Food is a vital part of skin health. If a person eats a healthy, balanced diet, their skin may be better able to fulfill its protective functions. Eating certain foods may even help protect and moisturize the skin.
However, certain other foods may prevent or hinder some of the skin’s protective abilities, leading to worsening dry skin.
Keep reading to learn more about how diet can affect the skin. This article also looks at 14 foods that can help combat dry skin, as well as some foods to avoid.
The skin is a vital organ. It provides a barrier to protect the rest of the body from external threats, such as bacteria, oxidants, and UV light.
The skin’s protective function is important to prevent excess water loss and to stop harmful chemicals and allergens from affecting the body. It also helps maintain the body’s temperature.
Nutrients are essential in helping the skin provide this protective barrier. If a person eats a healthy, balanced diet that provides the nutrients they require, they can help support the skin in its protective functions.
Similarly, if a person does not eat a healthy diet, it can change the function of the skin, leading to complaints such as dry skin.
Dry skin can be a symptom of certain nutrient deficiencies, including:
Making sure that these vitamins and minerals are part of the diet can help keep the skin healthy. Consuming omega-3, green tea antioxidants, and turmeric can also help prevent dry skin.
The sections below will look at all of these dietary elements in more detail.
Beef liver is a good source of vitamin A. This is because animals store vitamin A in the liverTrusted Source.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a 3-ounce serving of pan fried beef liver contains 6,582 micrograms (mcg)Trusted Source of vitamin A. A serving of this size provides up to 731% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin A.
It is important to note that the upper daily limit for vitamin A is 3,000 mcg. People should stay within this limit, as excess vitamin A consumption can result in toxicity.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient to combat dry skin because it contains retinoids and carotenoids. These properties activate certain pathways in the body that directly affect the skin.
Vitamin A can help repair UV-damaged skin and reduce the symptoms of psoriasis.
Another good source of vitamin A is sweet potato. Each baked sweet potato with skin contains 1,403 mcg of vitamin A. A serving of this size contains 156% of the DV.
Again, it is worth pointing out that the upper limit for vitamin A consumption is 3,000 mcg per day. Consuming more than this can be harmful.
The NIH say that vitamin A has several other uses aside from combating dry skin. For example, it can help protect against a low amount of iron in the blood and may increase the survivability of several health conditions, such as measles.
Sweet red pepper is a good source of vitamin C. Half a cup of raw sweet red pepper contains 95 milligrams (mg)of vitamin C. This equates to 106% of the DV.
Vitamin C is useful in combating dry skin because it significantly increases skin hydration.
Additionally, this vitamin protects the skin against harmful UV rays. It also increases collagen in the skin, reducing age-related skin conditions such as wrinkles, pigmentation, and tougher skin.
A lack of vitamin C can adversely affect the skin, leading to joint pain, a decrease in wound healing, and iron deficiency.
Vitamin C has other health benefits aside from skin hydration and protective functions, according to the NIH. For example, consuming vitamin C can lower the risk of developing cataracts and may lessen the severity of cold symptoms.
Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin D. One tablespoon contains 34 mcg of vitamin D, which equates to 170% of the DV.
There are different types of vitamin D, including vitamin D3 and vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 can inhibit keratinocytes, which cause dry skin conditions such as psoriasis.
This vitamin can also reduce inflammation, promote wound healing, and help combat the effects of UV rays.
Soy, almond, and oat milks fortified with vitamin D are good sources of this nutrient. According to the NIH, 1 serving contains 2.5–3.6 mcg, which provides up to 13–18% of the DV.
The NIH add that one of vitamin D’s beneficial effects is anti-inflammation. This may help the skin keep its moisture and hydration.
Sunflower seeds are good sources of vitamin E. One ounce of dry-roasted sunflower seeds contains 7.4 mg, which equates to 49% of the DV.
Combining a source of vitamin E and a source of vitamin C may help reduce inflammation and flushing of the skin.
Oysters are high in zinc. Three ounces of breaded, fried oysters contain 74 mg of zinc, which equates to 673% of the DV.
Zinc is a nutrient that is essential in protecting the skin from UV damage. It limits the amount of radiation that permeates the skin and can help prevent the skin from drying out.
Combing a source of zinc and a source of vitamin C can help combat acne, as both of these have antibacterial effects.
