Most people think of skincare as all the products you use on your face. The antioxidant-rich face washes, vitamin C serums, anti-inflammatory turmeric masks, and coffee scrubs. But what about the nutrients you consume?
It turns out that the foods you eat and the nutrients you absorb can make a huge difference in the texture and quality of your skin. Especially as you age.
Of course, the best way to get all the nutrients you need for healthy skin and anti-aging is through the food you eat. But you may want a little extra support for nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and more.
That’s when some targeted supplementation for skin comes in.
Whether you’re looking for clear skin, glowing skin, or to erase fine lines, skincare supplements offer some powerful support — from the inside-out.
There’s no getting around it, as you age your skin ages with you. While this process is a natural part of aging, there are things you can do to protect your skin to slow down the aging process.
First, it’s important to understand why and how your skin ages.
The main culprits for aging skin include environmental factors, genetic factors, and nutritional factors. Things like sun exposure, inflammation, and poor diet are some of the worst offenders[*].
Too much sunlight, inflammation, and sugar intake produce compounds that affect the integrity of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in your skin.
A healthy ECM prevents wrinkles and promotes youthful elasticity and suppleness. When the ECM is damaged, you experience signs of aging like sagging skin and deepened wrinkles[*].
The key players that mess with your ECM are:
Reactive Oxidation Species (ROS)
Cause: Overexposure to UV rays from the sun and environmental pollution.
Result: Reactive oxygen species (ROS) attack your healthy skin cells and cause cross-linking of the collagen and elastin in your skin ECM. When collagen and elastin cross-link it causes wrinkles, creases, and fine lines[*].
Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs)
Cause: MMPs are enzymes that are activated under inflammatory conditions or when your skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun.
Result: MMPs break down the proteins in your ECM and inhibit new collagen production[*]. No new collagen equals saggy, wrinkly skin.
Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs)
Cause: AGEs are formed when glucose reacts with lipids or proteins in your body. This can happen as a natural part of aging, from eating foods cooked at high temperatures in crappy oils (think: fried chicken and french fries), or from too much sugar in your bloodstream[*].
Result: Too much glucose from sugar and carbs can react with the collagen proteins in your skin. When this reaction takes place, it can cause wrinkles, inflammation, loss of elasticity, and accelerated aging[*].
Now that you know what causes your skin to age, you’re probably wondering how to prevent these compounds from causing damage.
The good news is that mother nature is brimming with nutrients that support skin health from the inside out. From antioxidant compounds to nutrients that calm inflammation — the foods you eat have it all.
Some nutrients can even act as a natural internal sunscreen, shielding your skin from UV damage.
Diet should always be your first line of defense, but sometimes you need a little boost, and that’s where these targeted dietary supplements can come in handy.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your entire body. This vital nutrient protects your organs, holds together bones and muscles, and provides structural support to your joints.
And when it comes to skin health, collagen is one of the most essential nutrients for glowing, healthy skin.
As part of your connective tissue (AKA your extracellular matrix), collagen lives beneath your skin and provides a structural framework for your skin to sit on[*].
Taking a collagen supplement can enhance the elasticity and suppleness of your skin.
In one study, researchers gave a group of women aged 35-55 a collagen supplement or a placebo and then tested the health of their skin. After four weeks, the collagen group noticed more elasticity and moisture than the placebo group[*].
Elasticity is great, but what about wrinkles?
In another study, researchers examined the effect of collagen supplementation on eye wrinkles. Women aged 45-65 were either given collagen or a placebo for eight weeks. After the eight weeks, the women taking the collagen supplement showed a significant decrease in wrinkles.
Most importantly, there was an increase in both collagen and elastin. These two proteins are essential for healthy, young looking skin by providing structural support[*].
If you’re looking for ways to supplement with collagen you can either find it in a capsule form, or more commonly a powder. As a powder, collagen is a fantastic addition to your morning smoothie, a cup of coffee, or you can even mix it into your water.
#2. Krill Oil (Omega-3)
Krill oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are phenomenal for the health of your skin.
These anti-inflammatory fatty acids can protect your entire body against a wide range of inflammatory diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and skin disease like psoriasis can all benefit from omega-3s[*].
In fact, skin inflammation is an underlying issue in eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and all forms of dermatitis. By enhancing the omega-3 content of your diet, you may be able to boost your defenses against these inflammatory skin conditions[*][*].
Inflammation aside, omega-3s can also boost the appearance of your skin on a tissue level. The outermost layer of your skin forms a protective barrier between your body and the outside world.
Keeping this layer of your skin well hydrated is essential for proper function and appearance. Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in the lubrication and hydration of the critical barrier.
In addition to keeping your skin hydrated, omega-3’s assist in the formation and secretion of organelles called lamellar bodies, which protect your skin from bacteria and viruses[*].
What’s more, omega-3s may be able to protect your body from the effects of MMPs — one of the main culprits for skin aging[*].
Selenium plays a couple of roles in the maintenance of your skin health, due to its role in proteins called selenoproteins in your skin cells.
Selenoproteins have antioxidant properties, protecting your skin from ROS, free radicals that wreak havoc on your skin cells[*].
Selenoproteins specifically help protect your skin against sun damage from UVB light. This type of injury often results in sunburn and can also lead to skin cancer[*].
If you’re in the sun regularly, make sure you’re getting enough selenium, either from high-selenium foods like Brazil nuts or from supplementation.
#4. Vitamin C
Your skin contains a high concentration of vitamin C, where it acts as a powerful antioxidant fending off ROS.
