The desire to keep skin healthy and youthful-looking has launched thousands of skin and so-called beauty products. But if you really want skin to glow this summer and beyond, skip the chemical-laden, endocrine-disrupting lotions and potions—and instead focus on putting nature’s bounty to work for you.
Eating fresh, wholesome foods will not only help you get the radiant skin you’re after this summer, but it will also provide many other health benefits. All those nutrient-rich foods can help enhance your skin’s appearance, boost its wrinkle-fighting ability, and even help protect against skin cancer. Summer is here—here’s how to get your skin ready for it now:
1. Be a green machine.
The more fresh (preferably organic) leafy greens you can incorporate into meals, the more resilient your skin will be. Go heavy on nutrient-dense leafy greens because they’re loaded with antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which research indicates are beneficial not only for overall skin health but also for their protective effects against the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Remember, however, that eating more anti-inflammatory greens supports skin health—that doesn't mean it's a hall pass to roast yourself for hours in the sun without sunscreen.
So, how much leafy green goodness do you need? Even just a 1-cup serving of spinach, Swiss chard, or kale a few times a week will do the trick. You can also add a scoop of powdered greens to your morning smoothie or your water bottle to sip on throughout the day.
2. Feed your skin good fat.
Another big way to improve skin health is to ditch sugar and processed foods. I also recommend lightening up on coffee, which can leave skin looking dull and dehydrated. Instead, eat lots of fresh, whole produce to maximize nutrients at every meal—and be sure to make room for healthy fats.
A skin-savvy summer plate will include plenty of good fats to hydrate and nourish your skin (and the rest of you) with fatty acids, which help protect against sun damage. Delicious, skin-supporting options include:
- Avocados: a tasty, creamy, and rich source of healthy fatty acids
- Chia seeds: tiny seeds, big benefits. They're packed with inflammation-taming omega-3s and can help tame hunger, too.
- Coconut oil: A spoonful in your morning smoothie adds medium-chain fatty acids to help fuel the formation of new skin and prevent sun damage.
- Olive oil: a staple of the Mediterranean diet and a heart-healthy fat
- Fatty fish: Wild salmon and sardines come complete with omega-3 fatty acids to help keep inflammation in check and protect skin from damage.
3. Focus on antioxidants.
To boost the health of your skin, look for foods that pack in the antioxidants, like carotenoids and catechins. To take advantage of as many of these health-enhancing, collagen-boosting, protective antioxidants as possible, I recommend “eating the rainbow.” Rich, green leafy veggies, deep purple, dark red, bright red, yellow, and orange veggies and fruits raw or cooked—all should have a place in your skin-supportive menu. That includes:
- Greens: leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, turnip greens, and collard greens, plus broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Blue/Purple: eggplant, purple asparagus, blackberries, black currants, blueberries, plums, etc.
- Red: beets, red cabbage, red onions, tomatoes, pomegranates, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, etc.
- Orange/Yellow: carrots, yellow onions, butternut squash, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots, peaches, etc.
4. Enjoy a tall glass of iced polyphenols.
Want to fit even more skin protection into those hot summer days? Enjoy polyphenol-rich green, white, black, or red teas, preferably organic. For thousands of years, tea has been known for its positive effects, due in part to the significant amount of antioxidant polyphenols found in every cup. More recently, studies have linked tea drinking to lower skin cancer rates and protection from premature skin aging. Drink up all summer long.
5. Be smart about your sunscreen.
Short bouts of sun exposure are necessary for your body’s natural vitamin D production, but you don’t want to risk a sunburn, either. After you’ve had your fill—about 15 minutes, a few times a week, before skin starts to turn pink—it’s sunscreen time. But not just any old sunscreen. With so many of them containing potentially dangerous ingredients, I urge everyone to buy the best quality they can and shop according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Sunscreen database.
6. Boost skin from within.
By eating antioxidant-rich produce and drinking antioxidant-rich teas throughout the season, you’ll be boosting summertime skin health as well as your skin’s ability to protect itself from sun damage. Add to that a well-chosen sunscreen that’s low in toxins, and you’re well on your way to healthier summer skin—inside and out.
But don’t stop there. Consider adding even more skin support with my three favorite supplements for summer skin:
- Krill oil, which contains astaxanthin to support skin health and help protect against sun damage.
- Alpha lipoic acid, the antioxidant that helps protect skin collagen and combats signs of cellular aging.
- Vitamin D3, to boost levels and help make your skin more prepared for sun exposure by producing melanin faster to better protect itself.