Our skin is the body’s first line of defense against external factors, so it makes sense to give it some TLC. It serves as our protective barrier against elements like the weather and possible infections (1), and helps us adapt and acclimatise to conditions in the external environment (2). One way it does this is by helping control our body temperature, with blood flow to the skin increasing when we need to release heat, and decreasing when we need to keep warmth in (2).
Taking care of our skin primarily involves keeping skin well-protected, hydrated, and supple. This can help us to avoid various skin conditions, and the degenerative effects of skin ageing.
There are many challenges to maintaining optimal skin health. Some of this can be avoided by making certain lifestyle decisions like avoiding smoking and drinking. But others, such as daily stressors like the sun, or pollution in the environment, as well as natural ageing, can’t always be avoided. Safeguarding skin health can be done by consuming proper nutrition through a well-balanced diet. In the case your diet isn’t enough to give you the nutrients you need, you may consider taking a vitamin supplement for skin health.
What happens when skin ages?
Skin ageing presents a challenge to skin health, and it is one that cannot be avoided. Aged skin has reduced functional capacity. It is also increasingly susceptible to conditions such as dryness, itching, wrinkles, fungal infections, and more severe skin conditions (3).
As our skin ages, the epidermis, or outer layer, becomes thinner. The skin loses strength and elasticity, producing leathery, and weathered looking skin. The blood vessels in the dermis, or inner layer, also become more fragile, leading to easier bruising and bleeding (4).
The sebaceous glands in the skin also produce less oil as you age. This can lead to a loss of skin moisture, potentially causing itchiness and dryness. The layer of fat under the skin also provides less insulation and padding as one grows older. This heightens the risk of skin injury. This may also affect your ability to maintain your body temperature, making it more likely to catch hypothermia during cold weather (4). On the other hand, the sweat glands also produce less sweat as ageing takes place. This makes keeping cool when you are overheated more difficult to achieve. Due to this, your risk of heat stroke or overheating can be increased (4).
While everyone ages naturally, many factors can speed up the ageing process of the skin, such as exposure to the sun, a non-balanced diet, and stress which causes deficiencies in micronutrients (1).
What else affects skin quality?
Besides natural ageing, there are several other factors that affect our skin’s outlook. Among these are:
Collagen is an essential building block for many bodily tissues, including bones, hair, muscles, and skin. Natural collagen production in the body changes over one’s lifetime, diminishing as one grows older. After 20 years of age, a person produces about 1% less skin collagen every year (5). Various stages of life including puberty, pregnancy, and menopause also affect collagen production (6).
Sun exposure is the single greatest factor in changes that your skin might undergo (4). Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun quickens skin ageing. Sunlight can also cause thickening of the skin, and even skin growths called keratocanthomas (4).
The sun's UV light damages the elastin in the skin. These are fibres that hold the skin together. This breakdown results in skin that is less elastic. Instead, skin stretches and sags, and loses the ability to return to its original form after being stretched out (8).
The changing seasons also affect your skin. During the summer, overexposure to UV rays from the sun can damage skin cells. During the winter, low humidity and cold air affects the skin's ability to naturally moisturise.
Air pollutants are linked to skin ageing, as well as other inflammatory skin conditions. Exhaust fumes, especially from diesel engines, and cigarette smoke are among the irritants that can prematurely age the skin. These also include particulate matter, such as smoke from factories or refuse incinerators (7).
What we eat, and whether we drink a lot of alcohol and smoke, and how much stress we have, all can directly affect our skin.
How do I keep my skin healthy?
There are many things you can do to keep your skin healthy and strong. Among these are:
There are many significant health reasons to quit smoking, but among them is that smoking speeds up skin ageing. It can cause sallow complexion and wrinkles (3, 9).
Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol dehydrates the skin, and can make one look prematurely older. Avoiding alcohol can help to prolong skin health (9).
Don’t forget to moisturise
Using moisturiser keeps water in the skin. Keeping your skin hydrated is a crucial factor to keeping aged-looking skin at bay. Well-moisturised skin also feels more comfortable, and heals more quickly in the case of wounds (4).
