated with food sensitivities. Common trigger foods are dairy, soy, eggs, and gluten. To see if those foods are affecting your skin, you can try removing them from your diet for four weeks and pay close attention to how your skin improves. Carefully bring these foods back into your diet one at a time to see which might trigger skin symptoms. Working with a functional nutritionist can help you navigate this sometimes challenging process.

Acne

Add these foods:

  • Add vitamin A-rich foods such as liver, sweet potato, carrot, winter squashes, dark leafy greens.
  • Increase zinc foods (see Eczema above).
  • Enjoy digestive teas, particularly spearmint tea – aim for 2 cups per day.
  • Try a low FODMAP diet, which reduces the consumption of short-chain carbohydrates that can contribute to acne.

Avoid these foods:

Keratosis Pilaris (“chicken skin”)

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes rough, dry patches and tiny bumps (hence the name “chicken skin”) typically on the back of your upper arms, thighs, cheeks, or buttocks. It is harmless and doesn’t usually hurt or itch.

Add these foods:

  • Add vitamin A-rich foods such as liver, sweet potato, carrot, winter squashes, dark leafy greens.
  • Add food source of zinc, which includes oysters, seeds, nuts, meats, and mushrooms.
  • Get some extra vitamin D, which is found in very small amounts in beef liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks, fish, mushrooms, poultry, and meats. However, the best way to boost your vitamin D levels is through safe exposure to natural sunlight or through supplementation.
  • Include foods rich in omega-3 fats like nuts, seeds, oily fish, or use a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Rosacea

Add these foods:

  • Foods that reduce inflammation—all those colorful fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices again as well as sources of omega-3 fats.
  • Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut (although note that in some individuals, these might temporarily worsen symptoms – if this is you, a low FODMAP diet is more likely to be helpful).
  • Foods that aid digestion such as ginger and turmeric, as well as herbal bitters.

Avoid these foods:

Psoriasis

Add these foods:

  • Prebiotic and fermented foods.
  • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, seeds, oily fish, or use a fish oil supplement.
  • Vitamin D foods, safe sunlight exposure, or supplementation (see “Keratosis Pilaris” above)

Avoid these foods:

  • Psoriasis is actually an autoimmune condition, whereby your immune system mistakenly attacks your own cells. Food sensitivities are common in all kinds of autoimmune conditions. To see if foods may be playing a role in triggering your symptoms stop the topmost likely offenders – dairy, soy, eggs, and gluten – for four weeks and then carefully reintroduce them to see if they provoke symptoms.

Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff, cradle cap)

Add these foods:

  • High biotin foods such as eggs, almonds, avocados, berries, liver, and cauliflower.
  • Add foods higher in vitamin B6 including salmon, chicken, pork, and beef. Vegans and vegetarians can seek out B6-fortified foods such as fortified tofu, as well as lesser sources of B6 such as sweet potatoes, avocado, and bananas.
  • Increase food sources of folate including artichokes, asparagus, dark leafy greens, and liver.
  • Increase omega-3 fats, prebiotic and fermented foods, and zinc foods (see above).

Aging skin

Add these foods:

  • The best way to keep your skin youthful is to eat fresh, colorful “rainbow” vegetables, including herbs and spices such as basil, thyme, chamomile, cinnamon, turmeric, and rosemary.
  • Herbal teas are an excellent way to incorporate more herbs and spices into your daily routine. You can find a delicious Rosemary-Lemon tea recipe here. Green tea is also an excellent anti-aging skin remedy since it has been shown to delay collagen breakdown.
  • Include foods rich in omega 3 fats, such as nuts and seeds like walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, clean-sourced fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
  • Vitamin C foods such as kiwis, pineapple, citrus fruits and bell peppers, since vitamin C is essential for collagen formation and repair.
  • Vitamin E foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, which protect the delicate membranes around your cells healthy and supple. Vitamin E also works in concert with vitamin C to protect skin from UV radiation and free radicals.
  • Hydration is easily overlooked yet such a fundamental aspect of maintaining healthy skin. Aim to drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water per day, which helps improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald Headshot
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald

This article was co-authored by Romilly Hodges, MS CNS CN IFMCP CKNS and Josette Herdell, MS CNS CN LDN. Romilly Hodges, holds a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, CT, and is board certified in nutrition through the American Nutrition Association and in functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. She is involved in education for the healthcare consumer and nutrition professional through clinic residencies, articles, book contributions, online programs, and speaking engagements. She has written for peer-reviewed consultation and is involved in primary clinical research.

1 Comment

  1. hellie el on April 22, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks you for lots of good information. There is one thing I think you haven’t got right: salt does not take water out of your body. It rather does the opposite. That’s why people who are doing heavy work outdoors in hot weather are given salt tablets, to retain water in their body. And why people with high blood pressure are discouraged from eating salt, so that they won’t retain fluid, and thereby decrease their blood volume and blood pressure. 🙂

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