Nutrition Notes

Ten Nutrients to Help Your Skin Glow from the Inside Out

When thinking about healthy skin, most of us might envision moisturizers, sunscreens, serums, and toners. What we topically use on our skin is important, but true skin health and radiance depend on the availability of key nutrients that can help the skin glow from the inside out.

1. Collagen Peptides

Making up 75% of the skin's dry weight, collagen plays an important role in skin health. Collagen loss may contribute to the appearance of aged skin, including the formation of lines and wrinkles. Collagen production decreases with age, starting as early as ages 18 to 29, with approximately 1% of collagen being lost annually after the age of 40. Changes to collagen metabolism associated with normal aging or environmental and hormonal factors may contribute to the loss of skin hydration, strength, structure, and elasticity. Research findings suggest that collagen supplementation may help alleviate some of these effects and support skin appearance and hydration. A randomized controlled trial (n = 114) found that individuals supplementing with 2.5 g of collagen peptides daily for eight weeks exhibited a reduction of wrinkle volume and an increase in elastin and procollagen type 1. Another randomized controlled trial (n = 46) reported that subjects had a reduction in facial wrinkles, improved morphology of dermal collagen fibers, and increased dermal echogenicity (a parameter related to dermal density) after supplementing with 500 mg of hydrolyzed collagen per day for 90 days. A systematic review (n = 805) found that collagen supplementation (between 2.5 g and 10 g per day) can play a supportive role in wound healing and skin aging by increasing skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen density.

2. Vitamin C

Well-known for being an antioxidant and a free-radical scavenger, vitamin C can support cellular health and antioxidative status. In normal skin, this nutrient is found in concentrations higher than plasma, suggesting active accumulation from circulation. Within the skin’s intracellular compartments, vitamin C may play a supportive role in the formation of the skin barrier, collagen synthesis, and antioxidant protection against photodamage induced by solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) through the process of melanogenesis. Vitamin C is a cofactor in lysine and proline hydroxylation, which is a condition for the optimal crosslinking of collagen and elastin and stabilizing the collagen molecule structure. Vitamin C also stimulates collagen mRNA production by fibroblasts and promotes collagen gene expression. As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C can scavenge free radicals and remove toxic oxidants, such as those found in environmental pollutants and after UVR exposure, protecting the skin from oxidative stress and premature aging. Vitamin C may also play a role in decreasing melanogenesis, which may help limit skin hyperpigmentation in conditions such as melasma, photodamage, and age spots. By increasing the proliferation of dermal fibroblasts, vitamin C may contribute to the skin’s natural wound-healing process, which may be important in cases of laser skin treatments, microdermabrasion, and chemical peeling. A study based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (n = 4,025) found that higher intake of vitamin C, together with a healthy diet, may be associated with improved skin appearance. 

3. Vitamin E Tocotrienols

Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that may play a supportive role in mitigating the effects of oxidative stress and promoting healthy inflammatory response. It is a complex nutrient made up of four tocopherol and four tocotrienol isomers. Tocotrienols have an unsaturated lipophilic chain enhancing their permeability into fatty tissues and cellular membranes. In the skin, they can help mitigate cellular damage by limiting lipid and protein oxidation, DNA damage, telomere shortening, and by supporting healthy inflammatory response and collagen synthesis. An in vitro study found that gamma and delta tocotrienols may interfere with the action of tyrosinase, the rate-limiting enzyme in melanogenesis. Additionally, multiple in vitro studies have demonstrated the role vitamin E plays in upregulating collagen production and collagen gene expression and contributing to the overall health, elasticity, and density of the skin.

4. Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5, a.k.a. pantothenic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient which gets converted into co-enzyme A (CoA) through the action of the enzyme adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Through CoA metabolism, vitamin B5 may play a role in the regulation of the epidermal barrier function and keratinocytes differentiation, which may contribute to its role in decreasing the severity of acne. Vitamin B5 deficiency, on the other hand, has been associated with the development of acne. A randomized controlled study (n = 48) reported that individuals administered with 2.2 g vitamin B5 daily for 12 weeks had reduced total facial lesion count and area-specific inflammatory blemishes. Vitamin B5 also assists in the transport of fats across membranes and in the regulation of lipid metabolism, which may get disrupted during acne breakouts. The pathogenesis of acne has been associated with increased sebum production resulting in the blockage of skin pores and further bacterial inflammation within the blocked pores. By supporting proper lipid metabolism, vitamin B5 may play a role in normalizing pore size and decreasing sebum excretion and acne formation.

