Skin is the largest organ of the body and taking care of the skin should be an essential part of one’s healthcare routine. People have different types of skin and respond to skincare differently. The skin needs the right balance of nutrients to carry out its essential function of acting as a barrier that protects the rest of the body from the environment. It is important to feed the skin well from the inside to help keep it looking, working and feeling good. Vitamins are essential for the optimum functioning of body and some of the important functions of vitamins involve good skin health. Vitamin deficiencies can cause adverse effects on the skin and hamper skin function. Antioxidant-rich foods, well-balanced diet and a low stress environment are vital in having good skin health
The first thing most health professionals and skin care experts will recommend to keep the skin healthy is to restrict the exposure to sun’s harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays and wear protective sunscreen with a good Sun Protection Factor (SPF) when one is exposed to sunlight, though sunlight is required for vitamin D generation, which also happens to be good for the skin along with many other vitamins. Also, our outward skin health is more often a reflection of what goes on inside the body. Essential skin vitamins are available in supplemental form and in skin care products. Vitamins are necessary for driving all cellular activities such as DNA repair, cell replication and the way in which cells extract and use energy from food. Vitamins that are food for the skin are :
Vitamin D : Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is produced in the skin from a compound called 7-dehydrocholesterol in the presence of UV light. Vitamin D is then transported to the liver and then to the kidneys for activation, after which it is circulated in the entire body, which includes skin. Vitamin D plays an important role in the treatment of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin disorder that leads the skin cells to multiply and causes red patches and white scales all over the body. Some research has suggested that topical application of calcitriol helps in reduction of skin inflammation.
Other ways to incorporate and increase Vitamin D intake are :
- 15 to 20 minutes sunlight exposure during the day
- Consuming Vitamin D fortified foods
- Increasing consumption of Vitamin D rich foods
Vitamin C : Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin that is found in abundance in the epidermis and dermis. It is a potent anti-oxidant and has a central role in collagen formation. Collagen is the most prevalent protein found in the skin and one of the component of connective tissue that helps in maintaining the skin health and makes it look young. Another protein, elastin, works in tandem with collagen to keep the skin firm and tight, rendering elasticity. This prevents fine lines and wrinkles from forming at an early age. Most of the anti aging products contain Vitamin C. Oral consumption of Vitamin C enhances the effectiveness of sunscreen by decreasing cell damage and ameliorates body wounds. Adequate Vitamin C intake aids in healing and prevention of dry skin.
Ways to increase Vitamin C in the daily food consumption are :
- Eating more citrus fruits
- Oral supplementation of Vitamin C
- Anti aging skin treatments for dryness, redness, wrinkles and age spots
Vitamin E : Vitamin E belongs to fat soluble group of vitamins and it is one of the most popular vitamins when it comes to skin health. It is a very powerful antioxidant and the main function is protection against sun damage. Vitamin E absorbs the harmful UV light from the sun. This helps to prevent dark spots and wrinkles caused by sun damage. Vitamin E also helps in treatment of skin inflammation. It works with Vitamin C to strengthen cell walls. sA lot of skin beautifying products contain Vitamin E as an essential component. Vitamin E is widely available in a lot of food sources
Ways to incorporate it in the diet :
- Nuts and seeds, dry fruits
- Vitamin E supplement – oral or topical application
- Using topical products that contain both Vitamin E and C – this can be effective in photo protection than those which contain either one of the two
Vitamin A : It is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in plenty. The upper and lower layers of the skin require Vitamin A. It is a powerful antioxidant that gives the skin protection against sun damage. It helps the oil glands around the hair follicles work and maintain skin turgor. Retinoids, including retinol, increase the rate of cell turnover. This helps in improving the texture and tone of the skin, exfoliate dull skin, fight acne and slow signs of aging. Absence of Vitamin A causes skin to turn dry and itchy. Topical form of Vitamin A can help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles by helping with new blood vessel production. It is often recommended to people with acne prone skin as it decreases the size of sebaceous glands and the amount of oil the skin produces and releases, which does not clog pores.
Vitamin A rich food include :
- Dairy products, variety of yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables
- Non-vegetarian foods
Omega -3 Fatty Acids : These are a type of long chain fatty acids, that assist in lubricating the skin and minimize dryness. They help to strengthen the skin by strengthening cell walls. Reduce inflammation, signs of aging and protection against UV damage
Sources of Omega -3 fatty acids include : Flaxseed oil, walnuts, fish and fish oil
Vitamin K : It is essential in helping body’s process of blood clotting that aids in healing body wounds, bruises and areas affected by surgery. The basic functions of Vitamin K are also in certain skin conditions like stretch marks, scars, dark spots and stubborn circles under the eyes. However, research and studies on vitamin K’s role in skin is limited as compared to Vitamin E and Vitamin C
Biotin : Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, is a water soluble vitamin and its main function is in cell signaling that impacts hair, nails and skin-basically the tissue that has the function of regeneration. Our body uses biotin to create building blocks of healthy skin cells, including protein and fats.
Dairy and poultry are the sources of Biotin, along with a wide variety of pharmaceutical biotin supplements
Vitamin B5 : It is also known as pantothenic acid, one of the best vitamins for skin and hair. Its skin benefits include – retaining moisture, enhancing suppleness and smoothening of the skin.
Niacin : This is also known as Vitamin B3, belongs to water soluble vitamins, acts as an antioxidant and anti-aging nutrient. It strengthens the skin’s barrier function along with reducing inflammation, minimizing pores and balancing the skin tone. It is found in a lot of foods in a standard diet
Zinc : The outermost layer of the skin has five times more zinc than the layer beneath. Zinc helps the skin heal after an injury and is needed to maintain the cell wall integrity along with cell regeneration and growth. Zinc also protects the skin from UV damage by its function as a potent antioxidant. It assists with healing of damaged skin and accelerate wound healing
Selenium : Just like Zinc, Selenium is a mineral that renders protection against the UV rays by means of its antioxidant role.
Hyaluronic Acid : Though Hyaluronic acid is naturally occurring in the human body, it tends to decline as one ages. It is commonly found in many skin care products and it able to deeply penetrate the skin. It assists the skin with absorption of other hydrating and moisturizing ingredients. Its skin benefits include elasticity and moisture retention
Flavonoids : flavonoids are known to be filled with antioxidants and anti-carcinogenic properties. They help in reducing inflammation and reduce the oxidative stress in the body. Some of the sources of flavonoids are dark chocolate, green tea, red wine and berries.
Many vitamins help in improving skin health. Obtaining these vital nutrients from a well-balanced diet keeps one in the ‘pink of health’ and renders good skin from both inside as well as outside. Vitamin deficiencies can affect skin health and function. Supplementing deficient vitamins help in healing and restoring skin’s innate function of protecting the body from pathogens and damage from the external environment. However, supplementation should be done with caution under a medical professional and it is always a good idea to seek consultation for any skin condition and treatment.