Healthy Skin Diet: How Your Diet Affects Your Skin

Skin Care
Share on:
healthy diet for healthy skin

Does what you eat affect your skin? We're so glad you asked. The body is a system, and everything is connected, meaning that what you eat influences how your skin looks and behaves. If you've spent a lot of time trying to achieve a great complexion, all to no avail, you might want to consider your diet — a piece of the puzzle often overlooked. While there isn't a magic bullet to instantly give you better-looking skin, cutting potentially harmful foods and replacing them with healthy ones can be a great way to wage a winning war against dehydration, early wrinkles, and sagginess.

Stay tuned - in this post, we reveal everything you need to know about the skincare diet and discuss the importance of taking a holistic approach to the problem, including lifestyle choices that also affect your skin.

What Factors Affect Your Skin?

While food choices play a decisive role in how your skin looks, plenty of other factors affect its appearance and function. For instance, stress is a major contributor that impacts the body, leading to acne, oxidative stress, and DNA damage, meaning the skin is prone to age prematurely if you are consistently stressed.[1][2] Other factors such as smoking, inadequate sleep, sun exposure, lack of exercise, and excess alcohol will also impact your beauty game.[3] 

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals altering lipids and proteins and inducing DNA damage, which exacerbates skin aging. Long story short, oxidative stress occurs when there's an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body and is a leading cause of premature skin aging.[4] While the body naturally produces free radicals to keep itself healthy, the problem arises when excessive free radicals occur through lifestyle choices, such as excessive alcohol intake, stress, and smoking. 

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron and, in an attempt to complete themselves, steal an electron from our healthy cells. Consequently, healthy cells become incomplete, creating a vicious chain reaction of electron stealing in the body that leads to oxidative stress. This is where antioxidants save the day — they donate an electron to free radicals, neutralizing them and thereby preventing oxidative stress.


Inflammation is our immune system's response to external factors needed by the body to heal itself. Inflammatory symptoms can affect the skin negatively and are considered one of the driving forces for concerns like redness, rashes, dermatitis, and skin aging.[5] Having awareness of what causes skin inflammation and trying to avoid these factors can help you maintain integer and healthy skin. The leading causes of inflammation include refined food (like pastries and sweet desserts), oxidative stress, extreme temperatures, and sunlight.

(Dryness and) Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the skin loses more water than it takes and leads to one of the most encountered skincare concerns: dehydrated skin. When the skin is dehydrated, fine lines and wrinkles appear more visible, dark circles are more prominent, skin looks dull and lackluster, and there are more chances for external factors to disturb the protective barrier. The takeaway? Hydration plays a crucial role in how your skin looks and feels, so drinking an adequate amount of water daily (eight 8-ounce glasses) is sure to improve your skin.[6]

Lifestyle Changes that Benefit Your Skin

Running the gamut from lifestyle changes to a skincare routine, there are many tips dedicated to a healthy complexion. Here are our top picks for lifestyle shifts that will benefit your skin over time.

Drink Less Alcohol

"Alcohol is actually one of the worst, most aggressive compounds to destroy your skin," says New York nutritionist Jairo Rodriguez.[7] The first effect of consuming alcohol is dehydration, followed by inflammation, which as you now know, are two leading causes of prematurely aged skin. 

"When you're 20 years old and drink, that drink leaves your body in about three hours. When you're 40 years old, it takes an average of 33 hours. If your transit time is three hours, that means you can drink on Monday and by Tuesday, it's out of your body. If you're 40 and you drink on Monday, don't drink until Wednesday. Minimize to once or twice a week—the lower the intake, the lower the damage to your skin." [7] 

Don't crash diet

In a bid for quick results, some often give themselves awful timelines to get into shape for one event or another. Crash diets require that you drastically reduce your calorie intake and cut out essential foods, like fats, proteins, and antioxidants, all necessary for healthy skin. So, a crash diet takes a toll on your skin simply because it deprives you of vital nutrients and can also increase stress that shows up in your complexion. Do your skin a favor and say no to extreme dieting or repeated cycles of weight loss and regain. Repeated weight loss and regaining weight are also harmful to the skin, as they often result in wrinkles and saggy skin.

Instead, do your best for long-term results and make healthy, nourishing food choices in the long run rather than depriving yourself of food.

Maintain a Great Skin Care Routine

Holding onto a diligent skincare routine is an essential piece of the puzzle. Cleansing, toning, treating, and moisturizing twice daily and regularly sloughing off dead cells through exfoliation are important steps that help keep your skin looking its best. Also, wearing sunscreen every day is essential for offsetting premature skin aging — sun exposure is responsible for 80% of facial wrinkles.

The products you use have a crucial role in the outcomes; similar to healthy food, high-quality skin care products can improve your skin. When we talk high-quality skincare, we mean products that use tried-and-true ingredients, are clinically proven to deliver what they promise, skip unnecessary compounds, and don't start to lose potency after the first use. Exponent serums have all of that because we stand behind simple-but-critical improvements to the proven formulas of yesterday. Plus, our packaging system never allows the daily environment to deactivate the formulas.

Healthy Skin Diet Dos and Don'ts

To give you a head start on how to improve your skin by looking inward, here's what you should do (and avoid) to promote A-class skin.

What to Include in a Healthy Skin Diet

After all, you are what you eat. Here we’ll mention all the foods you need to add to your diet asap so you get a jumpstart on a better complexion and avoid unnecessary skin issues.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that max out skin moisture, increase water retention, help regulate sebum, attenuate photodamaged skin, and reduce inflammation.[8] All these perks help keep your skin elastic, firm, and moist. 

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Soybean
  • Canola oil


Without enough antioxidants in the body to scavenge free radicals, oxidative stress occurs, which you already know is damaging your skin. Thus, having a diet rich in antioxidants is a priority.

