Beauty from Within: 6 Supplements to Support Healthy Skin
Feeling good about the way you look starts with how you feel on the inside. Many of the same things that contribute to chronic health conditions – inflammation and oxidative damage – can also influence your skin’s appearance. It takes a holistic approach to address the health of your skin to help reduce the impact.
If you aren’t feeling or looking your best, or simply want to start taking better care of your skin, a few simple changes to your lifestyle may be all that’s needed. Making sure that your diet is full of phytonutrient-rich foods is a great way to start. But another way to support these changes is by adding supplements.
These six supplements can help you feel beautiful on the inside and out.
Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in your body. It’s found everywhere, from the skin to bones and joints. There are at least sixteen types of collagen in the body, but the kind found in your skin helps keep skin feeling plump and firm.1 As you age, collagen production naturally decreases, leading to changes in the skin’s texture, appearance, and elasticity.
Collagen supplementation may help the health of your skin by supporting improvements in wrinkles, elasticity, and hydration.2 One study found that people who took a combination supplement of type II collagen (along with chondroitin and hyaluronic acid) saw improvements in face and eye wrinkles, skin elasticity, and skin collagen content. They also noted decreased skin dryness and redness.3 Similar improvements in elasticity and appearance of eye wrinkles have been replicated in several other studies on collagen.4,5
Another study found that supplementation with collagen peptides helped skin feel more hydrated and supported increases in collagen in the skin. The results were noticeable even twelve weeks after the trial ended.6
2. Essential fatty acids (EFA).
Essential fatty acids are types of fat that your body can’t make, so you have to obtain them from your diet. They have many vital jobs in the body and are also critical for a healthy skin barrier. Research suggests that certain EFAs can support reductions in inflammation in the body that can contribute to ageing skin.7
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid (EFA). Omega-3 supplementation has been studied for its potential ability to protect against UV radiation, sunburn, and even photoaging.8 It may do this through its anti-inflammatory activity and protection against oxidative stress.9
Several other studies have examined the effect of healthy fats in the diet, including flaxseed, and fish oil, and found several skin improvements, including improved hydration, skin texture, and improved measures of skin barrier function. ix Supplementation with fish oil or linoleic acid (found in many vegetable oils) may also support reductions in skin breakouts.10
3. Vitamin C.
You may automatically connect vitamin C to your immune health, but this nutrient is also vital for vibrant skin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to combat free radical damage.[xi] It is also a cofactor for the production of the particular amino acids needed for collagen synthesis. Furthermore, it may also support the expression of genes for collagen synthesis.11
Vitamin C works synergistically with other nutrients. For example, one study found that people who took a supplemental drink containing vitamin C, several other antioxidants and a fish oil supplement saw improvements in the depth of facial wrinkles and an increase of new collagen fibres in the skin. Vitamin C is an essential cofactor in the biosynthesis of collagen, an important process in the prevention of skin looking more mature.12
Another study that examined the impact of dietary nutrients on skin found that women who ate more vitamin C-rich foods were less likely to have significant wrinkles or skin dryness – both contributing to the appearance of ageing skin.13
4. Hyaluronic acid
Like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid (HA) helps your skin by supporting moisture retention and healthy collagen production.14 You’ll often see it in topical beauty products, but HA taken orally can also help with the appearance of your skin.
You’ll find hyaluronic acid naturally present in some foods, but supplemental HA can provide a more concentrated dose. It’s often used in combination with other supplements, so more research is needed on its individual effects.
One study found that oral HA combined with several other nutrients, including collagen, improved signs of sun damage and hydration in women more than the placebo group after six weeks.15 Similar studies found that oral HA improved the texture and moisture of the skin.16
Supporting the health of your microbiome (the collection of healthy bacteria residing in and on your body) is important for your overall health and the appearance of your skin.
There’s now a well-known close relationship between the type of healthy bacteria in your gut and the health of your skin.
Specifically, the bacteria living in your intestines and the metabolites they produce may support the health of your skin via an influence on your immune system and inflammatory response. Some evidence shows that gastrointestinal disorders that can disrupt the microbiome can also lead to the development of skin conditions.17 The presence or imbalance of certain types of bacteria on the skin is also associated with increases in breakouts and acne. 15,18
As a result, keeping your gut healthy may support the appearance of your skin, especially for inflammatory skin conditions. Including probiotic-rich foods in the diet, such a yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut, is a start, and supplemental probiotics can add a higher therapeutic dose.
6. Green tea extract.
If you love a warm drink in the morning, you may want to make sure you are sipping green tea. Green tea is a natural way to support an even and healthy complexion. Green tea’s potent antioxidant activity may help reduce free radical damage, while its anti-inflammatory properties may help with smoother skin texture.
Green tea contains phytochemicals that help protect your skin cells from oxidative stressors and support healthy inflammation response. Supplementation with green tea extract has produced beneficial results for skin health, including increases in collagen, elasticity, and improved texture when taking orally while reducing the appearance of wrinkles when applied topically.19,20
Interestingly, research suggests that green tea polyphenols may stimulate autophagy, the self-cleaning tool (usually associated with fasting) that the body uses to remove old and damaged cellular molecules.21 This may help support the removal of pro-oxidants that can contribute to an aged appearance of skin.
Targeting healthy skin from within
When it comes to vibrant skin, you can’t skip healthy habits, but these supplements can provide additional support. Targeted nutrition through food and supplements can help you feel good about the way you look while also supporting your health.
While you can’t stop the natural progression of ageing over time, you can take steps to control the influence of environmental exposures. If you aren’t sure where to start, working with your healthcare practitioner can help you tailor a plan that works best for your skin type and needs.
