We’ve all experienced a breakout that shows up unannounced, and no amount of concealer is enough. You’ve got your skincare routine down to a science (investing in all the best, cutting-edge serums, creams, and masks, no less), and yet, acne is still a thing. WTF? You can go to your trusty spot treatment or pimple patch, but you might also want to look in your fridge to help clear up the breakout too. A clear, glowing complexion begins with what we put in our bodies. The skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside, so it makes sense that loading up on whole, nutrient-dense foods can only help to combat pesky papules, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, you name it.
Ahead, dermatologist-and-registered-dietitian-approved foods to eat to banish an acne flare-up stat. Word to the wise: As much as we want to get rid of a breakout like yesterday, it can take up to 12 weeks for a dietary change to have a noticeable effect on the skin, so hang in there. Glowing skin awaits.
If you need a reason to keep sipping on that H2O, consider this: By maintaining proper hydration, you’re giving your body a leg up in optimal digestion, hormone balance, detoxification, and circulation, which, simply put, can lead to glowing, flawless skin. Plus, Jennifer Aniston and Beyoncé swear their water intake is the secret to their glow, and who are we to argue with them? “Proper hydration is essential for healthy skin,” agreed Melissa Wasserman Baker, a certified RDN and Founder of Food Queries. “Drinking an adequate amount of water helps maintain skin moisture and can contribute to a more vibrant complexion.”
2. Green Tea
Swap your morning cup of joe for some matcha tea. You’ll get your dose of caffeine while consuming polyphenols that can act as antioxidants (read: protect your cells from harmful free radicals that would otherwise damage them) and also reduce inflammation. Translation: The green drink packs a one-two punch in preventing oxidative stress, slowing down the aging process, and repairing and rejuvenating your skin. Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist, also cited that when combined with lemon, green tea is effective in treating acne.
3. Leafy Greens
Is there anything sexier than getting your greens in? Apparently not when it comes to your skin. “Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can promote skin health and healing,” Baker said. Consuming these veggie staples translates to increased resilience against sun damage and external toxins like pollution, thanks to being antioxidant-packed, as well as boosting collagen and elastin production. What’s more, spinach and kale are rich in vitamin C, which increases the cellular turnover of the skin and produces healthy, new skin cells for vibrant and youthful skin.
Cue the power of antioxidants once again because berries are chock-full of the mighty compounds. “The antioxidants in berries operate as a double-edged sword against those bothersome dark spots, preventing them from ever forming in the first place,” Dr. Chacon explained. When you snack on the likes of blueberries and strawberries, you’re loading up on vitamin C and anthocyanin, antioxidants that act as a powerful skin weapon that promote healing and may help your body build more collagen, AKA a protein that gives your skin structure and plumpness.
The tropical fruit has not only earned its right as a healthy snack but also as an effective and potent ingredient in skincare products. It’s no surprise considering a study found that papaya has a high content of vitamins A, B, and C and proteolytic enzymes, such as papain and chymopapain, that have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. “Papain is strong enough to exfoliate dead skin cells, unclog pores, lighten acne scars, and moisturize skin when applied topically to the skin and stop any additional outbreaks,” Dr. Chacon described.
6. Sweet Potato
The root veggie makes more than just an essential Thanksgiving dish. Abundant in beta-carotene, sweet potatoes get converted in the body to retinol. “A vitamin A derivative, retinol is excellent for treating acne and preventing wrinkles,” Dr. Chacon conveyed. Retinol also encourages skin cell production, helps unclog pores, exfoliates your skin, and enhances collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increase elasticity. The result? A fresher, plump appearance. Furthermore, as an antioxidant, beta-carotene holds the potential as an anti-aging agent.
More than just a refreshing flavor addition to your water, lemons are known for their detoxifying effects—and not just when you ingest their vitamin C and citric acid components. According to Healthline, there’s a growing popularity for using lemons on your skin as a natural treatment for skin conditions, like age spots and acne. “The natural astringent properties of fresh lemon juice make it a popular remedy for reducing the appearance of blemishes and tightening drooping skin,” Dr. Chacon agreed. Because of the acidity of lemon juice, it can help decrease inflammation and oil that may contribute to the formation of acne. Additionally, citric acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), can aid in breaking down dead skin cells that lead to noninflammatory forms of acne, like blackheads.
8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Step aside, pricey skincare products and treatments. While they have their place, foods brimming with omega-3 fatty acids—fatty fish (think: salmon and tuna) and nuts and seeds (think: walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds)—can help improve barrier function, inhibit inflammation, and promote skin healing that money can’t buy. Omega-3 fatty acids also help lower the production of inflammatory compounds that contribute to the aging process.
9. Probiotic-Rich Foods
Consuming probiotic foods can help maintain a healthy, balanced gut microbiome, which may help reduce eczema, acne, dry skin, and even wrinkles and skin cancer risk linked to UV damage. Certain probiotic strains have been demonstrated to boost the skin’s production of ceramides, or lipids (fats) that trap moisture in the skin and keep acne-causing bacteria levels in check. A 2016 review demonstrated that probiotics can restore skin pH, alleviate oxidative stress, reduce premature aging of the skin caused by UV light, improve the skin’s barrier function, and enhance hair quality. So stock your fridge with yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and other probiotic-heavy eats—both the gut and skin will thank you.