Eat (and drink) your way to brighter, healthier skin with these antioxidant-rich foods.

By Laura Denby
January 12, 2021
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Feeling the winter burn? Us too. It's amazing how quickly our skin wants to replicate the cold, dry weather outdoors the second the temperatures drop—and no matter how frequently we apply (and reapply) our favorite moisturizers.

The good news? Correcting dry, dull, or irritated skin doesn't have to be a hurdle, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune either. Good skincare requires so much more than a few pricey lotions and potions. Brighter, smoother skin starts with what you put in your body, rather than what you put on your body. We spoke to some experts for their take on how to brighten your skin from the inside, even when it's cold, dark and gloomy outside.

The Best Foods for Dull Skin

"Diet plays a major role in the health of the skin," says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a dual board-certified dermatologist. "It's our largest organ, which provides a window into the overall well-being of our bodies."

According to Dr. Mudgil, antioxidants are key to helping the body stave off toxins, and Brittany Modell, MS, RD, CDN agrees. "When it comes to skin, think antioxidants, which are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, because they help fight against free radicals," Modell says. To improve the appearance of dull skin, she suggests reaching for a mix of colorful fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, like nuts and seeds. "Nuts and seeds are high in Vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant. Some nuts, such as brazil nuts, are also an excellent source of selenium, which is a mineral that also acts as an antioxidant," says Modell. Her favorite? Almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts.

Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, a functional medical nutrition expert, adds that adding anti-inflammatory foods, like sweet potatoes, wild salmon, and tomatoes, to your diet is an excellent way to boost healthy-looking skin. "Fresh tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a carotenoid red pigment with antioxidant properties that's well known for its anti-aging benefits," she says. "Tomatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C too, both of which are key for beautiful, youthful skin." The anti-inflammatory compounds in tomatoes are thought to calm skin irritation, stimulate collagen production, and may even promote wound healing.

Alternatively, Dr. Mudgil says that too much dairy, sugar, and alcohol can be problematic for some people, and may lead to irritated skin. "Sensitivities vary from person to person, but the key is to be observant of your body's reaction to inflammatory foods in your diet," he says.

The Best Foods for Dry Skin

Dry, cracked skin seems to be synonymous with cold weather, but it doesn't have to be. Maintaining a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is just as important for achieving good skin as it is for achieving good health. Modell says that eating foods that are high in antioxidants, particularly lycopene, is also crucial to hydrated skin that looks healthy and glowing. She recommends incorporating citrus fruits, broccoli, and foods with a high water content (think cucumbers, celery, watermelon, and tomatoes.) "Our skin cells rely heavily on fluid," says Modell. "Dry, flaky skin is a result of two main problems: Lack of hydration and lack of healthy fat." In addition to foods with a high water content, she suggests ensuring that you have an adequate consumption of healthy fats from foods like fatty fish, coconut oil, avocados, flax seeds, and chia seeds.

The Best Foods for Irritated Skin

Though irritated skin can be attributed to a wide range of causes (such as eczema, dermatitis, or food allergies), there are certain dietary changes that can help to alleviate general redness. Modell recommends paying close attention to your gut health. "Gut imbalances have been shown to cause an inflammatory response, leading to redness, irritation, and acne," she says. "Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi are filled with probiotics and support the gut bacteria."

Final Words

As Modell suggested, maintaining a balanced diet of antioxidant rich foods, healthy fats, and plenty of water will do wonders for your body, inside and out. "Rather than look to what you should remove from the diet, I would see this as an opportunity to add things to do the diet, such as omega-3 fatty acids, colorful fruits and vegetables, and adequate fluid," she says. And no matter what your skin condition, loading up on foods high in lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, E, D, and K is always a good idea.