Ask most dermatologists what you should eat to help improve your skin and you’ll probably get a vague answer about a balanced diet and plenty of water. “Doctors have been taught to be very skeptical about nutritional approaches to health, because past advice wasn’t based on hard science,” says dermatologist Valori Treloar, M.D., coauthor of “The Clear Skin Diet.” But their skepticism is fading as more patients sing the praises of food’s skin-morphing powers, and newer research backs them up. Take Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., nutrition advisor to YouBeauty.com.Sold? We were! So we developed three diets‚ one each to tackle acne; dry, dull skin; and aging‚ that basically involve filling up on delicious foods rich in nutrients with face-saving virtues. And don’t be afraid to pile your plate high: It’s practically impossible to OD on nutrients through diet alone. All you have to do is ID your top skin woe and dish up a gorgeous future.The Problem: AcneMean girls don’t always disappear after high school, and neither do embarrassing breakouts. But getting plenty of these three nutrients can help you banish blemishes. (Sadly, the snobs may still linger.)”This antioxidant thins the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, which produces dead cells that can clog pores,” explains Jody Levine, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. It also dries up sebum, the gross, oily, waxy stuff your skin glands produce that mixes with dead skin cells to create the clogs and transport you to Zitville. The daily value (DV) of A is 5,000 international units (IUs), so get at least that much, and pair it with some healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado: A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so your body will absorb it better.Good sourcesSweet potatoes (28,000 IUs each); leafy greens such as spinach (23,000 IUs per chopped, cooked cup), kale (19,000 IUs per cooked cup) and broccoli (2,400 IUs per cooked cup); bright red, yellow and orange produce such as carrots (27,000 IUs per cooked cup), cantaloupe (5,400 IUs per cup), red bell peppers (4,700 IUs per cup) and red chile peppers (428 IUs each); asparagus (600 IUs per four spears)ZincThe mineral helps tame skin’s oil production; less oil (if you have an excess of the stuff) means less sebum‚ and fewer pimples, according to Dr. Levine. The RDA for zinc is 8 milligrams.Good sourcesRaw oysters (76 mg per six oysters), fortified breakfast cereals such as Total (15 mg per 3/4 cup), canned blue crab (5 mg per cup), turkey (4 mg per cup), beef sirloin (4 mg per 3 ounces), pork loin (4 mg per 3 oz), part-skim ricotta (3 mg per cup)Omega-3 fatty acidsThey help maintain the body’s essential oils, the healthy, non-pore-clogging kind that keep skin cells from drying out, flaking and congesting pores, Dr. Levine says. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that aid with healing. “Acne is a teeny little wound on your face,” Kirkpatrick says. There’s no RDA for omega-3s; Kirkpatrick suggests aiming for 600 mg daily.Good sourcesFlaxseed (1,600 mg per 1 tablespoon), canola oil (1,300 mg per 1 tbsp), soybean oil (900 mg per 1 tbsp)The Problem: Dry, Dull SkinDowning water, water and more water to rejuvenate flaky, flat-looking skin? Keep it up, but don’t stop there. Drinking adequate liquid does help ensure every cell in your body is hydrated, but these nutrients are also vital to your freshen-up arsenal.Omega-3 fatty acids“As we get older, our oil glands produce less oil, so you see more flaking and scaling,” Dr. Treloar says. Omega-3s may help lubricate skin to keep it looking dewy. Try to consume 600 mg a day.Good sourcesFlaxseed (1,600 mg per 1 tbsp), canola oil (1,300 mg per 1 tbsp), soybean oil (900 mg per 1 tbsp)Niacin”When skin cells dry out, their barrier to the environment breaks down,” Dr. Levine says. “Bacteria and other things from the outside can then penetrate more easily and cause an inflammatory reaction.” And that means you can add redness and irritation to your list of complaints. Niacin, a B vitamin, appears to help strengthen the skin’s barrier, by both hydrating cells and acting as an anti-inflammatory, Dr. Levine says. The RDA for niacin is 14 mg.Good sourcesChicken (12 mg per 1/2 breast), canned light tuna (11 mg per 3 oz), wheat flour (9 mg per cup), pork chops (7 mg per 3 oz), beef sirloin (6 mg per 3 oz), cornmeal (4 mg per cup)BiotinThis is another B vitamin, and although its mechanisms