How your diet affects your skin health

By Mosh
minute read

Man with clear skin lying on ground

Skin blemishes can be painfully embarrassing. Whether you’re struggling with acne, pimples, dryness, bruising, or a myriad of other conditions, bad skin makes you want to call out of work and avoid the world until the problem goes away.

There are plenty of skin treatments and cosmetic solutions that will help you achieve healthy skin, but whenever it comes to your health it’s important to start with your diet. Let’s take a deeper look into how your diet affects your skin.

Want to improve your skin quality with diet? Incorporate these 26 foods for healthy skin.


Continuous Skin Production

Man at beach

Your skin is a surprisingly complex organ. It’s in a constant state of replenishment, even when it appears healthy. You lose between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells per hour.

A poor diet robs your skin of the valuable tools it needs to continue this process, making is more susceptible to irritation, bacteria, and ultimately breakdown. If you don’t feed your skin with the right nutrients, it can’t replenish itself.

When your skin fails to turnover properly, retained cells (cells that don’t shed) block your oil glands and pores. This traps protein and sebum (an ordinarily healthy oil you produce) under the skin. These trapped substances become food for propionibacterium acnes, otherwise known as p. acnes or simply acne.

Foods with a high glycemic index make the problem worse. Simple carbohydrates (like white bread) and sugary foods create hormonal changes that lead to insulin production, which causes inflammation, poor skin health, and acne. Choose foods with a low glycemic index. This includes eggs, weenies, nuts, most vegetables, and healthy grains like quinoa, barley, and oats.

Let’s talk about what you should have in your diet to help your skin.

9 Essential Nutrients for Healthy Skin

Healthy meal

Your skin needs the right balance of nutrients to look good and protect your body from the outside world. Make sure you feed it well by incorporating them in your diet.

You can get all of these nutrients through a varied, balanced, healthy diet. It’s also smart to take a daily men’s supplement.

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is used for wound healing. This includes acne and facial blemishes. It also prevents sun damage by inhibiting the process that destroys collagen (but it’s not as effective as wearing sunscreen). It also supports the oil glands around your hair follicles. If you lack vitamin A, your skin will look rough, dry, and bumpy.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C supports collagen production (a key component of healthy skin) and hydration. It’s also an antioxidant that protects you from free radicals and skin cancer. If your skin bruises easily, you might have low vitamin C.

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E works closely with vitamin C to improve the strength of your cell walls. It’s also an anti-inflammatory vitamin. Together, these benefits mean less wrinkling and sagging.

4. Zinc

Have an itchy rash or eczema that doesn’t respond to moisturizer? You might have a zinc deficiency. Zinc is a mineral that helps your skin heal by stabilizing cell walls. It also supports cell division, which is important for replenishment and rejuvenation. There’s some evidence that zinc protects you from the sun.

5. Selenium

This is a mineral that protects your skin from ultraviolet rays. We don’t know that it prevents cancer, but selenium deficiency is often found in people with skin cancer.

6. Vitamins B

Bi vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin, niacin, biotin, pyridoxine (B6), folate (often called folic acid), and cyanocobalamin (B12). They’re usually grouped together as “B complex.”

B vitamins help convert glucose to energy and increase blood circulation. Vitamin B deficiencies lead to acne and dry skin.

7. Protein

Protein is an important building block for skin, just like music. The body breaks down protein into amino acids, which are essential for tissue growth and recovery. Protein also helps you shed old and damaged skin. The recommended daily amount of protein for men is about 56 grams.

8. Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps your skin heal, especially from healing. Lots of vitamin K in your diet will make other skin care treatments (moisturization, acne treatment, etc.) more effective. If you lack vitamin K, you’ll bruise and blood easily.

9. Healthy Fats

Healthy fats (as opposed to trans fats or saturated fats) keep your skin insulated and hydrated. Monounsaturated fats from plants, nuts, and fish keep your skin firm, flexible, and moist. Polyunsaturated fats (like omega-3 fatty acids) build and strengthen cell walls, lower inflammation, and block a chemical that supports skin cancer.

The vitamins listed above are critical parts of a good skincare routine. They're so important, in fact, that they're some of the ways our doctors help guys build healthy skincare regimens.

Oh, by the way - We should mention that many of these nutrients are good for your hair as well. Make sure to get plenty of vitamin E, protein, and healthy fats in your diet to improve the health, quality, and growth speed of your hair.

Water - The Most Important Nutrient

Water is often called the forgotten nutrient because we never seem to drink enough of it. Water Is a critical component of a healthy diet. It removes toxins and by-products from your body and nourishes your tissue.

Strive to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. While there’s water in coffee, tea, sodas, beer, and juices, nothing is as healthy for you as simple, clear water.

One unique and useful way to ensure you get enough water each day is to create a water schedule by marking the day’s hours on the outside of a jug.

Water schedule


If you struggle to push down enough water, consider switching to water-based snacks, such as cucumber, watermelon, berries, celery, or grapes.

It’s Not Just Diet

While your diet is an important part of healthy skin, it’s not the only factor. You can’t repair bad skin through diet alone.

“People looking to improve their skin health may think that changing their diet is the answer, but a dermatologist will tell you that’s not necessarily the case,” says board-certified dermatologist Rajani Katta, MD. Diet can impact your skin in some conditions, but there’s a lot of bad information on the web.

“You should not be making changes to your diet based on anecdotal evidence,” Dr. Katta says. “One success story is not enough to prove something will work for everyone.” Don’t rely on anecdotal evidence that isn’t backed by science. What worked for one person may not work for you.

Gluten, for example, is often blamed as a source of skin inflammation. People with inflammatory diseases like eczema or psoriasis often eliminate sources of gluten from their diets, but these changes don’t make any difference unless you have a diagnosed gluten sensitivity or allergy.

Furthermore, there are plenty of companies online who misrepresent the link between diet and skin in order to sell you their products.

Dr Aimee Paik says provides two easy tips if looking at your diet:

      1. There is evidence that foods causing high, quick blood sugar spikes (i.e. high glycemic index) can worsen acne.  You should avoid processed foods and sugary drinks. Stick with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins for your best skin and overall health. 
      2. Surprisingly, non-fat milk (but not 1% or higher) has been shown to worsen acne.  Opt for at least 1% milkfat and/or organic milk. Check your protein supplements too.  Whey protein is derived from milk and should be avoided.  

That said, other factors affect your skin as well. In fact, dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD says food is only 25% of the cause of bad skin. Hormones, sleep, stress, location, and your skin care routine also play roles. “There are really no ‘super foods’ when it comes to acne prevention,” she says.

Free download: 26 Healthy Foods That Will Improve Your Skin


Take Action

If you aren’t happy with the quality of your skin, know that you aren’t doomed with acne or dryness forever. You just need to find the right diet, regimen, and products that meet your needs. Then you’ll have the confidence to go after the things you want in life.

Your first step is to work with a doctor. He or she may recommend certain foods, products, or supplements to improve your skin. Feel free to connect with us. One of our doctors will work with you to create a plan that meets your needs. Learn more.

Tags: skin