There are many vitamins your skin and your body need to be healthy and vibrant. In this article I will focus on 8 key nutrients.
Your skin is a reflection of your overall health and well-being.
The vitamins and nutrients that will help your skin look it’s best also make the rest of your body work its best. What’s good for the skin is good for the rest of the body and vice versa. If your skin is showing signs of aging, this is more than an issue of personal vanity. External aging and internal aging are intimately related. Poor skin can be a sign of poor health.
So today I want to talk a bit about the intimate relationship between your skin and the rest of the body. Along the way we will cover some steps you can take to turn back the hands of time, reverse the effects of aging, and get that younger, tighter, glowing skin you’ve always dreamed of.
Skin Science 101
Your skin is one of the largest and most important organs in your body. Unfortunately, most of us simply don’t give our skin the support it needs so it can function at its best.
You see, the cells in the outer layer of your skin—the epidermis—divide continuously, which means they need a lot of nutritional support. The deeper layers—the dermis—are made up of the collagen and elastin proteins, which also need plenty of support and are often undernourished by the standard American diet and lifestyle.
Skin layers: epidermis, dermis, collagen and elastin
Skin aging is a complex biological phenomenon that consists of two independent and biologically distinct processes: intrinsic aging and extrinsic aging.1
Intrinsic aging, as its name suggests, comes from within. It is the type of damage that affects any cell in the body. One of the primary causes are free radicals which cause oxidation (rusting) of cell membranes, DNA, and so on. To combat this type of oxidative damage, it is recommended you eat a plant-based diet rich in natural antioxidants. And, as so many of us are depleted of these natural antioxidants, supplementation can help as well.
Extrinsic aging is aging from without and refers primarily to “photo-aging”: the result of exposure to outdoor elements such as ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. Photo-aged skin often shows up as the classical age-related changes we all think of: deep wrinkles, sallow discoloration, and irregular pigmentation.
Photo-aging occurs because UV light from the sun is divided into UV-A and UV-B. UV-A damages the deeper layers of the skin while UV-B causes sunburns on the outer layers. Collagen in the deeper layers of the skin can also be damaged by enzymes called “metallo-proteinases” which are turned on by UV sunlight. Oxidation plays an important role in the way that UV light damages the skin, doubling your need for the crucial antioxidants that reverse this process.
Topical agents typically focus on antioxidant support to reduce the damage from sun and elements. This can help mitigate extrinsic aging. But having an antioxidant rich diet and supplementing properly takes this all a very big step further. Taking these additional steps can help both intrinsic and extrinsic” aging, giving you more bang for your buck.
So to get the most out of your anti-aging program, here is what I recommend:
Consume large amounts of richly-colored vegetables as close as possible to their original uncooked raw form. Richly-colored plants contain phytochemicals of which many are potent anti-oxidants.
Use sunscreen. This helps protect your skin from the effects of UV light.
Consume moderate amounts of alcohol.
When it comes to supplementation a great way to kick start your program is to try and IV infusion designed enhance collagen synthesis and protect your skin, like the Skin and Collagen IV Treatment at our clinic in Newport Beach, CA. It also provides your body a fast replacement of the nutrients your skin needs. This helps stop and reverse the aging process. Once your base levels of these nutrients are remediated, you can maintain them with oral Liposomal Vitamin C, Liposomal Glutathione and other supplements discussed in this post (see below).
There are a few key nutrients that play a crucial role in skin health. You should consider the following as you are creating a supplement plan for your skin and your overall health.
8 Key Skin Nutrients:
1. Vitamin A (retinol—the active form of Vitamin A)…
Vitamin A is required for maintaining many essential physiological processes in the body including normal growth and development, normal vision, a healthy immune system, normal reproduction, and healthy skin and barrier functions. In excess of 500 genes are thought to be regulated by retinol.
Vitamin A is beneficial in the treatment of acne, “liver spots”, wrinkles and rough skin. One study showed that 0.4% retinol applied topically had promising anti-aging benefits (2)
UV light depletes the skin of Vitamin A. So it’s clear why this vitamin is part of anti-aging and skin improvement formulas.
