Nutrients for Healthy Skin (And Where to Find Them)

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

Do you often have acne, eczema, dry hair or brittle fingernails? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, and worry about developing wrinkles, blemishes, or even skin cancer? Research has shown that the following nutrients offer a host of health-promoting qualities for the integumentary system - meaning more of them in your diet benefits your skin, hair, and nails.

1. Vitamin A

How it works:

- Strengthens the immune system, speeding wound-healing time.

- Suppresses the production of sebum (the white fluid inside pimples), reducing acne.

- May help to prevent or treat the effects of sun damage and skin cancer.

* interesting note * Deficiency of vitamin A can cause keratinization—dry, rough raised bumpy skin, typically found on the backs of the arms.

Best food sources:

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots

- Spinach

- Kale

- Mustard Greens

2. Vitamin C

How it works:

- Plays a role in producing collagen—the framework of our bones and tissues.

- Increases the bioavailability of selenium, another skin-healthy nutrient.

* interesting note * Though it is now extremely uncommon, scurvy is a result of vitamin C deficiency. Due to a lack of collagen production and healthy skin regeneration, the outer layer of the skin thickens and small blood blisters develop below, eventually becoming growing open wounds if left untreated. So, be sure to bring papayas on your next trans-oceanic voyage!

Best food sources:

- Papayas

- Bell Peppers

- Broccoli

- Brussels Sprouts

- Strawberries

3. Vitamin E

How it works:

- Prevents damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species (atoms and molecules, respectively, that damage tissues in our bodies, leading to aging and disease).

- Protects against sun damage, especially in combination with vitamin C.

Best food sources:

- Sunflower Seeds

- Almonds

- Spinach

- Swiss Chard

- Avocado

4. Zinc

How it works:

- Reduces inflammation.

- Speeds wound-healing process.

- Protects against effects of UV radiation.

- Increases blood levels of vitamin A, another skin-healthy nutrient.

* interesting note * Zinc deficiency can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms— increased susceptibility to fungal growth, canker sores, and facial rashes; decreased nail and hair growth; pigmentation and lesions on areas of skin that are exposed to repeated pressure or friction. One study showed that after just 12 days of a zinc-deficient diet, subjects experienced worsening acne.

Best food sources:

- Beef

- Lamb

- Sesame Seeds

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Lentils & Garbanzo Beans

5. Selenium

How it works:

- Protects from free radical damage.

- Protects from UV damage; selenium deficiency has been associated with skin cancer.

- Excess or deficiency of selenium in the diet can lead to skin, hair, and nail deformities.

Best food sources:

- Tuna

- Shrimp

- Sardines

- Salmon

- Turkey

6. Essential Fatty Acids

How they work:

- Improve dry and sensitive skin.

- Protect from effects of sun damage.

- May speed wound-healing process.

* interesting note * It is important to maintain a balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. The Standard American Diet has an over-abundance of Omega-6, and a deficiency of Omega-3, so if you are transitioning your diet it's best to focus on the 3s.

Best food sources:


- Sunflower Seeds

- Walnuts

- Pumpkin Seeds


- Flax Seeds

- Walnuts

- Sardines

- Salmon

Want to see a simpler list? Click here.

Want to see a longer list? Click here!

Inspired to cook some skin-clearing foods, but don't know where to begin? Here are 21 recipes to get you started.

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