12 Foods That Are Tied Directly to Younger-Looking Skin
Forget your vanity cabinet: According to the experts, your fridge might be hiding some of the greatest anti-aging ingredients you can find.
Anti-aging foods and ingredients
Although the fountain of youth is a myth, these anti-aging foods are truly tied to younger-looking skin. Here’s why you should add them to your grocery cart as part of your skincare routine.
You know how important it is for your overall health that you get your daily dose of vegetables, but you may not have realized that it can lead to more youthful skin, too. A study published in 2019 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that men and women who ate a diet rich in vegetables, as well as fruit and fish, had fewer fine lines on their skin. If you have to choose, opt for leafy greens, which are a great source of carotenoids, vitamins C, iron, and calcium. “Carotenoids are vitamin A derivatives with proven benefits to protect the skin against harmful UV rays that cause the signs of premature aging of the skin such as age spots, fine lines and wrinkles and loss of elasticity,” adds Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology.
If you’re not already a seafood lover, it might be time to gain an affinity for the flavor, since fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce inflammation caused by the sun’s harmful UV rays. “Fish may lower prostaglandin E2 levels to prevent collagen breakdown that leads to wrinkles,” says Dr. Ilyas. “Some studies have shown that in combination with vitamin E and C that omega 3 fatty acids can promote collagen synthesis.” When choosing your fish, select for halibut, mackerel, salmon, or tuna, which contain the most omega-3 fatty acids. Or opt for one of these omega-3 foods besides fish.
Fruit is a huge health-booster for a myriad of reasons, but eating fruit that contains a particular carotenoid called lycopene may help you gain more youthful-looking skin. “Lycopene, the red pigment that gives berries and tomatoes their bright red color, is a powerful antioxidant with photo-protective qualities,” says Dr. Ilyas. That means it can help protect against sun damage: “A study looking at dietary patterns and wrinkle formation showed that diets rich in fruits resulted in fewer wrinkles.”
Research links olive oil to everything from preventing strokes to protecting against heart disease, and it may also be beneficial for your skin too. How exactly? “In addition to monounsaturated lipids, olive oil contains antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenol, which can prevent collagen breakdown in the skin which results in wrinkles,” explains Dr. Ilyas. “And polyphenols have been shown to work well with sunscreen to prevent UV from damaging the skin and may prevent skin cancer.” Here are 12 more foods that naturally boost collagen for younger-looking skin.
Although you might not be familiar with the term “legume,” you’re probably familiar with many of the foods that fall under this category, namely beans, lentils, and chickpeas. “Legumes are high in nutrients such as folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium that are essential for skin health and work in conjunction with other antioxidants to prevent premature aging of the skin,” explains Dr. Ilyas. “In fact, folate applied topically to the skin has been shown to increase the firmness and elasticity of the skin.”
This staple of Korean cuisine which is made from fermented veggies, most commonly cabbage and radishes, is rich in probiotics, which have been shown to benefit the skin, particularly reducing adult acne. Some research published in the Journal of Aesthetic Nursing found that probiotics could help protect the skin from UV-induced sun damage. “Fermented foods, like kimchi, are rich in probiotics, so they can be an essential part of healing your skin and making it healthy via the ‘gut-skin’ axis,” adds Anthony Youn, MD, FACS, holistic facial plastic surgeon and owner of Youn Plastic Surgery, in Troy, Michigan.
While coffee gets a bad rap, it actually possesses a variety of health benefits when consumed moderately. “With its ability to constrict blood vessels, caffeine helps reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation,” says Diane Nelson, RN, vice president of Medical, Clinical, and Scientific Affairs at SkinBetter Science. “It’s also rich in antioxidants, which means it helps defend skin against free-radical photo-damage, protects skin against the loss of moisture, and helps reduce inflammation.”
Almonds are one of the best sources of healthy fats that have been shown to improve overall skin health. Almonds also contain vitamins A, B, and E, which help protect the skin from becoming inflamed. “Due to the nutritional density of nuts and seeds you can hydrate your skin, promote its elasticity, help regenerate cells, and protect against free radicals,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. Dermatologists swear by almonds and these other foods for radiant skin.
There’s a reason this commonly used spice is becoming a popular ingredient in a myriad of skincare products, from serums and moisturizers to masks and creams. “Turmeric is known for its antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, anti-microbial, and calming effects—and there is a growing body of evidence to support its effects on skin health,” says Nelson. “Researchers believe it may help heal and prevent dry skin and regulate sebum production.”
You’ve probably heard about acai bowls and smoothies, which are popping up in the health sphere more and more. This berry is loaded with antioxidants and has been linked to everything from improving cholesterol to boosting brain function. It’s also beneficial for your skin. “In addition to its antioxidant free-radical scavenging abilities, this powerhouse ingredient is also used in skin care for its anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and skin brightening properties,” says Nelson. These are the skincare tips dermatologists use themselves.
Easily found near the yogurt section in most natural foods stores, kefir is a creamy, slightly sour drink that contains protein, calcium, B vitamins, and even more probiotics than yogurt, explains Dr. Engelman. “There are documented benefits in the usage of probiotics for the treatment of skin, particularly acne, rosacea, and eczema,” she says. “If we get a better balance in our gut environment by eating probiotic-rich foods like kefir, we can reduce the inflammation in our body and our skin.”
It might be your lucky day after all! Yes, dark chocolate is good for you—not just for your health, but also for your skin. This is all thanks to flavonols, an antioxidant found in dark chocolate that helps protect the skin from UV damage and fight off free radicals found in the environment, according to research published in the Journal of Phytochemistry. Reach for dark chocolate that’s higher than 60 percent cocoa, so you know it’s truly dark and contains this anti-aging benefit. Next, find out the 49 anti-aging foods that add years to your life.
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: "A healthy diet in women is associated with less facial wrinkles in a large Dutch population-based cohort"
- Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology
- Annual Review of Food Science and Technology: "An update on the health effects of tomato lycopene"
- Journal of Aesthetic Nursing: "Oral photoprotection: reducing damage from ultraviolet light and inflammation"
- Diane Nelson, RN, MPH, vice president of Medical, Clinical, and Scientific Affairs at SkinBetter Science
- Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery
- Phytotherapy Research: "Effects of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) on Skin Health: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence"
- Journal of Phytochemistry: "Dark chocolate: Consumption for human health"