The American Academy of Dermatology has designated November as National Healthy Skin Month. What better way to celebrate this health observance than by learning more about what nutrients to take to support healthy-looking skin?
Like other organs in the body, the health of the skin is dependent on optimal “care and feeding”. So, it makes sense that how well we take care of ourselves on the inside will ultimately have an impact on our outward appearance.
Improvement in appearance, with healthy and youthful-looking hair, skin and nails, is one of the greatest payoffs from adopting a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and unsaturated fats.
Nutritional supplements also play a role in healthy-looking skin by covering gaps in the diet. Certain vitamins & minerals support skin health; antioxidants fight free-radical damage; and essential fatty acids (EFAs) lubricate the skin from within.
Vitamins & Minerals Support Skin Health
As we age, our bodies produce less collagen and elastin. These proteins are associated with healthy, youthful-looking skin so maintaining their production is an integral part of an age management program.
Many of the essential micronutrients that help support the development of collagen and elastin are commonly found in fruits and vegetables. In fact, these foods are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. However, most of us do not consume the USDA recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
A high-quality multi-nutrient formula like our Multi-Vitamin & Mineral and Anti-Aging Formula provides you with all of the essential vitamins and minerals to enhance health, wellness and great-looking skin. Key skin nutrients often formulated in a multi-vitamin & mineral, include carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E and the B-complex.
Carotenoids are most well known for their vitamin A activity, with beta-carotene being the most widely recognized. Carotenoids like beta-carotene only convert into vitamin A (retinol) as the body requires it, preventing vitamin A toxicity. Healthy skin relies on vitamin A to maintain and repair skin tissue.
VitaMedica uses Betatene®, a natural, mixed carotenoid blend that includes beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein. Betatene is derived from D. salina algae and is grown on the world’s largest cultivated algae farm, located in Whyalla, Australia. Research has shown that using a blend of antioxidants provides better antioxidant protection than just a singular antioxidant.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for tissue growth and repair. It also plays a primary role in the formation of collagen. Most multi-nutrient supplements contain 100% of the daily value for vitamin C. But, did you know this is only 60 mg? A more reasonable dose is 300-500 mg per day, taken in divided doses to maximize nutrient absorption. VitaMedica’s Multi-Vitamin & Mineral provides 150 mg in the morning and 150 mg in the evening of ascorbic acid.
Vitamin E refers to two a family of eight compounds – four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, prevents the oxidation of fats, enhances UV blockers in sunscreen and is a natural moisturizer. Many nutritional supplements use just one form of vitamin E (typical alpha-tocopherol). The synthetic form (denoted with an “L” as in dL-alpha-tocopherol as opposed to the natural which is “d-alpha-tocopherol”) is often used because it is less expensive than the natural counterpart. However, studies have demonstrated better availability and absorption with natural vitamin E.
The B-Complex or the “stress fighting” family of water-soluble vitamins helps to maintain the health of nerves, skin, eyes, hair liver and mouth. Two of the b-complex, biotin and pantothenic acid, are essential for smooth skin and lustrous, shiny hair.
Antioxidants Fight Free-Radical Damage
While multiple theories exist, studies have indicated that the primary cause of aging is related to free-radical production. Free-radical production can cause deterioration of the skin’s support structures, decreasing elasticity and resilience, adding to the appearance of aging. Free-radicals can also activate the metalloproteinase enzyme, which breaks down collagen.
Although our bodies and skin have multiple innate mechanisms to defend against free-radical damage, this process becomes less efficient as we age. Antioxidants are believed to slow down the aging process by reducing the body’s oxidative load. In other words, antioxidants slow down the “internal rusting” of our bodies as we age. For this reason, antioxidants are a key component to any age management program.
A number of well-designed studies have documented the benefit of oral ingestion of antioxidants to the skin. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that vitamins C and E taken internally, combined with the use of sunscreen, provided better protection from both UVA and UVB rays than sunscreen alone.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the combination of carotenoids plus vitamin E helped protect the skin from erythema (abnormal redness of the skin resulting from dilation of blood vessels as in sunburn or inflammation) after exposure to ultraviolet light.
Some key antioxidants to consider adding to your daily supplement regimen include the following:
Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a powerful antioxidant that is hundreds of times more potent that either vitamin C or E. Alpha-lipoic acid helps neutralize skin cell damage caused by free-radicals, much like vitamins C and E. Alpha-lipoic is a versatile antioxidant in that it works in both fat-soluble and water-soluble environments.
Grape Seed Extract is a powerful antioxidant with excellent bioavailability that strengthens collagen. Grape seed helps to cross link collagen fibers, preventing collagen destruction.
Green Tea Extract contains protective compounds called polyphenols that have antioxidant activity and work as chemopreventive agents. The main polyphenol associated with chemopreventive benefits is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). In experimental studies with human skin, green tea polyphenols demonstrated anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract is a powerful antioxidant herb known for increasing circulation and that has anti-aging properties.
Lutein is a type of carotenoid that is found in dark green, leafy vegetables including spinach and kale. Within the skin, lutein appears to be deposited in the epidermis and dermis. An emerging area of research is lutein’s role in skin health. Lutein protects the skin by absorbing blue-light and quenching free-radicals that may be produced in the skin after exposure to the light.
Milk Thistle is a powerful antioxidant that contains potent liver protecting substances. The active compound silymarin also stimulates the production of new liver cells.
Pycnogenol® is extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Pycnogenol possesses a broad spectrum of biological, pharmacological and therapeutic activities against free-radicals and oxidative stress.
Selenium is a trace mineral that inhibits the oxidation of fats and protects vitamin E. Selenium is incorporated into glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that has peroxidase activity and protects our bodies from oxidative damage.
VitaMedica’s Anti-Aging Formula includes a broad spectrum antioxidant that provides a number of phytonutrients to provide a wide range of protection against multiple types of free-radicals.
Essential Fatty Acids Lubricate the Skin
With aging, we often notice that our skin is dryer due to a combination of factors including less oil production and less hydration. Supplementing with an essential fatty acid (EFA) supplement can help to lubricate the skin internally.
Our bodies require a number of essential nutrients to promote and maintain health. Although some dietary fats are considered harmful, two special types of fat are necessary for good health and youthful skin. These two fats (or fatty acids) must be obtained either through diet or supplementation, hence their name essential fatty acids, or EFAs. Both EFAs are polyunsaturated fats with one member, alpha-linolenic acid, belonging to the Omega-3 family and the other, linoleic acid, belonging to the Omega-6 family.
EFAs perform a number of vital functions in the body, but are particularly important at the cellular level because they are a fundamental component of the membranes of all cells. An adequate supply of EFAs in the diet is also essential for healthy-looking skin because skin cells turn over very rapidly.
In a study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found better skin-aging appearance among middle-aged women was associated with higher intakes of vitamin C and linolenic acid. These women had a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, senile dryness (dryness associated with aging) and skin atrophy (thinning skin).
An excellent source of EFAs is flax seed oil, the world’s richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids. VitaMedica’s Flax Seed Oil softgels are expeller-pressed for their oil at low temperatures without exposure to damaging light, oxygen and reactive metals. The one-gram softgel capsule contains a natural carob coating to protect the oil from oxidation and sunlight.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.