Beauty From Food

We all know that applying antioxidants and other skin-beneficial ingredients is good for skin but absorption of these ingredients in skincare products is limited because of skin barriers. So another way to improve your skin is to eat skin nutrients. In general, these nutrients are not only good for skin but also great for overall health.

Vitamin C

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Vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis and associated with better skin appearance. Intake and topical application of vitamin C and vitamin E can both reduce sunburn reaction to UVB. Foods rich in vitamin C include (concentrations from high to low) red peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, papaya, strawberries, oranges, kale, lemons, cantaloupes, and cauliflower. Cooking can reduce the vitamin C content of vegetables by around 60%. Longer cooking times add to this effect even more. Since vitamin C dissolves into the cooking water, it is recommended to consume the cooking water instead of pouring it away.

Vitamin E

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Vitamin E protects against free radical damage. Supplemental vitamin E reduces oxidative stress in the skin upon exposure to UV rays. Food resources of vitamin E include kiwifruit, avocado, egg, milk, nuts (such as almonds or hazelnuts), seeds, green leafy vegetables, and wholegrain foods.


Beta-carotene is important for skin maintenance and repair. Food resources include (concentrations from high to low) sweet potato, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, and collards. Unlike what is commonly believed, spinach limits absorption of calcium and iron and thus excessive intake of spinach is not recommended. Beta-carotene is a precursor (inactive form) to vitamin A. Too much vitamin A in retinoid form can be harmful or fatal while high levels of carotene are not toxic. The livers of certain animals, especially those adapted to polar environments, often contain amounts of vitamin A that would be toxic to humans.


Biotin is also called vitamin H (the H represents “Haar und Haut”, German words for “hair and skin”) or vitamin B7. Even a mild Biotin deficiency can cause itchy or scaly skin, or even hair loss. Biotin is consumed from a wide range of food sources in the diet although there are few particularly rich sources. Food sources (from the richest to the least rich) include Swiss chard, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, carrots, almonds, egg yolk, onions, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, milk, rasberries, strawberries, halibut, oats and walnuts.


Lycopene provides protection against erythema formation following UV irradiation. You can get lycopene from tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit, among which watermelon has high glycemic index and thus is not a good source. Unlike vitamin C, which is diminished upon cooking, lycopene is more bioavailable after tomatoes are cooked. Serving in oil-rich dishes also helps with lycopene absorption.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

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Lutein and zeaxanthin can decrease UV damage and increase skin hydration and elasticity. Food resources include kale, spinach, garden peas, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, Pistachio nuts, broccoli, corn, kiwifruit, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, collard greens, Swiss chard and egg.


Astaxanthin improves skin elasticity and moisture content, and reduces finelines. You can get astaxanthin from cold-water shrimps, salmon, trout, and crawfish (shrimps are generally high in cholesterol).


CoQ10 is necessary for metabolism, improves skin properties and reduces wrinkle grade. CoQ10 is naturally present in small amounts in a variety of foods but is particularly high in organ meats such as heart, liver and kidney, as well as sardines, mackerel, soy oil, beef, and peanuts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids reduce skin inflammation. Fish sources (concentrations from high to low) are salmon, swordfish, tilefish, shark, halibut, flounder and pollock. Common botanical sources are flaxseeds and walnuts. Flaxseed oil is six times richer than most fish oils in omega-3 fatty acids. The catch is that its omega-3 fatty acids are not the ones directly used by the human body and require some sort of conversion. The conversion rate is about 5%. To avoid possible risks, do not consume more than 3 grams omega-3 fatty acids per day.

Green Tea Polyphenols

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Polyphenols protect against free radical damage. Green tea high in polyphenols can prevent finelines, telangiectasias and solar damage.


Resveratrol provides solar protection and skin hydration. Sources are red wine, red grape juice, red grapes, and cocoa. Red wine does not have a lot of sugar like red grapes and it has been shown that moderate consumption of alcohol is good for health.


Zinc is associated with many important enzymes for skin healing. In the U.S., the Recommended Dietary Allowance is 8 mg/day for women and 11 mg/day for men. Food sources are oysters (and other shellfish such as clams and mussels), wheat germ, veal liver, sesame, beef, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, cocoa, lamb, and peanuts (liver is high in cholesterol).


Copper is important for elastin, the support structure for skin. Liver, oysters (and other shellfish such as clams and mussels), sesame, cocoa, nuts, squid, lobster, sunflower seeds, sun dried tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds are rich in copper.


Selenium is a component of an antioxidant enzyme and has significant protection against UV-induced cell damage. Foods rich in selenium are Brazil nuts (caution: high in saturated fat), shellfish (such as oysters, mussels and whelk), liver, fish (such as orange roughy, swordfish, herring, and tilefish), sunflower seeds, bran, caviar (high in cholesterol), pork, lobster, crab and shrimp.

Generally, toxic levels of vitamins or minerals are achieved through high supplement intake or large intake of highly fortified foods. Dietary sources are unlikely to cause overdose.

Zoe Diana Draelos, Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures.
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