Eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables and seeds can help provide vitamins and minerals for skin health but when it comes to beating acne, psoriasis, eczema and other common skin conditions there are some nutrients that are a little more important than others.
In some cases the emergence of a skin disorder can itself signify a deficiency in a particular vitamin vital for naturally healthy skin and when such symptoms arise it is often the case that health problems also exist internally.
Diet and Skin Health
One of the problems we face is knowing exactly what is meant by a healthy and balanced diet and, unfortunately, it is simply not enough to assume that the produce on offer at the grocery store will be as nutritious as industry would like us to believe. Over-farming of the soils over many decades, along with the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides have all contributed to the depletion of vitamins and minerals and the build-up of toxins that the body may struggle to eliminate.
Levels of manganese, zinc, selenium and other minerals have all reduced dramatically in the soil in recent years, whilst other minerals have become excessive in the food supply due to their presence in crop sprays.
Organic Foods and Skin Health
Eating organic produce is a good way to optimise intake of vitamins and minerals and reduce the burden of toxicity on your body. Organic fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains are reliant on themselves to thwart attacks from pests and, as such, build up higher concentrations of protective substances such as quercetin and other bioflavonoids that we can be benefited by upon eating such foods.
Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are a must for anyone looking to boost the levels of nutrients such as vitamins for skin health. Beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and A, along with selenium, zinc, lycopene and quercetin are all important factors in fighting off free-radical damage in the skin and slowing down the visible signs of ageing.
Skin Conditions and Vitamins
By protecting skin cells through good nutrition the cells are better able to maintain hydration, staying plump and keeping functional membranes so as to better resist bacterial invasion. Infection of the skin’s cells can cause angry red blotches, acne and more severe rosacea, psoriasis and eczema, and staying hydrated and internally healthy is vitally important to minimising the effects of such skin disorders.
Skin cells have a lipid membrane that contains both vitamin E molecules and vitamin C, with the latter actually able to refresh the vitamin E molecules and maintain membrane stability after free-radical exposure. These nutrients need to come from the diet as they cannot be produced from the body itself. Similarly, omega three is important for maintaining skin health, as well as plentiful other bodily functions and dietary sources are essential.
Foods for Healthy Skin
Great options for boosting intake of vitamins and minerals for skin and hair health include the following foods:
- Brown rice
There are so many nutritious foods that it is difficult to choose just a handful as key components of a healthy diet for clear skin. Vital nutrients to consider when devising a diet for skin health include vitamins A, E, B, and C, as well as a variety of minerals and other nutrients.
Antioxidants for the Skin
Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants, quenching free-radicals when taken internally and also helpful as part of skin lotions that actually penetrate the upper layers of the skin. Vitamin A is another nutrient often found in skincare creams, sometimes in very high dosages as part of a prescription formula.
Helping with antioxidant activity as well as with the maintenance of collagenous skin structures, vitamin A is popular with those looking for a way of staving off visible signs of ageing, as well as featuring in many acne creams and treatments.
Vitamin C – Vital for Skin Health and Elasticity
Vitamin C is, like most vitamins, easily damaged by heat, light or air exposure and, as such, fresh vegetables and fruit are essential for achieving a good level of this vitamin in the diet. Vitamin C is vital for collagen production and is used up rapidly by those who smoke or who are exposed to second-hand smoke, leading to fine lines and wrinkles appearing earlier in smokers than in their peers (in general).
B Vitamins for Skin
The B vitamins are not only essential for the health of the adrenal glands, the nervous system and digestion, they also play a major role in the health of the hair and skin. We talked previously about angular cheilitis and the relationship between cracks at the corners of the mouth and B vitamins, but it is important to note that many acne sufferers are also likely to be running low on these nutrients.
Biotin (B7) is particularly important as it is a key part of skin, nails and hair. Whether or not the presence of biotin in shampoos is beneficial remains unproven but as part of the diet it is vital for good skin health. Vitamin B3 (niacin) is also important as it helps the skin maintain hydration.
Vitamin B6 can be particularly helpful to those whose skin tends to break out around the time of their period as it plays a role in balancing hormones, especially in association with zinc as premenstrual acne can indicate copper imbalance and excessive oestrogen/progesterone fluctuations.
Minerals for Skin Health
Zinc, selenium and copper could be said to be the key minerals for the skin, with zinc essential for wound healing and scar reduction. Zinc also helps in cases of acne where excess sebum (oil) is to blame. Selenium, especially in combination with vitamin E, is a powerful antioxidant and very beneficial for those with sun damage or other damage to the skin.
As soil levels of selenium can be very low in many countries it may be wise to supplement with this particular nutrient. Copper, whilst only needed in small amounts, is essential for the production of both collagen and elastin but it requires careful balancing with zinc as the two minerals are antagonistic.
A Prescription for Healthy Skin
Vitamin and mineral supplements for the skin and hair are not always necessary but those with conditions affecting absorption or utilisation of such nutrients may be benefited by these as might those unable to access nutrient-dense foods. Many skin creams contain some of the best vitamins for the skin but in such low concentrations as to be pointless. Often, such skin creams are also packed full of damaging chemicals that harm the skin so it is important to choose products wisely.
Talking to a qualified dermatologist with knowledge of the importance of vitamins and minerals for skin can help those with specific skin problems like acne and eczema, as can consulting a naturopathic doctor for a prescription for skin health.
If you’re plagued by acne and want to take back control of your skin health, be sure to pick up a copy of Eat to Beat Acne!