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99 Best Foods for Clear Skin

Anna Denson
Written by
Anna Denson
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If you’re having skin problems, I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems, but acne ain’t one.


#dadjokes #wehadto #sorrynotsorry


Here’s the thing. We’re all looking for that perfect combination of lifestyle changes to finally reach a glowing, healthy complexion.


We’re lowering our stress through self-care. We’re drinking our body weight in water to reach peak hydration. We’ve even found the perfect skincare products, and started to see results.


So why would we ignore something as fundamental as diet, when it could be another secret weapon in our clear-skin arsenal?

Leveling up your food game can be a massive step towards better skin! The right mix of vitamins and nutrients can speed along your skin journey, supporting all the hard work you’ve already been putting in.


And to make it even easier, we’ve compiled this list of the 99 best foods for clear skin, so you don’t have to waste precious time slogging through internet research.

 

Food Goals for Clear Skin infographic

 

Of course, no one is saying that these are the only foods you can eat. But try putting these options front and center, and complementing them with other ingredients in moderation.


Focusing on skin-friendly foods may give your regimen the boost it needs to finally deliver the complexion you’ve been dreaming of!


(And keep an eye out for foods repeated in italics — these foods are MVPs with multiple skin-clearing nutrients!)

Omega- 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have all sorts of health benefits, and are, in fact, called “essential fats.”


When it comes to your skin, the magic of omega-3 fats is in their anti-inflammatory properties. This reduces puffiness and redness in the skin, which is especially useful for those of us with acne! Acne is an inflammatory condition, so reducing inflammation can reduce the duration and severity of breakouts.


The one downside? Our bodies don’t produce omega-3 fats on their own, so we must be sure to consume plenty through our diet!

 

1. Salmon

2. Mackerel

3. Sardines

4. Avocado

5. Eggs (especially pastured eggs)

6. Soybeans

7. Tofu

8. Spinach

9. Kale

10. Navy beans

11. Grass-fed beef

12. Walnuts

13. Almonds

14. Flaxseeds

15. Mustard seeds

16. Wild rice



      Vitamin A:

      Vitamin A is popular in topical skincare products, often appearing as its alter-ego, retinol. But this vitamin is also important in our regular dietary intake.


      First of all, Vitamin A is an antioxidant, making it a great choice to fight off environmental damage and our skin’s arch-nemeses, free radicals.


      Meanwhile, Vitamin A deficiency may cause hyperkeratinization in your pores — in other words, overactive skin cell turnover. The overabundance makes it difficult for your skin to shed old cells, leading to an increase in pore blockages and acne breakouts.


      Hard pass!


      Luckily, you can get all the Vitamin A you need through foods like:

       

      17. Broccoli

      18. Sweet potatoes

      19. Carrots

      20. Oranges

      21. Red bell peppers

      22. Yellow bell peppers

      23. Beef liver

      24. Mango

      25. Cantaloupe

      26. Watermelon

      27. Papaya

      28. Apricot

      29. Tangerine

      Eggs

      Spinach

      Kale

       

      Vitamin C:


      Ah, Vitamin C, perhaps the most celebrated vitamin of them all. Turns out, it’s good for a lot more than just kicking that cold. For one thing, Vitamin C is also excellent for your skin!


      Like Vitamin A, Vitamin C is an antioxidant, helping guard your skin against environmental stressors.


      Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the production of collagen, which helps keep you and your skin looking youthful. Vitamin C can even help repair existing dryness and skin damage, heal wounds, minimize scarring, and reduce wrinkles!


      Best of all? Vitamin C is easy to include in your diet, as it’s present in many popular foods!

       

      30. Lemon

      31. Grapefruit

      32. Kiwi

      33. Cauliflower

      34. Tomatoes

      35. Pomegranate

      36. Strawberries

      Oranges

      Papaya

      Red bell peppers

      Yellow bell peppers

      Sweet potatoes

      Broccoli

       

      Vitamin D:


      You probably already know that you can soak up Vitamin D by getting a little sunshine, and that it can improve your mood. That’s why some of us get gloomy in winter when there’s not much sunlight to perk us up!


      But did you know that Vitamin D can also help manage inflammation and regulate skin cell turnover? This is a big deal for us acne-sufferers. After all, inflammation and overproduction of skin cells are two huge contributing factors for our breakouts!


      Break out the sunscreen, it’s time to go get that Vitamin D!


      Of course, you may not always have the opportunity to chill outdoors and get your Vitamin D synthesized from the sun. Fortunately, there are ways to supplement your intake through diet.

       

      37. Cod (esp. Cod liver oil)

      38. Herring

      39. Swordfish

      40. Tuna

      41. Maitake mushrooms

      42. Shiitake mushrooms

      Beef liver

      Salmon

      Sardines

       

      Salmon and spinach dish

       

      Vitamin E:


      We call this Vitamin E, for Exceptional! Okay, not really, but it’s definitely a great ally for our skin.


      Again, like A and C, Vitamin E is an antioxidant, protecting our skin against UV radiation and helping prevent dark spots and wrinkles. That’s why it's found in so many topical anti-aging products!


      Vitamin E can also help with inflammation, such as the swelling of puffy under-eye circles or angry red acne.


