Regardless of age or gender, we all want smooth, healthy-looking skin and that begins with good skin nutrition. No cosmetics or serums that we apply to the surface of our skin can make up for what we are (or are not) eating. Making certain that your diet contains effective amounts of the following nutrients is the best way to ensure healthy, beautiful skin, at every age.
6 Best Skin Care Nutrients
In no particular order…
All of these nutrients are antioxidants. This is important to understand, because antioxidants keep skin healthy and youthful-looking by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals damage and age skin by oxidizing cells, in much the same way that water and air will rust unvarnished iron. But the prevention of cellular oxidation is not the only reason the aforementioned nutrients are so very important to good skin health. I’ll explain one nutrient at a time.
Vitamin E is considered photoprotective, meaning it can protect against UV-damage. However, vitamin E can only absorb light in the lower wavelengths of the UVB spectrum; it cannot cannot absorb any UVA light or higher wavelengths of the UVB spectrum. Also, vitamin E supplements alone will not protect the skin from UV radiation, but studies have demonstrated that topical applications of vitamin E will. So, while vitamin E is not a true sunscreen, it can protect skin from photo damage – skin wrinkling.
Vitamin E also acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body and helps wounds heal faster. Studies have even shown that a vitamin E deficiency can lead to skin lesions in lab animals, but the researchers were unable to determine exactly why. Vitamin E is so important to our skin’s health, our body secretes the nutrient for topical protection.
“Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant found in the skin. It is secreted on the skin surface through the sebum, an oily substance that coats the outer layer of the skin. This secretion happens roughly 7 days after consumption of vitamin E-rich foods, and is an important protective factor on the skin’s surface. Our bodies store vitamin E in our fat cells, and we depend on adequate dietary intake to keep these levels optimum.”
Vitamin E Rich-Foods
Vitamin C is extremely is important to youthful-looking skin. Our bodies cannot manufacture and maintain collagen without vitamin C. And collagen is needed to maintain the elasticity and fullness of skin. Like vitamin E, vitamin C protects against photo damage and our bodies also provide dietary vitamin C to the dermis and epidermis. When combined with vitamin E, internally and externally, vitamin C has been proven to protect against UV radiation.
“In contrast to oral supplementation with α-tocopherol alone, multiple studies have found that the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E protects the skin against UV damage. Human subjects orally co-supplemented with vitamins C and E show increased Minimal Erythemal Dose (MED), a measure of photoprotection from UV light in skin. The combination of the two vitamins was associated with lower amounts of DNA damage after UV exposure.”
Studies have shown that high intakes of dietary vitamin C can protect against dry skin. This is important, because dry skin doesn’t age as well as oily and normal skin types. Vitamin C is also crucial for wound healing. One of the symptoms of the disease Scurvy – which is caused by vitamin C deficiency – is poor wound healing. This is why vitamin C is used therapeutically to treat external wounds.
“Vitamin C is included in oral therapies for pressure ulcers (bed sores) and burns, along with vitamin E, zinc, and other nutritive factors.”
Vitamin C Rich-Foods
Vitamin A / Beta Carotene
Vitamin A, also known as beta carotene and retinol, is a widely acclaimed skin nutrient used by dermatologists to treat chronic acne and psoriasis. The main reason vitamin A is so useful for treating those conditions is its ability to improve the rate of skin cell turnover.
Skin cell turnover is the process by which the skin produces new cells and sheds old cells. This prevents dead skin cells from building up and causing severe forms of acne and psoriasis.
“Vitamin A influences the physiology of the skin by promoting epidermal differentiation, modulating dermal growth factors, inhibiting sebaceous gland activity, and suppressing androgen formation. As it promotes cell turnover in the skin, vitamin A is effective in preventing the formation of comedones that cause the most common forms of acne.
Lack of vitamin A causes the skin to become keratinized and scaly, and mucus secretion is suppressed. Rough, dry skin is a common sign of vitamin A deficiency, which often first appears as rough, raised bumps on the back of the arms. This condition is called hyperkeratosis pillaris, and is found in approximately 40% of adults. Though dermatologists believe this is an inherited condition with no cure, I have successfully treated this condition in several patients by significantly increasing their consumption of vitamin A rich foods. While physicians prescribe synthetic retinoids to treat skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, sunburn, and ichthyosis, it is possible to obtain similar effects from consuming natural sources of pre-formed vitamin A.”
Vitamin A / Beta Carotene Rich-Foods
Coenzyme Q10 / Ubiquinol
One of the attributes that make Coenzyme Q10 so important for good skin nutrition is its ability to increase the absorption of other essential nutrients. CoQ10 also encourages the body to recycle vitamins C and E, boosting the nutritional value of those two nutrients. This may also be why supplementing with CoQ10 reduces the breakdown of collagen as you age.
“Although the body has the ability to make some CoQ10 on its own, production naturally declines as we age — just when we need our cells to help defend us most. This means we can all benefit from consuming more CoQ10, both naturally within from our diets, and also from high-quality supplements.”
Topical application of CoQ10 has also been shown to protect against UV radiation damage and slow the aging of skin.
“Applying Coenzyme Q10 prior to going out in the sun may protect your skin from sun damage. Unlike sunscreens, antioxidant ointments like Q10 build up in the skin and may be longer lasting, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. A study published in 1999 in the journal Biofactors indicates that Q10 has the ability to prevent many of the detrimental effects of photoaging. Photoaging is the term used to describe skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Signs of photoaging may include skin roughness, blotchiness and fine wrinkles. U. Hoppe of the Paul Gerson Unna Research Center (Beiersdorf AG) in Hamburg, Germany, headed up the study.”
Coenzyme Q10 Foods
Coenzyme Q10 is the one nutrient on my list that you should definitely consider supplementing. There are many foods that contain the nutrient, but in very small quantities.
Selenium has many of the same skin benefits as vitamin E and together they safeguard cell membranes. Cell membranes are the protective coating around all cells. Selenium helps to slow the signs of aging, by protecting the cell membrane.
“…research has shown that [selenium is] a triple treat, protecting against UV-induced cell damage, skin inflammation and pigmentation. Recent studies continue to emphasize the importance of selenium and other antioxidants on skin health and reducing the risk of skin cancer. “It helps skin fight infection. Your immune system relies on selenium to function well. In fact, it’s selenium, along with other minerals, that bolsters your body’s army of white blood cells and strengthens your response to infections – including those on the skin – since skin is your body’s first line of defense.”
Zinc is imperative to many physiological functions in the body, including regulating gene expression, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, cell division, and (like most of the other nutrients on my list) wound healing and protection from UV radiation.
“In skin, zinc assists in the proper structure of proteins and cell membranes, improves wound healing, has anti-inflammatory effects, and protects against UV radiation. Several studies indicate that dietary zinc may reduce acne, even as effectively as antibiotics such as tetracyclines. This may be because it interacts with vitamin A as a component of retinol-binding protein, which is necessary for transporting vitamin A in the blood. Zinc supplementation has been shown to significantly increase the level of vitamin A in the blood, indicating an interaction between the two nutrients that may explain its positive effect on acne.”
If you are consuming a diet composed mostly of whole foods, particularly plant foods, you are more than likely getting sufficient amounts of most the skin nutrients I listed above. If not, it’s never too late to change your menu and boost the health and beauty of your skin, regardless of your age.
If you have any questions about the content of this post feel free to contact me directly at [email protected].