1. Lodish, Harvey, Arnold Berk, S. Lawrence Zipursky, Paul Matsudaira, David Baltimore, and James Darnell. “Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix.” Molecular Cell Biology. 4th Edition, 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/.
2. Choi, Franchesca D., Calvin T. Sung, Margit L. W. Juhasz, and Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovsk. “Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications.” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: JDD 18, no. 1 (January 1, 2019): 9–16.
3. Schwartz, Stephen R., Kimberly A. Hammon, Anna Gafner, Amanda Dahl, Norman Guttman, Michelle Fong, and Alexander G. Schauss. “Novel Hydrolyzed Chicken Sternal Cartilage Extract Improves Facial Epidermis and Connective Tissue in Healthy Adult Females: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 25, no. 5 (September 2019): 12–29.
4. Proksch, E., D. Segger, J. Degwert, M. Schunck, V. Zague, and S. Oesser. “Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 27, no. 1 (2014): 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1159/000351376.
5. 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 27, no. 3 (2014): 113–19. https://doi.org/10.1159/000355523.
6. Asserin, Jérome, Elian Lati, Toshiaki Shioya, and Janne Prawitt. “The Effect of Oral Collagen Peptide Supplementation on Skin Moisture and the Dermal Collagen Network: Evidence from an Ex Vivo Model and Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 14, no. 4 (December 2015): 291–301. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12174.
7. Balić, Anamaria, Domagoj Vlašić, Kristina Žužul, Branka Marinović, and Zrinka Bukvić Mokos. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21, no. 3 (January 23, 2020). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21030741.
8. Pilkington, Suzanne M., Rachel E. B. Watson, Anna Nicolaou, and Lesley E. Rhodes. “Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Photoprotective Macronutrients.” Experimental Dermatology 20, no. 7 (2011): 537–43. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0625.2011.01294.x.
9. Parke, Milbrey A., Ariadna Perez-Sanchez, Dina H. Zamil, and Rajani Katta. “Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function.” Dermatology Practical & Conceptual 11, no. 1 (January 29, 2021). https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.1101a132.
10. Jung, Jae Yoon, Hyuck Hoon Kwon, Jong Soo Hong, Ji Young Yoon, Mi Sun Park, Mi Young Jang, and Dae Hun Suh. “Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Gamma-Linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Controlled Trial.” Acta Dermato-Venereologica 94, no. 5 (September 2014): 521–25. https://doi.org/10.2340/00015555-1802.
11. Pullar, Juliet M., Anitra C. Carr, and Margreet C. M. Vissers. “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients 9, no. 8 (August 12, 2017). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080866.
12. Jenkins, G., L. J. Wainwright, R. Holland, K. E. Barrett, and J. Casey. “Wrinkle Reduction in Post-Menopausal Women Consuming a Novel Oral Supplement: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Randomized Study.” International Journal of Cosmetic Science 36, no. 1 (February 2014): 22–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12087.
13. Cosgrove, Maeve C, Oscar H Franco, Stewart P Granger, Peter G Murray, and Andrew E Mayes. “Dietary Nutrient Intakes and Skin-Aging Appearance among Middle-Aged American Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 86, no. 4 (October 1, 2007): 1225–31. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/86.4.1225.
14. Papakonstantinou, Eleni, Michael Roth, and George Karakiulakis. “Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule in Skin Aging.” Dermato-Endocrinology 4, no. 3 (July 1, 2012): 253–58. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.21923.
15. Di Cerbo, Alessandro, Carmen Laurino, Beniamino Palmieri, and Tommaso Iannitti. “A Dietary Supplement Improves Facial Photoaging and Skin Sebum, Hydration and Tonicity Modulating Serum Fibronectin, Neutrophil Elastase 2, Hyaluronic Acid and Carbonylated Proteins.” Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. B, Biology 144 (March 2015): 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2014.12.025.
16. Kawada, Chinatsu, Takushi Yoshida, Hideto Yoshida, Ryosuke Matsuoka, Wakako Sakamoto, Wataru Odanaka, Toshihide Sato, et al. “Ingested Hyaluronan Moisturizes Dry Skin.” Nutrition Journal 13, no. 1 (July 11, 2014): 70. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-70.
17. Salem, Iman, Amy Ramser, Nancy Isham, and Mahmoud A. Ghannoum. “The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis.” Frontiers in Microbiology 9 (July 10, 2018). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01459.
18. Rozas, Miquel, Astrid Hart de Ruijter, Maria Jose Fabrega, Amine Zorgani, Marc Guell, Bernhard Paetzold, and Francois Brillet. “From Dysbiosis to Healthy Skin: Major Contributions of Cutibacterium Acnes to Skin Homeostasis.” Microorganisms 9, no. 3 (March 18, 2021). https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9030628.
19. Prasanth, Mani Iyer, Bhagavathi Sundaram Sivamaruthi, Chaiyavat Chaiyasut, and Tewin Tencomnao. “A Review of the Role of Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) in Antiphotoaging, Stress Resistance, Neuroprotection, and Autophagy.” Nutrients 11, no. 2 (February 23, 2019). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020474.
20. Heinrich, Ulrike, Carolyn E. Moore, Silke De Spirt, Hagen Tronnier, and Wilhelm Stahl. “Green Tea Polyphenols Provide Photoprotection, Increase Microcirculation, and Modulate Skin Properties of Women.” The Journal of Nutrition 141, no. 6 (June 2011): 1202–8. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.136465.
21. Holczer, Marianna, Boglárka Besze, Veronika Zámbó, Miklós Csala, Gábor Bánhegyi, and Orsolya Kapuy. “Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG) Promotes Autophagy-Dependent Survival via Influencing the Balance of MTOR-AMPK Pathways upon Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2018 (2018): 6721530. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/6721530.