Want Better Skin? Here’s Exactly What to Eat—And What to Avoid

Dermatologic surgeon Dendy Engelman breaks down how to get a glow from the inside out.

by Kristin Auble


In 431 BC, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food,” and for thousands of years we heeded that advice. And then, we forgot. We consumed processed foods, fried foods, tons of sugar, etc. Now, it’s time we get back to the roots of health: our gut. Food plays an integral role in helping our body to function optimally, assisting the systems and organs of the body in fighting off disease and maintaining good health. Many studies have linked unbalanced gut microbiomes (a mini ecosystem of good and bad bacteria in your stomach) to heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, and, yes, skin diseases. The skin is the largest organ of our body so it stands to reason that if we maintain a healthy gut, our skin will reap the benefits. Luckily, there are people like dermatologic surgeon Dendy Engelman, who works with clients like Sofia Vergara and Christina Ricci, here to help out and provide tips to seemingly glow from within. Here, she breaks down her best skincare and nutrition tips to put you well on the path to radiant skin from the inside out.

Is great skin all down to genetics, or do other factors come into play?

Genetics do a play a role, but there are many things we can do with injectables, ingestibles, diet, and topicals for better skin. Taking care of your skin in your youth can shed years off later. Prevention is key.

How important is diet and how specifically does it relate to the condition of our skin?

Diet is very important in a couple ways. First, food contains nutrients we need to fight and kill bad bacteria. Without them, the skin feels threatened and becomes inflamed. Food that’s high in fat and unhealthy oils can trigger inflammation in your skin, which can lead to clogged pores. Instead of chips, candy, and cookies, snack on fruits and vegetables. Second, your diet supports anti-aging. Diets rich in antioxidants, vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats support healthy skin cell turnover.

Are there certain foods that we should be eating every day for better skin?

Yes, I specifically look for foods with live active cultures. Studies show there is a real connection between your gut health and skin benefits. The concept is that if we have an unhealthy, unbalanced gut environment, toxins can be released into the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body. This shift in gut flora and subsequent inflammation can cause a flare-up in the skin, especially for those predisposed to acne, eczema, or rosacea. Yogurt, kefir, and kombucha are great sources of probiotics. And if I can’t incorporate those every day, I reach for a supplement, like Reserveage Nutrition BeautiFlora.

Food-wise, coconut’s healthy fats and antibacterial nutritional composition keep acne away and helps keep your skin hydrated. Avocado has fats, proteins, and vitamins. The protein helps support the structures of collagen and elastin in your skin while the fat keeps your skin hydrated. Veggies are packed with iron, omega-4 fatty acids, and vitamins A, B, and E, which support your immune system. The phytochemicals and folates also help hydrate skin and keep it healthy. Nuts and seeds are power foods that host omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, and E, monounsaturated fats, minerals, and antioxidants. Due to the nutritional density of nuts and seeds you can hydrate your skin, promote its elasticity, help regenerate cells, and protect against free radicals. Water-dense fruits are a great way to hydrate and protect your skin. Most fruit contain high levels of vitamins A and C and powerful antioxidants that replenish nutrients in skin, promote collagen production, and help keep your skin supple and firm.

Are there things we should not be eating and drinking?

A diet high in salt and alcohol leads to water retention and swelling in the face. This can cause a poor water balance in the body and dehydration manifesting as puffy eyes and under-eye circles.

Does diet matter in regard to skin issues like acne, rashes, eczema, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis?

Yes, increased inflammation in the body throws off its ability to regulate the immune system and can therefore lead to flare-ups. Having an unbalanced gut can contribute to inflammation because inflamed cells break down collagen and hyaluronic acid.

What can we do to heal the inflammation in the body naturally through diet?

Eat fermented foods with active cultures and avoid dairy, strong acidic fruits, deli meats, and junk foods. You want to avoid foods with high levels of MSG, nitrates, amines, and salicylates.

Are there any supplements that you recommend for better skin?

Oral supplements can help to support the body’s natural production through being absorbed through the bloodstream, supporting underlying layers first. The idea is that the collagen is absorbed into the bloodstream. Supplemental collagen is fragmented pieces of amino acids and peptides. These connect with enzymes that trigger the production of collagen and support and increase collagen production. There are 16 different types of collagen, but for skin health you are looking for type 1 and type 3, which is what the skin is made of. For oral supplements, hydrolyzed collagen is easiest to digest, as it is broken down into the smallest forms of peptides and amino acids. I like pills and powders because they are easy to incorporate no matter what your lifestyle. I like Reserveage Collagen Replenish powder because it’s odorless, tasteless, easily mixed into any beverage, and contains Verisol. Clinical studies have shown a 20 percent reduction in eye wrinkles in eight weeks!

How does exercise play into skin health? Just like we exercise our bodies, we need to exercise our skin. I love the Conture Kinetic Toning Device for at-home use because it helps do just that. It combines Isometric compression and low frequency vibrations and prepares the skin for up to 300 percent more absorption of active ingredients; this lasts up to 45 minutes after use. So your HA serum, glycolic, or retinol will penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin and work harder for you. Blood circulates to the top layers of the skin, giving an immediate glow.

What is the best skincare advice that you can give? Start young with “tweakments.” This is what I call preventative treatments that start in the early 20s and 30s. The right diet, skin regimen, and in-office procedures can help you avoid more invasive procedures down the road. It is never too early to think about skin health. And always wear sunscreen!

Related: Kendall Jenner’s Skincare Guru on How to Get a Perfectly Clear Complexion Just in Time For Spring

5 Unconventional Beauties Taking the Modeling World by Storm