We all put our best foot forward each day to live our healthiest life possible. We focus on ensuring that we’re getting our fair share of essential nutrients that allows our body to function at optimal capacity. These nutrients play an integral role in enhancing the health of our bodily organs—namely our brain, heart, bones, stomach, and skin. But that last one tends to trip people up, because few of us actually think of our skin as an organ.
The skin is our largest organ—and one of the few that are outward facing. For this reason, we tend to forget that, just like the organs inside our body, our skin is directly affected by the nutrients we glean from our diet or add into our regimen through supplementation. “Nutrients can be important for skin health by boosting moisture content in the skin, strengthening the skin barrier to prevent moisture loss as well as reducing inflammation,” explains Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York.
Many of the nutrients that are ideal for skin health are the same nutrients we take for other bodily functions, like boosting our immune system, reducing our risk of myriad diseases, enhancing our mood, and more. Here, skin care pros share some of the surprising vitamins and supplements for healthy skin.
Most of us think of vitamin C as the nutrient we should load up on when we’re trying to boost our immunity, but it actually may support overall skin health. “Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps rid our body of damaging free radicals that are lurking in our environment and can have a negative impact on our skin, causing premature wrinkles, dark spots and dull coloring,” says Jennifer Kennedy, R.N., Registered Nurse and Director of Skincare at PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank in New York City. “When applied topically, vitamin C can also help with excess pigment and increase the efficacy of your sunscreen.”
Without adequate levels of vitamin C, our body has trouble producing the protein collagen, which is vital for skin health, keeping it firm and intact, explains Kennedy. The daily recommendation for vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Zinc is another vitamin that’s become increasingly known for its immune-boosting benefits, especially in light of the pandemic. But zinc also plays an integral role in maintaining skin health. “This is made evident by the fact there is a disease called acrodermatitis enteropathica, which develops as a result of zinc deficiency,” says Brendan Camp, M.D., a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. “Though rare, it often develops as a result of a genetic problem in zinc metabolism, lack of zinc in breast milk in breast-feeding infants, after certain gastrointestinal surgeries, or with intravenous nutrition lacking sufficient zinc supplementation.”
Research, including one study published in Dermatology Research and Practice, has found that zinc supplementation may be effective for supporting healthy skin.
The recommended daily allowance of zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women, per the NIH.
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, we mostly glean this all-important nutrient through exposure to the sun. While it is possible to get vitamin D from certain foods, including salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified dairy, too few Americans are getting their fair share. In fact, as many as 40 percent of Americans are deficient in this nutrient, which plays a role in reducing disease risk, protecting teeth and bones and enhancing skin health, per a study published by the medical journal Cureus.
The NIH recommends getting 400–800 IU of vitamin D daily and most supplements offer up around 1,000 IU, which completely covers your basis.
Read More: 7 Signs You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency
“Collagen is one of two major structural proteins, along with elastin, that are located within the skin’s top layer that help maintain a youthful appearance of skin,” says Dr. Camp. If you’re eating a well-balanced diet that contains a sufficient amount of protein, chances are, you’re getting enough collagen in your diet.
If you’re looking to supplement, Dr. Camp recommends taking an oral form of collagen, like Collagen Peptides Powder, to promote and maintain skin health.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Because foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are thought to reduce inflammation, it is thought to help reduce skin inflammation, explains Dr. Garshick. For this reason, she notes that this nutrient may help different skin conditions.
One study published in the journal Carcinogenesis found that adequate omega-3 intake may be effective in protecting against sun damage, while another study published in PLos One showed that omega-3’s inflammation-reducing effects can help reduce acne breakouts.
The U.S. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 250-500 mg of two types of omega-3 fatty acids—EPA and DHA.