An average adult has two square meters of skin covering their body. Not only is it the largest neuroendocrine organ in the body, it’s also the largest detoxification organ.
The appearance of the skin mirrors physical and emotional health due to the gut-brain-skin connection. As with other areas of the body, oxidative stress and free radicals can cause premature aging. Dermatologically speaking, UV radiation is normally the most cited health concern. However, replenishing nutrient reserves and optimizing detoxification pathways also significantly improve skin health. In this article we explore nine other nutrients that help form glowing skin.
Made up of three amino acids, glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and protects the immune system from damage. Recently, the controversial use of glutathione for treatment of hyperpigmentation has become popularized. Due to its detoxifying effects, glutathione fights off free radicals allowing mitochondria to produce energy efficiently. Glutathione also works in conjunction with α-tocopherol and vitamin C, which are also great for the skin.
Thorough clinical studies have been carried out using Visioscan® to measure the effects of glutathione on wrinkles, Cutometer MPA580® to measure elasticity and Transepidermal water loss (TEWL)TEWL was measured using Tewameter®. Glutathione was proven to create positive dermatological anti-aging properties.
Glutathione-rich foods include: garlic, onions, asparagus, avocados, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, parsley and watercress.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) promote the formation of healthy skin. In patients with skin with itchy red patches, both topical and oral omega-3 supplementation has been shown to produce positive effects. Conversely, a deficiency of omega-3s can cause dry skin.
Omega-3 rich foods include: algae, flax seeds, mackerel, herring and salmon.
Vitamin E / α-Tocopherol
Studies show that dietary α-tocopherol (vitamin E) can acts as a photoprotectant , warding off UVB-induced sunburn. Vitamin E is a fat–soluble vitamin that has been used for 50 years in dermatology. Vitamin E works particularly well with the aid of other antioxidants such as Vitamin C to provide protection against UV rays. There is also some evidence that a combination of Vitamin E and C can offer protective effects for skin.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are amino-monosaccharides that have been proven to improve hydration of the skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and accelerate the healing of wounds. They also aid the formation of collagen and may help provide comfort in patients with joint soreness or stiffness.
The efficacy of biotin supplementation is debated by some groups despite it being recommended by many dermatologists. Both zinc and biotin deficiency are linked to skin abormalities. For this reason, biotin is important to add to the list of skin nutrients. Metabolic insufficiency, poor nutrient absorption and candida also play a part in biotin deficiency.
Biotin can be found in foods such as: eggs, nuts and wholegrains.
Niacinamide and nicotinic acid (niacin) can be used to support the skin. Also known as vitamin B3, niacin has many beneficial effects on the skin, including anti-aging, moisturising, smoothing of wrinkles and as support for those with acne. Niacin's uses in dermatology stem from its important role as a coenzyme in hydrogen transfer.
Niacin-rich foods include: mushrooms, potatoes, legumes, whole grains, meat, fish, eggs and milk.
Vitamin A can be synthesised from beta-carotene and, therefore, is plentiful in a plant-based diet. Vitamin A plays an important role in the formation and repair of epithelia. Deficiencies can lead to malabsorption and other skin conditions.
Foods to eat to boost vitamin A include: offal, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C/ L-ascorbic acid
The loss of interstitial collagen is an established key marker to skin aging. To boost healthy collagen production, we must consume adequate amounts of L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Similar to omega-3 deficiency, symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include dry skin. Most famously vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and has several beneficial effects on the immune system and skin health. Vitamin C can help support healthy pigmentation of the skin. However, it is important to note that vitamin C is unstable and when exposed to light it becomes oxidized, turning yellow and becoming dehydroascorbic Acid (DHAA). To keep vitamin C stable, it should be stored in the dark and the PH should be kept at 3.5.
Vitimin C is found in foods such as: oranges, strawberries, broccoli and potatoes.
Zinc repletion has been shown to support the health of skin. Keeping zinc reserves high will offer great support to overall skin health. An important micronutrient, zinc has many dermatological applications both topically and orally. It both protects against sun damage and supports overall healthy inflammatory pathways, maximizing skin health.
Foods that are rich in Zinc include: pumpkin seeds, meat, shellfish, dairy products and wheat germ.
In addition to specific nutrient repletion, reducing sugar intake has also been shown to play an important role in skin health. Cutting back consumption of processed foods and focusing on gut health will increase nutrient absorption and improve overall skin health.