4 Vitamins for Healthy Skin Support & Other Tips to Get That Glowby Corrie Ulbricht-Shatto, Carroll Reider
Many healthy skin products focus on the external. It makes sense. Dry skin? Moisturize it. Acne out of control? Here’s a cute sticker to help it heal. But healthy skin starts long before we see the need for better masks, cleansers, and rollers. How we treat our bodies on the inside affects how we look on the outside too. Nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E all play key roles in supporting healthy skin. Thinking about the benefits of skin vitamins such as these can shed some light on the nutrients your body needs to support your skin health—inside and out.
DO SKIN VITAMINS WORK?
Your skin is a barrier. It’s designed to keep things out of your body, and your nutritional status plays a big role in how well the skin does that.1 The nutrients we consume from our diets work together to help maintain the health of that barrier as it wards off the everyday stressors of life like UV rays, smoke, air pollution, and more.1 Any changes in our diet that affect the skin structure can directly impact the way our skin functions and looks.1 So, yes naturally available vitamins that already support healthy skin “work” because supporting healthy skin is what they do.
Your skin’s got layers. Lots of them. But the two main ones are the epidermis and dermis, both of which have proteins and receptors with strong ties to vitamin A.2 Vitamin A plays a role in many healthy skin functions and is key when it comes to supporting your overall health, including the health of your skin.3
If you feel like chomping down on some vitamin A, here are some places where you can find it food:4
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
Vitamin C can amp up your antioxidant intake
Skin health may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Vitamin C,” but this vitamin has got a lot of antioxidant power up its sleeve. As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps calm down the pesky free radicals generated when our skin is exposed to toxins or stressors. Factors like age, excessive UV light exposure, air pollution, and even cigarette smoke can all lower vitamin C especially in the epidermis (or outer layer) and have a negative effect on the overall health of your skin.5
Vitamin C helps keep collagen production on track too
If you’re big into skin health, you probably already know about collagen. This fibrous protein is the basis for all skin, tendon, bone, cartilage, and all other connective tissue structures in the body.6 Kind of a big deal. Collagen is basically our skin’s entire support structure. Vitamin C is key for collagen formation and as such helps support healthy skin.5
Seeking more vitamin C in your life? Here are some good places to start:7
- Citrus fruits
- Sweet red peppers
- Brussel sprouts
Vitamin D is both from and for your skin
Vitamin D is an essential muscle, bone, and immune health nutrient that also plays both an active and passive role in your skin health. The body not only makes vitamin D in the skin as a result of sun exposure, but the skin requires vitamin D to stay healthy. Vitamin D helps drive skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism by shedding old skin cells and replenishing with new cells.1 Research has shown a link between low vitamin D status and increased skin aging.8
Try to get your 15 minutes of sunscreen-free sun exposure a few times each week to ensure your body has enough of this vital nutrient to support your skin and all the other parts of your body that rely on it.9 We say get 15 minutes every few days of “sunscreen-free” sun exposure because sunscreen actually inhibits how the body synthesizes vitamin D. That’s the catch. If you’re outdoors all the time, but you’re smart and cover up with clothing and sunscreen—you may still not be getting enough vitamin D. It’s a balancing act, but it’s worth it when it comes to your long-term skin and overall health.
Vitamin E can help your skin take it easy
Vitamin E is one of the most abundant nutrients found in skin and there’s a reason for that. While vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant protecting skin tissues, vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant protecting the skin cell membranes. Both of these vitamins work together as the antioxidant duo to prevent skin damage.10
5 MORE TIPS TO KEEP THAT GLOW GOING
Good nutrition is key when it comes to supporting your skin health. But there are also a few other things we can do to help support that glow.
Sleep is your skin’s best friend
Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our bodies and that holds true when it comes to healthy skin. Research shows poor quality sleep increases skin aging.11 Sleep helps restore our bodies and even repair our cells. But for many of us, it’s nearly impossible to have a sleep routine. Keep in mind, your sleep/wake cycles are just that—cycles. Your body wants to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day. So, if you’re looking for an easy, fun, and completely free way to support your skin health—start with trying to adopt some healthy sleeping habits to ensure you’re getting the rest you (and your skin) need.