      As a natural component in sebum, the oil produced by our skin, it may also help with dry, flaky complexions. Vitamin E is even being explored as a treatment for psoriasis and eczema


      In terms of our diet, Vitamin E is particularly concentrated in nuts and cooking oils. You can find it in ingredients like:

       

      43. Extra virgin olive oil (especially cold-pressed)

      44. Sunflower Seeds

      45. Peanuts

      46. Grapeseed oil

      47. Safflower oil

      48. Swiss chard

      49. Butternut squash

      50. Trout

      Avocados (and avocado oil)

      Almonds

      Spinach



      Zinc:


      Zinc isn’t exactly the most talked-about nutrient. But actually, it’s one of the most studied treatments for acne and other inflammatory skin conditions, from eczema to rosacea.


      Zinc is an anti-inflammatory, helping reduce swelling and irritation. It also fights viruses and bacteria, making it potentially helpful for clearing and preventing breakouts. As an antioxidant, it protects your skin from environmental damage. It may even help reduce acne scarring!


      Because zinc studies are still trying to establish the ideal topical treatment, dietary intake is the best way to ensure your zinc levels are up to snuff. Look for zinc in:

       

      51. Oysters

      52. Crab

      53. Clams

      54. Lobster

      55. Mussels

      56. Chickpeas

      57. Lentils

      58. Cashews

      59. Pumpkin seeds

      60. Dark chocolate

      Broccoli

      Walnuts

       

      Selenium:


      The antioxidant selenium is another nutrient that can protect your skin from the dangers of environmental exposure, such as UV radiation.


      It’s also considered a necessary nutrient for healthy skin, as selenium deficiency can lead to some dangerous conditions and skin abnormalities.


      Don’t worry, though. Maintaining selenium levels doesn’t require a lot of special maintenance or extra supplements. You can consume plenty of selenium through the following:

       

      61. Brazil nuts

      62. Halibut

      63. Snapper

      64. Shrimp

      65. Cottage cheese

      Walnuts

      Salmon

      Tuna

      Sardines

      Oysters

      Clams



      Other antioxidants:


      We’ve talked a lot about antioxidants so far — like vitamins A, C, and E, not to mention zinc and selenium. But these aren’t all! Many other antioxidants are also helping to guard your complexion against radiation and environmental damage.


      You don’t need to memorize all their names, thank goodness. Instead, you can help your skin by targeting these foods that bring more antioxidants into your diet!

       

      66. Green tea

      67. Red grapes

      68. Blueberries

      69. Blackberries

      70. Cherries

      71. Goji berries

      72. Cranberries

      73. Turmeric

      Dark chocolate

      Kale

      Spinach

      Pomegranate

       

      Mixed berry tart


      Probiotics:


      “Umm, aren’t probiotics just good bacteria for helping your digestion? What’s that got to do with clear skin?”


      We are so glad you asked! It all has to do with a phenomenon known as the gut-brain-skin axis. Basically, a lot of our physical health can be tied back to the conditions in our digestive tract, including the health of our skin.


      An unhealthy gut can have a significant impact on the presence and severity of acne. One factor is a link between imbalanced digestive bacteria and insulin resistance, which can lead to severe breakouts


      On the other hand, good digestive health can help relieve inflammation, easing the redness and puffiness of acne.


      And what’s the best way to ensure a healthy balance of friendly gut bacteria? Probiotics! Find them in:

       

      74. Kombucha

      75. Sauerkraut

      76. Anything pickled

      77. Yogurt with live active cultures

      78. Kefir

      79. Miso



        Prebiotic fiber:


        If probiotic foods are the leading ladies of digestive health, then prebiotics better be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Like probiotics, prebiotic fiber improves the health and clarity of your skin by first improving the health and efficiency of your gut.


        Prebiotic fiber does this by supporting the probiotics’ good bacteria and making it possible for those bacteria to thrive and multiply. Including a few sources of prebiotic fiber in your diet will make those probiotics work harder, better, faster, and stronger!


        Consume prebiotic fiber with a nice helping of:

         

        80. Garlic

        81. Leeks

        82. Dandelion greens

        83. Asparagus 

        84. Chicory

        85. Jerusalem artichokes

        86. Onions

        87. Bananas

        88. Barley

        89. Oats

        90. Apples

        91. Jicama

        92. Seaweed

         

        Non-dairy swaps:


        We’ve talked before about the potentially acne-inducing effects of dairy, specifically milk. If you’re concerned that milk is contributing to your skin woes, try some of these non-dairy alternatives.

         

        93. Coconut milk

        94. Oat milk

        95. Almond milk

        96. Hazelnut milk

        97. Cashew milk


          (Some sources recommend against nut milks, claiming that their Omega-6 levels can contribute to inflammation. But the most recent research debunks this claim. Just be sure you’re also getting enough Omega-3 so that these healthy nutrients are well-balanced!)



          Protein:


          This one is a game-changer for people recovering from particularly severe skin conditions. If your skin problems cause significant scarring or damage — say, from something like extreme cystic acne — then your body is not only fighting the cause, but is also trying to heal and rebuild.


          Protein is absolutely essential for wounds to repair themselves, including that damage on the surface of your skin. So to speed along recovery and lessen your chances of scarring, make sure you’re eating adequate amounts of protein!


          Top choices include:

           

          98. Whey protein powder

          99. Chicken

          Tuna

          Yogurt

          Eggs



          Clear Skin MVPs infographic




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          Anna Denson
          Written by
          Anna Denson
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          Anna is a Copywriter at Averr Aglow. A not-so-secret nerd, she loves books with swords and never gets tired of Alien or Jurassic Park. Also a total foodie, she has an unnecessarily large cookbook collection. When not busy writing, Anna travels the world and dotes on her two spoiled cats, Waffle and Fanta.