Editor’s Note: Skin supplements are having a moment right now, and for good reason: They nourish and heal your body at the cellular level instead of focusing solely on what goes on the skin’s surface. But here’s the thing—just like your topical skin care products, finding the right skin supplement is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Alex Caspero, M.A., RD, believes that your skin mirrors your body’s overall health and that skin concerns—wrinkles, acne, redness and hyperpigmentation—are often a result of nutrient deficiencies. Here, she talks about what goes on in your body and what nutrients you need to keep your skin in perfect health.
It is possible to erase years, acne and wrinkles from your face simply by changing your diet. Certain foods and supplements can help to reduce inflammation and hydrate skin, making way for a radiant, youthful appearance. Whatever your beauty concerns may be, add in these superfoods to support your skin from the inside out.
For Acne and Breakouts: Heal Your Gut With Probiotics
The latest research is focusing on how the microbiome influences skin, specifically related to inflammation and acne. The key to reducing inflammation associated with breakouts starts in the gut. We need a healthy microbiome to break down food, absorb nutrients and eliminate unwanted toxins. When there is an imbalance of unhealthy to healthy gut flora, it can present with GI issues, acne and dull skin. Probiotics are essential for healthy gut flora. They exist naturally in the gut, but can diminish over time for several reasons, including antibiotic use and poor diet. Probiotics are found in certain foods (like sauerkraut, kombucha and yogurt) and in supplements. In selecting a probiotic, check expiration dates, make sure the bacteria is live, and look for CFUs (colony forming units) in the billions. Anything less isn’t as potent. Specifically, adding in Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures may reduce systemic inflammation, oxidative stress and glycemic control, all contributing factors in acne development.
In addition to supporting healthy gut flora, it’s essential to remove unwanted toxins that contribute to breakouts. To cleanse from the inside out, try green algae in the form of chlorella or spirulina. Adding these detoxifying nutrients to your diet can result in clearer, healthier-looking skin.
For Dry Skin: Replenish Moisture With Healthy Fats and Oils
As we age, dry, flaky skin becomes more commonplace. To compensate, we often turn to heavy creams and masks, which can clog pores and only worsen the problem. When dealing with dry skin, adding in healthy fats and oils can help improve your dry skin from the inside out. Plant-based omegas are recommended to help hydrate and even skin tone. Avocados, olive oil, ground flaxseed, walnuts and chia seeds can add moisture to the skin, creating a youthful, supple appearance. In supplement form, black currant seed and sunflower seed oil provide hydration and nourishment for skin cells. The seeds of black currants are extremely rich in three fatty acids that are also needed for healthier hair: gamma linolenic acid, alpha linolenic acid and stearidonic acid.
For Redness and Inflammation: Reduce Inflammation With Fatty Acids
As with dry skin, the key here is including omega-3 fatty acids, which not only provide moisture, but also reduce inflammation and redness. Research from the American Heart Association has shown that omega-3s found in fish oil can also reduce the risk of heart disease while lowering the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body.2 If you have a hard time fitting low-mercury fish into your diet, try a supplement like HUM Nutrition’s OMG. With the ideal ratio of EPA:DHA, it’s perfect for those with dry skin, especially if acne is present.
For Dull or Discolored Skin: Brighten With Potent Antioxidants
Dull and discolored skin is often the result of chronic, untreated inflammation. While omegas are great at nourishing skin cells, antioxidants are best to combat free radicals and keep skin appearing fresh and healthy. Vitamins C and E and zinc help fight free radicals that break down skin elastin to help produce collagen and repair damaged skin. While fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants, don’t discount the power of dried herbs and spices. In fact, in a comparison of the antioxidant content of more than 3,000 foods, ounce for ounce, dried herbs and spices average the greatest antioxidant amounts.
For Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Repair Collagen With Vitamin C
The sun, environmental pollution, free radicals, smoke and age are all responsible for breaking down collagen. Unfortunately, we can’t reverse all of the collagen that we lose as we age, but we can stimulate skin cells to partially halt the process. Specialized skin cells called fibroblasts can replace worn-down collagen fibers with new ones to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin C, found in peppers, citrus, strawberries, spinach and kale, can stimulate collagen production and protect against free radicals to treat damaged skin. In addition to adding in vitamin C, supplementing with collagen peptide may also reduce collagen levels so your skin remains firm and vibrant. For a potent punch, try Collagen Love, which combines vitamin C, collagen peptide and chondroitin sulfate for hydration and moisture.
For Stress-Related Skin Conditions: Lower Cortisol With Adaptogens
Stressed-out skin? While there are several adaptogens (stress-reducing herbs) aimed at balancing adrenal function and reducing overall stress levels, rhodiola rosea is the most potent. Stress-related hormones not only make us feel more anxious, they leave skin looking unhealthy, dull and often broken-out. In addition to reducing overall stress levels, rhodiola contains powerful antioxidants that can help with overworked, stressed skin.
For Sun-Damaged Skin: Increase Your Sun Protection With Polypodium Leucotomos
While a bit of sun exposure is great for vitamin D levels, sitting under harsh UV rays for too long can lead to sunspots, damaged skin and even skin cancer. While an application of sunscreen is still a best bet, adding in an extra layer of photoprotection with polypodium leucotomos (a tropical plant native to Central and South America) has shown to also be effective. In addition to reducing damage done by ultraviolet radiation, it contains antioxidant properties that combat oxidative damage created by a sunburn.