Our skin says a lot about us—it can reflect everything from our heritage to our diet to how old we are. Confession: We’re not always too happy about that last one.
“As we age, skin cell turnover slows down, moisture is lost, and the outer layer of skin (epidermis) becomes thinner and frailer,” says Paula Simpson, holistic nutrition and beauty expert, and co-founder of ZSS Skincare. Hence the dull, dry skin we all try desperately to avoid.
Before you start researching Botox in a moment of panic, check out these all-natural, needle-free ways to keep your skin looking as youthful as possible. Hello, plump and glow!
Pass the Greek food, please. Look at the people who live in the Mediterranean, and you’ll notice that their skin ages really well, says Gabrielle Francis, naturopathic doctor and author of The Rockstar Remedy. Their graceful aging may just have something to do with the olive oil in their diets. “Extra-virgin olive oil contains antioxidants, which help control oxidative stress in your cells, a factor that may contribute to skin aging,” says Simpson.
Consider ditching your store-bought salad dressing for a quick and easy combo of EVOO and vinegar—or toss veggies in olive oil before roasting.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You’ve heard of taking omega-3s to promote heart health, but how about for skin health? Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce puffiness and redness in your skin, says Brooke Alpert, R.D., founder of B-Nutritious Dietetics and Nutrition.
Salmon and walnuts are both good sources of omega-3s.
This oil is an all-star in the beauty world for good reason. Often referred to as ‘liquid gold,’ argan oil contains fatty acids and antioxidants that help nourish the connective tissue of the skin, says Francis.
While almost every skin product out there seems to be infused with argan oil right now, Francis suggests to sticking with the pure oil because it absorbs into the skin more effectively.
Just in case you don’t already bow down to the power-antioxidant that is vitamin C, it may help your skin ward off environmental damage. “Vitamin C also encourages collagen production, which helps keep the skin looking healthy and youthful,” says Alpert.
Vitamin C is found in tons of fruits and veggies, like blueberries, broccoli, oranges, and sweet potatoes.
This spice does more than kick up the flavor in your famous barbecue rub. According to Simpson, paprika contains antioxidants, including vitamin C and zeaxanthin. “Zeaxanthin is of particular interest for skin health because it’s readily absorbed into the skin tissue,” she explains. You may even experience a boost in skin radiance.
If you’re unsure how to use paprika, Simpson recommends sprinkling it on popcorn, into soups, and even on salads for an extra punch of flavor.
There’s a reason why Mom and Dad always encouraged you to eat your greens. Leafy green veggies, like spinach and kale, are a great source of fiber and vitamin K, says Alpert. Vitamin K supports the production of a protein called MGP (Matrix-GLA protein), which helps to prevent the calcification of skin elastic fibers, according to Oregon State University.
If you’re not consuming leafy greens on the daily, try adding them to smoothies, serving burgers on a bed of salad instead of a bun, or scrambling them into your eggs.
The greatest favor magnesium can do for your skin is potentially help you snooze. “The body repairs itself and recovers from the day’s damage while you sleep,” says Alpert. The mineral acts as a natural relaxant, and may help you manage stress and score more solid shuteye, she says.
Related: Browse a large selection of supplements that promote a good night’s sleep.
If you get hungry after dinner, try snacking on magnesium-rich foods like nuts and dark chocolate. (Yum!)
“Located below the outermost layer of our skin, collagen is the foundation of the connective tissue that supports our skin’s structure,” says Simpson. “As we age, the natural weakening in cellular activity and exposure to environmental stressors can break down this structural framework, resulting in skin that looks and feels frail, thin, and loose.”
Adding protein-rich foods like bone broth, meat, and eggs to your diet promotes a healthy rate of collagen renewal, and may help protect your skin from premature aging, Simpson says. Since collagen itself is difficult to get from foods, you might also consider a supplement, like Reserveage Collagen Replenish Powder.
The bright yellow spice is trendy because of its antioxidant compound, curcumin. When you sprinkle it on eggs or roasted cauliflower, or add it to soup, turmeric’s antioxidants can help to combat free radicals in the body, says Simpson. You can also use it topically on the skin in DIY face masks and scrubs.
Related: We Tried 5 DIY Scrubs—Here’s What Happened
Ceramides are a type of lipid that help to form the barrier property of the skin. These lipids help to lock in moisture and promote a dewy complexion, but decrease as we age, says Simpson.
You can add phytoceramides (plant-based ceramides) to your diet via whole grains, like brown rice and wheat germ, or a supplement.
Gotu Kola Seed
Gotu kola has been used in Eastern medicines for thousands of years to support the skin, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
This seed contains a substance called asiaticoside that may promote dermal blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the skin tissue, says Simpson. Chemicals called triterpenoids have also been found to strengthen the skin in lab and animal studies, says the UMMC.
You can find gotu kola seed in capsule form.
Here’s another green superfood to add to your list. Green micro-algae are rich in proteins, which help support the strength and structure of the skin, says Simpson.
Try chlorella in capsule form, or by adding a powder supplement to your next smoothie.
Adding flax oil to your diet may just be a game-changer for your skin. The omega-3s in this oil can help your skin to maintain moisture, says Francis. Added bonus—They also support healthy hair, so don’t be surprised if you notice an extra-shiny mane, too.
Just a head’s up: According to Francis, flax oil doesn’t have the most pleasant of tastes, so try adding it to a smoothie or using it in salad dressing.
Water keeps us hydrated and helps our bodily systems—including our heart, brain, and muscles—run smoothly. That goes for our skin, too.
If you’re dealing with a dull, dry complexion, making sure you drink eight to ten glasses of water per day should improve your skin, Francis says.
Vitamin D helps to regulate a process in which the cells that make up layers of the skin turn over and replenish, according to Oregon State University.
The easiest way to get your fill of vitamin D is to spend 20 to 30 minutes outside sans sunscreen. That may sound counter-intuitive considering we’re always told to slather ourselves with sunscreen before heading outdoors, but when you wear sunscreen you actually block the vitamin D from entering your skin, says Francis. Just make sure not to linger for too long—sunburns are not a good look.
Related: Fill your vanity with natural skin-care products for every need.
Pin this handy graphic to keep your skincare game going strong: