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September 16th, 2011
02:32 PM ET

What can I eat to keep my skin looking younger?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Question asked by Ryan L. of Los Angeles:

What can I eat to keep my skin looking younger?

Expert answer:

Hi Ryan.

This is a terrific question. Many of my friends and patients spend hundreds of dollars every year on facial creams to prevent skin aging, but most don't pay nearly as much attention to the impact that what they eat has on their skin.

Two of the most important aspects of eating for beautiful skin are controlling inflammation, which can accelerate aging throughout your body, and eating a phytonutrient (plant based) and anti-oxidant rich diet to help fight the daily environmental assault that your skin faces.

In addition, limiting sugar intake is critical as sugar causes damage to the collagen in your skin which can lead to wrinkles and skin aging. Your diet should regularly include plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, especially the dark green leafy vegetables, orange-colored fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like salmon and avocado.

Dr. Nicholas Perricone, M.D., board certified Dermatologist and nutritionist, anti-aging expert and the best selling author of Forever Young , also highly recommends including the following three things in your diet on a regular basis if your goal is to improve your skin.

1. Green tea – This healthy beverage is not only good for your heart, it contains a powerful polyphenol, EGCG, which helps boost detoxification, protects skin from UV rays, and even appears to reactivate dying skin cells in laboratory studies. Sip several cups daily for best results.

2. Watercress – Not only is watercress a natural diuretic and loaded with phytonutrients, research suggests that it may be cancer protective as well. Toss in your favorite salad a few times a week (or more) for clear, radiant skin.

3. Berries – These deeply colored fruits are not only good for your brain and heart, they contain very high levels of anthocyanins, which are potent phytonutrients that can help protect your skin from premature aging at the cellular and molecular (DNA) level.

Finally, don't forget to wear sunscreen, avoid smoking, and control stress if you want to keep your face (and the rest of your body) in top shape.

Have a question for our doctors? Ask it here


soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. mauibear

    Being neither a nutritionist nor a doctor, I would never dispute the advice given. Eating healthy and doing the right things will help you look and feel better. But I have to say that I truly believe SO much of it has to do with genes. My dear departed Mother NEVER looked her age until about a year before she passed when she was suffering from Alzheimer's. My Dad, bless him, is 97 and still active, driving, living alone, etc, as is his 101 year old sister (both German immigrants). I've been told I look at LEAST 10 years younger than my 60 years. I do eat well and exercise, but only started that about 10 years ago. I really think you just have to play the hands you are dealt, to a certain extent.

    September 16, 2011 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • katherine

      I am 49, and when I was 19 I went to a Mary-Kay party.....the lady told me to us to use sunscreen every day, and that would do wonders for life. I took her for her word and have applied it almost daily since then, and I know I look at least 10 years younger (though my hands give it away, I think!). However, I must say that my own mother has wonderful skin and also looks many years younger--thanks to her regimen of very expensive goopy stuff on her face every night for years. Who knows. Just take care of yourself and good things will happen.

      September 17, 2011 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
    • greg

      very true,, i am 48 , look , not as old as i should, genes ,make a huge difference

      September 18, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • Green T Lady

      I agree ladies...genes certainly has it. I am 39 and I look and feel younger. I try to exercise and eat right (sometimes gotta have junk food) but overall if you've got the genes, consider yourself lucky... :)

      September 19, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse |
    • teresa

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      October 17, 2011 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
  2. Gage Kennedy

    I am quite surprised that probably the most important factor to maintaining good looking skin was not even mentioned in this article!
    Drinking plenty of water will keep your skin hyrdrated (humans are 80% water anyways).
    My grandparents, parents, and now myself don't look our age and it is because we are always reaching for the water instead of soft drinks and caffeine beverages.

    September 16, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • xj

      Gene is the #1 factor. You are doomed from the first moment you were born. Thanks to my parents who passed along terrific genes to me–I look in my 20's while I am 40 already.

      September 16, 2011 at 22:59 | Report abuse |
  3. JeramieH

    > helps boost detoxification

    I love woo-woo language. Care to share the exact biochemical reactions involved in this "detoxification"?

    September 17, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Siobhan

    Good genes here too. People are usually shocked when they find out my age. But during the sun baked 70's I was usually inside with my face in a book. I am sure that helped a great deal. Now diet....I need to work on that!

    September 17, 2011 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I was waiting for someone to mention this-stay out of the sun! Take Vitamin D instead. Also, I think wind can be aging. It really makes paint jobs look "weathered" so imagine what it does to your skin.

