You may have heard this before, but the skin is the body’s largest organ. While we usually associate good nutrition with a healthy heart, eyes, and so on, skin health is usually reserved for first impressions - but it shouldn’t be this way! Besides being the largest organ, it’s also the organ that’s in contact with the rest of the world and is truly a physical barrier, acting to keep harmful microbes out. It also helps regulate the body’s temperature and is home to nerve endings that help you feel. With the large number of skincare products out there, it’s important to realize that even the best products can’t give your skin what nutrition can. And while a well-rounded diet is key, there are a few nutrients that are particularly important for your skin.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Signs you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids include dry skin, acne, rough and bumpy skin on the backs of your arms, eczema, dermatitis, oily skin, dandruff, and a lackluster complexion. Omega-3 from fish oil is best because it contains EPA and DHA, the most useful types of omega-3 that’s tied to a number of physiological benefits like reduced inflammation. Plant-based omega-3 contains only ALA, which is converted to EPA and then DHA in very small amounts. Seek seafood like salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, and shellfish. For plant sources, try foods like flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, and winter squash.
Vitamin E + Vitamin C
Antioxidants are crucial for healthy skin, and both Vitamin E and Vitamin C function as such. These vitamins protect skin cells from oxidative stress, particularly from UV rays that can age the skin with wrinkles and even cause skin cancer. Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production, which increases skin elasticity and aids in wound healing.
While it’s quite rare to experience an outright vitamin C or vitamin E deficiency, it’s still important to seek them in your diet. You can find vitamin C in pretty much everything from citrus fruits to leafy greens, and you can find fat-soluble vitamin E in foods like wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower and safflower oil, hazelnuts, avocado, and peanut butter.
Vitamin D plays a big role in the growth and maturation of skin cells, so it’s important for skin replenishment. Vitamin D is tricky because it isn’t very abundant in foods. It naturally occurs in small amounts in foods like salmon, cod, and tuna, and you can also find it in fortified foods like cereals. A little bit of sun exposure can also up your vitamin D status. Given the high prevalence rate of vitamin D and its limited availability in food, this is one nutrient worth testing for and supplementing if necessary.
When are skin problems NOT a nutrient issue?
Conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and even dark circles under your eyes can be indicative of an allergy. While there are nutrients that could help alleviate these, they won’t fix your underlying allergy.
Skin issues can also result from hormonal imbalances. Even women on birth control can suffer from hormonal imbalances, so it’s important to be mindful of how you can best support your body. This means consuming whole foods with plenty of fiber, eating healthy fats, leading an active lifestyle , and finding ways to reduce stress.
And finally, well-hydrated skin appears plump and resilient, and is less prone to wrinkling, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water!