Baked beans are also good sources of zinc. Half a cup of canned plain or vegetarian baked beans contains 2.9 mg of zinc, which equates to 26% of the DV.
Zinc has several health benefits aside from moisturizing and hydrating the skin, according to the NIH. For example, it can boost the immune system, increase wound healing, and help treat diarrhea.
Yellowfin tuna is a good source of selenium. Three ounces of cooked yellowfin tuna contain 92 mcg of selenium, which equates to 167% of the DV.
Selenium protects the skin from damaging UV rays by increasing the activity of enzymes in the skin.
Selenium is also useful in treating the symptoms of psoriasis by increasing the levels of glutathione peroxidase in those who have this condition.
Avocados are good sources of omega-3.
A diet low in omega-3 can contribute to dry, scaly skin and dermatitis.
A 2015 rodent studyTrusted Source found that consuming omega-3 supplements over a 60-day period reduced itching and improved skin hydration.
Although the researchers conducted this study with fish oil supplements, they note that long-term use of any omega-3 supplements will likely have the same effects.
Green tea may also help with photo-aging, which can lead to hyperpigmentation, skin dryness, and other signs of UV damage.
Turmeric is another food that may help combat dry skin. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties.
A 2019 systematic review found that curcumin can help combat the effects of psoriasis and dermatitis. Topical application of curcumin may also help with acne, as this compound has antibiotic properties.
Dry skin can be uncomfortable, and people may need to use other remedies to help relieve dry skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology suggest that people:
- Take a shower or bathe in warm water for no longer than 10 minutes.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after washing.
- Use an ointment or cream rather than a lotion to moisturize.
- Use gentle, fragrance-free skin care products.
- Wear gloves during cold weather, before performing tasks that make the hands wet, and when coming into contact with other substances.
- Wear cotton or silk underwear and use a hypoallergenic laundry detergent.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture into the air.
Certain foods, drinks, and other substances can contribute to dry skin.
A 2020 study found that a diet high in fat can cause skin inflammation, which can interfere with the skin’s protective functions. Additionally, eating a lot of sugary foods or baked goods can cause inflammation and change the thickness of the skin.
Drinking alcohol can also cause dry skin and adversely affect the skin’s ability to provide a barrier to outside elements.
Additionally, smoking tobacco can change the skin’s thickness, cause dry skin, and change pigmentation.
A person should contact a doctor if dry skin is interfering with their daily life and home remedies, such as moisturizing and eating a healthy, balanced diet, have not shown any improvement in dry skin.
A doctor will be able to take a history, see if there are any underlying causes, and help the person take the appropriate steps to improve dry skin.
Consuming foods that are high in vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as foods that are good sources of zinc and selenium, may help prevent or improve dry skin. Omega-3, green tea antioxidants, and turmeric also have benefits for the skin.
Eating foods that contain these nutrients may help the skin perform its protective functions, reducing water loss and increasing skin hydration.
However, consuming certain foods and drinks may contribute to dry skin. For example, having a diet high in fat, sugary foods, and baked goods may interfere with the skin’s functions, leading to inflammation and dry skin.
Additionally, drinking alcohol and using tobacco can accelerate the aging process and reduce skin thickness and hydration.
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- Barcelos, R. C. S., et al. (2015). Oral supplementation with fish oil reduces dryness and pruritus in the acetone-induced dry skin rat model [Abstract].
- Blaner, W. S., et al. (2016). Vitamin A absorption, storage and mobilization [Abstract].
- Cao, C., et al. (2020). Diet and skin aging—from the perspective of food nutrition.
- Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin. (n.d.).
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Park, K. (2015). Role of micronutrients in skin health and function.
- Prasanth, M. I., et al. (2019). A review of the role of green tea (Camellia sinensis) in antiphotoaging, stress resistance, neuroprotection, and autophagy.
- Selenium: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Vitamin A: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Vitamin C: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Vitamin D: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Vitamin E: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Vollono, L., et al. (2019). Potential of curcumin in skin disorders.
- Zinc: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
Medically reviewed by Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD, Nutrition
— By Veronica Zambon on March 22, 2021
Photo by Sora Shimazaki: https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-ethnic-woman-applying-cream-on-face-against-mirror-5938242/