Everyone is looking for that perfect combination of lifestyle changes to finally reach a glowing, healthy complexion.
You're lowering your stress through self-care. You're drinking your body weight in water. Maybe you've even found your holy grail skincare products, and started to see results.
So why would you ignore something as fundamental as diet? The right mix of vitamins and nutrients can speed along your skin journey, supporting all the other hard work you’re putting in.
To make it even easier, we’ve compiled this list of the 99 best foods for clear skin, so you can quickly and confidently jump into more skin-friendly food habits.
Of course, these aren't the only foods you can eat. But try putting these options front and center, and complementing them with other ingredients in moderation. You'll be impressed with the results!
* Foods repeated in italics are MVPs with multiple skin-clearing nutrients.
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 including omega-rich foods in your diet is extra important.
10. Navy beans
11. Grass-fed beef
15. Mustard seeds
16. Wild rice
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.
Vitamin A deficiency may also cause hyperkeratinization in your pores, causing extra keratin to interfere with your skin cell turnover. Basically, the keratin binds your dead skin cells together and makes them difficult for your skin to shed, leading to an increase in pore blockages and acne breakouts.
Luckily, you can get all the vitamin A you need through foods like:
18. Sweet potatoes
21. Red bell peppers
22. Yellow bell peppers
23. Beef liver
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.
Red bell peppers
Yellow bell peppers
Vitamin D can help manage inflammation and regulate skin cell turnover. This is a significant advantage for acne-sufferers, as inflammation and overproduction of skin cells are two contributing factors for your breakouts.
Many people think that vitamin D must be absorbed through sunlight. But while this is certainly one way to meet your quota, vitamin D is also available through many foods.
37. Cod (esp. Cod liver oil)
41. Maitake mushrooms
42. Shiitake mushrooms
Vitamin E is one of the greatest nutrient allies for your skin. Like vitamins A and C, vitamin E is an antioxidant, protecting your skin against UV radiation and helping prevent dark spots and wrinkles. That’s why it's common 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 for food sources, 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
46. Grapeseed oil
47. Safflower oil
48. Swiss chard
49. Butternut squash
Avocados (and avocado oil)
Zinc isn’t 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 helps protect your skin from environmental damage, and it may even help reduce acne scarring.
Because zinc studies are still trying to establish the ideal topical treatment, right now dietary intake is the best way to ensure your zinc levels are up to snuff. Look for zinc in:
59. Pumpkin seeds
60. Dark chocolate
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.
Fortunately, healthy 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
65. Cottage cheese
We’ve talked a lot about antioxidants so far — like vitamins A, C, and E, not to mention zinc and selenium. But these are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other antioxidants also help guard your complexion against radiation and environmental damage.
You don’t need to memorize all their names, thank goodness. You can add more skin-defending antioxidants to your diet simply by targeting these foods:
66. Green tea
67. Red grapes
71. Goji berries
You may know probiotics as good bacteria to help your digestion. What’s that got to do with clear skin? Due to a phenomenon known as the gut-brain-skin axis, 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 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 flip side, good digestive health can help relieve inflammation, easing the redness and puffiness of acne.
So what’s the best way to help balance your gut (and thereby, your skin)? Probiotics. Find them in:
76. Anything pickled
77. Yogurt with live active cultures
Like similar-sounding probiotics, prebiotic fiber helps improves the health and clarity of your skin by first improving the health and efficiency of your gut.
Prebiotic fiber supports the good bacteria in probiotics, helping them thrive and multiply. So including prebiotic fiber in your diet will make your probiotics work harder, better, faster, and stronger. You can consume prebiotic fiber with a nice helping of:
82. Dandelion greens
85. Jerusalem artichokes
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, suggesting that their Omega-6 levels can contribute to inflammation. But recent research debunks this claim. Just be sure you’re also getting enough Omega-3 so that these healthy nutrients are well-balanced!)
If your skin problems cause significant scarring or damage — say, from conditions like cystic acne — then your body is not only fighting the breakouts, but is also trying to heal and rebuild your skin. This is where protein comes in.
Protein is absolutely essential for wounds to repair themselves, including damage on the surface of your skin. To speed along recovery and lessen your chances of scarring, lean proteins can be a great help. Top choices include:
98. Whey protein powder