Science-backed nutrition tips for radiant skin

By Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB, FEADV, FIADVL, IFAAD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published April 16, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • A balanced diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, combined with healthy lifestyle habits, is the key to clear, radiant skin.

  • Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and polyphenols have research-backed roles in protecting skin from oxidative stress and environmental damage.

  • Nutraceuticals such as ubiquinol, silymarin, bioactive peptides, and polysaccharides are vital in maintaining skin collagen, reducing wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, and preventing collagen degradation.

“You are what you eat”—this adage exemplifies the role of nutrition in skin health. However, as a healthcare professional, it’s important to advise your patients that much of the online information on this topic lacks robust scientific backing—especially when it comes to dietary supplements that allege to improve skin health. 

Bearing this in mind, let's explore some nutritional recommendations and supplements that have proven to be effective for good skin health.

Increase antioxidant intake

Vitamins C and E

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is an essential water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that is not naturally synthesized in our body. As a cofactor, vitamin C aids lysyl and prolyl hydroxylase enzymes to maintain collagen's triple helical configuration in the dermis. Additionally, it contributes to cholesterol synthesis, enhances iron uptake, and boosts selenium's bioavailability, while aiding in wound healing and targeting skin hyperpigmentation.

A review article from Dermato-Endocrinology states, “The richest natural sources [of vitamin C] are fresh fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, blackcurrant, rose hip, guava, chili pepper or parsley.”[]

Vitamin E, on the other hand, is a fat-soluble vitamin that works synergistically with vitamin C to protect the skin from oxidative damage. 


Carotenoids—including vitamin A derivatives such as β-carotene, astaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene—are potent antioxidants.[] While not substitutes for sunscreen, they help protect the skin from sunburn by improving its natural UVB defense when consumed in diets or as supplements.

Global dietary surveys reveal that our consumption of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables falls short of recommended levels, despite their proven importance for skin health.


Astaxanthin is found in microalgae, yeast, and marine species like trout, salmon, shrimp, krill, crayfish, and crustacea. 

An article from Marine Drugs indicates that regular dietary inclusion of astaxanthin offers protection against radiation, improves skin texture, increases elasticity, and reduces facial wrinkles and pigmentation.[]


Polyphenolic compounds are characterized by their multiple phenolic hydroxyl groups and are increasingly utilized in anti-aging cosmeceutical products.

Related: The best supplements for longevity

The most noteworthy skin-friendly polyphenols include anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, resveratrol, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), eugenol, and gallic acid.[]

Effective nutraceuticals

As stated in a review article from Nutrients, “Nutraceuticals are the formulation of nutrient/nutrients which helps in prevention and treatment of some diseases, in addition to a supplement diet.”[] 

The following nutraceuticals are particularly beneficial for skin health.

Ubiquinol (Coenzyme Q10)

CoQ10, a vitamin-like substance, is vital for energy production and acts as an antioxidant in the skin. A randomized human trial published in the journal Biofactors also found that CoQ10 supplementation significantly improves skin’s smoothness and reduces wrinkles and fine lines.[]

Animal studies indicate that CoQ10 supplementation reduces protein oxidative damage and enhances antioxidant capacity in the mitochondria. As a fat-soluble nutrient, it is better absorbed with fatty foods and more effective when paired with vitamin E and selenium. 


Derived from the milk thistle plant, silymarin is rich in fatty acids and polyphenols.

It is a skin booster, with cardioprotective, neuroprotective, and hepatoprotective activity. According to one study, it also prevents the enzymatic degradation of collagen and elastin in the skin.[]

Bioactive peptides

These small, low-weight peptides (<3 kDa) are composed of amino acids derived from various dietary protein sources, including eggs, milk, meat, soy, and grains. Collagen-derived peptides are commonly found in nutraceuticals due to their solubility and bioavailability. Studies, like one on VERISOL, which contains bioactive collagen peptides, demonstrated a significant reduction in eye wrinkles after 8 weeks, along with increased skin elasticity and collagen content.

Nutraceuticals Peptan F (fish-derived) and Peptan P (porcine-derived), aid in skin hydration and aging. Celergen, a marine collagen peptide-based supplement, has also improved skin’s moisture content. 

Bioactive polysaccharides

These sugar polymers are found in plants, fungi, and animals. Glycosaminoglycans, especially from marine sources, are essential in nutraceuticals. A trial with Imedeen DermaOne, containing these polysaccharides—along with protein fractions, zinc gluconate, and vitamin C—improved skin elasticity and thickness over 90 days.

Dietary recommendations for patients

For comprehensive preventative care for skin health, authors of a review article on plant-based foods for skin support in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend the following food items.[] 

Fruits and vegetables

  • Ataulfo mangos, rich in carotenoids, mangiferin (a polyphenol), vitamin C, and gallic acid, surpass USDA reference levels for beta carotene by four times. Studies show that 85 g consumed 4 times weekly reduces wrinkles in older women. 

  • Blood oranges and Lycopersicon esculentum tomatoes, high in ascorbic acid, anthocyanins, and lycopene, protect against UV skin damage and hyperpigmentation. 

  • Kale (Brassica oleracea) boosts skin health with carotenoids, vitamin C, and glucoraphanin, enhancing type I collagen, skin thickness, and elasticity. 

  • Pomegranates improve skin hydration and reduce wrinkles and inflammation thanks to anthocyanins, punicalagin, and ellagic acid. 

  • Passion fruit, blackberries, and strawberries, rich in anthocyanins, combat skin inflammation and oxidative stress while improving hydration. 

  • Cantaloupes and honeydew melons, with high vitamin C and beta carotene levels, prevent UV skin damage.

  • Grapes, particularly Vitis vinifera, contain anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, aiding in reducing skin hyperpigmentation.

Nuts, seeds, and legumes

These foods are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that protect the skin. Dried fruits like almonds boost antioxidant glutathione levels. Almonds, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ oil are top sources of vitamin E.

Animal sources

  • Oily fish like salmon, organ meats such as liver, and whole grains are rich sources of omega fatty acids and CoQ10. 


  • Cocoa, particularly rich in flavan-3-ols, improves skin elasticity and protects against UV damage. 

  • Coffee polyphenols, mainly chlorogenic acid, improve skin barrier function and hydration. 

  • Green tea, high in flavanols like EGCG, protects against UV damage and reduces the levels of inflammatory prostaglandins. 

What this means for you

The relationship between diet and skin health is complex but fundamental. Caution your patients against over-reliance on supplements, advising them to opt for focused dietary habits and supplements (but only with proven efficacy). Remind them that they should consult with their HCP before beginning any new supplement regimen, and that diet is just one component of good skin—adequate hydration, stress management, and regular physical activity play equally vital roles in skin health.

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