When it comes to taking care of acne-prone skin, we all know how crucial cleansing, toning, moisturizing and protecting your skin from the sun are. But according to Dr. David H. Rahm, board-certified anesthesiologist and founder of VitaMedica, there’s an oft-overlooked yet critical element in banishing those blemishes for good: your nutrition.
“Conventional wisdom states that acne is indirectly related to nutrition,” he says. “However, recent studies are now confirming that certain foods can exacerbate acne, and other foods can help reduce breakouts. Certain nutrients, whether in food or supplement form, can not only enhance your overall health and wellbeing, but also enhance the results of your topical acne treatments.”
Dr. Rahm’s skin care philosophy is simple: if you put good things into your body, you’ll get good things out of it—and this translates to healthier skin. For a consistently clear complexion from the inside out, these are 7 key nutrients you need to look for in your food or oral supplements.
1. Vitamin A
Also known as retinyl palmitate in its pure form, vitamin A stimulates healthy skin cell formation and is essential for skin renewal. It reduces production of the skin’s natural oil, called sebum, and helps prevent keratin buildup in the follicle that results in clogged pores. While your body converts all carotenoids into vitamin A as needed, beta-carotene converts most readily and is most widely available. It is possible to get too much pure vitamin A, so look for a supplement, like VitaMedica’s Clear Skin Formula, that combines retinyl palmitate with carotenoids.
Studies have shown that a lack of selenium can contribute to inflammatory skin conditions like acne. Selenium helps the body produce glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that combats inflammation. It also works to protect other skin-supporting antioxidants like vitamins A and E, which help minimize acne lesions and scarring.
This trace mineral improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. The insulin response is actually significant for skin health because spikes in blood sugar levels can cause an increase in blemishes. Chromium helps not only to balance blood sugar levels, but also to improve skin cell metabolism.
There is a reason acne is considered an inflammatory condition. Those painful red spots and breakouts are little peaks of inflammation erupting in the skin. Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapples, inhibits inflammatory chemical messengers called prostaglandins, and instead promotes anti-inflammatory agents to reduce pain, swelling and redness.
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring chemical found in human hair, skin, tissues and joints. It fights inflammation, helps soften skin and improves pore permeability, helping to keep pores clean and clear. MSM also aids in regulating keratin production and preventing overactive sebaceous follicles.
Deficiency in this trace mineral can be a cause of acne, especially in adolescents. A critical nutrient for skin health, zinc helps prevent acne by regulating oil gland activity, reduces acne severity and strengthens skin cells to minimize acne scars. It aids in collagen formation and, in conjunction with vitamin A, helps promote healing, control inflammation and regenerate tissue.
Think of probiotics as a bonus “nutrient” that helps keep skin clear. New research† finds probiotics help more than just the digestive tract. Probiotics have been shown to decrease acne lesions and reduce oil production. When applied topically to the skin, these beneficial bacteria act as a protective shield to prevent the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes from proliferating and provoking an inflammatory response in the form of a blemish. As an oral supplement in the form of Lactobacilli and/or Bifidobacterium, probiotics may influence the “gut-brain-skin axis.” This prevents bad bacteria from taking over the gut and releasing toxins that cause inflammation throughout the body, including acne flare-ups on your face.
Other Blemish Banishers: Cleansing Herbs
Natural aromatic plants, long used in traditional herbal medicine, are also great for cleansing and detoxifying the skin and body. Burdock root has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial effects, while Oregon grape root has antibiotic properties and helps to stimulate the immune system. Dandelion cleanses the blood and liver, with antiviral and antibacterial qualities that help neutralize acne bacteria. Yellow dock is another anti-inflammatory herb that also detoxifies and helps improve liver and colon function.