Fifty million dollars. That's how much Americans spent last year on "nutri-cosmetics"—drinks, pills, even candies that claim to clear breakouts, smooth wrinkles, or fade blotches. But dermatologists and nutritionists aren't convinced that these increasingly popular products are wise investments. "Certain supplements, like fish oil, may improve the quality of your skin, but there's no FDA oversight of them, so it's hard to know how much of the nutrient is actually being absorbed by your body and is affecting your complexion," says Jessica Wu, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California. A diet packed with lean proteins, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, however, is likely to have a positive effect on your face. "Improving your eating habits isn't going to eliminate wrinkles or sagging, but research shows it will improve the tone and texture of your skin," says Mary Lupo, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine.
Loaded with lycopene, cooked tomatoes (in juice or sauce) can protect skin against sunburn. Try to consume about one cup a week, paired with a healthy fat (like olive oil or avocado), which will help your body absorb the lycopene.
Nuts and Fish
"Research suggests that their high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids can hydrate the skin and lessen the appearance of deep wrinkles," says nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, who recommends eating 12 ounces of fish (such as salmon or cod) every week, or 1 ounce of walnuts a day. You should notice a change in your skin in about six weeks.
Kiwis, Blueberries, Sweet Potatoes
These are just a few of the brightly colored foods that are rich in antioxidant vitamins C and E; when taken orally, they can help protect against UV damage. A study published last year found that a diet high in vitamin C was associated with less skin dryness and wrinkling. Blatner recommends eating 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables every day.
Red Meat, White Kidney Beans, Yogurt, and Oysters
They're all high in zinc, which is essential for collagen formation. You need, for example, three ounces of beef, one cup of yogurt, and half a cup of white kidney beans, or just one incredibly zinc-heavy oyster, daily, says nutritionist Lisa Drayer, author of The Beauty Diet.
Green Leafy Vegetables, Such as Spinach and Swiss Chard
A recent study found that people with a history of squamous cell carcinoma who ate about two servings of these greens weekly reduced their risk of subsequent skin cancers. Researchers credit the vegetables' high concentration of the organic pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. They also contain vitamin K, which has been shown to strengthen blood vessels and may help prevent varicose veins.