On the other hand, dry skin is more common in elderly people. Some older people develop "winter itch" because of the combination of dry skin and dry overheated indoor air (8). Moisturisation can help alleviate some of these issues.
When moisturising, remember to avoid skin products that irritate your skin. Irritation happens when your skin stings or burns after using a specific product (8).
Exercise boosts circulation and supports the immune system, which in turn can give you healthier-looking skin (8).
Protect yourself against the sun
While the skin has the ability to repair itself, there is nothing that can completely undo sun damage (8).
To protect yourself from the sun, you can take steps such as wearing long-sleeved clothing and pants, and wide-brimmed hats. Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen at SPF 30 or higher can also provide benefits (8).
Using sunscreen can make a difference when you're outdoors, even during the winter (4). Reapply sunscreen every two hours or more, especially if it gets washed off when you go swimming, or if you sweat heavily.
It can also help to keep in mind that tanning beds or sunbeds can project harmful UV rays onto your skin (3).
Manage your stress levels
Psychological stress occurs as a result of mental, physical, or emotional pressure. The experience causes the body to release stress hormones that trigger a broad range of physiological and behavioral responses to adapt to what is causing the stress (10). The skin is directly impacted by these reactions, resulting in various skin conditions and skin inflammation. Stress also negatively impacts wound healing.
Get sufficient sleep
People who suffer from sleep deprivation tend to show more signs of skin ageing, which include uneven pigmentation, reduced elasticity, and the appearance of fine lines (10).
Eat a balanced diet
Eating foods that contain lots of sugar and carbohydrates can speed up skin ageing. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables in replacement of sugar and carbohydrates can provide an array of benefits for the skin (9).
If you are not able to get all the nutrients you need from a well-rounded diet, you can consider taking a vitamin supplement for skin.
Best supplements for skin
Here are some of the nutrients that can help support healthier skin:
Zinc is considered a good supplement for skin as 6% of this nutrient in the body is found in the skin. It is the third most zinc-abundant tissue in the body (11).
Zinc supports skin health by protecting the skin from UV radiation damage. It helps in reflecting and absorbing UV radiation before it enters the skin. Following this, some types of zinc have been used as part of sunscreens (11).
This mineral also supports collagen formation by increasing cellular collagen synthesis and concentration (12). Collagen is one of the essential components of the skin.
Zinc helps support skin health by stabilising cell membranes in the skin and aids in the process of cell proliferation (13). Its anti-inflammatory properties are useful in promoting skin health (14).
Zinc also supports wound healing due to its ability to regulate enzymes that affect the DNA and RNA polymerases (14). In fact, zinc deficiency may manifest in problems in the skin, including inflammatory conditions (13).
Zinc can be found in many foods, including poultry and meat, fish, cereals, and dairy products (35).
Another good supplement for skin is iron as it supports collagen formation. Proteins containing iron are essential for collagen metabolism (15). Iron also supports collagen formation by increasing collagen synthesis (16).
Having low iron in your body may result in unhealthy skin and skin infections (15). Iron deficiency can also cause slower wound healing (15).
Iron can be found in animal tissue such as lamb, chicken, kangaroo, and fish. It may also come from iron-fortified cereals, whole grains, beans, and lentils (36).
Astaxanthin has benefits for skin homeostasis, or the process of renewal that the skin regularly goes through. Homeostasis is the process that maintains a steady number of cells in organs like the skin. The skin undergoes this as a form of maintenance (17, 18).
Astaxanthin also has photoprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects (19).
Astaxanthin supports skin elasticity by helping improve the elasticity and barrier integrity of skin that has experienced premature ageing due to UV damage (20).
Following this, astaxanthin helps reduce oxidative damage to the skin. One study found that astaxanthin helps suppress damage to the cells caused by free radicals and UV radiation (21).
Astaxanthin has also been shown to accelerate wound healing by increasing the expression of wound healing collagen, and fibroblast growth factor (21).
