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Science-Backed Tips for Healthy Looking Skin

by Matt Durkin
MSc Nutrition Specialist

What we eat is such an interesting topic, because not only does it influence our physiology and psychology, it also influences how we look. Although most skin issues do not endanger our health, they can be demoralising. What’s more, they are often signs of underlying health issues or nutrient deficiencies. 

In the latest instalment of the SimplyGo article series, we are going to uncover evidence-based recommendations for supporting healthy-looking skin through both diet and lifestyle choices. 


Although some of us are genetically predisposed to suffering from skin issues, diet is certainly an important factor for ensuring a healthy look. Below are dietary areas we should be focusing our attention on.  

Healthy Fats 

Ever more people are becoming clued-up on fat, and realise that not all fat is bad. On the contrary, certain types of fat are essential to our health and can have a powerful impact on our skin. 

UK guidelines recommend that we consume 2 portions of fish per week, with at least one of these being an oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or fresh tuna. Besides the benefits to heart health, the brain and eyes, the omega 3 fats found in oily fish can improve the condition of skin.

Not only do the omega 3s in fish possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties, they also help the skin retain moisture. Foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds are also high in omega 3 polyunsaturated fats. 

To complement the above foods, avocados and olive oil are high in a group of fats known as monounsaturates. Research has shown that consuming this healthy fat is associated with skin that is supple and benefits from less-pronounced wrinkling.  

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is universally appreciated for its ability to help boost the immune system and therefore fend off illnesses. However, it also has a crucial role in the health of our skin. This is for two mains reasons. Firstly, vitamin C is integral in the production of collagen – a key structural protein in the body.

Collagen is found in high amounts in our bones, teeth, gums, cartilage and blood vessels. It also makes up around a third of the protein in our skin. 
Unfortunately, we partially lose the ability to create collagen as we age which can lead to wrinkles and premature skin aging. However, research has shown that a diet rich in vitamin C can attenuate the decline in collagen production, therefore keeping your skin and other key aspects of the body healthy. 

Aside from this, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which can help protect the skin against the damage caused by free-radicals. If you want to reap the benefits from this essential nutrient, ensure you have a diet that contains plenty citrus fruits, green vegetables, and bell peppers. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is strongly associated with healthy skin. For this reason, it is commonly found in creams and lotions that are applied topically. However, the greatest benefits of vitamin E are seen when ingested orally, by consuming foods such as nuts, seeds, spinach, avocados and salmon. 

Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants in nature, protecting the skin from damage and exerting anti-aging benefits. Interestingly, vitamins C and E work synergistically. Studies have shown that vitamin C helps to regenerate vitamin E, ensuring that it exerts maximum benefit to our health. 

Unfortunately, many of us do not consume sufficient vitamin E and this is often reflected in the condition of our skin. So if you are struggling with lack-lustre skin, a diet that is high in vitamin E is a good place to start. 


Flexible and hydrated skin is crucial for a healthy look, so it should come as no surprise that drinking enough fluids is of primary importance. The traditional advice is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, but of course this depends on the size of the glass! 

Although your hydration needs vary based on factors such as body size and your environment, most people will be properly hydrated by consuming between 2-2.5L of fluid per day. This roughly equates to 4 pints. 

It is important to note that this can come from all fluids, not just water. Juices, tea, coffee and milk all count. Moreover, fruit and vegetables tend to have a high water content. So alongside their vitamin and antioxidant qualities, they contribute to keeping our skin well-hydrated. 


Although a healthy diet should ensure we obtain all of the essential nutrients our skin needs, supplements can bridge the gap with any shortcomings.

Additionally, there are some less common nutrients that benefit skin health, yet are not found in any great amount in the diet. Supplementation is therefore a great way to meet this need. 



If you asked 100 people what the benefits of exercise are, most people would likely name the heart, muscles and psychological wellbeing. However, one of the lesser-appreciated perks of performing regular exercise is that it can be good for your skin.