In fact, you can find evidence of vitamin C’s role in the health of your skin by looking at symptoms of vitamin C deficiency (also known as scurvy). Although rare in this day and age, vitamin C deficiency causes rough, dry skin and slow wound healing[*].
Vitamin C is particularly helpful in fighting off oxidation caused by UV (sunlight) damage. Interestingly, if you look at the skin tissue of someone with aged or sunlight damaged skin they will usually have a lower concentration of vitamin C[*].
Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production, with collagen accounting for around 75% of your skins ECM[*].
#5. Beta Carotene
As you know by now, sun exposure is one of the worst offenders for skin spots, wrinkles, and decreased elasticity. The ultraviolet light exposure causes damages to the DNA of your skin cells and can result in wrinkles, or worse, skin cancer[*].
Beta-carotene is one of the best natural “sunscreens” that nature provides. It acts as both a precursor to vitamin A and a powerful antioxidant.
When your skin comes into contact with UV rays, beta-carotene comes in to swiftly quench the ROS that want to damage your DNA. It’s even been found to be protective against sunburns[*].
In a placebo-controlled study, researchers assessed whether beta-carotene would be protective against sun damage when paired with sunscreen.
Volunteers were given 30 mg of beta-carotene for 10 weeks and then exposed to UV rays to assess potential sun damage. The group taking beta-carotene experienced less skin redness then the placebo group, confirming the beneficial activity of beta-carotene as a light sunscreen[*].
#6 Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another superstar nutrient when it comes to sun protection. This powerful antioxidant not only fights of ROS, but it’s also anti-inflammatory.
While vitamin C is one of the most abundant water-soluble vitamins found in your skin, vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble vitamin in your skin cells[*].
And why does this matter?
While all antioxidants can help protect your cells against damage, fat-soluble antioxidants are the ones that can protect your cell membranes. And protecting cell membranes is crucial to shielding the contents of the cell.
As mentioned earlier, UV rays like to target the DNA within your cells. Therefore, having an abundance of vitamin E around to fend off potential damage is critical[*].
As an anti-inflammatory agent, vitamin E can also enhance your immune defenses to protect your skin, and may even help heal atopic dermatitis[*].
Zinc protects your skin from both ROS and bacterial toxins, making it an excellent nutrient for wound healing. As part of a larger nutrient complex, zinc helps skin cells replicate, allowing for faster turnover of new cells[*].
Suffering from acne or skin discoloration?
Zinc can help with moderate to severe acne, as well as rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema[*].
Very impressive, but what about anti-aging?
When used in combination with copper, researchers found that zinc can enhance the synthesis of elastin (a protein found in your ECM). This increased production of elastin corresponded with a decreased depth of wrinkles caused by UV damage[*].
Probiotics get a lot of time in the spotlight for their positive effects on gut health. These healthy bacteria act as the perfect defense against harmful bacteria that live in your digestive tract.
As scientists continue to uncover the beneficial activity of probiotics, a new area of research is emerging — probiotics for skin health.
Just like the rest of your body, your skin is prone to attack from different physical and chemical invaders like bacteria and fungus.
Using probiotics either directly on your skin or internally may have a beneficial impact on a variety of skin conditions. To date, research has been done on atopic dermatitis, acne, allergic inflammation, eczema, skin hypersensitivity, UV damage, and wound protection[*][*].
Probiotics have also made a splash in the world of anti-aging. These beneficial bacteria support your skin by balancing pH, alleviating oxidative stress, improving skin barrier function, and reducing the aging effect of sun damage[*].
#9. Green Tea
Green tea is an excellent source of polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in your body.
You can get your polyphenols by brewing up a cup of tea, but if you’re not a big tea drinker, it’s easy to find green tea in supplement form as well.
The antioxidant activity of polyphenols in green tea protects your skin against ROS caused UV rays. But that’s not their only benefit[*].
Remember those MMPs mentioned earlier? They cause damage to your ECM and inhibit collagen production.
In animal studies, polyphenols from green tea were able to inhibit MMPs degradation of ECM and collagen[*]. That’s right, two birds one stone.
#10. Greens Powder
A high-quality greens powder is a fantastic addition to your skin care regimen. Green leafy vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that enhance the health of your skin.
In fact, higher vegetable intake is associated with fewer skin wrinkles[*].
This is due in part to the lutein content of vegetables. Lutein, a phytochemical antioxidant, helps to prevent the breakdown of your ECM which can be caused by MMPs[*].
Eating more leafy greens is also also associated with decreased risk of skin cancer[*].
Along with environmental and nutritional factors, inflammation is at the root of many skin conditions that can cause your skin to age prematurely.
Turmeric, and specifically a bioactive compound in turmeric called curcumin, is well-known for its ability to calm inflammation. Skin conditions ranging from acne to dermatitis, to sun damage, may improve with the use of turmeric[*].
In an animal model, turmeric was found to prevent skin aging due to sun exposure by inhibiting MMPs and enhancing skin elasticity. The mice that were given turmeric experienced less discoloration as well as fewer wrinkles[*].
You can use more turmeric in your cooking or you can take a turmeric supplement — usually in capsule form.
Creating health from the inside out is really your only option if you want the glowing skin of your dreams. That is, until someone finally stumbles across the fountain of youth.
Skincare products and makeup can only get you so far when it comes to vibrant skin and healthy aging. That’s why eating a balanced diet that’s low in sugar and is so essential.
But if you want to really boost your skin routine, make sure you’re targeting inflammation, oxidation, and sun damage. You don’t have to take every supplement outlined in this article.
Instead, pick one or two that sound like a good match for your needs.
You can even cycle through different supplements until you find the perfect combination for you.