These are the richest food sources of antioxidants you can add to your diet:

  • Citrus fruit - rich in vitamin C
  • Tomatoes - full of lycopene
  • Carrots - contain beta carotene
  • Broccoli - high levels of glucoraphanin
  • Potatoes - full of polyphenols, ascorbic acid, and tocopherols
  • Avocados - rich in lutein and zeaxanthin 
  • Beetroot - contains phenolics and epicatechin

Include Probiotics + Prebiotics

It has been shown quite a few times that gut health has a role in the skin's integrity. When gut health is off, the skin can become weak and irritated, developing breakouts, redness, sensitivity, and inflammation.[9] Several factors can irritate your gut, including food allergens, additives, alcohol, and some medications. Maintain your body health, by adding foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics to your diet, as these play a key role in restoring the normal function of your gut and reducing the chances of skin issues.[10]

Probiotic-rich foods:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar cheese
  • Pickled cucumbers

Prebiotic-rich foods:

  • Garlic and onion
  • Asparagus
  • Banana
  • Wheat pasta
  • Mushrooms

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated helps the body run optimally and maintains your skin's elasticity, resiliency, and softness. When you drink water, you help nutrients reach the skin through proper blood flow, allowing it to get the benefits from foods. Ideally, drink 2 liters of water daily — fruits, vegetables, and soups count too. 

What to Avoid for Healthy Skin

When we talk about the best diet for the skin, what to avoid matters too, so try to dodge these foods as much as you can because they're likely to mess with your skin. 

Cut Out Processed Foods and Drinks

Consuming excess processed foods, refined sugar, and high salt can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and breakouts, and it's more likely to speed up aging.[11] Here is a list of better alternatives to popular processed foods:

  • Swap sugary drinks for green tea, smoothies, or water with lemon
  • Fast or frozen foods for a freshly made one
  • White bread for whole grain bread
  • Savory snacks for carrots or cucumber sticks
  • Instant noodles for zoodles

Avoid High Glycemic-Index Foods and Drinks

High glycemic index foods, like carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, sugary drinks, and dairy, also have a bad rap for skin health because they can quickly spike your blood pressure. Alternatively, you should add to your diet foods with a lower glycemic index because they take more time to break down and stabilize blood glucose levels. Controlling glucose levels can reduce skin-damaging processes, such as glycation (a process that damages collagen and elastin) and oxidative stress.[12]

Examples of high glycemic index foods and low-glycermic alternatives to swap:

  • Soft white bread -> dense, whole-grain bread
  • Potatoes -> sweet potatoes
  • White rice -> basmati, red, black, wild rice
  • Couscous- -> quinoa
  • Potato chips -> nuts
  • Biscuits -> fresh fruit
  • Ice-cream -> low-fat ice-cream

Diet + Skin Care FAQs

Does what you eat affect your skin?

What you eat significantly impacts the health and look of your skin, so it's crucial to have a nutrient-rich diet like healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

How does your diet affect your skin?

Having a diet full of antioxidants, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats is linked to lower oxidative stress, fewer wrinkles, and less dehydration. On the flip side, heavily processed, sugary, and high-salted foods are associated with a higher likelihood of premature wrinkles and acne.

Does diet affect acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, a high-glycemic diet may increase the chances of acne, and conversely, a low-glycemic diet may lead to fewer breakouts.[13]

Caring for Your Skin Inside and Out

Cliché or not, we most definitely are what we eat, so taking control of your diet and making healthy food choices will surely help you achieve more luminous skin. And guess what works in perfect tandem with eating healthier? A diligent skincare routine with products full of tried-and-true ingredients that deliver clinically-proven results and don’t lose efficacy day by day. Shop our collection of self-activated serums here.

  • Zari S, Alrahmani D. The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Dec 5;10:503-506, Source
  • Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):177-90, Source
  • Sawada Y, Saito-Sasaki N, Mashima E, Nakamura M. Daily Lifestyle and Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 May 14;22(10):5204, Source
  • Tsuchida, K., Kobayashi, M. Oxidative stress in human facial skin observed by ultraweak photon emission imaging and its correlation with biophysical properties of skin. Sci Rep 10, 9626 (2020), Source
  • Zhuang Y, Lyga J. Inflammaging in skin and other tissues - the roles of complement system and macrophage. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014, Source
  • Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015 Aug 3;8:413-21. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S86822. PMID: 26345226; PMCID: PMC4529263. Source
  • Vogue, How to Combat the Effects of Alcohol on Skin, According to an Expert, Source
  • Oregon State University, Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health, Source
  • Salem I, Ramser A, Isham N, Ghannoum MA. The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-skin Axis. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:1459. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.01459, Source
  • Lolou, Vasiliki & Panayiotidis, Mihalis. (2019). Functional Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics on Skin Health and Disease. Fermentation. 5. 41. 10.3390/fermentation5020041, Source
  • Cao C, Xiao Z, Wu Y, Ge C. Diet and Skin Aging-From the Perspective of Food Nutrition. Nutrients. 2020 Mar 24;12(3):870. doi: 10.3390/nu12030870. PMID: 32213934; PMCID: PMC7146365, Source
  • Noordam R, Gunn DA, Tomlin CC, Maier AB, Mooijaart SP, Slagboom PE, Westendorp RG, de Craen AJ, van Heemst D; Leiden Longevity Study Group. High serum glucose levels are associated with a higher perceived age. Age (Dordr). 2013 Feb, Source
  • American Academy of Dermatology Association, Can The Right Diet Get Rid Of Acne?, Source


Powered by clinically-proven, pure Active Powders combined with a Hyaluronic Acid Hydrator, our Superior Serums are made fresh in an instant at peak potency.