Nutrition and skin

Good nutrition is vital for healthy skin. Due to their short lifespan and rapid growth and division, skin cells need a steady supply of nutrients to stay healthy. Good circulation, a healthy nerve supply and optimal intake of all nutrients, including water, all play a part in the maintenance of healthy skin.

Nutrition and skinDrinking plenty of water is vital for healthy skin and most experts recommend at least eight glasses a day. Smoking tobacco should also be avoided, as this is very damaging for skin, possibly due to a toxic chemical-induced increase in free radical production. Ultraviolet light causes skin to dry out, lose elasticity and age more rapidly. Sunlight exposure should be minimized to prevent these adverse effects. Regular aerobic exercise and good stress relief also help to maintain healthy skin.

In addition to its other health benefits, a diet high in fruits and vegetables helps to maintain healthy skin. These foods are high in fiber, which helps to keep the bowel functioning well and avoid a build-up of toxins, which can lead to skin problems. Foods rich in essential fatty acids are also important to prevent dry skin. Adequate but not excessive protein intake is also essential. Because of its rapid growth, the effect of nutrient deficiencies shows quickly in the skin.


Antioxidants help to protect against free radical damage to skin, which is caused by the effects of chemicals or age. Antioxidants may also help to protect skin from sun damage. In a study published in 1998, German dermatologists found that people who took these vitamins had a higher threshold for sunburn reaction. The researchers tested ultraviolet sensitivity in two groups often Caucasian people by exposing a section of skin to UV light. Subjects in one of the groups then took 2 g of vitamin C and 1000 IU of vitamin E for 8 days. The UV test was then re-done. Those taking the vitamins showed increased tolerance, particularly at higher UV doses. However, in comparison with the protection afforded by topical sunscreens, this level of protection is small.

Nutrition and skinVitamin C-containing cosmetic skin creams such as Cellex-C have also become extremely popular in the last few years. They are designed to protect against pollutants and to promote healing.

Nutrition and skin: Vitamin A

Vitamin A-containing treatments are used in a cosmetic procedure known as skin peels, in which the top layer of skin is removed to reveal younger skin underneath. Creams containing the vitamin A-derivative, tretinoin, may help to retard skin aging, according to a 1997 report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers studied the activity of enzymes known as metalloproteinases, which break down collagen, and found that exposure to ultraviolet light increased the activity of these enzymes. Even a small amount of ultraviolet light, although not sufficient to cause redness, was enough to increase enzyme activity. This suggests that exposure to a few minutes of sunlight periodically over several years may lead to premature skin aging.

This increase in enzyme activity was blocked by treatment with tretinoin before radiation. The researchers concluded that tretinoin may be useful in treating patients with signs of premature skin aging but noted that careful monitoring of tretinoin use is essential as over-treatment can cause irritation and reddening of skin. The results of this study may lead to the development of new sunscreens and anti-aging creams containing vitamin A derivatives.

Nutrition and skin B vitamins

Optimal intakes of all the B vitamins are essential for healthy skin. Deficiencies may cause dermatitis, and supplements may be useful in treating various skin conditions.


Adequate zinc intake is vital for maintaining healthy skin. Zinc is involved in oil gland function, local hormone activation, vitamin A-binding protein formation, wound-healing, inflammation control, and tissue regeneration.

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