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10 of the Best Foods for Healthier Skin and Hair

How eating certain items can give you a beauty boost.

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photo collage of woman surrounded by health foods that promote skin and hair health
Elena Lacey (Getty Images 12)
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As a long-time writer about health and beauty, I’ll admit I’m still susceptible to the lure of the latest lotions and potions, especially if they are backed by science. It turns out, though, that what you eat may have an even greater effect on the health and appearance of your skin and hair than cosmetics. As someone who loves to eat, that’s an added benefit I can get behind.

Unfortunately, changes to hormones (bye-bye estrogen) and environmental factors (sun, pollution) all cause your skin and hair to get thinner and drier as you get older, regardless of ethnicity. Lifestyle habits also play a role. Too much alcohol dehydrates skin, for example. Vitamin deficiencies are rare if you eat a healthy diet, but too little of the B vitamins can lead to a patchy red rash, and fungal skin and nail infections, while a vitamin C deficiency can make skin more fragile. Deficiencies in iron and biotin can cause hair loss and breakage. However, despite what many supplements claim, unless you are truly deficient, there isn’t much science to back up the claim that biotin supplements will aid in hair growth.

On the positive side, some foods are proven to strengthen your skin and hair. An influential study, “Plant-Based Foods for Skin Health: A Narrative Review,” published in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2022, found that a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, olive oil, fruits and legumes protected against sun damage in women over 70. That doesn’t mean you have to go full-on vegetarian, but it does mean that incorporating these foods into your diet will help. Here are 10 foods that may pack a beauty-boosting wallop.

1. Red grapes

The vitamin C in red grapes boosts collagen, the protein that strengthens skin and hair. Plus, grapes are loaded with a powerful antioxidant, resveratrol, which can help fight the effects of sun damage, including discoloration and wrinkling. Resveratrol may even help slow or prevent skin cancer. Another reason to grab a bunch of grapes for dessert? Resveratrol may be good for heart health.

2. Red peppers

Red peppers are a great source of beta carotene, which fights the free radicals that lead to skin aging, including wrinkles and sun damage. It may also reduce skin roughness. Throw some peppers in a salad with your next red friend, tomatoes, or roast them with other favorite veggies.

3. Tomatoes

Along with vitamin C and beta carotene, tomatoes have lycopene and lutein, powerful antioxidants that can help protect your skin from environmental factors. Both have been shown to protect your skin against sun damage from UV rays, including dryness, wrinkling and discoloration. A quick tip: Canned tomatoes and tomato paste have the same benefits.

4. Salmon

Salmon and other fatty fishes, including mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that may help fight inflammation that can cause redness. Omega-3s may also help skin stay soft and moisturized and help hair stay healthy. It's even been found to prevent psoriasis and to lower the risk of skin cancer.

5. Almonds

Almonds are rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, which can help to keep skin supple. A study in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found a significant decrease in overall wrinkle severity in women aged 55 to 80 who consumed almonds for 16 weeks. Need more of an incentive to turn to almonds for a healthy midday snack? The protein in them may help you feel full longer.

6. Soybeans

Soybeans and soy products contain isoflavones that mimic the role of estrogen which, alas, we lose as get older. Isoflavones have been proven to help decrease wrinkles. A report in Clinic titled "Effects of Isoflavones on the Skin of Postmenopausal Women: A Pilot Study" found that soy products increase collagen along with the water content in the skin. (Think of them as a natural moisturizer.)

7. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in your body to protect your skin and hair from dryness. They also are loaded with vitamin C to fight the free radicals that cause skin damage. For a quick side dish, microwave a sweet potato for just 10 minutes, and then choose healthy add-ins, such as sunflower seeds or a dollop of Greek yogurt. (Now that you’ve been so good about healthy eating, go ahead and add a pat of olive oil-infused butter.)

8. Broccoli

The green little florets (and stalks) contain something called sulforaphane. Don’t worry, I can’t say it either. What I do know is that it is a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables that has been shown to help prevent certain forms of cancer and protect skin from sun damage. Plus, broccoli contains another good beauty friend, lutein, for added eye health.

9.  Green Tea

A hot mug of green tea contains flavanols that can protect against UV rays. Green tea may also boast anti-allergenic properties, according to a study in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published in 2022. The study found that drinking green tea for 12 weeks reduced skin roughness and improved skin volume, hydration and elasticity. That's a lot of benefits for a zero-calorie drink.

10. Cocoa

I saved the best for last. After you’ve had your fruit, veggies, salmon and nuts, relax with a cup of hot cocoa. The same study found that women who drank cocoa daily for 24 weeks showed significant improvement in skin roughness and depth of wrinkles, and increased skin density and hydration. As far as I’m concerned, anything that includes chocolate is automatically good for you!

Which of the above do you regularly eat or drink? Let us know in the comments below.

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