20 Best Foods For Healthy, Clear, Glowing Skin

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Personal Trainer Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
Written by Charushila B

Many foods help make the skin clear and glowing. Foods rich in antioxidants and powerful nutrients target skin problems like acne, hyperpigmentation, dry skin, and other skin issues at a cellular level. In fact, they may give better results than most topically applied skin care products.

Here is a list of the 20 foods known to promote skin health. Consume these to reduce inflammation, repair oxidative damage, increase cell turnover, and boost collagen synthesis. Swipe up!

20 Best Foods For Healthy, Clear, Glowing Skin

1. Turmeric

Turmeric, a golden yellow fleshy root, is popularly used as a spice. The active component of turmeric, curcumin, has antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic properties (1). There’s growing scientific evidence that turmeric, whether consumed or applied topically, may help in the treatment of psoriasis, skin cancer, hyperpigmentation, skin infections, and skin aging (2).

Consume ½ an inch of washed and peeled turmeric root first thing in the morning. Chew it properly and wash it down your throat with water. You can also add freshly grated turmeric to a glass of milk before bed (avoid dairy if you have hormonal acne). You may even apply turmeric paste to your skin (mix with Fuller’s earth, gram flour, aloe vera, etc.) to visibly reduce pigmentation, acne, and scars.

2. Tomato

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant and also gives tomatoes the luscious red color (3). Lycopene helps scavenge the harmful oxygen radicals that cause toxic buildup resulting in skin rashes, acne, and aging (4). Scientists at the National School for Healthcare Science (NHS), examined to see if tomato paste can protect human skin from UV radiation-induced erythema. It was found that tomato paste can actually protect your skin against photodamage (5).

Include tomato in curries, salads, grilled veggies, etc. You can drink tomato juice. Apply tomato juice (mix with gram flour) as a face mask.

NOTE: Avoid applying tomato juice to your face if you have sensitive skin.

3. Carrot

Carrot is rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that gives the carrots their red or orange color. Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties that prevent cell and DNA damage (6). However, you must avoid overconsumption of carrots as it may cause discoloration of the skin.

Add carrots to your stew, bake a carrot cake, add it to stir-fried veggies or to your salad, drink carrot juice or smoothie to get the best benefits of carrot for your skin.

4. Papaya

Sweet and delicious, papayas contain enzymes papain and chymopapain, vitamins A, C, and B, and dietary fiber (7). The fruit improves bowel movement and digestion and also regulates blood pressure. This, in turn, can help you get fresh and infection-free skin as better digestion means you will be flushing out toxins that can prevent acne and pigmentation. The antimicrobial activity of papaya was also found to help treat burns in children (8) (9).

Consume a mix of ripe and unripe papaya. Boil the unripe papaya or make raw papaya salad. Eat ripe papaya as is or add it to smoothies. You can also apply papaya flesh to your skin every other day to get smooth and glowing skin.

5. Neem Leaves

Neem Leaves

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Neem is an Ayurvedic medicine used for treating a number of diseases and disorders. This tropical plant’s leaves, flowers, roots, bark, seeds, and oil have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and wound-healing properties (10), (12).  Neem oil is a promising tool to treat scleroderma skin ulcers and neem extract helps reduce acne. It could also be a potential treatment for cancers (12), (13).

You can consume the apical leaves of the neem tree. Wash them thoroughly and blend them to make a paste. Consume ¼ teaspoon of this paste first thing in the morning. You can mix it with honey to cut the bitter taste. Add it to smoothies. You can also boil washed neem leaves and prepare an extract. Apply this extract to the skin or use the extract in a bath.

6. Avocado

The buttery, nutty-tasting avocados are rich in vitamins A, E, C, K, B-6, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, choline, lutein, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phytosterols, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The healthy fats in avocados aid in healthy aging (14). They also prevent sun damage, keep the skin soft and supple, while also strengthening and rejuvenating the skin (15).

You can consume avocados in a salad, Frankies, smoothies, etc., or apply avocado face masks to get clear, hydrated, and glowing skin.

7. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens like spinach, arugula, cabbage, lettuce, kale, radish greens, beetroot greens, etc. are a great source of vitamins A and E and minerals. Leafy vegetables are rich in beta carotene and help scavenge harmful free oxygen radicals, thereby slowing down aging, skin wrinkling, and even skin cancer (16), (17).

Consume leafy greens, raw or blanched, in salads and smoothies every day. Add different types of leafy greens to get all the nutrients each leafy vegetable has to offer.

8. Nuts And Seeds

Nuts and seeds like almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals (18), (19). While PUFA help reduces inflammation, dietary fiber helps the gastrointestinal system work properly by improving the gut microbiota (20), (21). With reduced inflammation and good gut function, skin problems like acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, etc. can be kept at bay (22), (23).

Consume mixed nuts and seeds every day. You can soak them in water overnight and consume them as they are or add them to smoothies and salads. Applying almond paste to your skin also helps reduce dryness and makes the skin supple and radiant.

9. Black Pepper

Black pepper is extensively used as a seasoning, but did you know that it can also help improve your skin? It possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidepressant, and gastroprotective properties (24). These properties of black pepper make it one of the ideal spices to achieve clear skin. Black pepper also helps protect the skin from damage due to UV rays, stress hormones, or inflammation.

Add black pepper to your soup, smoothies, eggs, salad, stew, sandwich, burritos, etc. to bring out the flavors of other foods as well as improve your skin.

10. Berries

Berries

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Blueberries, strawberries, acai berries, blackberries, goji berries, gooseberries, cranberries, and raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, tannins, dietary fiber, phenolic acids, and flavonoids. This high antioxidant profile of the berries makes them essential for improving skin health and delaying skin aging (25). They also combat DNA damage and help reduce the risk of skin cancer (26).

