Healthier, younger-looking skin that ages gracefully…who doesn’t want that??
Lotions, cosmetics, and even surgery are some of the most common treatments we use to keep our skin looking healthy, but nutrition plays a very important role in maintaining healthy skin. Our skin is our largest organ and supports health in many ways, including water retention, temperature regulation, sensory input, and protection from the sun’s radiation.
There are many nutrients, both micronutrients (e.g., vitamins) and macronutrients (e.g., proteins and carbohydrates), that contribute to skin health.1 Let’s explore some of the most common nutrients, their roles in skin health, and their availability in common foods.
Collagen is a protein t found widely in nature. It forms the basic structure for many of the body’s connective tissues, and it is a major component in the skin. Due to its prominence in the skin, many supplements incorporate collagen from various sources to enhance the quality of skin.
Scientists have studied the effects of collagen on skin hydration and appearance. People taking collagen supplements had skin that was noticeably more hydrated and less rough with fewer visible wrinkles compared to the quality of their skin before they began supplementing.2
For a list of the top foods containing collagen, click here!
Ceramides are a group of fatty substances called lipids that form the outer layer of a cell.
Lipids form a membrane that helps to protect the interior of the cell and prevent unwanted substances and pathogens from entering.
As you might have guessed, ceramides are an important component of the skin, like collagen. In addition to creating a strong barrier against unwanted intruders, ceramides also have antimicrobial properties that prevent bacterial infection.3 Taking ceramide supplements has been shown to improve skin elasticity and reduce the presence of dry skin.4
β-Carotene is a micronutrient found in many vegetables, such as carrots, and contributes to many important body functions, including skin health.
One of the most important features of β-Carotene is its antioxidant properties, which reduce oxidative stress and eliminate free radicals. This is crucial for skin health because our skin is constantly bombarded with potential stressors, including harmful UV rays from sunlight.
β-Carotene can help reduce damage from UV rays, protecting the skin from cancer as well as slowing the normal aging process.5
Astaxanthin is a micronutrient very similar to β-Carotene.
Remarkable for its pigment, it is responsible for coloring the feathers of flamingos and the flesh of salmon. It can also be found in other fish, algae, and some vegetables.
Astaxanthin has many benefits as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Like β-Carotene, astaxanthin can reduce the effects and appearance of aging in the skin. It has been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, increase skin moisture, and increase the elasticity of the skin when taken as a nutritional supplement.6
5. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 is a substance similar to vitamin E; however, the human body is capable of synthesizing coenzyme Q10 on its own, so it isn’t technically a vitamin.
Coenzyme Q10 is widely available in many animal products (such as meat, eggs, dairy, etc.) and some plant-based foods, including some grains.
Like some of the other nutrients we’ve discussed, coenzyme Q10 has powerful antioxidant properties. In addition, it can promote an increase in production of vitamin E7 and collagen,8 further enhancing its positive benefits to the skin.
Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral that we need in very small quantities for many biological functions. It is found in many foods, including meat and seafood, whole grains, and dairy products.
Zinc is found in high concentrations in the skin and is involved in repairing and maintaining the skin’s function as a barrier,9 and it is also important for healing wounds. Finally, zinc has been shown to reduce damage from UV rays and is a component of many sunscreens.
To learn more about zinc and it’s roles in the body, click here!
Selenium is another mineral that we need only in small quantities.
Like zinc, it is found in meat, seafood, and grains. Eggs and poultry also have a high concentration of selenium. Selenium is important for skin health because it acts as an antioxidant. It has been shown to help prevent damage from UV rays and protect against skin cancer like some of the other antioxidants we examined.10
Humans have a very low tolerance for increases or decreases in selenium intake; that is, a small deficiency or excess can have noticeable effects on the body. If taking selenium as a supplement, it’s especially important to ensure you don’t take too much as this can actually damage the skin.11
- Vollmer DL, West VA, Lephart ED. Enhancing skin health: By oral administration of natural compounds and minerals with implications to the dermal microbiome. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(10):3059. DOI: 10.3390/ijms19103059.
- Matsumoto H, Ohara H, Itoh K, Nakamura Y, Takahashi S. Clinical effect of fish type I collagen hydrolysate on skin properties. ITE Lett. 2006;7: 386–390.
- Uchida Y, Kim YI, Park K. Signaling roles of ceramides and its metabolites in cutaneous antimicrobial defense. Dermatol Sin. 2015;33:78–83. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsi.2015.04.004.
- Kawamura J, Kotoura S, Okuyama T, et al. Effect of oral administration of defatted chicken skin powder on day skin in humans. J Japanese Soc Food Sci Tech. 2013;60(5):218–224. DOI: 10.3136/nskkk.60.218.
- Fiedor J, Burda K. Potential role of carotenoids as antioxidants in human health and disease. Nutrients. 2014;6(2):466–488. DOI: 10.3390/nu6020466.
- Yamashita E. The effects of a dietary supplement containing astaxanthin on skin condition. Carotenoid Sci. 2006;10:91–95.
- Hargreaves IP. Coenzyme Q10 as a therapy for mitochondrial disease. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2014;49:105–111. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocel.2014.01.020.
- Muta-Takada K, Terada T, Yamanishi H. Coenzyme Q10 protects against oxidative stress induced cell death and enhances the synthesis of basement membrane components in dermal and epidermal cells. 2009;35(5):435–441. DOI: 10.1002/biof.56.
- Prasad AS. Zinc: An overview. Nutrition. 1995;11(1):93–99.
- McKenzie RC. Selenium, ultraviolet radiation and the skin. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2000;25(8):631–636. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2000.00725.x.
- Agarwal P, Sharma S, Agarwal US. Selenium toxicity: A rare diagnosis. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2016;82(6):690–693. DOI: 10.4103/0378-6323.186476.