Exercise is fantastic for improving blood flow, and this helps to provide oxygen and key nutrients to the skin, whilst simultaneously removing toxins to the liver so they can be excreted by the body. 

From a different perspective, exercise is also great for a healthy body composition, helping to decrease fat under the skin and improve muscle tone. This will automatically improve the look and feel of the skin to complement the array of other benefits of being physically active.

Performing a mixture of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises is best for overall health and not just the skin, so try and perform at least a session of each type every week. 


Statistics suggest that more than a third of us only get 5-6 hours per night, and alongside the other health consequences of this, it can negatively affect our skin. Being chronically low on sleep is known to increase inflammatory markers in the body, and this can cause skin issues such as acne breakouts.

Furthermore, sleep is the prime time for the body to repair itself, so lack of sleep can decrease the rate of collagen synthesis for example. To improve sleep quality try limiting caffeine intake during the afternoon and evening, perform exercise later in the day, turn off phones, tablets and laptops an hour before bed, and make sure your room is as dark as possible. 

If you are still struggling, supplements that contain valerian, lavender and 5HTP have been shown to help improve sleep quality and have a good safety rating. 


Just like everyone knows that exercise is good for our health and wellbeing, the health consequences of smoking are universally recognised. It is well-known that tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide. Unfortunately, this decreases the amount of oxygen that travels to the skin. 

To make matters worse, smoking can partially deplete the body of essential nutrients such as the vitamin B complex and vitamin C. B vitamins such as niacin (B3) and biotin (B7) are also proven to support aesthetic appearance. So if the other health consequences of smoking aren’t enough to make you quit, knowing that tobacco smoke makes your skin age quicker should be enough motivation.   

Stress Levels 

It is thought that the majority of us feel stressed throughout the week, with this being put down to the ‘always-on culture’ in the workplace. Although occasionally feeling stressed is normal and benign, feeling chronically under stress is very detrimental to health. 

When we are stressed, our body releases hormones such as cortisol which can trigger inflammation and the development of poor skin. Indirectly, stress can worsen our skin by making us eat less nutritious foods and also by perturbing our sleep quality. 

Although we all have different coping mechanisms, dealing with problems head on, trying relaxation techniques, performing some exercise, talking to family/friends and listening to music are all good ways to combat stress. Supplements such as Rhodiola, B vitamins and Korean ginseng are also known to be effective for reducing symptoms of stress.

Sunlight Exposure

Although exposure to sunlight is important for vitamin D levels and developing a healthy skin complexion, too much can certainly be harmful. Too much time spent in the sun can cause wrinkles and other blemishes, whilst increasing the risk of skin cancer. 

For maximum health use sunscreen and reapply it regularly, don’t spend too much time outside during the hottest part of the day and wear sufficient clothing where possible. 


Like nearly all aspects of our health, the condition of our skin is affected by our diet and overall lifestyle. Despite some people being genetically disposed to suffering from frustrating skin problems, there are things that we could all be doing better to ensure a healthy complexion. Let’s sum up the key points of this article with the following takeaway messages:

•    Focus on including a range of healthy fats in your diet. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil are all great choices. 

•    Ensure you are obtaining sufficient vitamin C and E. By consuming fruits, vegetables and healthy fats you should cover your intake of these powerful antioxidants to protect your skin. Vitamin C is also crucial for the production of collagen. 

•    Avoiding dehydration is another simple way to keep your skin flexible and looking vibrant. 2-2.5L per day is a good aim to have. 

•    Try and perform at least two exercise sessions per week to help with circulation and body composition. A mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities is best. 

•    Ensure you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night to give your body chance to repair itself and control inflammatory and hormonal responses.

•    Avoid tobacco smoke as this accelerates skin aging.

•    Managing stress levels and the amount of time you spend in the sun is important for good looking skin. 

•    Although diet should be able to cover your health needs, a careful selection of supplements can be of definite help. 



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