Include berries in your smoothie bowls, smoothies, salads, etc.

11. Fatty Fish

Fatty fishes like wild-caught salmon are a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids and astaxanthin (27), (28). Omega-3-fatty acids are healthy fats that help prevent melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma (29). Astaxanthin is used as an essential ingredient in cosmetics, and that’s because it helps protect the skin from sun radiation and improves skin elasticity, thereby slowing down aging (30).

Have grilled or baked salmon for lunch or dinner with veggies to improve your skin health. You can also have mackerel, tuna, and sardine.

12. Broccoli

This cruciferous vegetable is rich in vitamins C, E, and K, glucosinolates, polyphenols, iron, selenium, and zinc (31). The antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties of broccoli make it an ideal food to promote skin health (32).

Have grilled, blanched, or steamed broccoli in your salad, with grilled chicken or fish or with sauteed mushrooms.

13. Beans And Lentils

Beans and lentils are a great source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals (33). These sources of plant proteins are essential for collagen synthesis. Collagen is a structural protein of the skin that keeps the skin looking plump and younger (34). If you are a vegetarian or vegan, beans and lentils are essential to keep your skin healthy and firm.

Consume boiled lentils and beans in your salad, make chili, or add them in soup. You can also apply red lentil paste to your skin to visibly reduce hyperpigmentation, tanning, and exfoliate dead skin layers.

14. Citrus Fruits

Oranges, grapefruit, lime, lemon, tangerines, etc. are a great source of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant (35). Antioxidants help scavenge the free oxygen radicals and protect the DNA from damage. As a result, the aging process is delayed (36).

Consume citrus fruits in a salad, smoothies, juices, salad dressings, and detox waters.

15. Yogurt

Yogurt

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The probiotics in yogurt aid digestion. Digestion and skin health is interlinked because better the digestion and bowel movement lesser the chances of harmful bacteria overgrowth in the gut or colon. This means less toxic buildup in the body and thereby fewer breakouts. Scientists also agree that consuming yogurt or applying it topically can help improve skin health to a great extent (37).

Add yogurt to your salad dressing, and lettuce wrap, or make a yogurt dip for fried chicken or fish. You can also have yogurt with your breakfast cereal or have just plain yogurt after lunch or dinner. Apply it topically to get glowing skin.

16. Green Tea

Green tea offers myriad health benefits. The epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol, possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties. Scientists have reported that EGCG in green tea helps protect the skin from harmful UV radiation and also nullifies the oxygen radicals. This helps prevent skin rashes, sunburn, skin cancer, and photoaging (38).

Have a cup of green tea in the morning or in the evening. You can also use green tea bags to reduce dark circles and puffiness under the eyes.

17. Bitter Gourd

Bitter gourd or bitter melon has antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and hepatoprotective properties (39), (40). Studies show that bitter melon helps heal wounds faster and also has anti-cancer properties (41), (42). Keeping your liver healthy and cells protected from free radical damage can help improve your skin from within.

Consume boiled bitter gourd as is or you can also add it to smoothies. Balance the bitter taste with honey and lime.

18. Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe vera gel is widely used in various skin care formulations for its moisturizing, skin-cooling, inflammation-reducing, and skin-healing properties (43). It also has anti-tumor properties and helps reduce the chances of seborrhoeic dermatitis, psoriasis, skin inflammation, etc. (44).

Consume aloe vera juice first thing in the morning. You can also apply aloe vera to the skin to reduce acne flare-ups and hydrate dry skin. 

19. Bottle Gourd

Bottle gourd is rich in sterols, flavonoids, saponins, and terpenoids. It also has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, diuretic, antihyperlipidemic, hepatoprotective, anthelmintic, and anti-cancer properties (45), (46). When your internal body system is functioning properly and better, it will reflect on your skin. You can see a visible reduction in acne, scars, and skin infections.

Wash and peel the bottle gourd and boil it to have it as is. You may also add it to soups and salads. You can also consume bottle gourd juice in the morning on an empty stomach.

20. Watermelon

Watermelon

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The juicy watermelons are a rich source of lycopene and vitamin C (antioxidant) and medium- and short-chain fatty acids. The fruit protects your skin from oxidative damage, reduces oxidative stress, protects the DNA structure, delays aging, and has cancer-fighting properties (47), (26). It also may help prevent premature wrinkles and fine lines.

Consume watermelon as is or add it to salads, smoothies, and juices.

These are the 20 foods for healthy skin. In addition to these, you may also consider the following points to boost your skin health.

Points To Remember To Get Healthy Skin

  • Protect your skin from UV radiation by using an umbrella and applying high SPF sunscreen all over your exposed skin before stepping out.
  • Drink water and detox water to help flush out the toxins.
  • Avoid eating too spicy food.
  • Eat home-cooked food.
  • Always remove makeup before going to bed.
  • If you ride a bike or a bicycle, make sure to wear a biker jacket or full-hand gloves to protect your hands from UV rays.
  • You can also rub a cube of ice on your face to help soothe your skin at the end of the day.
  • Apply a homemade face pack every alternate day.
  • Use a water-based or oil-based moisturizer depending on your skin type soon as you wash off the face pack.
  • Talk to a dermatologist if you see patches of discoloration or flaky skin.
  • Do not scratch the rashes.
  • Do not burst a pimple as it can leave a permanent mark.

It is not an easy job to get flawless skin, but it is not an impossible feat either. Just eat the 20 foods, take care of your skin regularly and you will see the results yourself. However, you must talk to your dermatologist to get prescription medicines to combat skin disorders and inflammation effectively.

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