Supplements for Skin Health – What’s the Real Deal?

Written by Rachael Pontillo, L.E., founder and author of Holistically Haute™

Clients seem to be asking more questions about different measures they can take to improve their skin, in addition to regular facials and a proper home care regimen. As the trend of integrating wellness and nutrition into the spa continues to grow, and as more nutrition and holistic practitioners, bloggers, and entrepreneurs enter into the mainstream, clients come to the spa equipped with different questions from what they may have asked even five years ago.

They now ask questions like: Is it true that I can drink my sunscreen? Is it true that green juice will clear up my acne? What vitamins should I take for younger, brighter, firmer, or smoother skin?
Just like the marketing term ‘cosmeceutical’ helps boost sales in the skin care subcategory of the cosmetics industry and the word ‘nutriceutical’ implies a higher potency and quality in the dietary supplement industry, the term ‘nutricosmetic’ is doing the same for sales in supplements intended to support the function and structure of the skin. While all three terms do suggest higher quality products, none of these terms are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); there are no guarantees of a better product. These terms are recognized and used solely as marketing terms.

Are supplements beneficial for the skin?
Healthy skin is largely dependent on a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle. Healthy and resilient skin cells grow from the inside out — not from the outside in — so there is merit to the notion that introducing more nutrients known for skin health into the body via supplements could support the growth of healthy skin at the cellular level. Some of these nutrients include, but are not limited to zinc, magnesium, copper, vitamins C, E, and D3, and essential fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Other nutrients include types 1 and 3 collagen, hyaluronic acid, carotenoid and polyphenol antioxidants/phytonutrients, and B-Complex.
It is important to note that vitamin A is not listed as an individual micronutrient. While many people with skin conditions are deficient in vitamin A, taking too much internally and outside of whole food sources can lead to toxicity.

Is it possible to get these nutrients from food?
Most of them can come from food, but not always in high enough amounts to produce a therapeutic benefit. Furthermore, it is possible to get some of these nutrients into the skin via the skin. There are studies showing that both vitamin D3 and magnesium might have a better absorption rate when taken transdermally, however, some of the others run into problems with penetration or stability in a topical product.

How do you know which supplements are the best?
Like skin care, when it comes to supplements, you get what you pay for. Always look for a manufacturer who has a third party good manufacturing practices (GMP) seal, provides certificates of analysis upon request, and sources their nutrients from whole foods. Remember, though, that even the best supplement never takes the place of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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