Bright Ideas

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Fill your plate with spring’s bounty and see the benefits in your skin? Yes, it’s possible!

The time has come to slough off winter’s dreariness — and let’s be honest, dryness.

Winter demands a lot of our skin, and we’re ready for a fresh start. Beyond a great moisturizer, a daily sunscreen, lots of water and plenty of rest, we wondered how to amp up our skin’s glow with what other than our favorite spring foods.

Kristen M. Whitney, DO, FAAD, Dermatologist and Director of Cosmetic Services for Allegheny Health Network, weighed in on some of our most powerful plant partners in the kitchen.

A complete diet overhaul won’t be necessary to reap the benefits. Instead, aim to add these fruits and veggies to your plate as part of a balanced diet. Blueberries are hailed as one of the healthiest, most antioxidant-rich fruits you can eat, says Dr. Whitney, but “don’t stress if you are not eating blueberries every day. If you can add them to your diet a couple times a week, that’s still very good.”

“Of course,” says Dr. Whitney, “everything in moderation. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats, along with adequate hydration with the avoidance of alcohol and smoking, will lead to your best self and skin!”

The Key Three

While a variety of nutrients plays their part in overall skin health, these three antioxidants

“will give you the biggest bang for your buck,” says Dr. Whitney.

Vitamin A

This antioxidant helps to exfoliate the skin and turn over cells, which leads to a brighter complexion. It also fights free radicals. Topical retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives, are hailed for everything from improving skin texture and tone to treating acne and preventing wrinkles. Moderation is especially key here — vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts. Pregnant women should avoid retinoids and monitor their daily intake of vitamin A, adhering to recommended guidelines.

Go for in-season leafy greens, like Swiss chard, arugula, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, and collard greens. You can also find vitamin A in fresh and dried apricots, avocados, and broccoli. Broccoli, in particular, is “a great source of vitamins, minerals and carotenoids, along with sulforaphane, which may help to prevent skin cancer.”


Carotenoids are an important antioxidant, with some converting to vitamin A. These (typically) red-orange pigments found in plants are a major player in upping your antioxidant game — think beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene.

In general, let color be your guide, and reach for richly hued foods like carrots, red, yellow and orange peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, yams, yellow corn, tomatoes, guava, and watermelon. Tender spring sprouts like peas and watercress are also full of carotenoids.

Vitamin C

This “potent antioxidant is a key player in the production of collagen,” the protein that plumps skin and strengthens hair and nails. It may also help to limit damage caused by UV rays, says Dr. Whitney. Vitamin C aids in brightening the skin and benefits skin’s tone, texture and overall appearance.

Start with spring’s fresh-from-the-earth flavors like parsley, parsnips, radishes, cabbage, onions, and garlic. Other vitamin C all-stars include cauliflower, strawberries, blueberries, apples, oranges, grapefruit, and papaya.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Want your cosmetics products to work harder for you? Start with a healthy, hydrated surface. “You’ll notice a big difference with topical products” when your skin is properly hydrated, says Dr. Whitney. In addition to daily moisturization, try infusing your water with cucumber slices, which contain silica, “an important component in manufacturing collagen.”


Story by nicole barley // Photography by Adam Milliron // styling by ana kelly