Foods to Improve Skin Tone and Complexion

One of the things we’ve been trying to do for ages as a species, apart of course from destroying ourselves and the world we live in, has been the pursuit of beauty, the skin deep variety. We’ve tried a few things, such as the Magic Mirrors of Beltane and Wiccan incantations among others, and when that fails, we’ve typically switched tracks and instead of making ourselves desirable, we try to ensnare the object of our affection through the use of love potions – both ancient and modern. There’s even a hit song about this – Love Potion No. 9. Have you heard it?

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If you’ll notice, they’re all shortcuts. If there’s one thing we haven’t tried in the past couple of thousand years and usually still haven’t really explored, is the long way, that of changing our lifestyles to achieve change in our bodies – we prefer shortcuts. You won’t believe the number of times as a kid I wanted to wake up as an adult, as shown in the movies. The travails of childhood were probably too much for me.

While exploring academic papers, I came across an interesting study [1], that claimed to have done a clinical trial on 50 healthy people, over a 12 week period. Their skin types on the Fitzpatrick Scale [2] were between II and IV and one part of the group were administered doses of oral dietary supplements containing Lutein and Zeaxanthin isomers. The other part were given placebos. The logic used was, that carotenoids, particularly Lutein and Zeaxanthin, aid in the filtration of blue light and protect the skin from environment factors. The hope was the carotenoids would block the formation of melanin pathways, decrease cytokines, and increase anti-oxidants.

They were successful. As stated by the study, overall skin tone and luminance was significantly improved in the group that were given the carotenoids.

Now, how do we get ourselves some of those carotenoids? As per the study, the subjects were given 10 milligrams of Lutein and 2 milligrams of Zeaxanthin each day, over 12 weeks. We have two options here – get these substances through our diets or through supplements. I would much prefer natural sources, but cannot speak for you. So, I’m going to list both – your call which one you’d like to try, if at all.

Interestingly, the same two carotenoids may be associated with the prevention of age related macular degeneration. Apart from trying to help your skin, you’re definitely trying to help your eyes using proven methods.

Dietary Sources

While it is definitely possible to get the required amounts of Lutein and Zeaxanthin isomers through diet, the issue is with available data [5]. The data I have clubs both together and therefore represents both combined as one value in micro grams [5]. Given that the dosage of each is different, you’ll just have to eat the whole lot. Also note that due to the resolution of the data, we cannot say how much Lutein and how much Zeaxanthin we’ll be eating with the following foods. To ensure we’re getting all we need, I suggest varying these foods across meals. The following table is base on 100gm of each of the foods mentioned. Given all of these are greens, don’t overdo it – too many greens in our diets isn’t a good thing and can mess with our bodies and nutrition.

FoodLutein + Zeaxanthin
Kale, cooked18.2
Sweet potato leaves, raw14.7
Turnip greens, raw12.8
Spinach, raw12.1
Sweet potato leaves, cooked11.4
Spinach, cooked11.3
Mustard greens, cooked9.9
Kale, raw8.1
Basil, fresh, raw5.6

Supplement Sources

Here are a few products (Amazon India) you could use for getting Lutein and Zeaxanthin through supplements. The good news here is, it is possible to mimic the original study and take the exact amounts used there. All three options below contain both the required isomers in the right proportions (based on the product’s packaging).

  1. Setu Lutein + Zeaxanthin, 60 Tablets For Eyes And Vision
  2. Jarrow Lutein 20 Mg – 60 Softgels
  3. Doctors Best Lutein Featuring Lutemax and Meso-Zeaxanthin Supplement

All the best with your journey towards perceived skin deep beauty.

Warning: Consult your doctor prior to changing your diet or beginning supplements.


  1. Overall skin tone and skin-lightening-improving effects with oral supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin isomers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial
  2. Fitzpatrick Scale
  3. Distribution of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Related Geometrical Isomers in Fruit, Vegetables, Wheat, and Pasta Products
  4. Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  5. USDA Nutritional Database SR28

Disclosure: Purchasing the products mentioned in this article by clicking the links will direct a few rupees my way. These links contribute towards helping me spend more time researching nutrition and related subjects and making them available to you free of cost.


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