It’s always a good idea to test your levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants before you begin treatment. If you are low in Vitamin A, a good way to get your retinol levels up quickly is to take 500,000 units per day orally for 3 days, 250,000 units for the next 3 days, 125,000 units for the next 3 days and then maintain on 60,000 units. You also should continue to test your Vitamin A levels periodically as this is a fat soluble vitamin and can accumulate to toxic levels. AVOID VITAMIN A THERAPY COMPLETELY IF YOU ARE PREGNANT
2. Niacinamide (B3 also called nicotinamide):
Niacinamide helps with moisture retention in the skin. Topically, applied niacinamide (also known as nicotinamide) 2-4% is also an effective skin whitener. Nicotinamide, an amide form of vitamin B3, boosts cellular energy and regulates poly-ADP-ribose-polymerase 1, an enzyme with important roles in DNA repair and the expression of inflammatory cytokines (3)
Nicotinamide shows promise for the treatment of a wide range of dermatological conditions, including autoimmune blistering disorders, acne, rosacea, aging skin and atopic dermatitis.
In particular, recent studies have also shown it to be a potential agent for reducing actinic keratoses and preventing skin cancers (4). Oral nicotinamide was also found to be safe and effective in reducing the rates of new non-melanoma skin cancers and actinic keratoses in high-risk patients.
3. Dexpanthenol (B5)
Like Niacinamide, Vitamin B5 is also important in maintaining tissue hydration. It reduces cholesterol levels and inflammation as well through the production of Acetyl CoA. B5 also regulates keratinocyte proliferation.
In a study, topical B5 5% ointment was as effective as 1% hydrocortisone treatment in mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (eczema) (5). Also, giving B5 orally may help decrease facial acne as shown in a study of 48 patients (6).
There is no known upper limit known for B5 supplementation, and there are lots of protocols online of high dose B5 to treat acne. For example, 5-10 grams per day has been shown to decrease acne as per Dr. Leung’s protocol, but this is not a published study by any means. Some are reporting it as effective as the commercial drug Accutane but without the major side effects.
However, one possible side effect of high dose B5 to be aware of is that stool will turn green (from bile dumping), and this may be accompanied by abdominal pain and bloating. An alternative protocol to the very high dose B5 is to use a smaller dose of B5 and combine it with L-carnitine. This may be particularly effective in treating oily skin problems as B5 decreases the accumulation of fat/oil in the skin and L-carnitine helps shuttle the fatty acids into the mitochondria to be used as energy.
In IV form B5 can be used in high doses of 500-1000 mg per IV once or twice per week. B5 is already one of the main ingredients in many of the treatments in our IV Vitamin Therapy Clinic and we often customize and individualize each IV infusion to the particular needs of our patient. WE can add a high dose of Vitamin B5 for example to almost any of the existing treatments if in fact we feel it is necessary.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as Ascorbic Acid, is a very important antioxidant known to reduce the photo-aging because it protects against UV light damage. It also plays an integral role in collagen production.
Topical Vitamin C:
• Reduces wrinkling in as little as 2 weeks
• Decreases the activity of melanocytes, which means it is an effective treatment in de-pigmentation of the skin,
• Decreases skin roughness
• Is effective only if the topical cream has a pH below 3.5 and only the L-ascorbic acid form is effective so make sure to check the ingredients.
• Is available in concentrations of 3-10%. However, many get the maximum benefit from 20% concentrations.
• Rarely can cause rash and can be applied every 8 hours. It’s half-life is 4 days.
• Is safe to use with other agents like glycolic acid, sunscreen etc.
Increased intake of oral Vitamin C is associated with decreased skin dryness. When taking oral Ascorbic Acid I recommend using Liposomal Vitamin C which is a vitamin encapsulation technology allowing up to 90% absorption.
IV infusions with Vitamin C are very easy to tolerate and have the added effect of increasing overall energy and vitality.
Minerals are important in skin formation and protection. Mineral oxides (such as Zinc Oxide) absorb UV light and protect the deeper levels of skin from damage. Of the essential minerals, selenium and zinc have been studied most extensively when it comes to their impact on skin. Both appear to be important in protecting the skin from photo-aging and free radical damage (8).
Zinc stabilizes cell membranes and is important in cell division. This can help in wound healing. Zinc oxide and Zinc titanium are commonly found in sunscreens.
Selenium plays an important part in antioxidant proteins like glutathione peroxidase (PHGPx) and Thioredoxin Reductase (TDR) which protect skin cells from free radicals. Selenium is also key in recycling the master anti-oxidant glutathione. Selenium is present in many dandruff shampoo formulations as well.
6. Amino Acids
The amino acids L-lysine and L-proline are an integral part of collagen molecule and collagen forms the base layer of skin. However other branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and L-Glutamine may also play a role in collagen formation. UV Light exposure decreases the formation of new collagen and needs to be counteracted. Supplementing with key amino acids may help reverse this process. In one animal study (9) BCAA’s, L-Glutamine and proline administered orally were able to increase collagen synthesis which was initially decreased by using UV light exposure.
