Nowhere is aging more visible than on the surface of the skin. The aging that happens internally isn’t so visible, but the wrinkles, laxity, and skin texture are there for all the world to see. Although we can partially cover them with make-up, wouldn’t it better to prevent them? To help slow the outward signs of aging, many people reach for a face cream. Yet face creams only work on the surface of the skin. What about what we put on our dinner plates?
As a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology Dr. Farris points out, “Healthy eating habits are a valuable tool to reduce the signs of skin aging as well as the management of certain skin conditions.” Although more research is needed to determine which foods offer the most benefits, there’s preliminary evidence that these five groups of foods may help delay skin aging. How many of them are part of your diet?
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil makes a delicious dressing for a salad, but this oil, abundant in the Mediterranean diet, may also protect against skin aging. One of the driving forces behind skin laxity and wrinkles is exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. These high-powered rays damage skin cells, particularly cells that produce collagen and elastin, two components that keep skin youthful. They do this by creating oxidative stress.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, components in olive oil may protect skin cells against injury due to sun exposure. Olive oil contains polyphenols that help fight oxidative stress and the havoc it creates. It also contains fat-soluble antioxidant vitamins, like vitamins A, C, and E that fight oxidative damage.
While you can enjoy the benefits by replacing the oils, you currently use to make recipes with extra-virgin olive oil, there’s some evidence that applying olive oil to the skin has benefits too. In one study, researchers applied olive oil to the skin of mice exposed to ultraviolet light. The group whose skin was covered with olive oil had a lower rate of skin tumor development. Olive oil also has moisturizing benefits due to its high fat content. However, some people, particularly those with eczema, may be sensitive to components in olive oil. Try applying it to a small area of skin to see how your skin reacts before using it topically.
Who doesn’t enjoy a hot cup of tea on a cold, winter tea day? Many also revel in sipping a glass of icy cold brew on a humid summer afternoon. Green tea is a less processed form of tea relative to black tea. As such, it contains more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called catechins, a type of polyphenol. Like the polyphenols in olive oil, green tea polyphenols also protect against oxidative damage, a driver of skin aging. In fact, green tea is an ingredient in some anti-aging skincare products.
Processed Tomato Products
Tomatoes are a good source of an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound called lycopene, a type of carotenoid. However, you won’t absorb much lycopene when you eat raw tomatoes. The best way to release this skin-friendly compound is to cook tomatoes or use processed, heated tomato products like marinara sauce in your recipes.
What makes it skin-friendly? Studies show that lycopene helps protect skin against sun damage and sunburn. In fact, studies in mice show it has the sunscreen equivalent of an SPF of 1.3. Another study found that participants who ate tomato paste enjoyed 33% greater protection against sunburn.
Research also shows that lycopene has the most powerful antioxidant activity of the carotenoids. In a sense, lycopene-rich foods are internal sunscreens. However, the protection is weak, not enough to forgo wearing a sunscreen. Still, it’s added protection against the sun’s damaging rays.
Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Lycopene, the most powerful carotenoid, is most bioavailable to the body when you consume heated or processed tomatoes. However, orange fruits and vegetables contain other carotenoids with antioxidant activity. In addition, many contain vitamin C. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people who eat a vitamin C-rich diet have fewer problems with skin thinning and wrinkles. So, help yourself to an extra serving of carrots, red peppers, squash, and cantaloupe. Green, leafy vegetables are another good source, although they don’t look orange due to their high chlorophyll content.
Collagen and Aging Skin
Collagen is the very component that gives your skin support and resistance to wrinkling and sagging. Over time, the collagen structure beneath your skin becomes damaged due to sunlight exposure and other factors. So, it’s not surprising that scientists have looked at whether taking collagen in supplement form helps preserve the integrity of the skin. Preliminarily, the results are encouraging. One study found that subjects who took collagen peptides showed a significant softening of wrinkles around the eyes after only eight weeks.
Although you can get collagen naturally from sources like bone broth, most of the studies have focused on collagen supplements. It’s not clear whether getting collagen naturally through foods would have the same benefits.
Other Nutritional Tips for Aging Skin
The best bet for keeping your skin youthful from the inside is to eat a nutrient-rich diet and a nibble on a diversity of plant-based foods since plants are the source of compounds that protect skin cells and cells that protect collagen and elastin against damage. Just as green tea and olive oil contain polyphenols, most fruits and vegetables do too. By eating a diversity of them, you’ll enjoy a variety of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. There’s really no one “magical” food that will stop skin aging, but you can slow the process by eating a diet rich in plants and one that includes some foods listed above.
Also, limit the amount of sugar and refined carbs in your diet. These foods cause blood sugar swings that can accelerate skin aging. Also, despite popular belief, drinking more water won’t prevent wrinkles, although it will plump up your skin and make wrinkles look less obvious. The same goes for moisturizing your skin. Make it your goal to fight skin aging from the inside, by eating these foods, and the outside by protecting your skin from the sun.
· American Academy of Dermatology. “Beauty from the inside out: Improving your diet or taking supplements may lead to younger-looking skin,”
· WebMD.com. “Green Tea Could Be Good for Your Skin, Study Finds”