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We’ve all heard the saying that ‘good skin comes from within’, and there is certainly some truth in that! The skin is like a window to your inner world, and if it’s looking dull and lacklustre, showing tell-tale signs of ageing or you’re suffering from problematic skin, it could be that you need to keep a closer eye on your nutrient intake, and to consider some of the best supplements for skin health.

Do I need to take skin supplements?

The skin is the largest organ in the human body (around 20 square feet!) and has a huge physiological need for nutrition and nourishment. It exists in a state of constant renewal and repair, turning over every four to six weeks, and the truth is that if you want healthy skin you need to feed it well and protect it from the inside out.

There are many things we can do to help improve our skin quality: consuming a balanced diet, keeping well-hydrated and getting plenty of sleep are at the top of the list for most skin experts. And there are plenty more things you can do besides, such as exercising, cutting out smoking, protecting yourself from the sun, and avoiding harsh skin treatments. There’s no doubt though that consuming a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for a radiant complexion, and as we can’t always rely on healthy eating alone, it can be beneficial to support our skin health with a high-quality supplement.

What are the common causes of bad skin?

The skin is continuously exposed to internal and external influences that affect how it functions, looks and feels. Genetic characteristics may determine your skin type and the biological ageing of your skin, but beyond that your skin condition and appearance will depend largely on a delicate interplay of internal and external factors. Common causes of bad skin may include the following:

Internal influences

• Poor micronutrient intake
• Poor gut health/leaky gut
• Imbalanced microbiome
• Lack of hydration
• Low fatty acid intake
• Hormone imbalances – triggered by pregnancy, pubity, menopause etc
• High sugar diet
• Food intolerances/allergies
• Certain medical conditions

External influences

• Excessive sun exposure
• Smoking
• Exposure to chemicals – eg skincare, make up, detergents
• Inadequate movement & exercise
• Certain medications
• Stress
• Lack of sleep
• Extreme temperatures

What are the signs of poor skin health?

When skin is unhealthy, it will provide warning signs to let you know that something is up. The top signs of poor skin health include:

1. Premature ageing
2. Dark circles
3. Dull complexion
4. Blemishes
5. Dark spots
6. Itchy skin

How can I improve my skin quality?

Skin quality can be improved in a number of ways. Protecting yourself from the sun, avoiding habits like smoking and treating your skin gently can all help to improve the quality of your skin. Additionally, managing stress and eating a healthy, balanced diet will ensure that your skin is as healthy as can be.

What supplements are good for skin?

Because the factors influencing skin health are so many and varied (see above!), there are a number of different supplements which may help to improve your skin health. Here we take a look at what supplements are good for skin, what the science says, and why they’re important to consider for your diet and supplement regime if you want your skin to look radiant and healthy.

Collagen

Collagen is a crucial structural component of skin. It’s a tough, special type of connective tissue, made of bundles of protein fibre, and is a bit like the “glue” that holds skin together. Collagen accounts for 30% of your body’s protein and is responsible for providing structure and strength to your skin. Collagen can be obtained from animal products such as gelatin and bone broth in the diet, but may be more bioavailable in supplement form. A number of studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may improve skin hydration and elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.1,2

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, so is important to maintain an optimal daily intake, especially as you get older. Whilst collagen provides strength and rigidity, elastin is what gives skin its elasticity – the ability to stretch and then return back to shape. A deficiency in vitamin C can weaken elastin fibres so it’s crucial to include plenty of this essential nutrient in your diet to support youthful skin with high elasticity. Vitamin C also helps to fight against oxidative stress and protects the skin from damage.3

Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fats play an important role in the structure and function of the skin, being incorporated into cell membranes in the uppermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, forming a protective web to help prevent moisture being lost and helping to keep skin looking plump and hydrated. They also provide important anti-inflammatory effects in the deeper layers of the skin, the dermis.4

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that help protect and repair skin damage caused by free radicals, and help to prevent wrinkles and inflammation. These include nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium, as well as natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are rich in bioactive compounds, including vitamins C and E, beta carotene, polyphenols, and phenolic acids which can contribute to oxidant defence, lower inflammation, and promote structural support of the skin.5

Zinc

Zinc plays a crucial role in skin health, being essential for protein synthesis, wound healing and for its antioxidant properties. Even mild deficiencies in zinc can impair collagen production, fatty acid metabolism and wound healing. Because of its abundance in the epidermis, mild zinc deficiency rapidly leads to roughened skin and impaired wound healing.6 Low zinc has also been linked to increased incidence of acne, which has been improved with zinc supplementation.7

Vitamin A (retinol)

Vitamin A (retinol) is a fat-soluble micronutrient necessary for the growth of healthy skin and hair. It encourages the growth of new skin cells and can also help to regulate the amount of keratin build up. Low levels of vitamin A can negatively impact sebum production and some of the earliest signs of deficiency include dry skin, dry hair and broken fingernails. In fact, retinol (the form of vitamin A found in animal foods) is commonly included in topical treatments for various skin conditions, including eczema and acne.

Probiotics

A key factor often overlooked is the importance of good gut health for skin health. Factors such as digestive insufficiency, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, gut infections and imbalanced gut flora can all show up in the skin. It is now well accepted and widely studied that altered gut microflora plays an important role in a wide variety of skin disorders from atopic dermatitis to rosacea, psoriasis, acne vulgaris, and even everyday dandruff, and studies continue into the role that probiotics might play in supporting skin health.8

Quick guide to skin supplements

What are the best supplements for glowing skin?

• Antioxidants
• Omega-3 fats

What are the best supplements for dry skin?

• Vitamin A
• Omega-3 fats
• Zinc

What supplements are good for ageing skin?

• Collagen
• Omega-3 fats
• Antioxidants

References:
1. Bolke L, Schlippe G et al. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Blind Study. Nutrients 2019 Oct; 11 (10): 2494.
2. Choi FD, Sung CT net al. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9-16
3. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 12;9(8):866
4. Sawada Y, Saito-Sasaki N, Nakamura M. Omega 3 Fatty Acid and Skin Diseases. Front Immunol. 2021 Feb 5;11:623052
5. Fam VW, Charoenwoodhipong P, Sivamani RK, Holt RR, Keen CL, Hackman RM. Plant-Based Foods for Skin Health: A Narrative Review. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022 Mar;122(3):614-629
6. Lansdown, A.B.; Mirastschijski, U.; Stubbs, N.; Scanlon, E.; Agren, M.S. Zinc in wound healing: Theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects. Wound Repair Regen. 2007, 15, 2–16.
7. Gupta M, Mahajan VK, Mehta KS, Chauhan PS. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014; 2014:709152.
8. Gao T, Wang X, Li Y, Ren F. The Role of Probiotics in Skin Health and Related Gut-Skin Axis: A Review. Nutrients. 2023 Jul 13; 15(14):3123

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