Glutathione is a major antioxidant in the body and plays a critical role in Phase II detoxification pathways in the body. This means it inactivates toxic molecules like heavy metals and makes them more water soluble, so that the kidneys can then flush them out.
Glutathione also has a reputation for skin whitening (10). Importantly, it inhibits melanin formation (melanin is the pigment in skin) by suppressing the activity of an enzyme called tyrosinase.
A 2012 double-blind study of 60 participants taking 500 mg reduced glutathione for 4 weeks saw reduced melanin production at 6 different skin sites (11). In another double-blind placebo controlled study in 2014, 30 participants used 2% oxidized (inactive) topical glutathione for 10 weeks and achieved a significantly lower melanin index (whitening) (12) To be fair however, two 2016 studies dispute the effect glutathione has on inhibiting melanin.(13,14)
While there are no current studies on the effect of IV Glutathione treatments for skin whitening, we do know that glutathione has a protective effect on skin through its antioxidant effect and it is considered safe even in very large doses—much higher than the typical 600-1000 mg IV doses used in IV clinics throughout the world including our clinic, IV for Life, in Newport Beach, CA.
Many patients report an evening out of their complexion, better skin tone and moisture after IV Glutathionetreatments.
When taking glutathione orally I recommend only using Liposomal Glutathione, as plain glutathione has very poor absorption due to destruction by bile and stomach acid.
Coenzyme Q 10 (CoQ10) may have positive effects on photo-aging, wrinkles, skin spots, dryness and tumors. This is because it is a powerful antioxidant which neutralizes the free radicals induced by UV light which are thought to be a major factor that initiate the up-regulation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). MMP’s are enzymes present in fluctuating levels in keratinocytes and fibroblasts in the deeper levels of skin.
MMP’s damage the collagen structure of skin and degrade it causing a wrinkled, aged look. A 2008 study of topically applied 1% CoQ10 cream found that the subjects had a significant reduction of wrinkles, and it is thought that this was caused by CoQ10’s antioxidant action. In addition CoQ10 inhibits MMP production, protecting dermal fiber components from degradation, leading to rejuvenation of wrinkled skin (15).
CoQ10 is easily absorbed by mouth and can be very helpful in energy production. It is depleted by “statins” which are popular prescription medications used to lower cholesterol and should definitely be used in conjunction with these medications. CoQ10 is also available as a intramuscular (IM) shot or as an IV infusion at our clinic IV for Life.
By eating well, and taking the right supplements (along with the other lifestyle tips noted above), you can get that glowing, beautiful skin you have always wanted, reverse the signs of aging and enhance your overall health at the same time.
Skin-whitening and skin-condition-improving effects of topical oxidized glutathione: a double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trial in healthy women. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. 2014.
2) Molecular basis of retinol anti-aging properties in naturally aged human skin in vivo.
Int J. Cosmetic Sci. 2016
3 Nicotinamide and The Skin Austrealas. J Dermatol. 2014.
4 A Phase 3 Randomized Trial of Nicotinamide for Skin-Cancer Chemoprevention. N Engl J Med. 2015.
5 Comparative trial of 5% dexpanthenol in water-in-oil formulation with 1% hydrocortisone ointment in the treatment of childhood atopic dermatitis: a pilot study. J Drugs Dermatol. 2012.
6 A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of a novel pantothenic Acid-based dietary supplement in subjects with mild to moderate facial acne. Dermatol Ther 2014.
7 Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013
8 Linus Pauling Institute – Micronutrient Information Center
9 Importance of amino acid composition to improve skin collagen protein synthesis rates in UV-irradiated mice Amino Acids. 2012.
10 Glutathione as a skin whitening agent: Facts, myths, evidence and controversies Indian J. Dermatol 2016
11 Glutathione as an oral whitening agent: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Dermatolog Treat 2012.
12 Skin-whitening and skin-condition-improving effects of topical oxidized glutathione: a double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trial in healthy women
Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2014.
13 Glutathione as a depigmenting agent: an overview. Int. J Cosmet. Sci 2005.
14 The Glutathione Derivative, GSH Monoethyl Ester, May Effectively Whiten Skin but GSH Does Not. Int J Mol Sci. 2016.
15 Mechanisms of inhibitory effects of CoQ10 on UVB-induced wrinkle formation in vitro and in vivo. Biofactors 2008.