In my pursuit of clear skin, there are few food-based remedies I haven’t tried: I’m obsessed with celery juice for cleansing the liver and flushing out toxins, seed cycling for balancing hormones and clearing that-time-of-the-month breakouts, and probiotics for a flowing digestive system and thus, a glowing complexion. But of all my adventures in ingestible skincare, there’s one that takes the cake (metaphorically speaking, of course — sugar’s not great for the skin): Drinking bone broth for acne.
A little backstory: Thanks to an overzealous use of prescription steroid cream a few years back, my skin is uber-sensitive. I’m limited in the amount of topical treatments I can try — that’s a hard pass on acid exfoliators and retinol, thanks — but there is a bright side to this sensitivity. My skin reacts quickly to positive changes, too. A dairy-free diet works wonders, and skincare supplements make a difference in a matter of days. So when I started incorporating bone broth into my routine a couple years ago, I noticed the benefits almost immediately. My skin felt softer, smoother, more hydrated.
Alas, making bone broth takes time, and it’s not the most delicious food in existence, so I didn’t exactly keep up with it. But I recently decided to recommit to that bone-broth-every-day life and remembered why I loved this stuff in the first place. My acne has significantly improved in just a week.
“Bone broth is made up of bones and connective tissue like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage — typically from cow, chicken, or turkey — and simmered with various spices over a period of several hours, providing a nutritious base for soups,” Dr. Nadia Musavvir, ND, a naturopathic doctor, tells The Zoe Report. (It goes without saying that this isn’t vegan, right?) “It’s not anything new and has been used for centuries as a dietary staple in various cultures.” Bone broth has a ton of benefits for the body, the literal least of which is glowing skin. The ND cites improved digestion, metabolism, immunity, and mood as prime examples.
That being said, bone broth’s effect on the skin is pretty impressive. For one, it’s said to help the body rebuild its own collagen stores. “This is due to the amino acid content, particularly high glycine and proline, which are components of collagen,” Dr. Musavvir tells TZR. Bone broth even supplies the skin with natural hyaluronic acid. “It is rich in glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs — a group of complex carbohydrates — and hyaluronic acid is one of the main types of GAGs,” she explains.
In addition, bone broth is particularly good for digestion — and the famed Gut-Brain-Skin axis proves that a healthy gut translates to healthy skin. “By improving digestion and gut health, you can certainly have an effect on skin health,” Dr. Musavvir agrees. As the GAGs, glutamine, and gelatin in both broth get to work healing the digestive tract, they also reduce system-wide inflammation. “This is also important for skin health, since inflammation can accelerate the breakdown of collagen,” she says.
Of course, knowing how bone broth helps the skin is great — but what really matters is whether or not it actually works in real life. According to both Dr. Musavvir and myself, there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest it does. “I have noticed an overall improvement of skin tone appearing more even, requiring less makeup and concealer within just one week of having one cup of broth per day,” the naturopath says. “Patients of mine have reported improvement of their acne when incorporating bone broth.” My own experience has been similar; I even took before-and-after pictures for a week to prove it. After six days of bone broth for breakfast, the acne on my cheeks and chin was less inflamed, and my scars seemed to fade a little bit.
I like to make my own bone broth — this recipe is my favorite — but if you’re not the DIY type, you’re in luck: These days, bone broth is readily available in grocery stores and online (I always order from OWL Venice if I don’t have the energy to cook). It’s important to make sure you’re using and/or buying the right kind of bone broth, though. “GAGs are found in the connective tissue — tendons, ligaments, cartilage — so to get any benefit of hyaluronic acid, bones in the broth need to have these still attached,” Dr. Musavvir tells TZR. She says the best bones, in this regard, are chicken feet, cow feet, or cow knuckles. (Did I mention bone broth is not for the squeamish?) And if you do decide to make it yourself, don’t forget the apple cider vinegar — it “draws minerals from the bones” and into the broth.
To see improvements in your skin, you’ll want to drink at least one cup of bone broth per day, but results vary from person to person. “If one starts drinking bone broth while also incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding processed foods, they will likely feel the results within a day,” Dr. Musavvir speculates. “With consistency, they’ll start to see the results in as little as one week.”
And when a week of bone broth could heal your skin and replace your hyaluronic acid serum, what’ve you got to lose?