By now you probably know that whatever is happening on your face—pimples, a deathly pallor etc.—can probably be traced back to your habits of consuming food and drink. (Especially drink.) Yes, cleansing and moisturizing and all that topical fanfare is important. But the problems, the ones not caused by every organism’s inescapable march towards entropy and death, are usually caused by things like sugar and alcohol. And sugary alcohol.
The good news is that there are a bunch of delicious things you can put in your body that will clear up your complexion, reduce acne, and provide a greater defense against skin cancer. It’s no surprise that foods high in sugar are especially detrimental to your skin’s health, but some skin-friendly foods might surprise you. (Chocolate and red wine, when consumed in moderation, are two such examples.)
We sought some expert advice on foods to eat for healthy skin, since proper skincare is so much more than just products—though a good 3-step regimen and an advanced skincare strategy are crucial, too. Here, then, are the top ten complexion-clearing foods (and a couple drinks), according to dermatologist Kenneth Mark, MD. They’re ranked in ascending order, to help you prioritize your next shopping list.
10. Dark Chocolate
“Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa flavanols, which has been shown to help with smoother skin,” says Mark. Pick a 70-percent dark chocolate blend, or higher. Dr. Mark says that he ranks this #10 because you shouldn’t eat too much chocolate—perhaps just a nib after dinner.
9. Red Wine
Ditto on wine: You shouldn’t use this high ranking as an excuse to kill a bottle of red every night. However, Mark says that “no discussion on food is complete without red wine, since it is so rich in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant with anti-cancer effects and pro-collagen effects on skin.”
Mark says that rosemary is the best herb for your skin: “It’s rich in antioxidants, and an herb-rich diet in general has been shown to decrease melanoma risk.”
7. Olive Oil
“Olive oil has both monounsaturated fat (the good fat) and antioxidant polyphenols to scavenge skin-compromising free radicals created by smog, smoke, and the sun,” Mark says.
“In particular, tomato paste and cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is thought to benefit the prostate,” says Mark. “And in regards to the skin, it also helps improve efficacy of sun protection.”
“Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, and the right amount can add to a healthy radiance on the skin,” Mark says. “But in a classic example of ‘you are what you eat,’ I have seen patients whose skin was orange from eating too many carrots or drinking too much carrot juice.”
“Kale is highly touted superfood, since it is rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin,” Mark says. “It is a potent antioxidant, a free-radical scavenger that helps minimize UV damage. On top of all that, it is also rich in Vitamins A and C, which boost collagen.”
“Blueberries are blue since they are rich in a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanins,” Mark says. “They are also rich in vitamins A, C, and E, and together these help to firm skin and decrease free radical damage.”
2. Green Tea
“It contains polyphenols and specific antioxidants called ‘catechins’, Mark says of green tea. These improve skin’s elasticity and help protect against sun damage. “I had a patient who had multiple skin cancers at a relatively young age. We had him drink a lot of green tea, and in the five remaining years we saw him, he didn’t get any additional cancers.”
“Salmon gets its pink color from a carotenoid called astaxanthin, which has been called ‘nature’s most potent antioxidant’,” says Mark. “Astaxanthin is thousands of times more potent than Vitamins C and E, and helps boost collagen and minimize free radical damage and wrinkles from the sun.”