You guys: It’s time to flip how we think about skin health.
All you men (and, okay, pretty much all humans) who just cannot with the 27-step skincare routines touted by celebrities and beauty insiders: don’t worry. You’re not facing a lifetime of dull skin. Turns out what you put in your body is just as important as what you slather onto it. “The cleaner I eat, the better my skin gets,” says plant-based vlogger and fitness influencer Leo Venus. Sure, he makes a point of applying aloe vera and staying out of the sun. But he knows from firsthand experience that the gut/skin relationship is king. “Eat as many foods that are generally healthy for the human body, and [considering] the skin will also benefit from the superior nutrition!” he says. Read on to find out what you can do to treat your skin from within.
If you’re eating a plant-based diet, you’re already doing something right. Studies have linked dairy to acne, possibly because of certain hormones in milk. Saying goodbye to skim milk in particular may be a major win for your skin. Plus, there are fruits and veggies you can ramp up in your diet to up your glow game even more.
“I grew up eating carrots often, on my mom’s recommendation, and I later learned that the vitamin A they contain in abundance is excellent for the skin. I stick to carrots to this day,” says Milain David, founder of Eben Naturals, a Miami-based skincare company that formulates products specifically for people of color.
Some other foods whose benefits you’ll see written on your face? Vitamin C-rich foods, like sweet potatoes and citrus fruits, help keep up the collagen in your skin (very important for youthful-looking skin), and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and flax seeds, help you stay moisturized.
While you’re busy loading up your plate with sweet potatoes and walnuts, consider adding probiotics to your daily routine. “Probiotics help the body maintain microbial homeostasis in the gut,” explains Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology. “When things get out of whack with our normal gastrointestinal flora, the body can get into a very pro-inflammatory state, which is terrible for the skin.”
The reason the mantra “hydration, hydration, hydration” is so often repeated is because it really does make a difference. “Adequate skin hydration slows the aging process by helping the skin maintain its elasticity. [It] also essential for optimizing the way our cells function,” says Mudgil.
It’s important to hydrate internally by drinking lots of H2O, but be sure to quench your skin’s thirst from the outside, too. David swears by lathering up with vitamin E while he’s in the shower, then slathering on aloe straight from the plant when he gets out to give his skin an extra slurp of moisture.
Once your pantry’s gotten an overhaul and your water bottle is full, it’s time to hit the gym. “When you exercise, blood flow to the skin is significantly increased, which allows nutrients to get to our skin cells more readily,” explains Mudgil. Studies have also shown that exercise can actually change the structure of your skin, making it appear much, much younger (particularly if it hasn’t been sun damaged).
When you’re done with the weights, treat yourself to some steam, a practice David swears by for its detoxing (and, uh-huh, relaxing) properties.
Want to get even more gorgeous skin from within? Talk to your health care practitioner about adding a daily dose of these supplements to your regular routine.
Sea buckthorn oil—which is high in omega-7—can be taken orally or used topically. Sea buckthorn is rich in vitamin E, lycopene and beta-carotene. It helps with skin hydration, elasticity and regeneration. It may also help protect your skin from UV rays (which means it’s extra important during these warm weather months—though of course no substitute for natural sunscreen and other sun-protective measures!).
Even though astaxanthin doesn’t get nearly as much attention as its carotenoid peers (most people probably haven’t heard of it until now), astaxanthin is a big-time antioxidant that can improve wrinkles, age spots, skin moisture and skin texture. One study looked specifically at its effect on men, and good news guys: supplementation helped the men’s crow’s feet, skin elasticity and moisture retention.
Soaking up some rays isn’t the only way you can get your vitamin D. Pop it as a supplement to help your cells operate at peak performance without the risks and skin damage that come with sun exposure. Vitamin C supplements can help with collagen formation to keep skin looking bright and tight all summer long.
No meat? No problem. Plant-based collagen builders have got you covered in the collagen department. They contain ingredients like amino acids, silica, biotin and vitamin C, which can help keep your skin looking young AF.