Does your skin care routine involve slathering your skin with oils and creams? If so, that’s not a bad idea. But have you thought about what you can do to really create sustainable, healthy habits that benefit your skin from the inside out?
There’s nothing better than getting a good glow. And there are plenty of products that can help you attain that glow (and get rid of those fine lines and wrinkles, too!). But to give those products the best chance at working, you have to be sure you’re feeding your skin the nourishment it needs to thrive.
According to Whitney Bowe, MD, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Looking Radiant From the Inside Out, supplementation goes a really long way in keeping you looking great for the long haul.
That’s right—turning to nutrients, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and water (never forget good old H20!) is the smartest way you can give your skin the love it needs.
In a perfect world, you would be chugging eight glasses of water a day and eating only the best, most skin-friendly foods. But this isn’t a perfect world; you get busy. You eat greasy foods from time to time. You get dehydrated sometimes.
A Note on Aging and Eating Well
First things first: if you care about the health of your skin, you do need to clean up your diet and start drinking more water. That’s absolutely true. So if you think creams and supplements alone will do the trick, you’re wrong.
In addition to eating well, you’ll do well to supplement with the kinds of vitamins and nutrients your skin (and body) craves. But remember—supplements can fill in gaps in diet, but they can’t replace smart lifestyle habits!
What you eat serves your entire body—not just your physical health, but your mental health too once the nutrients cross the blood-brain barrier. A healthy gut means a healthy body (and can also mean great skin!).
According to a 2018 study, there is a definite connection between premature aging and diet: “Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in added sugar, sodium and processed meats could help promote healthy cellular aging in women.” Avoid refined sugars, bleached breads, and other junk drawer snacks.
Supplements That Promote Skin Health
This is one of the skin care world’s most beloved vitamins. It is an antioxidant that prevents free radicals from doing mega damage to the skin. (Free radicals lead to oxidation, which can age the skin and harm it in other ways).
According to a study published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine, “Vitamin E is the major naturally occurring lipid-soluble non-enzymatic antioxidant protecting skin from the adverse effects of oxidative stress including photo aging.” Vitamin E can be obtained from nuts, spinach, whole grains, olive oil, and sunflower oil. However, if you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may need to supplement with vitamin E because UV rays can deplete levels.
Vitamin E is often recommended for burned or acne-scarred skin—although much of the evidence for this is anecdotal.
Vitamin C isn’t just for keeping colds at bay. It can also keep you looking young and supple. A 2017 study states, “As one of the most powerful antioxidants in the skin, vitamin C has been shown to protect against photo aging, ultraviolet-induced immunosuppression, and photocarcinogenesis. It also has an anti aging effect by increasing collagen synthesis, stabilizing collagen fibers, and decreasing collagen degradation. It decreases melanin formation, thereby reducing pigmentation. Vitamin C is the primary replenisher of vitamin E and works synergistically with vitamin E in the protection against oxidative damage.”
Vitamin C can also promote fibroblast proliferation, which is a fancy way of saying it helps support collagen production. Collagen is what provides structure to your skin to be and stay healthy. You can also consume vitamin-C-rich foods, like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red peppers, tomatoes, and fresh, whole oranges.
According to a 2014 study published in Experimental Gerontology, “Skin aging is associated with such hallmarks as thinning of the epidermis, elastosis, loss of melanocytes associated with an increased paleness and lucency of the skin and a decreased barrier function. As the differentiation of keratinocytes is strictly calcium dependent, calcium also plays an important role in the aging epidermis.”
Keratinocytes are epidermal cells that produce keratin, which is a protein that makes up your hair, skin, and nails. It can also promote the growth of new, healthy skin. Since calcium is an important part of this process, making sure you get enough calcium from foods like almonds, kale, cheese, and yogurt—or from a supplement if necessary—is important to the health of your skin.
Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin. It can help in the fight against free radicals, it can reduce inflammation, and it can even help fight against acne breakouts, psoriasis, and some forms of skin cancer. You can get it in limited quantities from salmon, mushrooms, eggs, and almond milk, but mostly, it’s produced in the skin when you are out in the sun. (That doesn’t mean you should be toasting your skin, though!). It can be difficult to get enough vitamin D, and many people benefit from a vitamin D supplement.
You probably hear a lot about retinol—a topical vitamin A treatment that is used in skin health and anti-aging therapies. And that’s because it works. According to a study published in Archives of Dermatology, “Topical retinol improves fine wrinkles associated with natural aging. With greater skin matrix synthesis, retinol-treated aged skin is more likely to withstand skin injury and ulcer formation along with improved appearance.”
Another magical skin-loving ingredient, collagen is an abundant protein in the body—and the body needs it! Regularly taking a hydrolyzed collagen supplement can increase skin hydration and smoothness, support skin elasticity, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and restore suppleness to your skin.
You should also be looking to add zinc, selenium, and copper to your diet. These minerals can help reduce inflammation and free radical damage and produce collage and elastin, among other benefits.
Beyond supplementing, make sure you’re caring for your skin by maintaining other healthy habits like stress management, eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly. And if you’re having skin problems despite taking good care of yourself, there may also be a hormone imbalance at work. Whatever the cause, the physicians within the BodyLogicMD network can help you find the source of the issue and work with you to restore the health of your skin and your body from the inside out.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.