The humble sardine has been derided for years, and quite unfairly so. While cracking open a tin of the tiny, oily fish might leave something to be desired from a culinary aesthetics perspective, sardines pack a giant nutritional punch.
“Just one 4-ounce serving of sardines is low in calories, high in protein, and has little to no carbohydrates,” said Amanda Nighbert, a Kentucky-based registered dietitian. “One serving provides you with an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, 30-70% of your daily vitamin D needs, up to 130% of your B12 needs, and 70-90% of your daily selenium needs.”
This impressive nutritional profile is why sardines have become the newest addition to many skin care routines across TikTok. A number of creators claim that by eating sardines regularly, they’re able to achieve the ever-so-coveted “glass skin” — skin that is so clear, dewy and flawless that it appears as smooth as glass.
But can eating sardines actually give us glass skin? Or are the claims of this “hack” purely anecdotal? We spoke to nutrition and skin experts to find out.
The Function Of Nutrition In Skin Health
“Nutrition is a major player when we examine skin health and in achieving certain goals in the appearance of our skin,” said Dr. Angela Casey, an Ohio-based board-certified dermatologist. “When we don’t have a balanced diet, we are fighting an uphill battle.”
Before you fork over hundreds of dollars for the latest new serum, you may want to consider what’s on your literal fork.
“In many cases, poor skin health can be greatly improved by making small changes in your diet,” Nighbert said. “I have seen this often in the clients I work with.”
When it comes to improving skin health, Nighbert suggested incorporating foods that are rich in nutrients such as:
Vitamins C, E, A, D, K and B (including B3, B5 and B7).
Omega-3 fatty acids.
Many of these nutrients are found in sardines, including selenium and vitamins B and D. And as oily fish, sardines truly shine when it comes to delivering the fats and omega-3 fatty acids that skin loves.
“Fats and cholesterol are important components of our skin,” Casey said. “Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in overall health by helping regulate glucose levels, supporting muscle production and slowing down the aging process.”
Knowing what foods to avoid or cut back on can help to improve the look and texture of skin.
“Sugar, simple carbohydrates and alcohol take a toll on our skin, contributing to inflammation, which in turn breaks down our collagen and elastic fibers, creates sensitivity in our skin, and also leads to a dull skin appearance,” Casey explained. “High glycemic index foods that spike your blood sugar quickly are linked to acne. So, acne may be helped with a change in diet.”
Such foods can include white flour, potatoes and sugar — all of which are common ingredients in many highly processed foods. Sardines, having little to no carbs that can spike blood sugar, are considered a low glycemic food.
"Glass skin" can appear poreless, clear from breakouts, and dewy.
So, Can Eating Sardines Actually Give Me Glass Skin?
“It is important to note that improving your skin health will most likely take more than just adding one particular food to your diet,” Nighbert said. “Adding sardines daily would definitely help fill in the blanks for important nutrients you might be lacking. But to see the best results, you really have to look at your diet as a whole. There are many foods that you might be eating frequently that are making your skin unhealthy.”
Nighbert noted that in addition to the usual culprits like sugar, flour and fried and highly processed foods, common food allergens like corn, soy, gluten, dairy and eggs may also affect the appearance of skin.
“Everybody loves a quick fix, and the ‘eating sardines for glass skin’ craze is another example of a simple solution,” Casey said. “Sardines in and of themselves are not the answer to achieving glass skin. There are many other factors to consider.”
In addition to a nutrient-rich diet, healthy skin is dependent on getting enough sleep at night, using sunscreen to protect yourself from ultraviolet rays, drinking enough water, and properly cleansing and moisturizing your skin.
Although sardines may not be the one and only solution to achieving our very best skin, don’t write them off just yet.
“Sardines can be part of a healthy diet that supports glowing skin,” Casey said. “SMASH fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) are high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury, making these fish some of the healthiest options available.”
What If I Can’t Eat Sardines?
With many TikTok accounts showing off just how wonderful sardines and other tinned fish can be, these little oily delights have gotten a well-deserved rebrand in the public eye.
However, despite their myriad benefits and current trendiness, sardines may still be too much for some people to stomach.
“If you just can’t see yourself consuming sardines, consider using other food choices that have a similar nutrient content,” Nighbert said. “Other smaller fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and anchovies are high in omega-3s, vitamin D and B12.”
And although sardines may not be in the cards for vegans and vegetarians, several nonmeat foods can still provide the fats and nutrients that our skin needs to thrive.
“Consider using nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds or hempseeds,” Nighbert said. “Healthy fats like eggs, olive oil and avocados are also very beneficial!”