It’s no secret that the condition of our skin can be vastly improved through the intake of certain nutrients. With numerous studies being carried out looking at the interplay between plant compounds and their beneficial effects on our skin cells, we can make tailored dietary choices to give our skin a little helping hand.
Here are my top nutrients for glowing youthful skin:
Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant and has shown great efficacy in preventing and treating skin aging and does this by protecting skin cells from UV radiation and supporting skin barrier function
It plays an essential role in the maintenance of dermal collagen by preventing the inactivation of two important enzymes (Hydroxylase & Lysin) involved in collagen synthesis.
It also exerts it’s super powers by protecting our skins collagen through suppression of Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs), a group of enzymes responsible for collagen degradation.
As we all know, vitamin C is a common ingredient in topical skin care products however the efficacy of this is very much dependant on the formulation of the cream or serum and although some may be able to penetrate the surface layer of the skin, it is very unlikely to the reach the dermis. Therefore, the dermal layers are best supported through delivery of vitamin c through the blood stream, from the food we eat!
Foods rich in vitamin c include:
- Red peppers
- Citrus fruits
- Golden berries
Anthocyanins belong to a class of potent antioxidants called flavonoids. They give red/purple fruit and vegetables their pigment to protect them against solar radiation. Studies have shown that the antioxidant rich anthocyanins are effective in reducing the harmful effect of UVB-mediated skin damage and have shown promising results when also applied topically to the skin.
Their antioxidant capacity prevents oxidants from damaging connective tissue such as collagen and have the ability to neutralise enzymes that destroy it.
Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum L) contain high levels of anthocyanin polyphenols. One study demonstrates how anthocyanins from blackcurrant extract are able increase the levels of collagen and elastin in human skin cells. No, Ribena won’t cut it i’m afraid!
Food sources rich in anthocyanins:
- Purple carrots
- Red cabbage
- Purple sweet potatoes
- Red/purple grapes
Lutein is a major caratenoid present in human skin cells and due to it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties it can be used as an anti-inflammatory and cosmetic remedy for inflammatory diseases of the skin.
It decreases the intensity of erythema (red skin) induced by UV-light and also has the ability to filter blue light (computer screens, phones and the sun!), which causes lasting damage to the skin. It may be worth increasing your intake prior to going on holiday to allow for more UV protection.
It also works to protect and maintain our collagen and it does this by suppressing MMP-9, an enzyme triggered by UV exposure and responsible for the break down of collagen and elastin.
Studies have also shown it to suppress melanogenisis (production of melanin pigments), therefore preventing skin pigmentation.
Foods sources rich in Lutein include:
- Unpeeled apples
- Citrus fruits
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that cannot be synthesised in the body and must be obtained by diet.
There are 3 types of omega 3 and they are EPA, DHA (found in fish) and ALA, the metabolic precursor to the former two. Omega 3 is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and has proved very effective in maintaining optimal skin health. It can greatly improve skin barrier function and a deficiency in omega 3 can cause increased water loss through the skin causing it to become very dry so if you’re skin is feeling a little on the scaly side, omega 3 can certainly help!
Omega 3 also has the ability to inhibit UV-induced skin inflammation and hyperpigmentation. It is protective against photosensitivity disorders and conditions in which abnormal reactions to UV exposure occur such as Polymorphic Light Eruption (PMLE).
Oily fish is the best source of omega 3 (EPA & DHA). Think of the word SMASH for your oily fish. Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovy, Sardine and Herring.
Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is another type of omega 3 fatty acid and although we are able to convert it into EPA & DHA, this conversion is not that efficient. Foods rich in ALA include:
- Canola oil
- Marine algae (zooplankton & phytoplankton).
- Crisan, D. Roman, I. Badea, R. (2015). ‘The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin ageing: an ultrasonographic approach’, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, (8), pp. 463-470.
- Huang, TH. Wang, PW. Fang, JY. (2018). ‘Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin’, Marine Drugs, (8), pp.256.
- Juturu, V. Bowman, JP. Deshpande, J. (2016). ‘Overall skin tone and skin-lightening-improving effects with oral supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin isomers: a double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial’, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, (9), pp.325-332.
- Khoo, HE. Azlan, A. Lim, SM. (2017). ‘Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: coloured pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits’, Food & Nutrition Research, (1), pp.1361779.
- Korac, RR. Khambholja, KM. (2011), Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation’, Pharmacognosy Reviews, (10), pp.164-173.
- Nanashima, N. Horie, K. Nakamura, T. (2018). ‘Blackcurrant Anthocyanins Increase the Levels of Collagen, Elastin and Hyaluronic Acid in Human Skin Fibroblasts and Ovariectomized Rats’, Nutrients, (4), pp.495.
- Oh, J. Kim, JH. Cho, JY. (2013). ‘Radical Scavenging Activity-Based and AP-1-Targeted Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lutein in Macrophage-Like and Skin Keratinocytic Cells’, Mediators of Inflammation, 787042.
- Pilkington, SM. Watson, REB. Nicolaou, A. et al. (2011). ‘Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: photoprotective macronutrients’, Experimental Dermatology, (7), pp.537-543.
- Pullar, JM. Carr, AC. Vissers, MCM. (2017). ‘The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health’, Nutrients, (8), pp.866.