      September 17, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse |
  5. Christianna

    Please stop this. Get old naturally and hand back the planet to the next generations. Stop killing unborn humans. The rich nations' obsession with young-looks literally destroyed the kids and the planet. Middle-agers, stop looking for love like teenagers do (You are altogether perv when you do that. If you failed the first marriage, leave the spotlight immediately) and start protecting kids and live to make them get piety, excellence and truly good things in life.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ed R.

      Your connecting the desire for younger-looking skin and "killing unborn humans" is beyond meritless; it's absurd. Where WON'T you throw in anti-choice rhetoric? And, 'Literally destroyed the kids and the planet?" REALLY?

      September 17, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse |
    • Siobhan

      I am pro-life and I can not connect the dots in your statement. Your points seem out of place in this thread. In my personal experience people are more receptive if you talk with them and not throw out of context accusations all over the place. There is time and place for everything. If you do not believe me read Ecclesiastics 3:1-8. I have also found that if you shove things down people's throats, they often shut their ears. Closed ears are ears that will not hear. Open ears may consider what you say ( goes for any topic not just this one)

      This is just an article about younger and healthier looking skin. It is not about ridiculous plastic surgery. Too much sun can cause skin cancer as well as age your skin. it is also a fact that people's skin shows age at different rates. I have had no plastic surgeries, no botox etc.....what is wrong with saying I have young looking skin?

      September 17, 2011 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Christiana, this article is about aging naturally by understanding what foods are natural for the body. In the last few decades, most of the foods available in the stores are not natural and do not promote long term health. it is nice to have yet another article to remind us.

      September 18, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
  6. Ed R.

    Green tea may be HEALTHFUL, not healthy.

    September 17, 2011 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JeramieH

      Thanks, I learned something new today looking that up. But technically the tea itself may be free of (plant) disease, so it could be healthy in that regard.

      September 17, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse |
    • Freefall

      Touche'

      September 18, 2011 at 11:01 | Report abuse |
  7. Wesl Virginia

    Food is Medicine.

    September 17, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Always getting carded

    Yes, what you eat does have something to do with it. As do genes, without a doubt. And also plenty of water to keep skin hydrated. However, whenever people are shocked that I am 40 and think that my skin looks twenty years younger and ask me how I do it the answer is simple – SUNSCREEN. Every single day. My biggest challenge is keeping the sunscreen from sweating off during a long run but it's actually quite simple. Wash face, moisturize, apply sunscreen. That's a big part of it.

    September 17, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Research your sunscreen carefully. Full of smelly chemicals.

      September 17, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse |
    • ad

      so, do you go also to aero and aber and shop like the teens?

      September 18, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    The best way to keep your skin looking young is to get out of the Sun. Sun tanning is also a big no no! If you want to die of cancer be my guess, studies shows that those who expose themselves to the sun or even sunning bed, are people at risk of getting cancer and looking older! I'm 35 and people still think I look like I'm 22 or 23, thats because I stay out of the sun! Red hair and my skin does not go well with the Sun, all I ever do is Burn if I do expose myself to the sun!

    September 17, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      You are the voice of reason. I have fair skin and red highlights. For us it is best to stay out of the sun, and if people don't like the white skin it is 100% their problem!!

      September 17, 2011 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
  10. fernace

    I too was surprised to read nothing about water! Water should be first on the list, but maybe Dr.Jampolis took the question"what can I EAT..." literally! Christianna, you sound like you belong on the Belief Blog & have stumbled onto Chart by mistake! Even so your post makes little sense! Dr. Doust is obviously advertising her product & can't be truly objective about the subject! I've read & heard many times in my half century, experts say eating the actual plant & not just a pillform derivative is much better for our systems & overall health! They had nothing to promote but good eating habits, so I tend to believe their opinions! Good health & longevity, all!!

    September 17, 2011 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. D

    I will repeat it for good measure here: if you have fair skin, limit your time out in the sun! As far as sunscreen goes, they have a ton of chemicals, including endocrine disruptors. So carefully research all of that crap you are slathering on yourself so you can stay out in the sun longer than you would be able to naturally.

    September 17, 2011 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fiona

      Of course, the rub is that you need vitamin D for healthy tissue, and protecting ourselves from the sun starves us of an essential nutrient. I'm almost religious about sun protection, and I have almost no vitamin D showing up in my tests –even with supplements.

      September 17, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse |
  12. Fiona

    Stay out of direct sun between 10 and 2:00, apply sunscreen every morning (and several times a day if you are at the beach, engaging in outdoor activites, or swimming), wear a hat if you're going to be outside for extended periods, and don't drink alcohol or smoke. A healthy diet may help keep your skin free of blemishes, but most of the damage is done bythe sun.

