Nutraceuticals for the best skin, hair, and nails are here to stay. The lines between protecting the skin, using effective skin care products, and incorporating nutritional supplementation into a daily regimen are all joining together. The objective is one holistic approach designed to ensure that individuals can achieve their healthiest skin, hair, and nails.
Vitamins, supplements, pre- and probiotics, nutraceuticals, antioxidants, and peptides are among a list of nutritional boosters added to the antiaging arsenal that continues to grow. It sounds like a lot of marketers got together and decided to have a last stand with all topical and nutritional guns blazing!
It is true that many marketing claims have not been verified scientifically and that individuals should remain skeptical when it comes to unfounded claims. That being said, it is also true that more and more evidence that supplementation is delivering benefits to the skin and that scientifically-designed studies of nutraceuticals and nutricosmetics are making their way into medical research. It does stand to reason – and studies on vitamin absorption do support it – that a percentage of the supplements that people ingest do make their way to certain organs and tissues in the body, including the skin, hair follicles and nail roots.
In a study conducted by Dr. Patricia Ferris, MD, FAAD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine, certain supplements were found to reduce photoaging. They also found that diets high in antioxidants and healthy fats and low in carbs, sugars, and damaging fats may help the skin look and stay younger.1
In another study, results indicated that oral intake of certain collagen peptides significantly reduced eye wrinkle depth. After eight weeks of taking supplements, participants in this same study also showed improvements in their skin’s collagen and elastin dermal matrix synthesis.2
So, what foods and supplements seem to be the most beneficial? When it comes to protecting skin against photoaging, the most important sources are vitamins C and E, lycopene, green tea polyphenols, betacarotene, cocoa flavanols, selenium, and proanthocyanidins (a class of polyphenols). These nutrients seem to offer some protection against ultraviolet induced damage. Many of these are available from foods that can be consumed. Supplements containing polypodium leucotomos (an extract from a fern plant) or lactobacillus johnsonii (a probiotic) have also been shown to offer some sun protection. As mentioned earlier, proper sun protection methods are still required.
It should also be noted that vitamin D has created a big splash in recent years. In low levels, vitamin D may lead to weaker bones, certain cancers, neurologic disease, and other health concerns. This vitamin can only be properly synthetized in the body by sun exposure, which is frowned upon by all skin care professionals. Thus, supplementation offers a safe and effective way to ensure proper levels of vitamin D, without the risk associated with sun exposure. The American Academy of Dermatology has issued recommended dietary allowance guidelines for calcium and vitamin D.3
When it comes to reducing fine lines and strengthening the dermal matrix, collagen peptides, vitamins A, B, and C, linoleic acid, and biotin offer the necessary building blocks for skin to better repair itself. Collagen types one and three comprise 90 percent of the body’s collagen and are particularly helpful when taken as supplements. These two types of collagen contain 19 amino acids or proteins vital to the health of skin, muscles, and bones. Proper use of skin care products, periodic visits to a skin care professional, as well as thoughtful supplement intake seems to offer the best holistic strategy for healthy skin.
What nutrients or activities should be avoided? No surprises here. Research shows that diets high in sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats may cause oxidative damage that weakens cell membranes, DNA, and proteins, like collagen and elastin. And, when it comes to healthy dieting and living, individuals should not forget to exercise and should avoid smoking (vaping included) and find ways to reduce stress.
The science is starting to confirm that skin, hair, and nails benefit greatly from a healthy diet. These diets can be made more complete with the proper use of supplements, as well as by avoiding the bad foods and habits that trigger the damage that lead to premature aging.
1 Ferris, Patricia, et al. “Beauty from the inside out: Improving your diet or taking supplements may lead to younger-looking skin.” American Academy of Dermatology (2015).
2 Proksch, E., M. Schunck, V. Zague, D. Segger, J. Degwert, and S. Oesser. “Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis.” Skin pharmacology and physiology 124 (2014): 304-307.
3 “Position Statement on Vitamin D.” American Academy of Dermatology. (2010). https://www.aad.org/forms/policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Vitamin%20D.pdf