5. Keratin

Found in the cytoplasm of skin cells, keratin may help retain skin integrity, moisture and elasticity. Outer skin cells filled with keratin help protect the underlying layers of skin, retain moisture, and contribute to the skin’s elasticity and smoothness. Keratin is also a rich source of the amino acid cysteine, supporting glutathione synthesis, detoxification, and the skin’s antioxidant defense. A randomized double-blind controlled study (n = 50 ) found that subjects given keratin supplementation of 500 mg per day for 90 days had improved skin moisture, elasticity, density, and texture, and decreased wrinkle depth and signs of photoaging. 

6. Phytoestrogens 

Botanicals that contain phytoestrogens, such as chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) and black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), and nutrients like diindolylmethane (DIM) and chrysin may play a supportive role when it comes to hormonal balance and healthy estrogen metabolism. Hormonal balance is essential for a healthy, radiant skin, as hormones may influence skin elasticity, density, barrier function, wound healing, oil production, cell turnover, inflammation, hydration, and pigmentation. By promoting healthy inflammatory response, healthy estrogen metabolism, antioxidative status, and detoxification, these hormone-balancing nutrients help support radiant skin from the inside out.

7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (O3FAs) include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They can be found primarily in fish, fish oil, flax and chia seeds, and some nuts. O3FAs are heart-healthy fats with powerful anti-inflammatory properties which can help protect the skin against damage. It is also recommended to avoid an excess intake of omega-6 fatty acids. A review study of the photoprotective properties of O3FAs concluded that they can help decrease UVR-induced skin inflammation. Another review study found that O3FAs supplements can benefit those with inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, and skin ulcers. O3FAs may also play a supportive role in wound healing and skin barrier function

8. Silicon

Silicon is a trace element that is present in all healthy tissues in the human body, including skin, hair, and nails. With aging, its levels start to decrease, making supplementation relevant for preserving skin health. It has been strongly associated with connective tissues due to its participation in collagen formation and the mineralization of the bone matrix. Silicon supplementation may help improve skin hydration and elasticity by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin. A randomized controlled study (n = 34) found that individuals who supplemented with 5 mg of silicon twice a day for 150 days exhibited improved skin texture and decreased facial wrinkles and UVR spots. Inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (ASI) provides a more bioavailable form of silicon. Another randomized controlled study (n = 90) showed that subjects who received 146.5 mg ASI (providing 10 mg silicon) daily for 12 weeks showed improved overall skin health and appearance, decreased maximal wrinkle depth, facial line scores, and skin texture roughness.

9. Inositol

Insulin dysregulation may contribute to premature skin aging through glycation, inflammation, increased oil production, decreased collagen synthesis, cellular aging, hormonal imbalances, reduced blood circulation, and impaired cell turnover. Inositol may play a supportive role in glucose control and mitigating the effects of insulin dysregulation. It is naturally found in a variety of vegetarian and animal foods and in the human body. It supports glucose control through the process of antiglycation. Two of its isomers, myoinositol and Dchiroinositol, are precursors to intracellular signaling mediators of insulin. Supplementing with MI and DCI may help counteract some of the metabolic dysregulations that occur with insulin resistance

10. Spore-Based Probiotics 

An imbalance of the gastrointestinal microbiome may contribute to inflammation, outbreaks, and skin rashes. Compromised intestinal barrier function, a.k.a. intestinal permeability, may also impact the skin and contribute to the development of acne, eczema, and psoriasis.  A healthy, balanced, and diverse microbiome, on the other hand, may play an important role for skin health, a relationship referred to as the gut-skin axis (GSA). By balancing the microbiome and supporting GI health, digestion, and absorption, probiotics can play a role in decreasing inflammation, improving skin tone, supporting skin hydration, and increasing the amount of collagen in the skin. Probiotics may also help slow down skin photoaging, caused by solar UVR, by supporting several important pathways including reducing oxidative stress, inhibiting extracellular matrix modeling, inhibiting inflammatory cascade reactions, and maintaining immune homeostasis. A randomized controlled trial (n = 75) examined the effect of an oral spore-based probiotic consisting of Bacillus indicus, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus licheniformis, and Bacillus clausii on reducing dietary endotoxemia (the presence of lipopolysaccharides in the bloodstream). The study concluded that the 30-day spore-based probiotic supplementation may reduce symptoms indicative of intestinal permeability. Another randomized controlled trial (n = 25) found that supplementing with oral spore-based probiotics, such as Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus coagulans, and Bacillus clausii, for four weeks improved skin barrier function and decreased the facial sebum excretion rate and acne lesion counts. Lastly, spore-based probiotics have been shown to produce acidic metabolites, such as lactic acid, which can help maintain the skin’s normal pH range and optimize skin health. 

Learn more about nutrients supporting skin health: 

Skin Health: The Benefits of Collagen Peptides

Botanicals to Support Skin Elasticity

Collagen: A Clinical Look at Hair and Skin Health

Unlocking Youthful Skin: Micronutrients for Age-Related Changes

By Antonia Toupet, PhD