This nutrient also supports skin hydration. A study found that astaxanthin has a protective effect on the skin barrier, and may increase the capability of the skin to retain water, reducing skin dryness (22).
Astaxanthin also supports skin elasticity by preventing the breakdown of skin elastic. Studies have found that astaxanthin protects against collagen and elastic degradation in the inner layers of the skin. It also inhibits age-related skin deterioration (19).
Dietary sources of astaxanthin include prawn, crab, and salmon (37). If you don’t get enough astaxanthin from these sources, you can consider an astaxanthin supplement for skin.
Vitamin B complex, or the B-group of vitamins, are made up of eight vitamins that are important for various processes in the body. Many of these vitamins cannot be kept in the body for long, and therefore have to be replenished through the food we eat (23).
As a well-known supplement for skin, vitamin B complex helps maintain and support skin health. B vitamins that are particularly good for the skin include riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and niacin (Vitamin B3) (23). Lack of riboflavin may result in skin disorders (24). Lacking vitamin B as a whole may manifest in the skin as rashes, irritated skin (25).
Certain combinations of B vitamins were also shown to improve wound closure.
It has a protective quality on the connective tissues in the skin, as well as the cells on the outermost layer of the skin (26).
Plenty of foods contain B vitamins, including wholemeal cereal grains, milk, egg whites, meats, fish, legumes, green and leafy vegetables, chicken, and cheese (38).
Vitamin C is considered a good supplement for skin as it has several important functions in keeping the skin healthy.
Our skin usually contains high concentrations of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps maintain and support collagen formation and health, stimulating collagen synthesis (27).
Vitamin C is also a cofactor in the enzymes that stabilises the collagen molecule structure. Multiple studies have also found vitamin C to be essential in collagen gene expression or the process by which the information in genes are transcribed into proteins in the body (25, 28).
Vitamin C also supports wound healing by increasing the proliferation of dermal fibroblasts (27). It also helps protect the skin against UV damage (27).
Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits like oranges, limes and lemons, and other fruits and vegetables like blackcurrants, kiwifruit, tomatoes, broccoli, sprouts, and red, yellow, and green capsicum.
Cranberry contains a chemical component called proanthocyanidins that help maintain and support collagen formation.
Proanthocyanidins have been found to help inhibit the activity of enzymes that cause collagen degeneration. They also induce collagen synthesis. Proanthocyanidins help in the cross-linking of collagen to promote stability, strength, and function of the tissue (29).
As an essential component in skin tissue, the body naturally creates collagen. However, the production of collagen decreases as one ages, beginning in the mid-20s (30).
Collagen maintains and supports skin health by increasing dermal collagen density. It also supports skin integrity and structure. Studies have found that administering collagen resulted in an improvement in skin moisture, skin elasticity, as well as less wrinkles and roughness (1).
Collagen is frequently used as an ingredient in creams and serums. Some foods are also rich in collagen, including meat with a lot of connective tissue. This includes pot roast, steak, and brisket. Bone broth and gelatine, which are made from animal bones and cartilage, are also rich in collagen. Foods that can increase the body's natural production of collagen include high-protein foods like fish, eggs, legumes, and soy (31). Collagen can also be consumed as a supplement for skin.
Biotin or B7 is also called vitamin H (the H stands for the German words haar und haut, which means "hair and skin") (32). As a supplement for skin, this vitamin maintains and supports skin health, being able to improve rashes and skin irritation in test subjects (33).
Among the symptoms of biotin deficiency are rashes around the eyes, nose, and mouth (34).
Foods rich in biotin include organ meats, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, and nuts. It can also be found in cereal grains (41).
Part of keeping your skin healthy is making sure you consume the right nutrients sufficiently. To make sure you get all the vitamins you need, build your own vitamin pack with Vitable. Reaching optimal nutrition levels has never been easier or more convenient. We’ll even take care of vitamin delivery across Australia and right to your doorstep. The best vitamin subscription is the one that allows you to get all the nutrients you need to live your best life.
Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
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