Here are a few quick tips for getting a good night’s rest:
- Use shades or curtains to block out the light
- Keep the room cool with fans or air conditioning
- Use a sleep mask if needed to block out the light
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugar before bed
- Avoid smoking and eating large meals (especially spicy ones) before bed
- Disconnect from screens an hour before bedtime
Astaxanthin is another way into supporting healthy skin
If you’ve ever read that brightly colored foods contain more nutrients, carotenoids like astaxanthin are just one reason why. Carotenoids are great antioxidants for skin health. They’re also responsible for the bright colors we find in many of our favorite fruits, vegetables, and seafood—and are literally stored in the skin to help fight off free radicals. Astaxanthin is one of those carotenoids found in some fish and algae, with antioxidant activity to support skin health.
When you’re hydrated, your skin is hydrated
This seems like an obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning because staying hydrated is one of the easier ways to support your skin health. The outermost layer of your skin (epidermis) will lose elasticity and feel rough if it doesn’t contain enough water.12 Staying hydrated can help your skin stay hydrated too. There isn’t any conclusive evidence that drinking extra water has any impact on your skin appearance but drinking enough water certainly does.12
Here are some easy steps you can take to help your skin stay hydrated:12
- Avoid extended hot water contact
- Use gentle cleansers
- Avoid skincare products with alcohol, fragrance, or alpha hydroxy acid
- Moisturize right after a bath, shower, or washing your hands
- Use a humidifier
- Wear gloves in cold weather
Start thinking about your skin health while you’re young
Prevention is the best and most effective way to stave off the effects of aging on the skin. There are two types of skin aging, intrinsic and extrinsic.13 Intrinsic aging is chronological and there isn’t much we can do about that. But extrinsic aging is more about how external factors age our skin, things like overexposure to the sun, smoking, pollution, poor sleep, and you guessed it—poor nutrition.13 Thankfully, we do have some degree of control over these factors, and thinking about how often you’re exposed to them can help you support your skin health now and for years to come.
Exercise is good for your skin too
Exercise doesn’t just help tone those muscles or get your heart rate going. It also increases blood flow to the skin cells. This helps bring in oxygen, nutrients, and even whisk away waste. One study showed exercise is so beneficial to skin that is can change skin composition to resemble younger skin.14 Physical exercise helps support an overall healthy lifestyle especially when combined with a well-balanced diet.13
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR SKIN HEALTH, START WITH YOU
A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, high in essential fatty acids, and low in saturated fat and sugar is the best diet for optimal skin health. We have a good idea of which nutrients are needed to support skin health, and where to find them in food. That said, general tips about which vitamins support healthy skin are a great place to start, but personalizing those tips to fit your age, diet, lifestyle, and life stage can support your personal wellness goals. After all, that’s the point of all this information anyways, right? To help you be the best you.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
- Oregon State University. “Skin Health.” 2011. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health
- Oregon State University. “Vitamin A and Skin Health.” 2012. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-A#overview
- Oregon State University. “Vitamin A.” 2015. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A
- Oregon State University. “Vitamin A Food Sources.” 2015. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A#food-sources
- Oregon State University. “Vitamin C and Skin Health.” 2011. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C
- Oregon State University. “Glossary.” Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/glossary#collagen
- Oregon State University. “Vitamin C Food Sources.” 2015. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C#food-sources
- Chang AL, et al. Association of facial skin aging and vitamin D levels in middle-aged white women. Cancer Causes Control.2010;21:2315–6.
- Hoel D, et al. “The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016.” 2016;8(1):e1248325.
- Oregon State University. 2012. “Vitamin E and Skin Health.” Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Accessed on: August 10, 2020.https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-E
- Oyetakin-White P, Suggs A, Koo B, et al. Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing? Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015;40(1):17-22.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Does drinking water cause hydrated skin?” 2019. Mayo Clinic. Accessed on: August 26, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/hydrated-skin/faq-20058067
- Schagen, SK et al. “Discovering the link between nutrition and aging.” 2012;4(3):298-307.
- Crane JD, MacNeil LG, Lally JS, et al. Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging Cell. 2015;14(4):625-634.