Eating Your Way To Clear Skin: The Skin Type Diet

Shanay, MPH / M.D. Candidate

We all can agree we have one thing in common: we want glowing, radiant, dewy, luminous skin. Let’s admit it - many of us take drastic measures to have superlative skin, using creams, scrubs, DIY methods, serums, etc. In theory, it’s brilliantly simple. What you put in your mouth is as important if not more, than the products you apply on your skin. Here’s the science: Foods get digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and amino acids that your body can use to build healthy skin. If you crash diet or eat highly processed foods, your skin won’t be as strong and supple as it could be. For example, if you don’t consume enough protein, you are depriving your skin of the amino acids that go into making collagen (which makes your skin strong) and elastic tissue (which makes it supple). So is eating for your skin type as easy as it sounds? Yes! Below is a guide to help you achieve clear, glowing skin:

For Acne-Prone Skin

Genetics, hormonal, environmental factors and stress can trigger acne flare-ups. While you can’t blame chocolate or other foods for excess oil that clogs or inflames your pores, a nutritious diet that includes vitamin A and C, colorful fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, spinach and bell peppers can dramatically improve your skin health, making the bothersome complications less likely.

Say NO to Dairy

There are some studies that show associations between dairy and acne, but not necessarily cause and effect. The hypothesis is that since the majority of milk in the US comes from pregnant cows, the hormone levels in milk may play a role in excess sebum production, which promotes acne. Sebum production is influenced by androgens and hormonal mediators, such as insulin-like growth factors found in milk and other animal products. If people must have milk or yogurt, I recommend non-dairy alternatives.

For Dry/Sensitive Skin

Avocados are great for people with sensitive skin as they are loaded with Omega-9 fatty acids, known to reduce redness and irritation levels in your complexion. Stock up on berries: Raspberries are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, while goji berries help to fight off free radicals in the body. Vegetables are an essential part of everyone’s diet and should be eaten on a regular basis, especially for those with dry skin. Kale is especially great for helping to maintain the skin’s elasticity. Steer clear of MSG, wheat, dairy, sugar and processed foods, as they can easily inflame skin.

For Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, it is especially important you stay hydrated and try to eat fruits that are particularly rich in water. Fresh, in-season fruits are a wonderful choice, especially pineapple, which helps improve the complexion and prevent acne and wrinkles. Leafy, dark green vegetables are also great for preventing wrinkles and are very high in antioxidants. Carrots are good for the skin’s appearance, contributing to a beautiful glow (dewy, not oily). Carrots also help to prevent various skin problems due to the large amounts of vitamin A and antioxidants they contain. Fresh herbs—especially rosemary, ginger, basil, thyme and oregano—contain high levels of anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants, helping to give oily skin a healthy appearance.


Lean proteins—like nuts, quinoa and oatmeal contain Omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber which help strengthen the skin (it loses bounce as we age). Quinoa contains lysine, a nutrient that helps to repair skin and heal damaged tissue. Nuts and seeds are great for aiding in collagen production. Additionally, fish is extremely lean, healthy and great for any diet that positively impacts the skin if eaten regularly. The Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon dramatically helps with inflammation and signs of aging on the body.

Anti-Aging Cardinal Rule

The darker and brighter the color, the more nutrients. If you’re picking greens for a salad, choose darker greens like kale or spinach. Better yet, choose arugula or dandelion greens. These vegetables fight the free radicals that break down collagen over time, so they can help support the delicate, thin skin around your eyes.

Shanay is a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, Entrepreneur and M.D. Candidate at Stanford University School of Medicine.

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