Wellness·4 min read

The Skin Care Routine You Won't Find in a Bottle

The Skin Care Routine You Won't Find in a Bottle
Illustration: Mosa Tanksley
July 9, 2021

The Story 

You’ve heard that beauty is only skin deep. But when it comes to skin care, the glow starts from within. As in, it matters what you put in your body, not just on it.

You had me at glow. 

You dew you. While everyone’s loading up on serums and oils, we have a little secret: Good skin starts with your lifestyle. Diet, exercise, sleep, and sun exposure all play a role in making your skin healthier.

What should I eat for better skin? 

Here are some of the top ingredients you should take to the face:

  • Fatty fish…Fish rich in omega-3 acids (think: salmon, mackerel, herring) keep skin looking moisturized and supple. Because those omega-3s reduce inflammation and can make your skin better at battling UV rays. If you’re not into putting fatty fish on a plate, try a fish oil supplement. 

  • Tomatoes…This summer salad staple (say that five times fast) is a source of Vitamin C, which promotes collagen. It’s also a major food source of lycopene, a carotenoid (pigments that act as antioxidants in certain plants and veggies). Reminder: Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances including vitamins and minerals that protect the body from free radicals (what’s produced by environmental pests like UV rays and pollution). Meaning, some antioxidants help prevent things like wrinkles and heart disease. Win win. 

  • Sweet potatoes…Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that the body converts into Vitamin A. And Vitamin A promotes cell turnover, and protects against UV damage. 

  • Avocados…Remember this meme? It holds up. Everyone’s favorite toast topper is rich in heart-healthy fat that makes skin look glowy and fresh. It also contains Vitamin E which has antioxidant properties and helps protect skin from cell damage.

  • Spinach…for health? Groundbreaking. But you might not know that this power leaf has big benefits for your skin, too. It’s another great source of beta-carotene, plus Vitamin C. 

  • Walnuts…These nuts are an excellent source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Reminder: omega-3s keep skin looking moisturized and plump. Those nourishing fats lock in moisture and help fight dry skin.

Did you forget about water? 

Nope, just thought you might be sick of hearing about it. There’s a reason everyone tells you to drink more water: It’s good for you. But turns out, there’s a lack of research around whether guzzling H20 makes for more hydrated skin. So while drinking water is very important for maintaining overall health, you shouldn’t rush to completely replace your cleanser with a water bottle anytime soon. Or a wine bottle. Before you say ‘bottoms up,’ know that alcohol isn’t exactly good for your skin. It’s dehydrating and can be linked to clogged pores, leading to more blackheads and whiteheads.

What about exercise? 

Working up a sweat doesn’t just give you a temporary dewy glow. Exercise increases circulation, which makes for healthier and clearer skin. It also may reduce stress (and, as if we have to remind you, stress is bad for your skin).

Is sleep important? 

You bet. Sleep is your body’s time to repair itself, and that includes its biggest organ, the skin. During sleep, collagen rebuilds itself and repairs damage from UV exposure, which helps reduce wrinkles and age spots. One study found that two days of sleep restriction negatively impacted how participants’ health was perceived by others — which often starts with skin.

What about SPF? 

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important steps you can take for healthier skin. It protects against aging, skin cancer, and most obviously, sunburn. Best practice: Go for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Opt for at least SPF 15 for brief exposure and SPF 30 or higher if you’re outside longer. Reapply every two hours or after going in the water. Anddd repeat. 

But I still have skin issues. Halp. 

Results don’t happen overnight, and these baseline remedies may only go so far. Conditions such as living in an urban environment, acne, PCOS, and psoriasis often can’t be cured with diet and exercise alone. Stress may also cause skin issues — one study found a correlation between acne severity and stress in 20-something female medical students. Genetics may play a role, too. While there’s no single “acne gene,” studies have shown a higher likelihood of a person developing acne if they have a family history of it. Talk to a dermatologist about a regimen to address your unique set of concerns.


Skin routines can come with prohibitive price tags — but there are also ways to get that glow in the grocery store aisle, the gym, or your bed. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to better skin, there are benefits to cleaning up the inside to affect the outside.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 

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