Real talk—the beauty industry is massive. The market is densely packed with brands, products, and celebrity endorsements, and as a result, it’s easy to forget that skincare is more than just the products we use. If we separate the word “skincare” from its commonly associate word “routine,” we get a better idea of the breadth of its definition. It’s an all-encompassing term that covers everything from water intake to caffeine consumption, sun exposure, exercise, and stress relief. The truth is that skincare refers to the intangible, just as much—if not more—than the tangible.
One of the most important components of skincare is diet. Science has shown that what we eat, and how much of it, has a direct effect on our skin, and no one knows that better than Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care. Her clients include the likes of Rachel Brosnahan, Mindy Kaling, Tessa Thompson, Greta Gerwig, and more (you know, all those celebrities who are known for their bright and glowing complexions).
“Making healthy food and beverage choices can make all the difference to your complexion, but please remember that beauty is more than skin deep,” Vargas says. “Nutritious, organic whole foods help you inside, improving your body’s functions and helping to extend your life. It’s not just about looking good; it’s about feeling great as well. A beautiful, glowing face is merely the sum of many parts, and nutrition is all of that.”
Vargas recently released a book, called Glow From Within. In it, she shares a list of “glow foods,” or foods she recommends her clients eat to improve the look, tone, and texture of their complexions. She also includes a list of “foods that dim your glow,” or those that should be avoided due to their detrimental effects on the skin. Keep scrolling to see the full list of “glow foods” and learn why you should incorporate them into your diet (and why you should avoid two others).
Shop it! Glow From Within by Joanna Vargas, $19.36, amazon.com
First on our list of the “glow foods” that Vargas recommends is an entire category: Greens. That includes vegetables like spinach, kale, cucumbers, green peppers, avocados, celery, and more. The reason is that greens provide the body, and the skin, with essential vitamins and minerals.
“It also instantly hydrates the skin while encouraging lymphatic drainage,” Vargas says. “My number one nutritional beauty tip is absolutely my favorite skin fix: Drink a green juice every day and try to eat green vegetables with every meal. Green smoothies are great, too, but I prefer fresh-pressed juices because when vegetable fiber is removed through the juicing process, your gut is able to absorb the nutrients more easily.”
She says there’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t drink a green juice with at least one of her meals. One of her favorite green juice recipes is called “Mrs. Clean.” It’s a “crisp, refreshing juice with a slight zing” that will “help flush your lymph.” It includes 10 celery stalks, 1 small bunch of parsley, 1/3 medium cucumber, 1/4 medium apple, freshly grated ginger, and the juice of one lemon.
According to her book, “women with a higher intake of healthy fats, such as oily fish, avocado and leafy greens have fewer wrinkles and firmer skin tone—a result of strong skin cells.” The reason is that healthy fats aid cell membranes, keeping skin cells plump and firm and preventing moisture loss. That’s also the reason why avocado, which is full of healthy fats, makes such a great DIY face mask ingredient. Use it alone or mix it with honey or plain yogurt for a clean and simple skin treatment.
Next on our list of “glow foods” is protein. “Protein is one of the most important elements to building strong, pliable, healthy skin. You need the right kinds and amounts for your collagen and elastin levels,” says Vargas. Collagen and elastin are fibers found naturally in the skin that lend it its firmness and elasticity. Vargas recommends incorporating salmon, tuna, beans, nuts, and tofu into your diet.
The fourth “glow food” isn’t food at all—it’s water. “Drink more water” has been the number one piece of advice from estheticians, influencers, and even many of our own mothers, for years. According to Vargas, there’s a reason for that as it applies to skincare. “Adequate water intake improves the skin’s thickness and density. Hydrated skin cells swell, making the skin look plumper and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she explains.
For those of us who find it difficult to increase our daily water intake (ahem, me), Vargas recommends keeping a water bottle on hand at all times, so it’s harder to forget about hydration. “I always recommend using a big reusable water bottle for your desk and making it a goal to finish it by the end of the workday,” she says. “That way you can set an exact goal for water intake when you need it most! Also, you can set alerts on your phone for drinking water so you don’t forget.”
Shop it! BuildLife 1 Gallon Water Bottle, $18.96, amazon.com
5Herbs and spices
Not only do herbs and spices make food taste better, but they also improve the health of our skin from the inside out. “Herbs and spices such as turmeric, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, and cilantro have proven anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that promote skin health,” says Vargas. Incorporate them into your diet by drinking ginger tea, adding cilantro to your lunch, or sprinkling some turmeric in your morning smoothie. As for the latter, Vargas drinks one every day.
“For breakfast, I love to make a shake in my Vitamix with spinach, kale, plant-based protein powder, pineapple and banana with a little coconut milk. It’s very filling and keeps my energy up,” she says.
Incorporating these five “glow foods” into your diet will contribute to your skin’s overall health with no pricey products necessary. However, cleaning up your diet and using effective skincare products can do even more for the health and appearance of your skin.
As for the foods you should avoid, steer clear of consuming too much alcohol and sugar.
According to Vargas, both of these “dim your glow.” Let’s talk about alcohol, first. “Alcohol can affect your skin in significant ways, causing puffiness, dullness, dryness, and bags or dark circles under your eyes,” she explains. This is due to alcohol’s damaging effect on the liver, and the way it interferes with the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals. Not to mention, it has intense dehydrating effects.
Sugar has similarly negative effects on the skin. According to Vargas, it interferes with collagen production, raises insulin, and slows down the lymphatic system, which can lead to sagging, wrinkling, puffiness, breakouts, and dullness. No, thank you.
While incorporating “glow foods” and straying from the above glow-dimming ones might not magically erase all of your skin concerns, the benefits are impressive, especially when paired with effective topical products. It’s like a one-two punch. “I think it makes great skin accessible to everyone when you are mindful of your diet and using the best skincare,” Vargas says. “Many people feel like great skin is unattainable. But most of our skin troubles are the cause of the gut.”