    September 17, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. JLW

    Drink a lot of water and take your vitamin D but also eat the rainbow. Lots of fruits, vegetables and berries. I was introduced to a whole food supplement about 2 years at at a friends house. 17 fruits and vegetables in capsules. Yikes, I was wondering how or why all of the women in the room looked so good, they all said they took it along with a healthy diet.
    I started taking it and never looked back JUICE PLUS+ Look into it, it is great. http://www.JaneWilliams juiceplus.com

    September 17, 2011 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Abby

    Stay out of the sun. One of the things which I picked up on was when Jaycee Dugard was "found", how young she looked – without all the help of the "magic lotions".

    September 18, 2011 at 06:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, M.D.,NSCA-CPT

    I am a UCSF/Stanford trained Emergency Medicine and Sports Medicine physician, certified nutritionist and National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified personal trainer with a sports medicine and fitness practice in San Francisco. I have a 10 year track record in expertise in this area. I would like to have been interviewed for this article. I would like to add that olive oil is a key ingredient in many hair and skin care products and is one of the healthiest food sources as a monounsaturated oil. I agree that dark berries contain potent antioxidants and resveratrol for antiaging but want to specify that acai and blueberry juice have the best research track record for antioxidant potency based on Orac scores and FDA research. Neither of the experts mentioned water and that is a serious oversight. Hydration of the skin improves elasticity and restores youthfulness. Foods high in Vitamin C...essential for collagen formation in the skin...include bright fruits and green cruciferous vegetables like brocoli. Vitamin A and Vitamin E erase fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin D is the messenger of sunlight. It strengthens bone, teeth and skin.

    September 18, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. john

    Genes is a #1 factor. I don't think people need to stay out of the sun, just know your limits. The more burned you get the more you damage your skin over the years. Plenty of water I agree with and not just for the skin. People forget how important their bodies are. If you make sure to keep up with and care for your house, car and other things. Do the same thing for your body. Go in for routine checkups and such just like you would do with a car. That's what benefits are for.

    September 18, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. john

    Also stress is a huge factor in my opinion. Meditate would help greatly as well as any other relaxation techniques.

    September 18, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. SKaye

    Genetic disposition is of greatest importance based on what I have seen with friends and family. Not that diet, hydration and sun exposure aren't important – they are. What concerns me about this article is 1) green tea has not been definitely found to help with heart health – no scientific consensus so what kind of credence should we give this doctor? 2) How many people have access to watercress and can afford it, let alone lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and 3) the ORAC ratings of fruits and veggies can vary in the lab but again, there is no definitive science to prove they have superior health benefits.

    Keeping recommendations more basic is the most helpful in my opinion. Providing information that is so microscopic is not helpful to the general population that too many people take it as gospel.

    September 18, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. becca

    exercise...fresh air, some sunshine..(but i agree stay out mostly and wear sunscreen), plant based diet...water
    adequate rest...and a sabbath day...(one day a week where you put secular things aside)
    sometimes things happen without our control such as medical issues..
    nevertheless..its all about balance and taking care of yourself. i also look young for my age..
    sleep is important..as well as (avoiding alcohol and smoking)...and yes Water...rather than soft drinks..

    September 19, 2011 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. allison wiggins

    Start using Retin-A (prescription) by age 35. It's the only thing that actually reduces and prevents wrinkles as long as it is used. I am 60 and have been using it since I was 35. I am often mistaken for 40 years old. Funny part is, the older I get, the less I care if I look younger. Kind of funny. Retin-A works. It's the only thing out there that does. I agree with Dr. Gupta on the diet.

    September 19, 2011 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jeremy

    I am the content manager for a skin health website, skinsight.com. I remembered that we actually ran a story about diet and young looking skin back in October 2009. We have a couple of other interesting related articles that are focused around diet and its effect on your skin. All of the content is written by medical experts (e.g. Dermatologists) and trusted.

    You can find Dr. Andrea Pennington's article, "Is Your Diet Aging You?" here: http://www.skinsight.com/info/blog/2011/09/18/diet-and-young-healthy-looking-skin

    September 19, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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  24. back to the future

    I take Omega 3, vitamin C daily for years. I eat lot's of vegetables, salads and fruits. And I eat a lot of fish. I do not smoke nor drink.
    I feel young at heart and my doctor has said to me that I do not look my age (59!). I excercise 5 times a week.

    Very important with vegetables and fish diets.

    September 22, 2011 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.