aren’t yet well understood, biotin has been shown to help hair and nails grow, and it may also aid skin-cell turnover, which keeps your complexion looking fresh. There’s no RDA, but doctors consider 30 micrograms adequate.Good sourcesEggs (up to 25 mcg each), avocado (up to 6 mcg each), salmon (up to 5 mcg per 3 oz)The Problem: Signs of AgingGetting older is fine (wisdom, respect, all that good stuff). Looking older, not so much. Thankfully, we can help stall the process by eating strawberries, pineapple and other delish foods.Vitamin AOf skin’s several layers, the dermis‚ which lies right below the surface layer of skin (or epidermis)‚ contains all the collagen, a protein that gives skin plumpness and elasticity. “Vitamin A helps increase collagen production and thickens the dermis,” Dr. Levine explains. The result: Skin looks fuller and bounces back more readily. And because it’s an antioxidant, A also helps repair the free radical damage to skin cells that leads to wrinkling and sagging. The DV is 5,000 IUs.Good sourcesSweet potatoes (28,000 IUs each); leafy greens such as spinach (23,000 IUs per chopped, cooked cup), kale (19,000 per cooked cup) and broccoli (2,400 IUs per cooked cup); bright red, yellow and orange produce such as carrots (27,000 IUs per cooked cup ), cantaloupe (5,400 IUs per cup), sweet red bell peppers (4,700 IUs per cup) and red chile peppers (428 IUs each); asparagus (600 IUs per four spears)Vitamin CAlso an antioxidant, “vitamin C basically helps mop up free radicals before they do any damage,” Dr. Levine says. You’ll hit your mark at 75 mg.Good sourcesRed bell peppers (152 mg each), broccoli (101 mg per cooked cup), strawberries (98 mg per cup), papaya (87 mg per cup), pineapple (74 mg per cup), kiwifruit (70 mg each), cantaloupe (59 mg per cup), cauliflower (46 mg per cup)Vitamin ESpeaking (still) of antioxidants, E seems to help skin produce natural oils that aid with aging-related dryness, Dr. Levine says. You need at least 15 mg a day to fulfill your RDA.Good sourcesNuts and seeds such as almonds (7 mg per oz) and roasted sunflower seeds (7 mg per oz); vegetable oils such as sunflower (6 mg per tbsp) and safflower (5 mg per tbsp); tomato products such as pasta sauce (6 mg per cup) and pureed tomatoes (5 mg per cup); spinach (4 mg per cooked cup)Plant polyphenolsThese organic plant chemicals seem to do double dermis duty. For starters, polyphenols in green tea significantly increased circulation to skin in a recent study at the University of Witten-Herdeck. “We don’t know the mechanism, but if you’re getting more blood flow to the skin, the cells are getting increased nutrients, which can help support their health,” says study author Carolyn Moore, Ph.D. Participants drank the equivalent of 8 cups of decaffeinated green tea a day; Dr. Moore can’t speculate on the effect of drinking less, but it couldn’t hurt to start with 1 or 2 cups a day. People who drank water mixed with cocoa powder high in flavonols, another type of polyphenol, experienced a similar increase in hydration and blood flow to their skin, as well as less roughness and scaling, a study in The Journal of Nutrition shows. What’s more, cocoa’s flavonols seem to offer some UV ray protection: The skin of cocoa sippers showed less redness after sun exposure.Good sourcesGreen tea, chocolate (a few ounces a day should do the trick)Do Some Foods Breed Breakouts?The science is still spotty, but experts are wary of…Dairy foodsMilk spikes levels of insulin and growth hormone, both of which open androgen (male hormone) receptors and allow the hormones to enter, says dermatologist Bill Danby, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School. And male hormones can plug pores and activate oil glands, resulting in acne, he explains. Although not all skin pros embrace Dr. Danby‚ dairy theory, it’s gaining ground, according to Dr. Treloar. She suggests that acne sufferers drop cow dairy (get vitamin D, calcium and magnesium from other sources), then experiment with noncow and fermented dairy foods.A high-glycemic-index dietLike dairy items, high-GI foods such as refined carbs (e.g., white bread) and sweets (including chocolate) can raise insulin levels and open androgen receptors, so most experts say it’s smart to steer clear when you can.-Stephanie DolgoffMore From SELF:38 Antiaging SuperfoodsFind the Right Workout For YOU with SELF’s Workout FinderJoin SELF’s Lose 8 Pounds Program and Win a $1,000 Shopping Spree at Zappos.com!