The 12 Best Foods To Eat For Hydrating, Supple Skin
If you want moisturized, plump skin you should aim to eat water-dense, high-fat, antioxidant-rich, hydrating foods known for their complexion-changing properties.
These, it turns out, are actually easy to come by—many might already be in our diet. But if you feeling a bit on the dryer side of late, consider upping your intake.
Read on below for our favorites; not only are they delicious, but many of them are gut-healing and anti-inflammatory as well, and therefore even more beneficial for the skin.
A cucumber is more than 95 percent water, so if you have a hard time remembering to drink water throughout the day, try noshing on some cucumber.
One study found that cucumber contains many bioactive compounds, including cucurbitacins, cucumegastigmanes cucumerin, vitexin, orientin, and apigenin that can help hydrate skin, reduce swelling, irritation and even alleviate pain from sunburn1.
Research shows that cilantro has helped reduce the aging effects of sun damage2 in mice in addition to boosting—you guessed it—collagen.
This is important because as we age, and with UV damage, we lose the skin's ability to keep hydrated.
That's why mature skin is often associated with drier skin. So keeping skin cells young is an important part of keeping it hydrated.
Taking a collagen supplement has been shown to brighten the skin, keep it feeling plump, and support natural moisture levels.*
In fact, supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen peptides3 is the most effective way to promote the protein naturally in your skin: Research shows that collagen powders support your skin cell's fibroblasts4, which are responsible for collagen and elastin production.*
Essentially, when you consume collagen powder, it aids your body in creating more collagen.*
“Hydrolyzed collagen is predigested so it does not go through that first-pass digestion in the GI tract,” says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D.* “The collagen fragments can be absorbed as-is and circulate throughout the body to exert their effects.”*
And by keeping your collagen levels strong, you're helping keep your skin barrier function working optimally.
Your skin barrier is actually what helps us retain moisture in the body (by preventing transepidermal water loss), so to keep skin hydrated we need to ensure we're doing all that we can to maintain the barrier's function.
This isn't just theoretical, either: One double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher5 than those who did not take the supplements.*
Basil has been shown to have acne-fighting properties thanks to it's strong anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
It is ideal for those with oily, yet dehydrated skin. People often think that because their skin is oily, it also can't be dry: Not true. In fact people with oily skin should focus on keeping their skin hydrated, too.
We can all benefit from eating more good fats6.
"As with many superfoods, it’s what’s inside that counts, and avocados are a nutritional goldmine. What’s inside? In addition to 'good' monounsaturated fat, avocados pack plenty of health-boosting nutrients to help your body thrive," says functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, M.D. about avocados.
"Underneath the tough green exterior lies over 14 minerals; protein, complete, with all 18 essential amino acids; soluble fiber, to trap excess cholesterol and send it out of the system; phytosterols; polyphenols; carotenoids; omega 3s; vitamins B-complex, C, E and K, to name a few."
As for skin, not only does that collection of antioxidants and fatty acids practically scream good things, avocado has been shown to help hydrate our skin.
According to research, avocado oil is quite healing for dry skin, and it may have more youth-boosting properties than olive oil—and research supports the positioning.
Matcha7 is a staple in the wellness world—and experts say that it's an antioxidant powerhouse, which translates to excellent skin care benefits8.
Bonus, it's easy to add into lattes, soups, or we recommend adding it to your smoothies if you're not a fan of the grassy taste.
7. Apple cider vinegar
The healing properties of apple cider vinegar are well-known—it's acne-clearing, supports gut health when diluted, and is famous for being a multipurpose cure-all.
It contains malic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA).9
We also found that apple cider vinegar can be helpful in blood sugar regulation, which ultimately benefits the skin, too.
Squash is high in beta-carotene, which gives the winter root veggie its yellow to orange huge.
Butternut squash in particular contains potassium, an important electrolyte that may help reduce inflammatory responses.
One particular study found that it has significant benefits for skin health, including:10 reducing inflammation, preventing cellular damage, preventing premature skin aging, and protecting against sunburn and skin cancer by inhibiting free radicals.
9. Wild-caught salmon
Wild-caught and sustainably sourced cold-water fish are an excellent source of healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, and nutritionists routinely recommend increasing fatty-acid intake6 to help improve and protect the skin.
Salmon in particular is also rich with antioxidants, particularly astaxanthin.
"This is the exclusive carotenoid that gives salmon it’s orangey-pink color, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory11 effects.
Preliminary research suggests that astaxanthin may have several health benefits in humans such as preventing oxidative stress and protecting skin cells from UV-light," writes registered dietician Molly Knudsen, M.S., R.D.N.
10. Manuka honey
Ingesting it has major benefits for the skin. Research has found that it helps keep the skin youthful by preventing wrinkle formation, regulates pH, and helps prevent infections with its many antimicrobial properties12.
It has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners, which helps regulate hormones and subsequently can be beneficial for the skin, and has anti-inflammatory properties13 as well.
Once you hear the makeup of sweet potatoes, it'll be no wonder they're so good for skin, as they are thoroughly packed with nutrients.
When it comes to their basic makeup, sweet potatoes14 are about 77 percent water, 20 percent carbohydrates, 1.6 percent protein, and 3 percent fiber.
What's more, they're also good source of a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
Not only is that a high water content (again, it's good to eat your water as well as drink it), but the antioxidants will help skin cells look more vibrant, youthful, and supple by protecting them from oxidative stress.
What makes broccoli so beneficial for skin comes down to its most powerful antioxidant: sulforaphane. And it's so impressive because it doesn't function like other antioxidants.
At the most basic level, "normal" antioxidants directly stabilize free radicals by donating an electron, or break down the free radicals and render them harmless.
"But that's not quite how sulforaphane works," explains Knudsen. Rather, sulforaphane activates the protein Nfr2, which in turn activates certain antioxidant genes in your body.
In other words, SGS doesn't just stabilize free radicals the same way consuming vitamin C might—it activates the body's natural detoxification and antioxidant enzymes.
Essentially, sulforaphane can support your skin in the same way it does your body's detoxification processes, flushing all the harmful players out.*
Sulforaphane has also been shown to reverse photoaging by protecting against UV-induced skin damage.
According to a study on sulforaphane's protective effects15, using broccoli sprout extract for three days in a row prior to UV exposure helped manage skin cell damage.*
What's more, sulforaphane can provide healthy aging benefits; according to that same study, sulforaphane also helped maintain inflammation, which may spur the healing process for inflammatory skin conditions (like acne, for one).*
You can eat your way to glowing skin (well, for the most part), and one part of that is eating foods that help with hydration (cue the 12-nutrient dense foods we mentioned above).
And if you'd like to go a step further, a collagen supplement is a great way to support healthy, hydrated skin.*
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.