Proper diet and targeted nutritional supplementation can be the difference between healthy, supple skin and dry, scaly skin. A high-quality diet, rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids is optimal. However, since most Americans don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, nor do they eat enough foods high in the correct balance of essential fatty acids, targeted supplementation is recommended.
Nutritional supplementation can benefit your skin by:
In one clinical trial, 45 individuals with brittle fingernails were given 2.5 mg of biotin daily for up to seven months. Ninety-one percent showed “definite improvement,” exhibiting firmer and harder nails after an average of 5.5 months.1A Swiss study found a 25-percent increase in nail plate thickness in 22 of 35 individuals taking biotin.2
NOTICE: Recent evidence indicates that biotin can interfere with the results of some laboratory tests. If you are supplementing with biotin, then be sure to talk to your health-care practitioner prior to having your blood drawn for the laboratory tests at issue.
Supplementation of 79 females with EPA derived from fish oil for 12 weeks shifted the balance of eicosanoids in the skin toward a less inflammatory species and helped protect the skin from the inflammatory effects of UV exposure.3Omega-3 fatty acids appear to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation via a number of mechanisms of action. Borage oil (a source of omega-6 GLA) has been shown to improve skin hydration.*4
In a study of 29 healthy elderly adults, supplementation for two months with borage oil, an excellent source of GLA, resulted in improved skin barrier function as measured by a 10.8-percent decrease in transdermal water loss. The study’s participants also reported significant improvements in dry skin and itchy skin.5
In a study of 21 healthy individuals, the shortest exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light that would produce a reddening of the skin was tested before exposure and after four weeks of daily OPC supplementation of 1.10 mg of OPCs per kg of body weight, and again after four weeks of daily OPC supplementation of 1.66 mg of OPCs per kg of body. OPCs significantly increased the exposure time that produced a reddening of the skin in a dose-dependent manner; i.e., the higher dose resulted in nearly doubling the exposure time needed for UV exposure to produce a reddening of the skin.* The mechanism of action was believed to be inhibition of the protein complex known as nuclear factor-kappaB.*6
An important mechanism of action of antioxidants is their ability to minimize free radical damage to the skin.* Twenty young-adult volunteers were given 300 mg of grape seed phytosome (Leucoselect Phytosome; 95% OPCs) or a placebo daily for five days and then after a two-week washout period were crossed over to the other treatment. Total antioxidant capacity was significantly increased in the group after supplementation of the grape seed phytosome compared to the placebo.7
Its antioxidant effects and its role in collagen synthesis clearly designate vitamin C as being an essential nutrient for skin health.* Although it is found in high concentrations in both the dermis and epidermis, it does decline with age.8 Exposure to UV light and environmental pollutants can also result in decline of vitamin C levels.9 Data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of more than 4,000 women, ages 40-79, identified those with the highest levels of vitamin C intake as being the least likely to have wrinkled or dry skin.10
The skin has the third highest amount of zinc of the various organs in the body.11 Because of zinc’s beneficial effect on DNA synthesis, immune support, and its natural antimicrobial activity, zinc plays an important role in wound healing.* Low epidermal zinc concentrations have been noted in patients with acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis herpetiformis, despite normal serum zinc levels.*12
A nutritional supplement containing grape seed extract, vitamin C, and zinc, in addition to tomato extract and a marine protein, was given to 47 men, ages 30-45, for six months. Objective measurement of ultrasound skin density, skin hydration, and acidity levels showed significant improvements, as did subjective photographic assessment.*13
Floersheim G. Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin. Z Hautkr 1989;64(1):41-48. [Article in German]
Hochman L, Scher R, Meyerson M. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis 1993;51(4):303-305.
Pilkington S, Rhodes L, Al-Aasswad N, et al. Impact of EPA ingestion on COX- and LOX-mediated eicosanoid synthesis in skin with and without a pro-inflammatory UVR challenge – report of a randomized controlled study in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res 2014;58(3):580-590.
Pilkington S, Watson R, Nicolaou A, Rhodes L. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: photoprotective macronutrients. Exp Dermatol 2011;20(7):537-543.
Brosche T, Platt D. Effect of borage oil consumption on fatty acid metabolism, transepidermal water loss and skin parameters in elderly people. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2000;30(2):139-150.
Saliou C, Rimbach G, Moini H, et al. Solar ultraviolet-induced erythema in human skin and nuclear factor-kappa-B-dependent gene expression in keratinocytes are modulated by a French maritime pine bark extract. Free Radic Biol Med 2001;30:154-160.
Nuttall S, Kendall M, Bombardelli E, Morazzoni P. An evaluation of the antioxidant activity of a standardized grape seed extract – Leucoselect. J Clin Pharm Ther 1998;23(5):385-389.
Rhie G, Shin M, Seo J, et al. Aging- and photoaging-dependent changes of enzymic and nonenzymic antioxidants in the epidermis and dermis of human skin in vivo. J Invest Dermatol 2001;117:1212-1217.
Podda M, Traber M, Weber C, et al. UV-irradiation depletes antioxidants and causes oxidative damage in a model of human skin. Free Radic Biol Med1998;24:55-65.
Cosgrove M, Franco O, Granger S, et al. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr2007;86(4):1225-1231.
Ogawa Y, Kawamura T, Shimada S. Zinc and skin biology. Arch Biochem Biophys 2016;611:113-119.
Michaëlsson G, Ljunghall K. Patients with dermatitis herpetiformis, acne, psoriasis, and Darier’s disease have low epidermal zinc concentrations. Acta Derm Venereol 1990;70(4):304-308.
Costa A, Pegas Pereira E, Assumpção E, et al. Assessment of clinical effects and safety of an oral supplement based on marine protein, vitamin C, grape seed extract, zinc, and tomato extract in the improvement of visible signs of skin aging in men. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol 2015;8:319-328.