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The top foods to eat for skin health

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Skin changes are common during breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, medications, and menopause. But skin health also benefits from a healthy diet.

Healthy skin safeguards your internal organs by keeping water and nutrients in while keeping harmful bacteria and viruses out. And skin care is not just something we should do on the outside. All of our vital organs, including our skin, are affected by what we eat and drink.

Here is a list of some of the essential nutrients your skin requires to perform its many essential functions and look its best.

Specific foods for your skin

Foods for Skin Health

Your skin is a complex organ that requires a variety of nutrients every day to stay healthy. Here are some of my top suggestions.


Water is not always thought of as an essential nutrient, but it is. Water serves numerous functions in your body. It is the most important component of your cells and fluids. It allows you to keep your body temperature stable and absorbs shock in your joints. It's no surprise that adults are composed of 60% water.

Water is just as important for our skin as it is for our bodies. Your skin is made up of three layers. The epidermis is the visible and tactile outermost layer. The dermis is the middle layer, and the hypodermis is beneath it. When your epidermis is dehydrated, it becomes rough and loses elasticity. The water your epidermis requires comes from within. According to one clinical study, when participants who didn't drink a lot of water increased their intake, their skin became more hydrated and their skin's "extensibility" improved within two weeks. Drinking more water can help with skin hydration, which is especially important if you have dry skin or don't drink enough water.

How much water do you require each day? Unless otherwise directed, try to drink at least two to three quarts of fluid per day while on active treatment. It should be noted that these fluids can come from drinking water or other beverages, as well as water-rich foods such as soups, fruits, and vegetables. If you are experiencing digestive tract side effects, you may require more water (kidney stones, vomiting, diarrhea).

  • A note about alcohol: Ask your doctor whether drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely.


Protein is an essential macronutrient, which means you require a significant amount of it every day (more than with micronutrients like vitamins where you need much smaller amounts every day). Protein is found in your cells, immune system antibodies, and enzymes that are required for thousands of reactions (including digestion). Proteins are also used to make the main structure of your body. This includes your bones, muscles, organs, etc., as well as your skin. Proteins are created by combining different building blocks known as amino acids.

Your skin is made up of a variety of proteins. Collagen and elastin, for example, are abundant and help to build the structure of your skin. Your body's ability to produce collagen degrades over time and with exposure to the elements. Keratin is yet another essential protein in your skin. Keratin is found in the outer epidermis layer, giving it rigidity and improving barrier protection.

Many factors influence the recommended daily protein intake. Aside from meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, plant-based sources of protein include soy, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even vegetables like corn, broccoli, and asparagus.

Essential fatty acids

There are two kinds of fatty acids, both of which are essential nutrients for our health and skin. Linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid are the two (omega-3). Antiinflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improvements in rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, heart disease, and psoriasis, to name a few.

A higher linoleic acid intake is associated with less skin dryness and thinning as skin ages. A lack of fatty acids, on the other hand, has been linked to increased water loss from the skin, drying it out and causing a weakness in the protective outer barrier.

You can get these essential fatty acids from eating fish (salmon, tuna), shellfish, nuts (walnuts), seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), oils (soy, canola), leafy vegetables, and avocados. Ask your dietitian about essential fatty acids in fish oil supplements.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient with several functions, including increasing the absorbability and availability of other nutrients. It is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin with numerous functions in the body, including skin health.

Scurvy is caused by a lack of Vitamin C, which causes skin lesions as well as skin that is easily bruised and slow to heal. This is due, in part, to Vitamin C's role in collagen stabilization. Vitamin C is so important for skin health.

Aim for at least 75 mg of Vitamin C per day from C-rich sources such as fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, kiwis, blackcurrants, potatoes, rose hip, and parsley, in particular.

Vitamin E

Tocopherols are a class of essential vitamins that include vitamin E. They are fat-soluble antioxidants that collaborate with Vitamin C. Vitamins C and E (along with zinc) can help to speed up wound healing. Vitamin E deficiency has been linked to red, dry skin.

You can get Vitamin E in vegetables, oils (wheat germ oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts), spinach, broccoli, corn, kiwis, and soy.

Beyond nutrition, skin care

While nutrition is important for skin health, and I've discussed my top five recommendations above, don't forget about other important skin care practices that help protect and nurture your skin.

  • To keep skin clean, use gentle cleansers and warm (but not hot) water. Wash your skin gently, without scrubbing. Abrasive cloths, sponges, and products should be avoided.

  • After taking a shower or washing your hands, moisturize.

  • Avoid products that irritate your skin, such as harsh cleansers and irritating fabrics. Avoid scented products that come into contact with your skin, such as dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent. Choose gentle, unscented, alcohol-free formulations.

  • Avoid direct sunlight. Wear sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher and protective clothing.

  • Maintain your level of activity as much as possible, but avoid contact sports or activities that could cause injury. Gentle exercise, such as a daily walk, is encouraged.

  • Make an effort to get enough quality sleep. Get enough rest.

  • When the weather is cold, use a humidifier and wear gloves. Protect your skin especially when it's cold and windy or dry heat.

  • Avoid tobacco.

Last words on skin health

The nutrients you eat nourish your entire body, including your skin. Your skin, as your largest organ with numerous critical functions, requires a wide range of nutrients on a daily basis. Important macronutrients include water, protein, and essential fatty acids. Food-derived antioxidant vitamins C and E are among the micronutrients your skin requires to heal and stay healthy.

In addition to nutrition, it is critical to care for the outside of your skin. It will help to use gentle cleansers, warm water, and moisturizers, as well as avoid irritants and allergens. Consult your doctor if your skin is itchy, has a rash, sores, or other changes.

Is your skin suffering from breast cancer treatments? For a nutritious approach to skin health, I can help. Here is my link to book a chat about making sure to meet your dietary needs.


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